Friday, June 2, 2017

Wonder Woman [A Fat Jesus Film Review]

This is the film that DC Extended Universe needed. They needed a win. "Man of Steel" was average at best. "Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice" was a letdown. "Suicide Squad" was an Oscar winning nightmare. So to think that a solo Wonder Woman film--an origins story as well--could be the jolt the DCEU gets, is marvelous. Gal Gadot was pretty good in her considerable on-screen role. Yes, I know she was in Dawn of Justice, but it was a supporting role at best. Chris Pine was also on point as well throughout the film. The supporting cast of Amazonians as well as the WWI infiltration team were all pretty good too. The first half of the film is a sight for sore eyes as we get some color in the DCEU, but alas it was fleeting, because it goes right back to the dark grey pallet for the second half.

"Wonder Woman" is set after the events of "BvS: Dawn of Justice." In present day Paris, Diana Prince / Wonder Woman (Gadot) receives the original copy of the picture of her that Bruce Wayne sends to her in the previous film. Attached to it was a note saying that Bruce would love to hear her story sometime. This is when we fade back to the WWI-era to the island of Themyscira. Wonder Woman, then known as only Diana, was born and raised here. The island is inhabited by only Amazonians. After Ares corrupted mankind and killed the other gods, women were given this island with some of Zeus' last strength, to keep them away from man's evil corruption. Diana only wants to be a warrior, but her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), forbids it. Eventually Hippolyta knows she cannot anymore. Years later, after a sparring session in which Diana exhibits a feat of strength that marvels the rest of the Amazonians, she goes off to be with her thoughts and a plane crashes into the coast in front of where she is. Diana proceeds to rescue the pilot Steve Trevor (Pine). He is running from Germans, who find the protected island and attack one of the beaches. During the skirmish, the Amazonians take casualties and take Steve into custody. Using the Lasso of Truth they find out about the Germans, that World War I is happening and Trevor has a key piece of intel that could help end it. Diana decides that it's her duty to help end this war and--against her mother's wishes--leaves with Trevor to help end the violence. Once in Europe, Diana and Steve set out to try and turn the tides of the war in Germany. Because an evil is lurking just on the outside, waiting to end the truce that is being formed and keep the war from ending.

This film works because of Gal Gadot's portrayal of the innocent, yet committed, Diana. Chris Pine is also instrumental, because he give yet another good performance. Almost any character he portrays, he does it in an extremely efficient manner. But, back to Gal Gadot. I'll be honest, I didn't have a huge amount of faith in her. I still think she doesn't quite look the part. She doesn't look like the bigger and buffer Wonder Woman we're used to seeing. Even worse I thought her part in BvS: Dawn of Justice was only okay. I wasn't sure she could carry a solo film. Gal Gadot is emotion in a popcorn flick genre with this performance. Don't get me wrong, I still think a lot of the MCU is much better--or at least on par--with Wonder Woman. But, Gadot as Diana in this film go where a lot of superhero films don't, to emotions. She's sad to leave her homeland and feel genuine pain for all that's happening in the war. Once she gets to Europe she wants to help everyone and everything. She wants to end the was an beat Ares, but she also wants to help literally everyone along the way. Her overall innocence and her ignorance to the real world, provided emotion, a bit of humor and fueled conflict as well. Diana is a decently written character in which a good performance by Gadot elevates it overall. Switching sides we get Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, the English spy that Diana saves near the start of the film. Pine has got great timing and does a great job of trying to help Diana learn the ropes in the world she's been dropped into. Most of the humorous happenings in the film, occur when the two are at odds about real world vs Themyscira. But it doesn't end at humor, the two have pretty solid chemistry and the serious, more emotional and action filled scenes between the two work well. There are a lot of small moments in the film where you get that tag team inkling. That being, knowing someone well enough that you could just look at them and know what was going to happen. Steve Trevor isn't new, he's a grizzled spy/war veteran that just wants to do one final bit of good in his life, when a woman hit him out of nowhere and helps him get there. Another example of a decently--but cliche-ridden--character, elevated by the performance of the actor.

The rest of the cast is portrayed well, though are pretty forgettable in all honestly. The Amazonians felt stiff, but it may be because they're essentially gruff and tough Greeks war goddesses, still thriving in their own society. Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen were okay as the mother and aunt of Diana in the early going. On the other end, the WWI dream team were considerably more fun, but if you asked me where Eugene Brave Rock entered as Chief for the first time, I couldn't tell you. Ewen Bremner and Saïd Taghmaoui, as a drunk sharpshooter and master of disguise respectively, were both fun roles that stood out in the second half of a film that dragged badly at times. Steve Trevor's secretary, Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) was probably the most fun and memorable of the bunch. Bringing some solid comedic moments to the early going. The directing was okay as Patty Jenkins is already leagues ahead of Zack Snyder's DCEU films. So that's pretty cool. We just need to get Snyder's name of DCEU stuff completely now. The plot was typical superhero origin story, though it did have a bit of a plot twist sprinkled in, as well as a decent enough love story. I was afraid it would feel too much like "Captain America: The First Avenger," so I'm glad that the story took on a different approach. The bad guys overall were pretty weak, like in most superhero films. An angel dust snorting German commander (Danny Hudson), a face-wrecked mad scientist inventing Mustard Gas (Elena Anaya) and an old man masquerading as Ares (David Thewlis). All were underwhelming, though like the rest of the non-Gadot or Pine characters acted decently enough. Overall the plot was fairly standard, the story took on a life of it's own while the supporting cast did well, but were mostly forgettable.

With all the good, this film does have a lot of problems. The CGI near the end of the film in the final action sequences was just plain bad. While the rest of the CGI throughout the film was adequate at best. While I wasn't expecting it to be as good as "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" or "Doctor Strange," it shows that it's nowhere near that quality. The action is pretty forgettable aside from the town rescue scene which is probably has the best action in the film. The beach fight near the beginning of the film was pretty fun as well. But, if you're going to have a two plus hour superhero film you don't want only two points of action to stand out. Another problem is right there, the length. This is a long film and while the first act is pretty good, the second act and finale devolve back into typical DCEU as of late. It's just too long and the middle portion leading to the climax drags a lot. This devolving includes going from beautiful vibrant island colors to dark tones for the rest of the runtime. DC hates color. There's an overabundance of slow motion as well. I noted that about three minutes into the film slo-mo was already happening. Not only that, the shaky cam whenever the Nazi commander did his drugs was unintentionally hilarious. Also the Wonder Woman song--you know the song--that was interjected during random action points, felt forced rather than just using some sort of score piece. There was a lot of confusing moments during the climax as well, both in the story and CGI where I simply didn't know what was going on. Maybe a second watch will clear some things up for me. DC also needs to use title cards to tell us where we're jumping to as well. Though this movie isn't as confusing as "BvS: Dawn of Justice," there's a lot of places they travel to and throwing up a "Germany, 19xx" for a few seconds wouldn't hurt at all. Finally the ending monologue form Wonder Woman before the credits roll was pretty cliche-ridden as well and not hugely needed. Especially after that walk though the crowd to touch Trevor's picture and the current day holding of his watch moments before. DC has made a stride with this but there's still a lot of things that it could do much better.

"Wonder Woman" is no joke, it's a competent enough DECU film (arguably the best thus far) that gives DC the cinematic jolt it hasn't really had since Nolan's Batman films. You just read about it's plethora of problems above, but the overall supporting cast and characters were solid if not forgettable. The writing and story have some emotion behind them and did their own thing, even though it's pretty cliche and confusing at times. Finally, Gal Gadot and Chris Pine have fantastic chemistry and the duo give us entertaining, humorous and emotional performances."Wonder Woman" isn't the second coming of superhero films, there's just too many problems for me too look past, but it's a fairly entertaining film that worth a watch or two.