As many have said before (admittedly shortly before opening fire on their innocent, defenceless peers), I just don’t understand people. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a uniquely modern thing, but the amount of political bullshit that seems to be pinned against both film and television is becoming unbearable in recent years. The worst I can think of was men boycotting Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) because, apparently, it was pushing a feminist agenda by having a female lead. Uhhh, okay…
The worst thing is, after the abysmal Ghostbusters (2016) last year, these lunatics with too much time on their hands now have even more fodder on their bizarre quest to downplay women as potential heroes and protagonists – to ask why is to walk the road to madness. The point is, it exists. People are stupid. People make no sense. People seem to need a cause to fight for, even if there doesn’t seem to be a point to it. Who knows. The important thing here is, I don’t care. This is the first and only time I will acknowledge this because there just isn’t enough time in the day to cater toward strange, bigoted idiots.
Directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster (2003), plus a whole load of television shows) and with a screenplay written by Allan Heinberg, Wonder Woman (2017) marks the fourth instalment of the DC Extended Universe. It would be an understatement to say that Wonder Woman came with baggage. Not emotional baggage, per se, but boy was there a lot riding on it. After a trilogy of underwhelming cinematic forays, all eyes were turned to Wonder Woman. It had a lot to prove to the general audience in order to save the DC cinematic universe. What’s more, it had to show that the potential was there when Zack Snyder wasn’t there to ruin things.
And boy, did it deliver.
Skipping past the intro sequence, the film focuses on Diana (Gal Gadot), a young princess on the island of Themyscira, an island inhabited exclusively by a race of warrior women known as the Amazons. The island, it is revealed, is concealed from the world in a hope to protect them from the warring world of men, influenced by Zeus’ mortal enemy, Aries, the God of war. Yeah, alright, stay with me.
As Diana matures, her physical training is pushed to the limit of her endurance. Over time, she becomes a fierce and powerful warrior – though still with plenty to learn. She soon gets her chance when she witnesses a burning fighter plane tear its way into Themyscira’s ocean, seemingly out of nowhere. Quickly jumping to action, Diana leaps into the water and recovers the plane’s pilot – a handsome American by the name of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). He is barely able to explain himself before a German ship comes into view, its passengers disembarking in hot pursuit of Steve.
Are you a man?
In a pitched battle, the Amazons defend their island against the German invaders and soon the battle is won – though not without a heavy cost. And, uh, apparently they dealt with the ruddy massive metal ship somehow too – I guess that happened off screen.
In the aftermath of battle, Steve is interrogated by the Amazons and reveals the truth of the wider world – and that he is on a mission to deliver vital military intelligence back to his masters in London. After some discussion, he is eventually given permission to leave Themyscira, and is accompanied by Diana – now wielding the weapons promised to defeat the world’s evil – who sets out to slaughter Aries, who she believes is behind the war to end all wars.
As the pair arrive in London, they meet with Steve’s secretary Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) and deliver their intelligence to the Imperial War Cabinet. After some political too-ing and fro-ing, they are finally allowed to infiltrate the Western Front in Belgium, on the unofficial permission of Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis), a speaker at the Imperial War Cabinet. Joining them is a band of unlikely heroes, master-of-disguide Sameer (Said Taghmaoui), sharpshooter Charlie (Ewen Bremner) and Chief (Eugene Brave Rock), a Native American trader and all round font of knowledge.
The Dirty, uh, Five
Their mission? To stop the development of a new form of mustard gas developed by General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and the affectionately named Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya) – a pair of German officials desperate to put an end to the war as violently as possible. Willing to slaughter their own to stop any chance of a peaceful armistice, the pair become the targets of our heroes – with Diana going so far as to believe General Ludendorff may just be the source of all the world’s woes himself – Aries.
But as the group navigate the Western Front, the horrors of war may just reveal just how many shades of grey there are in Diana’s world of black-and-white, good and evil. Will she find Aries and stop the war? Hmmmmm!
I’d just like to say that I genuinely enjoyed Wonder Woman. I had high hopes that it would be as good as it appeared in the first trailer or two. I was concerned it would try and be funny, a clear attempt to emulate the success of the Marvel franchise but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the humour was not so cringe as it seemed – it was barely even there.
The story instead focussed on developing larger than life characters in a dark and dismal period of history, and I would say that it achieved that in droves. From Diana’s naive fish-out-of-water optimism, to Steve’s somewhat cynical hero and all the way to the sinister Saturday morning villain of General Ludendorff, there was plenty to love about Wonder Woman’s characters.
And then there’s Chris Pine. I never really thought of him as much of an actor, but his portrayal of Steve Trevor as a guilt-ridden all-American spy was flawless. In most scenes, he absolutely stole the show without ever feeling like he was overshadowing his fellow cast members. Also, Wonder Woman marks the first time in a long time that I’ve felt a romantic subplot was actually necessary, and I think a huge part of that comes down to Chris Pine and Gal Gadot’s on screen chemistry, as well as a consistent use of tone and pacing that really helped sell their growing love for each other.
What’s more, the first half of the movie had some wonderful pacing and didn’t hold back in delivering plot-through-action. The scene from the trailer with Diana climbing the ladder into No Man’s Land, deflecting bullets and striding into the enemy trench was a masterpiece of action and character development – which is a vague, overly complicated way of saying it felt like a superhero movie. The soundtrack absolutely helped, with its blend of Gladiator-style classical, mixed with the desperate drums and guitar we have heard time and again. Really, genuinely, impressive stuff.
That said, I did feel that the action somewhat let the film down. The overuse of speed-up-slow-down effects really grated on me, as did the somewhat lame CGI during the fight scenes. Five years ago it would have been perfect, but it just lacked that extra level of shine to really make it stand out in 2017. It’s also probably best not to consider that the ‘bad guys’ in this film were just ordinary German soldiers, here. Yes they were fighting on the other side, but some of the violence against them felt a little uncomfortable – these aren’t the acceptable evil National Socialists we all love to hate, after all.
The worst thing you can say about Wonder Woman, though, is the ending. Obviously I’m not going to spoil things here, but just as the story was truly becoming something interesting and kinda mind blowing, the plot takes a dive and we get to see the same sort of shit we’ve seen so many times before. It just seemed unnecessary and, frankly, a little dull.
I can’t really elaborate on that, but when the first two thirds of the film were constructed so perfectly, well, it’s just a bit of a shame. Still, Wonder Woman absolutely stands out from the crowd – and is well worth a watch despite the meh ending and weirdly out of place final image.
Yours, A P Tyler