Friday, 2 June 2017

Review: Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman (2D / Spoilers in the footnotes)
Cert: 12A / 141 mins / Dir. Patty Jenkins / Trailer

Well, the long-awaited day arrived, amid a flurry of media hype and no small amount of subsequent expectation. And so it was that a respectably-sized audience*1 gathered to see if Patty Jenkins Wonder Woman movie could live up to the buzz which threatened to overtake it.

Mythology meets alternate-history when the studious life led by a tribe of Amazons on the island of Themyscira*2 is interrupted when an escaping American WW1 pilot (Chris Pine's Steve Trevor) emerges through a dimensional portal, followed by a German battleship and its full contingent of furious Axis footsoldiers. Carnage ensues*3, leading to Diana (Gal Gadot) venturing back through the aperture in a bid to find and kill Ares the god of war, ending the global conflict. As her weapons, she has the purity of innocence, the conviction of righteousness, The Bulletproof Bangles™, The Sword of Omens™ and The Lasso of Overacting™. One of these gets used to the point where it's almost worn out. There is sass, there is action and there are big decisions to be made along the way, as well as a few laughs.

I'm quite surprised the Daily Express haven't made more of this movie, actually. It's literally Princess Diana vs The Evil Germans. All that's missing is a subtext on house-prices and they'd be frothing at the press...

But anyway, yeah, it's a pretty damned good film. Although if you've got a hunch that it sounds like half an hour of Thor, ten minutes of fish-out-of-water jokes, then an hour and a half of The First Avenger*4, with a few beats thrown in from X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy and Inglourious Basterds, you'd be absolutely right.

Gal Gadot does well in the lead role here, but she has a lot of cinematic-lifting to do. While we certainly get a refreshing central female-focus from director Patty Jenkins, there's no escaping the fact that the film was written by three guys*5. After the opening act on Themyscira where the women drive the narrative, the story reverts to more or less standard superhero form once Diana is over the threshold and into the First World War. Other than Lucy Davis in a small comic-relief role and Elena Anaya being wasted as an enigmatic and thoroughly underused Axis weapons scientist, it's just Gal Gadot surrounded by cardboard cutouts of gawping Boys Own heroes and villains*6.

Wonder Woman is good fun and a step back to form for Warner/DC, certainly their most focused and relatable timeline-movie since Man of Steel. But the feeling never left me that rather than figure out their own way to tell stories, DC are still trying to be Marvel Studios*7 - and that's not their race to win…

Update: After sleeping on it*8, I have some final thoughts. With the best will in the world, I'm probably not going to see Wonder Woman again in its theatrical run, so I've updated the post to add them here.

The amount of online discussion and media-buzz prior to this release means it feels like one of those movies you should have a strong opinion on either way, and if the end result lands somewhere in the middle you end up wondering 'have I understood this properly?'. Truth be told, there's not that much there to understand, and that's absolutely fine. But who wants 'absolutely fine' as a pull-quote on their poster? After watching Wonder Woman, I think I certainly like it more for socio-political reasons than dramatic ones. Because at the end of the day, I don't really give two fucks about DC characters, and there's very little the film can do about that…*9

Wonder Woman is absolutely fine.

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Well I think I've covered that already…

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
For big-and-loud, yes. It's a fine looking movie.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
It does
Although I'm less convinced about what it sets out to do than whether it achieves that

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
For Gal Gadot, possibly the best so far.
For everybody else, no

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.
Which is bloody ridiculous as there are many, MANY perfect spots for one

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Bern Collaco's in this.

Me neither, but he's Indian Regiment Soldier in Wonder Woman and he was Stormtrooper in Rogue One and First Order General in The Force Awakens. I genuinely hope he gets a character name next time around. Like, in anything. Seriously, look at the dude's IMDB page, it's a litany of anonymous sorrow. He's been in Eastenders twice and only got "Police Detective" and "Pharmacist".

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

SPOILERS: Highlight to read…

And of for all those sitting in the room that night, only five of us hung around for the after-credits scene; there isn't one. Fair enough… [ BACK ]

*2 And really though, imagine making a mythical island full of actors speak with a heavy eastern accent, just to explain away the suspicion that Gal Gadot can do no other… [ BACK ]

*3 And while I'm very aware that this film is a certificate 12A, the beach-battle between a crew of fully armed soldiers and a tribe of expert archers and swordswomen is glaringly blood-free, other than a nasty scratch on Diana's arm in its final moments (the resulting scab/scar of which we don't see again throughout the film, but given she's a super-heroine that's understandable) [ BACK ]

*4 To the point where, after recruiting a side-crew of international heavy-drinking misfits in a London boozer, Noble Captain Steve sacrifices himself by flying off in a German plane full of super-bombs intended to kill millions, and all his superbly capable brunette love-interest is left with is a sepia photo and memories of the brief time they shared. No, seriously, they did that. [ BACK ]

*5 And Diana was not, I repeat not - I repeat NOT - wearing her armour under that blue dress. Those writers put her in the figure-hugging blue dress because they wanted to see Gal Gadot in a figure-hugging dress. Don't care about the back-scabbard, wasn't happening mate. If she'd have been wearing the armour underneath it, it would have looked like she'd turned up to the gala dinner party just to smuggle out the cutlery… [ BACK ]

*6 And the next time I'm on complaining about Marvel's track record with slightly sub-standard movie villains, please please remind me that none of them have been as resoundingly shit as David Thewlis being Palpatine with a moustache and tweed overcoat. His performance in this film is nothing short of fucking excruciating. To the point where Richard E. Grant's Dr. Rice looks positively nuanced by comparison. Thewlis is better than this, and I just ended up feeling embarrassed for Patty Jenkins having to direct such utter, utter drivel. There. I said it. [ BACK ]

*7 You would of course be perfectly justified in asking me "Oh, why do you have to compare DC films to Marvel?". Well, I'll stop doing it when DC do… [ BACK ]

*8 Of course it'd be lovely to be able to ponder and sleep on everything I watch, before writing a balanced and intricate review of the film probably while sitting on a veranda in the mid-morning sunshine in a light flannel shirt and sipping an espresso. But my brain doesn't work like that. The stream of jumbled praise and nitpicking you read above the edit-point is what's in my brain as I get home from the cinema. If I don't write that down before I go to bed, it's lost like the contents of an unsaved file when you power off a computer. There might be an auto-backup, but you can't rely on it containing everything you need. All you'd get the next day would be "Yeah, it's pretty good I suppose, apart from David Thewlis". If I take notes in the screening (yeah I'm sometimes that guy) then I've got that dark-room-scrawl as well I suppose, but it all just increases the gap between me watching a film and posting a review. I'm not made of time y'know, I've got a day-job in which to be unfulfilled... [ BACK ]

*9 That said, Man of Steel was the first movie to make me actually interested in Clark Kent as a character, so maybe Diana could have done with more emotional conflict rather than physical. But not with Gal Gadot driving, one suspects... [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

1 comment:

  1. I soooo want to see this one. It looks ace.