Sunday, June 4, 2017

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

Let me get straight to the point. Wonder Woman is a great film in any genre, not only superhero fare. It trades overproduced action sequences for a coherent, evenly paced story-line. It relies less on expository and quick quip dialogue and instead lets its characters develop and act based on their established traits. And most importantly, for the DCMU (DC Movie Universe) in particular, it finally found the right mix of seriousness while allowing its cast to breathe, laugh, and, yes, smile!

Wonder Woman took its main cue from Man of Steel in setting up the very unearthly aspects of Princess Diana of Themyscira, but it learned to not dwell on them. Diana is very proud of her heritage, and although she doesn’t fit in and is saddened by the state of “man’s world”, she doesn’t spend any considerable amount of time dealing with an existential crisis built on that alienation. She has been ready for action since she was a child and that is what occupies her mind – the only thing that’s changed is the surrounding environment: paradisaical Themyscira is switched for a dark and grey World War - Europe.

This readiness for action is what drives the movie and its main protagonists. It wants to explore Wonder Woman’s heroic motives, but it does a great job of not lingering laboriously on this. She has a heart to care for mankind; it’s simple and straight-forward. Her actions are a manifestation of that. And even when she questions mankind, it makes sense as a direct reaction to something that has happened, and not some pseudo-heady post-modern dilemma.

While the plot sails along smoothly, and each set piece is well woven into the story, the movie does falter in one important aspect: it fails to create any real tension. The final act becomes especially tedious due to this. It relies on our investment on Diana’s choice whether to believe mankind is worth fighting for or not. As we all probably know the answer to that, these final scenes can’t help but be structurally anti-climatic. The main villain, who is not well established, offers no immediate threat and ends up simply being an agent to get her to say silly lines like, “I believe in love!”

But in the end that is what this movie is concerned with: telling us why Diana stuck around Earth and is willing to fight for us. It’s a well constructed enough backbone to stand on that the lack of, “how will they get out of this one,” set pieces doesn’t hurt the overall quality of the movie.

Taking these minor flaws aside, Wonder Woman is a triumph for the big screen – and should be considered the benchmark for the DCMU. It’s their most confident and complete story, not relying on CGI-heavy effects or action sequences every five minutes to make us forget there is no plot (or that the plot is too confusing to follow for anyone outside the core DC-fanbase). It finally gets the tone correct – keeping the real-world seriousness of Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman while adding the more light-hearted aspects of Suicide Squad to the mix. And most applause-worthy (for a movie in any genre), it produces a female hero who is fully rounded, who likes to kick butt as much as she likes her hair beautiful – who isn’t afraid to fall in love.

Hollywood take note, being a female hero does not always have to equate to being a sexless, emotionless, pseudo-man with breasts. Wonder Woman is a girl-power movie without having to shout “girl-power” once. It’s better for it, and hopefully future superhero films with female leads will be too.

I definitely recommend catching Wonder Woman on the big screen. Warner Bros. did the right thing by listening to the fan criticism and putting out the movie that we wanted to see. I have no doubt that this movie will be a huge hit, and no doubt that her future films are open to limitless possibilities. As an origin story, I rank this nearly as high as Batman Begins – and we all know what followed after that. Look out Marvel, Warner Bros. and the DCMU has finally arrived to the games.

Post by Phil Ray
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