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[Joint Review] – ‘Wonder Woman’

 
 
Overview
 

Release Date: 25 May 2017 [USA]
 
Director: Patty Jenkins
 
Writer: Allan Heinberg [Screenplay] - Zack Snyder - Allan Heinberg - Jason Fuchs [Story] - William Moulton Marston [Created Wonder Woman]
 
Cast: Gal Gadot - Chris Pine - Robin Wright
 


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Posted June 7, 2017 by

 
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Lestat’s Perspective:

She’s finally here! Wonder Woman, one of DC’s Big Three comic book characters has struggled the hardest to lasso together a live-action appearance. But in 2017, better sense has prevailed, and she is headlining her own film, much to the delight of fans and newcomers alike.

Gal Gadot had already debuted her take on this iconic character in 2016, and was the only good part of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It is no wonder (no pun intended) that the film was rated as this year’s most anticipated release…

The film is a classic origin story, following Diana’s rise from clandestine warrior to the living legend she becomes – The opening sequence is set in the Amazons’ homeland, Themyscira, where we watch an army train, always at the ready for a war that might never come.

All is smooth-sailing, till Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes into this sanctuary. On his tail are the Germans, who attack Themyscira, laying waste to the peace that they have always enjoyed. While still recuperating from this attack, Diana hears of the toll the War is taking on the people of Man’s Land (as her mother, Queen Hippolyta, calls it). Her innate moral compass won’t allow her to sit still and she insists on leaving with Steve to save the world.

Once among the humans, Diana stops at nothing to defeat the evil that has caused this war. Despite her wide-eyed amazement at this new world, she hardly wavers from her mission, or her unfettered persistence that right be done by all. Her climactic fight with the villain is as much a tussle over power and strength, as it is about her defending her principles.

‘Wonder Woman’ has received rave reviews – from critics no less, and it comes down to how coherent and fluid the direction is. Jenkins gets to the heart of the matter with each shot, be it the sweeping pans revealing the landscapes of Paradise Island and war-ridden London alike, or tight first person shots focusing on intimate detail. Her vision comes alive most predominantly when she is depicting the suffering of the people – placing us squarely in the shoes of Diana – a sheltered person longing to help those in need.

Her action scenes are choreographed and executed with precision; there is little disorientation coupled with great action and intensity. She also utilises speed variations on multiple occasions, which I belatedly realised is a Zack Snyder trait, made her own by always maintaining stability.

The cinematography is stunning. I’d venture this is perhaps the most beautiful superhero film made to date; even the credits are spectacular to look at. The visuals are arresting – from the idyllic utopia that is Themyscira to the grime-encrusted trenches of No Man’s Land, the changing atmosphere is almost tangible through the screens.

In terms of performance, the acting is on par with a comic book film. Gadot embodies Diana perfectly, equal parts innocently charming and competently badass. She’s obviously enjoying the role, and I really hope we get to see more of her, not only as part of the Justice League, but also headlining more Wonder Woman films. The rest of the cast provide ample support to her scene-stealing presence.

What let this film down, and I knew it would, is the writing. The director’s vision is hampered by the script she had to work with. Much is made of, and reliant on, Diana’s innocence in the outside world, which does her character a great disservice. She may not understand the workings of this world, but she does understand war, even if she’s never fought in one. I wish the writers had utilised her strategic and tactical knowledge to support the war effort, but instead, she’s the brawn for Steve and his squad, observing as he plans and strategizes a way to win the war. For far too long Wonder Woman was a passenger in her own film.

There were also prolonged scenes with Steve & Diana, in which he explains the ways of the world, and while most are played for laughs, they became repetitive and ultimately hampered the pace of the film.

We were also needlessly introduced to the backstories of the secondary character, which, from what I can tell, will have no bearing on future DCEU films. They had no bearing on Wonder Woman either, we could simply have met them, watched their skills in action, and said goodbye. Given this film is set during the First World War, and that Wonder Woman’s storyline in the main DCEU timeline is set in the present, these scenes were wasted screen time, time that could have been put to much better use.

It’s also frustrating that a film with the word ‘Woman’ in the title has woefully few of them. The glorious scenes in Themyscira don’t last long – and once we’re out of there, there are only three women of consequence – Diana (disguised as Steve’s secretary – don’t get me started on that trope), Etta (Steve’s actual secretary) and Dr. Poison (a chemist under the power of the main villain Ludendorff and a shockingly underutilised character in this film).

It’s remarkable how long it’s taken Wonder Woman to reach the big screens, but she’s done so with a bang. Gadot carries the film and the burden of Diana’s innate goodness firmly on her shoulders. Poor writing aside, the heart-stopping action, abundance of humour, stellar cinematography and a lead actor who looks like she’s stepped off the comic’s page, make this an unforgettable superhero film. DCEU executives need to learn to trust the directors and the writers and let good films be made. Wonder Woman has surpassed the mediocrity we have come to expect of DC films, but we can only hope that this means that more women, in front of and behind the camera, will take over Hollywood and give young girls the heroes they deserve.

Written by:

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Lestat de Lioncourt
Random Thoughts – Lestat’s Blog
@EnsignLestat58
Freelance Contributor

 

Louis’s Perspective:

I never thought I’d see the day – a female superhero-led blockbuster film! Well, here it is, Wonder Woman, in all her Amazonian glory, beating up bad guys and saving the world. Long have we waited.

Wonder Woman is very much an origin story. Young Diana, Princess of Themyscira, lives among her fellow Amazonians under the benevolent but strict rule of her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). As the other Amazonians train for a battle that may never come, Diana is forbidden from participating. So, she goes against her mother’s wishes to train with her aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright), the greatest Amazonian warrior.

Despite her reservations, once Hippolyta discovers this secret, she allows the training to continue and soon Diana (Gal Gadot) is strong enough to best even Antiope in combat.

The peace is disturbed when Steve Trevor’s (Chris Pine) plane crashes in the water. Shortly after, the island is invaded by a troop of Germans and, though the Amazonians win the battle, they suffer causalities. Steve tells the Amazonians about the Great War being waged in the world, but Queen Hippolyta wants nothing to do with it. Diana, on the other hand, cannot stand by as millions of innocents are killed. Against her mother’s wishes, she joins Steve to fight in the war.

To kick start this review, I loved this film – I think part of me wanted to love it so I automatically did. It is a beautiful film, for one. The cinematography is astounding, particularly the scenes set in Themyscira. The editing is sleek and unobtrusive; you never feel like a shot lingered for too long, or that you couldn’t quite follow the focus of the action.

Which brings me to the action scenes. It’s a superhero film; there are going to be plenty of action scenes. Frankly, I wish there had been more… because the action scenes where fantastic to watch. Lots of swishing swords, guns blazing and Wonder Woman leaping through the air. Unlike in Man of Steel (which I also loved) and Batman v Superman (which most people didn’t like), the action scenes don’t seem overly-convoluted. The fight scenes are often slowed down so you can appreciate them in their entirety. I liked that; I like knowing who’s hitting who.

The story is fairly simple, reminding me of beats similar to Captain America: The First Avenger and Man of Steel. Wonder Woman follows the conventional superhero film formula; how to set up a new character, and it does so while still keeping things fresh.

For instance, there’s a great deal of humour involved. Diana is a fish out of water in 1918 London, relying on her limited understanding of people to get by. Her frankness is hilarious. She is both incredibly naïve, never having met anyone aside from her own people, and worldly-wise, with her bookish knowledge and strong sense of right and wrong. This leads to some hilarious interactions with Steve’s secretary Etta (Lucy Davis) and the numerous men who can’t understand why a woman is amongst them. It’s definitely satisfying to watch her swat them down.

I was initially concerned about the filmmaker’s choice to make Diana so unaware of the world, but it doesn’t come across as cringe-worthy. Instead, Diana’s naivete reinforces her stubborn insistence on following her plan to end; ending the war.

Of course, not everything is perfect. As I mentioned before, a few more fight scenes would have been great. The final fight is also too long, and could have been tighter. There are parts in the early scenes which are exposition-heavy, a flaw I’ve come to notice in many films of late. There is also a lack of female characters throughout the film, but alas, it is set in 1918.

The film relies heavily on a strong performance from its star, Gal Gadot, and she delivers in spades. She is definitely badass and executes the fight scenes brilliantly. She does an excellent job with dialogue delivery, and brings Diana’s steely determination and curiosity to the fore.

Half way through the film, there’s a short scene that left me breathless. It includes probably the single greatest shot I’ve ever seen on film – Wonder Woman, shield raised against a battery of bullets from the German army, sword by her side, hair flying hither and thither, stands her ground in the middle of No Man’s Land while several feet away, swathes of military men sit cowering in the trenches.

I actually felt quite emotional. What a time to be alive! I couldn’t have imagined watching something like this even two years ago. There’s more work to be done, but we’re pushing for more feminism in cinema and that can only be a good thing.

I’m thrilled this film was made. I’m glad Gal Gadot is getting to play the role she seems to have been born for, and I am delighted that Wonder Woman has been received positively. I’m also astounded that there are so few female superhero-led films and television shows, even now in 2017. I’ll be damned if we don’t let Wonder Woman pave the way for more amazing female superheroes, heroes, regular characters and antagonists to take over our screens, both big and small.

Written by:

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Louis Skye
@LouisSkye77
bloggingatwarp10.blogspot.com
Freelance Contributor

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