Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wonder Woman

Spoilers are marked.

Diana, () the only child on a hidden island Themyscira, grows up in a cheerful and innocent state of warmongering. Her mother the Queen () tries to keep her a safe distance away from fighting, but, driven by awed love for her kin's history (in which they helped Zeus defeat the evil god of war, Ares when he tried to corrupt mankind) Diana wishes to be a warrior. Prophesy says that Ares lives, will return, and can only be defeated by a weapon that Zeus made as he died. Diana wishes to wield that sword, and her aunt () trains her until she can. Then a stray pilot crashes in the ocean. A man. () (Cue a cheesy yet endearing grin!) He tells the Amazons of a terrible war to end all wars, and Diana knows this must be the return of Ares, so she takes the sword and goes off to save the world!

Charging a German trench. Why? In the words of my brother: "She can't not."

The best thing about this movie, time and time again, is Diana. Her heart is as pure as a baby lamb frolicking in untouched snow, and she's as innocent and naive as you'd expect of a girl who's lived a couple thousand years on a mystical island inhabited only by women. Yet she has confidence in her strength and in herself, and no petty need to advertise. My personal favorite characteristic though, is her joy. Even when she's not explicitly happy, she constantly exudes a joy for life; she relishes beauty and goodness, and you can see her eagerly soak in her surroundings, wide-eyed. She is also passionate and noble, and Gal Gadot gives her such life with a charismatic and confident performance. If more women could lead these kinds of movies with such unaffected grace, people wouldn't need to try and force it to happen.

I'm not one eager to go gaga over Chris Pine, so I was pleased to find that his Steve Trevor is a character who earns his worth. He, like Diana, is noble and passionate, but having lived through four years of the Great War, these traits have been repressed and replaced with hardened logic. He does what he can, and ignores what he cannot. He doesn't understand Diana or what she is capable of, thinking that her naivete could put her in more danger than she can handle. He tries to protect her and guide her through the unforgiving world, and as a result is continuously surprised by her unwillingness to see evil and do nothing about it, and her ability to do what he would never dream to be possible. Pine puts a damper on the swagger for the character (in comparison with Star Trek) and the result is an increase of heroic charm.

My favorite small moment was here, where she admires herself in the mirror without a hint of vanity.

Pine and Steve both are great supports for the film and its heroine. As a duo, Steve provides some great fodder for Diana's fish-out-of-water moments -- an element that can be hit or miss, and here was hit after hit, endearing her to us over and over. Their chemistry wasn't top-notch, but "good enough for a superhero flick" was all that was really required. In the end Steve's character is there to enhance Diana's, and that was done with aplomb. Conversely, none of the three rag-tags who follow them (, , and ) made much of an impression. I was simultaneously surprised at how little effort was put into them, and confused as to why they felt the need to put any effort towards them at all. They helped to move the plot, but their characters were mostly distractions, only.

Doctor Poison herself () also proved to be all but useless as a character, which was disappointing after she seemed well set up to be a formidable villain. In fact, speaking of the villain... (Spoilers!) Once 's Ludendorff is revealed to not be the main villain his being so underwhelming makes sense. Ares is really , and while he does a fantastic job making himself memorable after his reveal lets him loose to be villainous, it is unfortunate that he didn't get more time due to his identity being kept secret. It was a good twist for the movie, but let the character down a bit. That epic bit where he gets his armor does its best to make up for it, and if it doesn't completely, it was close enough, because woah. (End Spoilers) On the island, both Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright give great performances on some hardcore characters. And last but not at all least, as Etta, Steve's secretary makes herself a worthy addition by being charming and funny.

She's got super strength, but also has featured qualities common and befitting to femininity. Like compassion, for which she has no chill.

Obviously characters were what made the biggest overall impression on me here. Though the only truly outstanding one was Diana herself, I still appreciate that director set out to make this action blockbuster an equal-part character piece besides. Diana makes up about 50% of the movie's worth; everything else (Steve, the action, the style, visuals in general, themes, and writing (the value of a good one liner should never be overlooked) makes up about 40%, and there's 10% or less of want. So, action wise: There is no shortage of stylish action where the enjoyment hits levels of sheer glee that we haven't seen come out of DC since Nolan. It's great stuff, enhanced even further by how much fun Gadot is having performing it.

It does have two shortcomings however. The first is overuse of slow motion -- and this is coming from a movie where slow-mo is considerably more appropriate than average -- there's a lot of it. Often it works, but one or two fights could have used some restraint. The other is that the action is sometimes cut... safely. Probably to avoid awkwardness in the movement. It can be jarring and disjointed feeling. Both these problems can probably be traced back to a lacking in fight choreography; individual stunts are fantastic, but are sometimes strung together with awkward flow. Visually the film is nothing short of stunning, and when action sequences make use of visual appeal they are at their best. And with the insipid dullness of the recent past, I feel it's appropriate to praise this movie's bold use of vibrant color. From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate it.

Honestly I wish she'd served in the war longer. There could have been twice as much of the historical side of the war. And of her running into the fray bECAUSE INJUSTICE IS BEING DONE AND SHE MUST STOP IT. I love that about her so much.

Wonder Woman hardly feels like a DC film at all, only reminding us via short bookends. After all the murky sludge that has come from Snyder of late, a film that sets out to entertain and dazzle and have fun seems incredibly original and endlessly welcome. It's more like a Marvel, in fact, with obvious similarities with Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger present in the plot, but not so much as to make the film feel redundant -- not even close. This film even exceeds Marvel's later efforts with its gleeful and unashamed joy. It seems thrilled to simply exist, and its greatness is a natural consequence of that joy and devotion. It doesn't conspire to prod or manipulate its audience, but to share its story with us, and let us share in the wonder; and maybe inspire or move us with some words of wisdom. In other words, Wonder Woman is everything she needed to be.

4 comments:

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    1. Me too, I'm so glad it turned out!

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  2. Great review! Wonder Woman has been the highlight of my summer so far. It wasn't a perfect movie, but it was an amazing start for female superhero franchises, especially when the expectations for this was so low. Gal Gadot and the rest of the cast was great. Since the story reminded me a lot of Captain America: The First Avenger. I didn't mind that the villain was evil for evils' sake. But I can understand how a lot of people wanted more for him. Overall, awesome movie!

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    1. Thanks! Haha, I'd say me too, but it's also the only movie of my summer so far. :P I expect it'll hold up well though! yes, if anyone ever doubted, it's the hero (and not their gender) that makes a good superhero flick. People who make male-led superhero films would do well to remember that too! Yeah, the villain could've been more, but I didn't mind either. It worked for me.

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