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Wonder Woman - Review

Wonder Woman

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

HOPES may have been high for Wonder Woman given the adulation she received from the otherwise slated Batman Vs Superman and the fact that her debut solo outing looked set to mark a blow for feminism in a typically testosterone-driven universe. But this latest entry into the DC Comics world is only partially successful before eventually succumbing to genre fatigue.

Hence, while Patty Jenkins may be the first female director of a superhero blockbuster, she struggles to impose the kind of identity that the genre is craving. Rather, for long periods she conforms to tradition [or requirement], perhaps tied, lasso-style, to the expectations demanded of producers such as Zack Snyder or the all-male writing team.

An origins story, Wonder Woman finds the central character (played by Gal Gadot) reflecting on her rise from a child learning her trade on the hidden island of Themyscira, where leather-clad Amazon female warriors endlessly train to protect themselves from the Greek God of War, to the moment she chooses to follow her destiny as Wonder Woman (aka Diana).

The catalyst for this is the arrival – or crash-landing – of US spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who has an urgent package for Allied command concerning the imminent use of chemical weaponry. Pursued by the Germans, Steve immediately places Diana and her tribe in peril, before explaining the reality of the outside world, which has descended into the war to end all wars (WWI).

Alarmed by what she hears of the suffering, Diana agrees to help Steve and the two head for London to enlist a rag-tag bunch of heroes – including Ewen Bremner’s sniper and a Native American – who aim to slip behind enemy lines and thwart the German plans (as led by Danny Huston’s embittered general).

Jenkins’ film owes much in concept and style to the likes of Marvel’s first Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. But while certainly entertaining enough during its build-up, the film eventually wants to have its cake and eat it.

Hence, early camp is belatedly replaced by over-earnestness and – eventually – the type of brain-numbing superhero smack-down that bedevils so many of these kinds of movies. The mix feels as uneven as that sounds.

It’s a shame because during the early, Themyscira-set scenes in particular, Jenkins shows signs of potential – that she may well be bringing a welcome lightness to the DC Universe as well as a knowing sense of its own absurdity. An exchange between Gadot and a naked Pine is priceless in the way that it draws easy laughs while simultaneously defying easy parody (for the way in which it appears to be parodying itself).

While even when the pair arrive in London, there’s some amusing insights into female perception, as well as a nice comic turn from Lucy Davis as an unwitting aid.

But once things turn more serious, there’s a naivety on display that sits uncomfortably alongside some of the more timely messages the film appears to be trying to make. Hence, the use of chemical weapons as a story device feels clumsy [at best] when viewed against the context of recent headlines [and continued global tensions], as does the supposedly iconic imagery of a lone Amazonian striding across No Man’s Land unscathed [an admittedly stylish set piece, but one that somehow feels troubling when taking into account the suffering that really took place during that campaign].

True, this is a superhero movie and perhaps shouldn’t be viewed in any other context. And true, Quentin Tarantino played ‘God’ with history in Inglourious Basterds to Oscar-winning effect. But the mixing of the hyper-realised and the real somehow feels off.

The last act descent into titan bashing, meanwhile, just feels tired and more in keeping with the worst Zack Snyder tendencies, while a supposed twist struggles to hold up to much scrutiny.

Of the performers, Gadot is appealing enough in the central role, mixing naivety with athleticism without ever being made to feel like mere eye-candy. But the remaining performers aren’t given much to work with beyond genre stereotypes – with Pine apparently content to roll out a variation on his Captain Kirk persona.

Given its potential to be different, Wonder Woman feels all the more frustrating for failing to realise most of it. Expectant genre enthusiasts will probably lap it all up but the more discerning – or beleaguered – casual observer may lament the missed opportunities, which soon begin to pile up.

The DC Universe, meanwhile, lumbers on with only marginal signs of improvement.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 2hrs 21mins
UK Release Date: June 1, 2017

  1. It’s simple. Go in and review the movie. Not what you wish it was or compare it to others, or bring your own baggage with you. Review the movie. Just a step too far?

    Shank    Jun 1    #
  2. Contrarian piece. Didn’t get past the trailer it seems. Click bait puff piece.

    Contrarian    Jun 2    #
  3. There are some good points in here but I feel the writer has an anti-DC bias. I enjoyed Wonder Woman for what it was. It is a superhero movie, after all. Some of Rob’s comments are wide of the mark.

    Jake    Jun 4    #