Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Danny Houston
Written by: Allan Heinberg (screenplay), Zack Snyder (story by)
Directed by: Patty Jenkins
Studio: Warner Brothers
Run Time: 2hours and 21 minutes
In lieu of a traditional review, I will just tackle Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment’s latest film, Wonder Woman, head on. Hopefully, it will streamline the review for you, the reader.
Where I stand on the DCU Movies (shouldn’t really matter)
I am not a fan of Warner Brothers’ latest DC Comics film adaptations. Man of Steel was alright, Batman v Superman was a bloated nightmare, and Suicide Squad was not as much fun as everyone claimed to have had. Already you are thinking that Wonder Woman had no chance with me. That is where you are wrong. I am tired of DC’s movies being bad and mediocre. I was raised on Christopher Reeve’s Superman as well a Michael Keaton’s Batman. I know the studio has it in them to do a good job, and it was my hope that the Amazon was going to right the course of the ship. Having now seen the film, I can say that I do think Wonder Woman is a better movie and story than the first three installments of this DC Universe, with the following trepidations posted below.
Gal Gadot Looks the Part (that’s it)
Here is the first issue with the Wonder Woman movie. Gal Gadot is not much of an actress. In Batman v Superman, she is a presence. In other words, her character doesn’t say much, but is there and does a great job. However, in giving her an entire movie to carry, we see that physically she can portray the role, but she never made me feel or believe in her message of love.
It is all about believing in her portrayal of the character and what she goes through on screen. A crucial moment of that comes midway through this 2 hour and 21-minute epic. Wonder Woman decides to get involved with the fighting at No Man’s Land (the front lines). She hears the cries for help and so forth. In short, she saves an entire town from being slaughtered and, afterward, she and her companions have dinner there and relax. Later in the film, the bad guys shoot poison gas into the same town and kill everyone. Wonder Woman runs back, but she is too late to make a difference. The music and what you see of the devastation is enough to provoke an emotional response, yet nothing comes from Wonder Woman on this. She looks upset, but she is not making an emotional connection with the events on screen to the audience. I felt nothing.
A prime example of Gadot not quite knowing how to act through a scene comes when she does, in fact, vanquish the man she believes to be Ares. When the world doesn’t stop fighting and start embracing one another in love, the conflict she portrays on screen is that of a child who simply doesn’t understand. What was needed in that scene is what Chris Pine states with words: that some people are just bad. She couldn’t comprehend that and comes off looking like an imbecile. No hero should ever look like that on screen. Especially one that is carrying the weight of a franchise on her back now.
This is Chris Pine’s Movie
As I mentioned above, Chris Pine has to spell out a crucial moment for our heroine on screen. Pine also has to bear the weight of carrying this entire film, which starts the moment he crashes on screen. In a lot of ways, this is his movie and a great turn for the actor who is usually at the forefront of a large ensemble piece. He should be playing second fiddle to Wonder Woman, but Gadot’s performance is so robotic, that, unless she is kicking some ass, Pine is really the one to watch. They have many “fish out of water” moments (a few too many actually), and with Gadot’s deadpan performance and Pine’s light-hearted approach to the dialogue, they really work. However, when it comes to the heavier moments, without Pine present, they falter.
The Bad Guy(s)
Bad guys are essential to any hero’s tale. Sadly, with Gadot already signed on for multiple sequels, any villain in this film just feels irrelevant. There is no threat, because we already know she gets through it. This is what makes Danny Houston’s portrayal of Ludendorff laughable. We get that he is a vicious and sadistic bad guy right off the bat. We are lead to believe that he is Ares, the God of War, because no one else is presented as the villain. There comes a point where we, the audience, need to know if he really is Ares so that Wonder Woman’s crusade to stop him has a satisfying end. That point is long past when we learn it is not Houston. When Ares finally does reveal himself, we are past the point of caring, we just want it to be over.
Elena Anaya’s portrayal of Ludendorff’s henchmen, Dr. Maru (aka Dr. Poison), is completely wasted. The first trailer revealed her to be more of threat, which was only partially true. Yet, outside of one brilliantly played scene with Chris Pine near the end of the third act, she disappears until Ares totes her out as an example of humanity at its worst. Her soul purpose from that point on is to test Wonder Woman’s resolve. Can she truly kill evil? The scene has all of the emotional punch of asking James Bond to kill Oddjob after Goldfinger is already dead.
As for the God of War, he is simply in there to give Wonder Woman someone to have a fist fight with. David Thewlis, who has been sadly typecast as a bad guy since Dragonheart, does a fine job with what he is given. As I said before, superhero villains are one trick ponies. Thewlis does his job and the franchise marches on.
There are numerous things that stand out in Wonder Woman that need mentioning. The first of these is Robin Wright’s character, Antiope. Wright plays Diana’s (Wonder Woman) aunt who trains her and sacrifices herself for her during a battle. She preaches that Diana is meant for more than this life on Themyscira, though Diana’s mother, Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), wants Diana to stay as innocent as she is for as long as she can. There seems to be a lot more here than what we are given and that all comes from Robin Wright. Perhaps there is time for what that is in Justice League? I highly doubt it. We also get very little from Gadot after Wright’s death. As far as we know, Diana has never experienced killing before. How does she mourn? She watches Steve Trevor take a bath.
The biggest sore thumb of the entire film is a question that I hoped would be answered after watching Wonder Woman. In Batman v Superman, Batman asks Wonder Woman, in an email, “Where have you been?”. She has basically been hiding for the last 98 years and the story of why this is should have been revealed in the film. One could say that Wonder Woman learned how horribly humanity treats itself, or that Steve Trevor’s sacrifice was too great for no reward. However, the opposite is shown in the film. Trevor reveals the very best of humanity when it was at its worst. For all intensive purposes, Wonder Woman should not have gone into hiding, but formed her own Justice League post-WWI. This film revealed nothing new, other than she is an antique weapons curator for The Louvre in Paris. I would hope there is more to Wonder Woman’s story, but with Justice League coming along in a few months, I doubt we will get to see why she went into hiding.
With all the above being said, the film actually tick-tocked along a lot better than the three other DCU outings. I wanted to like this film. I wanted to be surprised by how much I liked it. I lowered the bar as far as it could go and still did not care for it. Now I am asking myself, should I bother wasting two to three hours of my life watching Justice League?