Movie Review | Wonder Woman
Countdown to Justice League - why is Wonder Woman first? It's true that the connected DC Universe on film began with Man of Steel, but Wonder Woman takes place decades earlier and its story is disconnected enough from the present day to stand alone.
Outside of the first and last scenes, the movie takes place entirely in World War One and is a great introduction to this world, with very little continuity to explain from the other films.
Movie Summary: When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, Diana, an Amazonian warrior in training, leaves home to fight a war, discovering her full powers and true destiny. (IMDb)
Okay, let’s get this out of the way straight away: Wonder Woman is a good film. It’s not a great film, and certainly not one of the best superhero movies ever like some have been claiming. It’s a good film, but has some major flaws that stop it from being any better than that.
We’ll stick with the positive for now though, and praise the title character, played perfectly by Gal Gadot. I’ll just say here that I always thought that she looked the part, as Wonder Woman has regularly been portrayed as slim and beautiful despite more muscular depictions recently.
What I wasn’t expecting was such an incredible acting performance from Gadot though, who so completely owns the role of Diana it’s impossible to imagine any other actress doing the part any better. Whether it’s a quiet moment or an action scene, Gadot’s presence is immense, practically demanding you to pay attention to her and what she’s doing at all times.
The next bit of praise then has to go to Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, who totally convinces as someone that Diana would fall for as quickly as she does. He’s thoroughly charming throughout, yet also has the hard edge required to keep doing what he needs to in order to complete his mission.
These two are the film’s saving grace and are what lift it up above mediocrity. Genuinely, if the story hadn’t served both characters so well and the actors hadn’t both given such excellent performances, it’s easy to see this film suffering massively.
As a brief side note, it’s worth noting that Diana and Steve fall in love about as quickly as Thor and Jane in Thor, which was justly criticised as being unbelievable. This shows what proper casting and excellent performances from actors completely committed to their parts can do: the chemistry just isn’t there in the Thor films, so you don’t buy that romance at all and still wouldn’t even if they had taken weeks to fall in love.
Both leads aside though, Wonder Woman is a film that gets off to a bit of a shaky start on the island of Themyscira, where it is again the characters who raise the quality rather than the story; Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen are fantastic in their roles and it’s a shame that their parts in this film are so small – hopefully we see more of the Amazons in future films.
The middle section of the film is where things really ramp up in quality, with Diana being exposed to how the rest of the world lives, cooing over a baby and delighting over an ice cream. This middle third is the movie’s high point, with Diana’s direct approach in wanting to save people conflicting with Steve’s more circuitous actions.
As noted earlier, the relationship and feelings for each other are entirely believable, especially thanks to how well Pine and Gadot work together here. There isn’t a false note in the growing bond between the pair, even as Steve adapts to take advantage of Diana’s battering ram approach to continue his own mission.
Unfortunately, the finale then devolves into a typically messy CGI brawl that owes more to video game cut-scenes than it does to what came before in the film. This fight also brings up the issue with Diana’s fluctuating power levels that change from scene to scene.
In the final battle, she takes hits that would reduce a human to bloody smear without so much as a scratch, yet needs to deflect bullets? This inconsistency also ruined for me what could have been a great scene when Wonder Woman charges through No Man’s Land.
It’s shot beautifully, with the sound and visuals working astonishingly well to create what – on its own – is a legitimately great scene, with Diana shielding herself from concentrated German machine-gun fire allowing Steve and the others to push up, along with the Allied forces.
The impact of the scene was almost immediately lost for me with the very next sequence, an often-weightless, digital Diana bouncing around at points, before she takes out a sniper by launching herself though a church tower, bringing the entire thing down on her which she walks away from unscathed. Again, if she’s that durable, then why worry about the bullets?
I’ll concede that worrying about power levels is usually reserved for nit-pickers, but when the film’s centrepiece in No Man’s Land relies on the audience buying into Diana’s bravery and selflessness, it can be a little deflating to realise with hindsight that she was never in any real danger at all.
The villains of the piece are terrible too, showing that it’s not just the MCU that has a villain problem, with the true main villain being thematically appropriate, but dramatically a total idiot. Seriously, if he hadn’t shown up to try and control Diana by turning her to his side, he would’ve won.
Wonder Woman isn’t the type of film to watch for a logical plot or well-told story with a satisfying ending as it fails completely on both those counts. The true joy of this film is the performance of the two leads, especially Gal Gadot herself, who is just so incredibly good that you’ll enjoy yourself whenever she’s on-screen.