Published on June 7th, 2017 | by Craig Silliphant1
Nuts to the haters! Wonder Woman proved to the world that people do want female action heroes (and that DC might yet have some promise).
There were a lot of dumb questions and unfair expectations resting on the shoulders of Wonder Woman. Could she turn around the flailing DC Comics cinematic universe (creatively, not box office)? Could Gal Gadot wear the iconic golden tiara? Could the movie show the studios that a female action hero would indeed inspire ticket sales? Could a female director handle an action movie? Could Wonder Woman stir more than box office — could she inspire people as a cinematic hero?
In badass fashion, Wonder Woman (and director Patty Jenkins) leaned into all of this with aplomb and landed a satisfying uppercut to the jaw of haters and doubters everywhere. I have to admit, I was included in this punch, and boy, is my jaw sore. My hesitation was not a coming from a place of misogyny. I always believed that Wonder Woman could be amazing on the big screen.
My problem was with Zack Snyder’s vision for that universe — overly dark and moody, and yet somehow still cheesy. I expect a Batman movie to be grim, but to suck all the fun out of Superman was a low blow. Then he doubled down on that mess with Batman v Superman, an infuriating narrative wrapped in a series of convoluted trailers for other forthcoming properties. So when we started getting closer to Wonder Woman’s release, I admit that I bought my tickets with some measure of fear and resentment.
And yes, it has become fashionable to poop all over Zack Snyder (a director I used to quite like — his Dawn of the Dead was one of the best remakes of all time). It is assumed that people like me take some measure of satisfaction in hating these DC movies. Frankly, it’s quite the opposite. I have loved these characters since I was a child, looked up to them, learned from them, aspired to be like them. It breaks my heart to dislike their current incarnations.
So, to Patty Jenkins and Wonder Woman I say — thanks for saving the day. While it’s not perfect, I stand up and applaud the movie, with tears streaming down my face, just for injecting a sense of wonder back into the DC universe. Rather than another DC movie that takes itself as seriously as a moody goth teen awash in blackness, Wonder Woman finds a near-perfect balance of serious when appropriate with exuberance, humour, and dammit, fun.
Wonder Woman, a.k.a. Diana (Gal Gadot), is a trained warrior princess among the Amazons, a race of warrior women. When a pilot named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes on the island, he brings news of a world war with him. Diana leaves her home to jump into the fray and follow her heroic destiny. Perhaps reminiscent of Agent Carter or the first Captain America movie, it’s a swashbuckling period piece. I’m not usually a fan of origin stories, but we haven’t seen Wonder Woman’s origin done to death like Batman or Spider-man, so it’s warranted.
For all the online chatter about the casting of Gadot, I don’t have strong feelings about her one way or the other. She doesn’t bring an unparalleled level of charisma to the role or anything, but neither did Henry Cavill with Superman. She does a serviceable job, playing it wide-eyed as she sees the world for the first time, but also strong and resolute when she knows it’s time to do the right thing. There are a lot of layers to Wonder Woman — a warrior, a princess, a diplomat, and Gadot plays enough notes to inhabit the role through each aspect of the character.
The supporting cast is terrific, especially Chris Pine and Said Taghmaoui. It’s also important to single out Robin Wright in a small but important role — nevermind Wonder Woman — Wright’s Antiope kicks the most ass of anyone, anywhere, ever.
The film moves at a decent pace, rarely dragging, though at almost 2 and a half hours, it could have easily had another editing pass. There is a scene where Trevor and Diana buy an ice cream — moments like this, while cute, were totally shoehorned in. It doesn’t move the plot forward. It only serves to remind us that she is a fish out of water character, which has already been well established. Someone couldn’t let go of that scene in the editing room. And tellingly, the scene happens so fast, it’s a good bet they trimmed as many frames out of it as they could to keep it while keeping it short. That said, as Feedback Society writer Ian Goodwillie said to me — indulgent running times aren’t specifically a Wonder Woman problem. Right now, they are an EVERY blockbuster problem.
Most of the action scenes are better than what we’ve seen before in the DC movies, though I still hate the imposed Zack Snyder trademark speed ramping gimmick (the speeding up and slowing down of the picture, which looks similar to the Matrix bullet time effect). It was neat for five minutes in 2006, but now it’s overdone. It looks cheesy and affected and in 15 years it will date films as badly as the mullet dates my high school yearbook photos. Thankfully, it was used more sparingly in Wonder Woman.
The action at the climax of Wonder Woman, like almost all superhero movies, also suffers from diminishing returns. Both Marvel and DC movies usually devolve into CGI destruction porn in the end of each film — while a hellstorm of fire and explosions may look cool, it’s not a replacement for stakes. There are things at stake in Wonder Woman, but we never really feel like she’s in any real danger amidst the generic CGI climax.
While I did enjoy the movie a great deal, I have seen a lot of hyperbole surrounding it. I’ve heard some call it the best super hero movie of all time, which I can’t agree with. Perhaps some confuse its importance in this time and place with its overall quality. That said, movies are subjective, and if this movie touched someone in a way it didn’t hit me, I can’t take that away from them. But if I’m just giving my opinion on it like any other movie then I would say that I enjoyed the heck out of it, but it wasn’t life changing. It’s great. I would rewatch it. But it’s not the Citizen Kane of superhero movies. In fact, it has many of the same problems that even some of the best recent blockbusters suffer from.
What I hope it does amount to is Wonder Woman throwing her shoulder at the gates, prying them open just enough for other characters to follow her charge. To show studio suits and Internet haters alike that there are huge audiences that want to see heroes of all genders, colours, and orientations. Right now, Hollywood suffers from a groupthink homogenization that threatens to destroy the very business and experience of going to the movies. While Wonder Woman is surely a blockbuster that has blockbuster problems, it is more importantly, a movie that proves that people will pay to see stories about characters that are as unique as they aspire to be.