Wonder Woman (2017) – A Review
Wonder Woman finally arrived!
The iconic DC Comics superhero makes her debut in her first big-screen solo adventure after more than seven decades since her creation.
Wonder Woman was also one of the most highly anticipated entries in the shaky DC Expanded Universe. There were hopes that director Patty Jenkins’ film would give the DC series a much needed satisfying boost, that it would introduce the character to a new generation of superhero fans, hopefully get audiences anxious to see her again and put Wonder Woman prominently back in the pop culture landscape that she’s been absent from for too long.
And it worked better than I think anyone imagined. Wonder Woman was the blockbuster in the summer of 2017. It would accomplish a lot of feats. It would become the highest grossing movie by a female director. It would rank as one of the most successful superhero films of all time. Week after week during its run the film continued to attract audiences and maintained a staying power that was quite a feat in our impatient culture for the next new thing. You can be sure you’ll be seeing plenty of Wonder Woman costumes worn by little girls this Halloween.
But let’s forget all the box office triumphs Wonder Woman has done. What did I think of the movie? My succinct reaction is – it’s decent enough, it should have been better, but it’s ok.
Princess Diana lives on the all-women island Themyscira, where she becomes the toughest warrior out of all the Amazons. Pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes there, whereby the women learn of a great war taking place. Diana believes it is being caused by the god Ares, who has corrupted mankind and feels it is her duty to stop him and bring peace back to the world. So, she leaves ‘Paradise Island’ with Trevor to find and kill Ares and stop this war.
There’s a bit of fish-out-of-water humor as Diana is introduced to the 1918 outside world, some romance between her and Trevor sparks and of course some super-heroic action is unleashed as this wonder woman shows off her abilities, defeats armies single-handedly and gets into a climactic battle that will leave the area smoldering.
I know Wonder Woman has gotten a lot of praise by critics and audiences. Sadly, I’m not going to loudly trumpet along with the overwhelming cheering accolades it’s gotten. I think it has gotten overhyped. The movie is ok. I’m going to be repeating that reaction to a lot of things with this movie. It’s a decent superhero adventure journey, but nothing close to mind-blowing.
It has a unique character we haven’t gotten to experience before, the period backdrop is there not only for set pieces but also for a lesson in her character arc and any female empowerment message feels earned, is not heavy handed and is not annoying. It will make anyone want to cheer when this beautiful woman starts saving civilians that armies of men are unable to do.
It is entertaining and I didn’t really dislike it, but I didn’t think it was outstanding in any way. I’m certainly not as enthusiastic about it than a lot of others have been.
The downfall with this for me is a lot of the characters are very forgettable and I thought the romance between Diana and Steve is simply adequate and not as speciall as it could have been. The momentum from the beginning starts to sputter along in spots and it barely manages to keep things going until the very end.
I’ll try to avoid spoilers – even though most everyone on the planet has seen it.
Gadot is obviously the star here, she’s in every scene. If she failed then most likely the whole movie would have sunk. And she does fine. She looks good in her costume and she is very likable, I got invested in her character and was happy to follow her along on her adventure.
She pulls off the stern looks, the earnestness, the sincerity and the confidence when she’s ready to jump into danger at a moments notice. Her confusion as she adapts to our world in little scenes is nice.
I enjoy the idea of Diana being dropped into unfamiliar surroundings and trying to make sense of our world. That’s one of the most endearing aspects of the character. There’s so much to explore with just that premise alone.
The thing is, you can only really do that once with Wonder Woman. In the inevitable sequels she’ll be clued in and up to date on the world, so you might as well take advantage of her disorientation and confusion and milk it for all it’s worth while you can. There are some charming little moments of Gadot seeing a crying baby, being shocked by women’s roles in society, trying to make sense of the politics that’s happening.
I would have liked had they continued with more of that stuff throughout the entire movie. Have more of those little moments with her being an outsider and trying to comprehend different aspects in our culture. It could have gone a lot farther than just her trying on modern day dresses.
The romance between her and Pine was something of a letdown. At times it came off too forced, underdeveloped and didn’t feel like a natural progression of these two characters falling for each other over the course of the story. It’s a rudimentary kind of relationship.
I wished there were more scenes that cemented this affection between them for me. They have the one scene dancing in a snowfall and it’s a nice scene, but that was pretty much it.
I’m not a big Pine fan and I thought he was quite a forgettable presence in this. He was fine I suppose, but he came off rather bland and didn’t leave me with much of an impression.
The role of Trevor seemed like they could have plugged any young actor into the part and they would have served its function just as well. Which stinks, since our leading lady is meant to fall for this guy and I didn’t see any reason why she would – other than him being the first man she had ever laid eyes on. They try to carry their weak emotional connection to the ending. It’s a nice attempt, but it should have been much stronger and more convincing.
The opening on Paradise Island I liked. Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright both serve as Diana’s mother Queen Hippolyte and her aunt and they both had a noble presence.
I was kind of disappointed with how Thermyscira was designed. Again, there was nothing really unique about it. I didn’t get a sense of any Greek influence with the architecture or what life is like there. I had read Jenkins wanted to get away from the typical mythological column design that’s been used before for it. Which is fine. Ok, let’s change things up a bit. But there was really nothing distinguishable about it or any kind of particular take to this island of paradise.
I would have expected to see much grander buildings and have it be this extraordinarily beautiful paradise that’s so far removed from our world its almost a fantasy patch on the planet. Like most things in the movie it was fine, but it wasn’t as eye-catching or memorable as it really could have been.
Remember when Avatar came out and everyone went ape over Pandora? It would have been so great had Paradise Island had that kind of allure and impact. But it didn’t. I think it was a real missed opportunity to create this compelling majestic place where Diana comes from. It would have been even a stronger dramatic contrast when she arrives in shabby looking London.
I really don’t have much to say about most of the supporting characters. They’re pretty insignificant. I can’t even remember most of their names.
Trevor and Diana recruit a motley group of fighters to help them on their mission to get to the front. They each get a good introduction into the movie, but then they don’t do much of anything after that. They all disappear into the background pretty quickly.
I would have preferred had they dumped them and sent Diana and Steve on their own and used the extra time with their comrades to develop this couple’s relationship more. For a long portion of the film it just kind of floats along, with nothing significant happening.
One little note – We learn Diana speaks hundreds of languages and is able to keep up with the fluent con man they get to join them. Later we meet the Native American guy. I was expecting him to speak some old Native American dialect and shocking Diana that she couldn’t understand it. It just seemed like a natural setup. That doesn’t happen though.
I had expected the villains to be weak (that has become a recurring handicap in superhero movies), and I was right.
Danny Huston is a war-happy German general. Elena Anaya is an evil chemist named Doctor Poison who concocts deadly gases that will kill a whole lot of people. They pop up throughout the story, but never really deliver on any confrontations with our heroine down the road.
The biggest moment with either of them is an extremely odd scene of Pine flirting with the doctor. I imagine it’s a subterfuge to get her formula or something. It was really weird, goes nowhere and just ends.
The best supporting character is Trevor’s secretary played by Lucy Davis. It’s a small role for easy comic relief, but it works fine.
As Diana and Steve travel to the front and she gets closer to Huston’s location she gets to experience the Great War firsthand. Despite it being a detour on their mission, Diana is unable to ignore a small village at risk and takes it upon herself to traverse No Man’s Land.
It’s a really good scene, the best scene in the movie. There is an overuse of slo-mo shots throughout the movie which get old very quickly. I don’t understand the allure of this device. A few times ok, but it’s completely overdone in this movie. Thankfully it doesn’t completely kill the action.
Watching Diana battle heavy artillery and deflecting bullets with her gauntlets is what fans have been dying to see for years, and it delivers! What’s strange is that the film kind of keeps her powers somewhat vague. She is learning her powers and her limitations as we are.
Defeating German soldiers might seem to be an easy feat for the Wonder Woman we know. Afterall she was putting up an awfully good fight against Doomsday in Batman v Superman. So, some ordinary human soldiers seem like they would be a piece of cake, but it still ends up thrilling to watch. It’s much more exciting to see her deflecting bullets, roping soldiers and tossing a tank than the final big fight at the climax.
Yeah, the third act is somewhat a mess. It’s the standard CGI-heavy superhero battle that we’ve seen many, many times before – muddy visuals, big explosions, powerful punches and sliding across disintegrating pavement.
I would have much preferred had the film dropped the final villain reveal, ended things with Diana’s shocked and confused realization as to what mankind truly is and her being forced to accept that, rather than dragging things out with a clichéd battle with an otherworldly being that I didn’t care at all about. If you’ve seen the movie you know what I mean.
Why not end a superhero movie differently? Just leave it with the Great War and flawed humanity being what she has to face, confront and try to accept. Those scenes had more of an emotional meaning than what comes later. But nah, they needed the big fight set piece with the usual super-heroic punching and explosions. It added nothing for me and ends things on a somewhat confusing note.
So Wonder Woman is adequately entertaining overall. It’s not a movie that has radically altered the superhero genre in any way and I wasn’t blown away by it, but it’s an enjoyable enough superhero adventure. I’ll watch it again at some point, but I won’t feel bad if I miss certain parts while getting a snack.
It was cool to see the character onscreen and Gadot is quite good. She has a strong moral code, slight touches of innocence and she sells all of it really well. I can understand why audiences are responding to her so positively. She acts like a true superhero. It would have really helped had she had some stronger characters to help her through her story though – and given a better ending.
But for now I’d say Wonder Woman is a satisfying enough first film for the character thanks to Gadot and Jenkins. Hopefully, when her sequel comes around it will improve on the weaknesses here. There is definitely room for improvement for her next adventure.
I also hope any future planned use of slo-mo/fast-mo for her fights will come to an end. Just let her fight in real time.