Friday, June 2, 2017

Movie Review -- Wonder Woman

wonder woman poster movie review

I began developing my jones for mythology back in junior high school (that's what they called middle school in prehistoric times). I took 2 1/2 years of Latin and a great deal of that was translations of not only speeches and texts but also Roman mythology. I loved it. And I followed that by reading about Greek mythology, which was the same thing only different names for the Gods. And then Norse mythology and so on. Bulfinch's mythology . . . I've still got that somewhere.

So when I began buying subscriptions for comic books, besides X-Men and Daredevil, I also got Thor. How could I not? A mythological god turned superhero?! Had to have that. I loved them and like other fans, suffered through years of horrible Thor appearances in television. But when MARVEL decided to do a Thor movie, I was excited. When I saw that Kenneth Branagh was directing, I knew it would be good. Unlike many fans, I liked that movie and Branagh's Shakespearean vibe on Asgard and the relationships between those who dwelled there.

One thing I didn't like was that they didn't follow the mythology of the Thor character from the comics. Taking a cue from Asimov's theorem about technology -- that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, they simply made Thor and the other Asgardians aliens. Clever but disappointing

I had conversations with screenwriter Michael France (Hulk, Fantastic Four, Goldeneye, Cliffhanger, etc.) about that when Thor came out. His position was that moviegoers wouldn't accept the notion of actual gods, that it was too ridiculous. I thought to myself that the notion of a guy who can spontaneously burst into flames and fly or a dude made out of rock or a girl who can turn invisible and project force fields was pretty ridiculous too, but . . .

With Wonder Women we see that maybe either audiences have changed or the world has changed or something. Because they don't shy away from the original mythology of who and what Diana is. After a shout out to Batman v Superman, we get Diana's life as a young child on Themyscira. Her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielson), is wildly protective of the rebellious young girl who wants desperately to be a warrior like the other Amazons.

But along with a fairly literal explanation, via Greek mythology, of how and why the Amazons came into being, we also get clues that Diana may be much more than what she appears to be and the Queen may be hiding or protecting her from a greater evil in the world.

We see Diana grow into adulthood, in the person of achingly beautiful Gal Gadot, and soon thereafter the Amazons secluded paradise is breached by the outside world and the horror raging there -- World War I.

After a brutal battle with Germans on the beach of Themyscira, Diana, convinced that Ares, the God of War, is behind what's happening in the world outside, steals the weapons given to the Amazons by Zeus and leaves the island with downed pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) to find and kill Ares and restore mankind to what she believes and has been taught is their inherent goodness.

It's against this fairly simple plot background that the movie plays out. There's a lot of empowerment going on here, and I don't mean girl power stuff. Again and again, Diana's naïve nobility and morality moves those around her to take action and/or make tough choices. She rails at her mother when Hippolyta tries to stop Diana from leaving. How can we stand by and watch millions die and do nothing, Diana asks. The Amazons were created by Zeus to protect mankind and stop Ares, that's their purpose to exist, she points out. She has to do something.

She berates a room full of Allied Generals for sitting in safety and comfort, while rank and file soldiers die on the battlefield. A true General should fight along side their troops, she says, risk their own lives just like the warriors they command. She calls them cowards and tells them they should be ashamed of themselves.

Once on the front, confronted for the first time in her existence, Diana sees the horror of war and is moved by it. When they pass through the trenches, she hears the laments of townsfolk who have suffered under German occupation. She hears how the Allied soldiers have been trapped in these trenches for a year, unable to move an inch over what is cleverly called "no man's land." Trevor wants to stay on mission, his mission, to find this evil General. But again, Diana rails about how they cannot simply ignore the suffering around them. Climbing out of the trench in full Amazon regalia, she wades into a hail of bullets and machine gun fire and the image of her bravery moves first Trevor and his team and then the Allied soldiers to storm the German front and crash through. It's a moving and heroic moment, and not nearly as cloying as it might have been under another director. And indeed, has become the signature sequence in the movie. Fun factoid -- director Jenkins had to fight to get this scene into the final cut as the studio didn't think it was necessary. Sometimes you've got to trust the artist, ya know.

Time and again through the rest of the movie these sorts of scenarios play out. And not always just Diana inspiring the others, but she is also inspired by the bravery and self-sacrifice of Trevor and his mates assembled for the mission in typically pc movie making style -- a drunken Scottish sniper who can't shoot anymore, a noble Arab actor turned mercenary and a noble American Indian turned smuggler. *sigh*

I'm not familiar with director Patty Jenkins, but she did a good job balancing the emotional ride of this movie and navigating what could have been some groan inducing moments. The battle on the beach, featuring women warriors armed with bows and arrows and swords against soldiers armed with guns could have required epic suspension of disbelief. Instead we saw exactly what one might reasonably expect -- death on both sides with the good guys (or girls in this case) coming out on top but not without some tragic loss.

Diana's growth from the cloistered environment of Themyscira through some enjoyable comic moments in 1917 London to seeing that war and battle isn't all romance and glorifying bedtime stories to her final realization that life and the world isn't everything she thought it would be is all handled quite well.

I've seen some bitching on various outlets that Gadot isn't built like a bodybuilder or a busty Playboy model (you just can't please some folks) but she's plenty athletic enough to carry off the very stylish battle/fight sequences. And honestly, that lithe physique seems perfect for the role. She's also a very good actress, conveying the varying emotions of the movie effortlessly and effectively. I read where she had thought about leaving acting prior to getting this role. I think maybe she's gonna have a real career boost after this movie.

If I do have a complaint it is about the final confrontation with Ares. Yes, she does finally meet him. The physical battle seems forced, as if the writers simply didn't know how a god might do battle. We get yet another reveal about who and what Diana actually is and there's one little continuity error that may need some explaining in future movies. I'm a bit surprised I haven't seen anyone on these fanboy sites bring it up.

All in all, this is a really good movie. One of the better origin story movies so far. I'd rank it up there with Deadpool and Chris Nolan's Batman Begins in terms of an origin story flick that casual fans will enjoy. I've seen some bitching about the runtime -- it's just over two hours, but I saw it last night at the 10:40pm showing and didn't even notice how late it was when it was done. Btw, don't hang around for a post-credits scene, there isn't one.

If you've been bummed about DC's last couple of flicks, give this movie a look. I think they may have a legit hit on their hands here. I certainly hope it does well. With Justice League coming out this fall, a successful Wonder Woman lead in could really help that movie and others in the DC universe get on the good foot with movie goers.

Update 1:
Looks like the movie is starting off well with reports of an $11m Thursday opening, which puts Wonder Woman somewhere between Logan at $9.5m and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 at $17m.

Update 2:
I stand duly chastised. I pointed out what I thought was a continuity error in the movie -- in her confrontation with Ares, the God of War destroys Diana's sword The Godkiller and yet I thought she was still wielding it in BvS. Turns out I was wrong, as several commenters on a fanboy site so helpfully [\sarc] pointed out. Diana wields something called the Sword of Athena in BvS and is also using a new shield. No explanation for why other than director Zack Snyder wanted to inscribe some quotes/verses on the items as part of his artistic creation process. Perhaps in a future movie we'll get an explanation for where the new weapons came from.

Update 3:
Numbers are in for the weekend opening -- three days from Thursday thru Saturday (again, not my stats bro) and Wonder Woman has a domestic gross of $100.5m and $223m worldwide, so along with a critical success, DC and the studios have an official hit on their hands. Important to note that both BvS and Suicide Squad made a ton of money worldwide, but suffered from some pretty savage critical reviews that weren't completely deserved in my humble opinion (I actually liked BvS. You can check out my thoughts on SS in a previous post). Anyway, bully for Gadot and Jenkins for their success with this movie.

Did you find this review helpful? Check out my other reviews for my thoughts on the flicks and the occasional gallery of hotness that accompanies them:

1 comment:



All kinds of Wonder Woman Wonderment with Gal Gadot, Lynda Carter and Cathy Lee Crosby!