Wonder Woman (Movie Review)

*Insert Girl Power-related title here*

Wonder Woman is a DC super hero film with a few goals burdened on it's shoulders. Based during the time of the first World War; Amazonian Warrior, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), bears the task of making up for the qualitative messes that were Batman vs Superman and Suicide Squad. Wonder Woman holds the stake of the DC film universe actually having potential to be critically entertaining, all whilst simultaneously kicking off a new wave of big budget, female-led superhero films. This film has received a lot of praise for having a strong female character and female director. So how is it? Well, good news. It's not terrible. YAY. You'll be thoroughly entertained for most of the film. Leaving her Amazonian warrior paradise of Themyscira, Wonder Woman's mission to kick some World War German posterior isn't 100% perfect as the hype made it out to be. However, it's a fun outing with some well-utilised themes and fleshed out characters that makes it hard to believe it's taken over 75 years to give this female icon a live action film debut.

She lifts, bro

Let's rave about the beauty of the woman playing the lead, Gal Gadot. News of her casting as Wonder Woman was met with criticism, being only known as "the woman who was just kind of there" in the Fast & Furious films. In all fairness to her, she's since toned up for that warrior women look and taken the role seriously. Her performance shows the need for a bit more experience, still lacking the exact level of the bold confidence she requires, but you can see it's there, like a statue encased in marble. It'll just need to chizzle itself out for the sequel. What was an unexpected joy though was the on-screen love interest: WW1 Soldier Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine. This character feels like a more human version take on his portrayal of James Kirk in the Star Trek films. Pine shows how charismatically charming he can be when put in a supporting role, creating believable and captivating on-screen chemistry with Gal Gadot, without taking her out of the limelight.

Chris Pine: "God she's fit"

What's held back recent DC films is the overbearing tone of making some characters and settings ill-fittingly dark for the sake of setting itself apart from Marvel, but from the beginning how Wonder Woman sets itself apart. Thrown in to Wonder Woman's scenically beautiful Amazonian island, the way Themyscira's setting is used to create exposition and set the tone for the main character is as uplifting as it is badass. Set on a secret island of strong, confident women that is the sunny yet green-laden Amalfi Coast, the first third of this film is the most surprising. It has a cute toddler Wonder Woman, buffed up ex-models playing Amazons, graceful yet brutal bits of action as these women beat each other up (woo Amazons!). Also a shout out to the actress who played Wonder Woman's mum, the Amazon queen, Connie Nielsen (Gladiator, Nymphomaniac). She effortlessly convinces us she's the leader of a warrior race who cares for her people and most certainly don't take any shit. She actually steals the attention away from Gal Gadot when they share a screen together, which is a pro and a con I suppose, but you end up loving them all anyway so woop de woo!

Such beautifully epic costume design

Lots of overly sensitive males, most likely the ones living in their mother's basements, thought Wonder Woman being directed by a woman assumed this would mean we'd be seeing the ultimate pro-extreme-feminist-crucify-men-because-they're-arseholes sort of film. Obviously, it's not. On the other hand, the most pleasant shock was the theme of innocence being exposed and reacting to elements of the modern world, both in the 1910's of WW1 and those still applied today. Diana has read and learned about certain things in the world, men included, so she's not the star of a typical dimwitted-fish-out-of-water story you've seen from the majority of comedies in the early 2000's. She has a black and white moral code, a simple manner of right and wrong that comes first whilst rules come second. When she sees the wrong, like innocent people suffering in the name of the bigger picture, she kicks off and doesn't stop until the right thing to do has been done. That's the most refreshing and most compelling component of Wonder Woman. Not only does this pure personality of the character make her an inspiring yet strong heroine but it adds to the lighter side as well, giving me laughs I never expected. If you've seen her certain action scenes in the trailers and the scenes leading up to it, the second act will leave you in a combined state of awe and surprising glee that DC's universe actually has the symbol of hope, one they've been trying to establish in their films for years.

Shielding from machine gun fire. Still the best bit of the film

As said before, all of the action scenes in the trailers are as great and memorable as the trailers made them out to be. This makes it both a positive and a negative that all of these scenes weren't in the third act, as this is where most of the wow-factor in the film drops off. Not that there's no entertainment left before the end mind you, but the transition to get to the final big baddie right is incredibly rocky in terms of pacing. It is bulked up with 90% more CGI compared to the rest of the film and a miscast main villain. You could tell that Zack Synder (Batman V Superman, 300) was one of the writers for the story. Compared to the  first two hours of run time, this pleasantly fresh surprise of a film lost a chunk of its lustre as you are presented with the standard, generic fight-the-big-baddie climax you've seen far too many times before. The film's theme of man kind being responsible for their own distraction is still there but it feels a bit lazy compared to the bar that'd been set just an hour earlier.

Final Thoughts

With the majority of her career focused on directing television and her last film being 2003's crime drama, Monster, Jenkins joins the list of lesser-known directors plucked out of obscurity to give big-budget franchises a "unique edge". Looking at the two The Amazing Spider-Man film's; 2015's Fantastic Four or X-Men Origins: Wolverine as references, this type of director pick has been argued as more of an empty promise tactic by the studios: putting someone in the director's chair who's easy to pressure due to their lack of experience, having executives direct from the backseat to their own visions. Incoherent messes in the form of the films just mentioned have followed.

There's also a dude with a fez, so that's neat

Like the symbolism behind the character itself, Wonder Woman shines brightly as an actual character of fun, hope and excitement, something characters in other DC films have failed to live up to. Everything up to the meh-ish third act is a breath of fresh air. There's a perfect balance and careful placing of comedic elements appropriate for the scenes. The last 45 minutes dragged it down a fair bit but its entertainment value, great leads, comedy and lore set up makes it an awesome couple of hours. Gadot has stuck to her own vision by creating an instalment that's defied expectations. It could've been better but Wonder-fans of all ages and genders will be hyped for a sequel.

Rating: 7.5/10

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