WONDER WOMAN review

Oh man is there a lot to say about this.

So, as many of you know, I’m not much of a comic book reader. So I can’t say I know anything comic-related about Wonder Woman. I’ve never even seen the 70’s TV show of the character. I grew up watching the animated TV shows JUSTICE LEAGUE and JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED. That was the extent of my knowledge. I was also a fan of the animated movie that came out, WONDER WOMAN (2009) and even owned the DVD. What can I say, Nathan Fillion is a favorite of mine.

But as anyone can tell you, a live-action movie has been in production hell for years. Again, for those of you that don’t know, Wonder Woman was about to get the big screen treatment with now geek-god Joss Whedon at the helm. A list as long as travel time on the 405 freeway of who would play the character was being considered, but the project was ultimately killed off. Whedon would obviously go on to do great work with Marvel, but keep in mind, this was around the year 2007! Maybe even earlier than that! Holy crap, it looked like we’d never see this superhero brought to life outside of animation. Hell, Hollywood tried to get yet another live-action TV show of Wonder Woman off the ground back in 2011 starring Adrianne Palicki and Elizabeth Hurley, but that was so critically thrashed that not even one episode was ever aired.

But thanks in large part to the success of MAN OF STEEL (2013), Warner Bros. and DC comics were ready to ride the waves that THE AVENGERS (2012) started and wanted to get their own cinematic universe created, culminating into a Justice League film. Despite BATMAN V SUPERMAN’s (2016) financial success, it was horribly beaten down by fans, and it was around this time that DC would get a huge overhaul in their infrastructure and a new team of creators would be carrying this franchise forward. Though that would mean little to BATMAN V SUPERMAN’s messy and senseless story and wasted potential, many couldn’t deny that Wonder Woman’s brief appearance was arguably the saving grace of the film, and I am totally in agreement.

Fast-forward past SUICIDE SQUAD (2016), and it’s mixed popularity, we are given a kind of last hope for this series of films and I have to say, much like the rest of the movies that came before, I am pretty excited for this, and early reviews and ratings sure have me riding on high hopes. I want this to be good guys. I want to love this movie. I really do.

Let’s take a look at the cast. Starring as the bad-ass Amazonian warrior princess is Gal Gadot (KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES [2016], FAST & FURIOUS 6 [2013], DATE NIGHT [2010], and the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE [2017]). Although I can’t say I’m her biggest fan, in that I’ve only seen so much of her work and she’s barely had a starring role to really showcase her talent, I am perfectly fine with her as Wonder Woman. No, her résumé isn’t spotless of bad movies, but she’s not usually the reason why. I look forward to seeing her performance here and 100 percent support her. At her side is the ever amazing and charming, Chris Pine (STAR TREK BEYOND [2016], JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT [2014], and THE PRINCESS DIARIES 2: ROYAL ENGAGEMENT [2004]). What can I say about the man? He’s funny. He’s awesome. He can perfectly play comedy and drama. I love his work… moving on. In support, we have Connie Nielsen (3 DAYS TO KILL [2014], GLADIATOR [2000], TV show THE FOLLOWING, and the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE), Robin Wright (EVEREST [2015], UNBREAKABLE [2000], TV show HOUSE OF CARDS, and the upcoming BLADE RUNNER 2049 [2017]), Danny Huston (BIG EYES [2014], animated film JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX [2013], and X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE [2009]), David Thewlis (ANOMALISA [2015], HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN [2004], and TV show FARGO), and Ewen Bremner (T2 TRAINSPOTTING [2017], AVP: ALIEN VS. PREDATOR [2004], and TRAINSPOTTING [1996]).

Now for the crew. Directing is Patty Jenkins, known for MONSTER (2003). Penning the screenplay is Allan Heinberg, known for TV shows: seven episodes of GREY’S ANATOMY, eight episodes of THE O.C., and four episodes of SEX AND THE CITY. Composing the score is Rupert Gregson-Williams, known for HACKSAW RIDGE (2016), BEE MOVIE (2007), and HOTEL RWANDA (2004). Finally, the cinematographer is Matthew Jensen, known for FANT4STIC (2015), CHRONICLE (2012), and eleven episodes of TV show TRUE BLOOD.

Overall, STOKED! I needn’t say more.

This is my honest opinion of: WONDER WOMAN

(SUMMARY)

Diana (Gal Gadot) is the Princess of the hidden island paradise of Themyscira, raised around an all-female elite class of warriors, trained by the greatest of their warriors to be the best in the off chance that their greatest adversary, Ares, the God of War, should ever return. However, everything changes when a mysterious aircraft crashes into Themyscira’s ocean, carrying an American spy named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), pursued by German forces. Despite victory against them, Steve is taken prisoner and reveals that he’s fighting in a war, a great war supposedly to end all wars. While Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) believes it’s simply the natural chaos that men bring, Diana believes that it’s Ares influencing the war. Taking weapons and armor, she takes Steve back to his war as long as he promises to take her to where the war is at its most intense.

(REVIEW)

YEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAH!!! About damn time, DC!

Yes, folks, this is an awesome movie. A legitimately good film. I’m not just saying that because I’m lying to myself. No, I really do think this is one that shouldn’t be missed.

Right off the bat, the movie does a great job of world-building the Amazon world. Themyscira is a beautifully designed island and really does feel like a paradise. The gorgeous scenery alone almost feels like a character in itself, thanks in no small part to the wonderful cinematography. But more than that, once they introduce the Amazon warriors, you’re immediately enthralled by them. These women are pure bad-asses and in no more than two minutes, you know you’d never want to get on their bad sides. A detail that I found particularly remarkable in this brief introduction is just how good the extras look. No, I’m not talking aesthetic beauty, I’m talking about how these extras actually look like they’re having intense sparring matches. You know how in almost every great sword-fighting movie that it’s always intense thanks to great stunt-work and choreography? It looks like that’s what’s happening with these extras. Each sparring match looks intense and probably took a great deal of time to perfect and look great on screen. So believe me when I tell you when I look at an eight-year-old Diana (Lilly Aspell) looking at the warriors in awe, trying to mimic their fighting techniques, I’m right there with her, and I’m a twenty-eight-year-old grown-ass man… er, mostly grown-ass. Bottom-line, this intro is awesome.

But it’s not just pure, unrelenting action with no character. Quite the contrary, every character is simple, but easy to identify. Young Diana wants to train just like the rest of her Amazonian sisters, but her mother won’t allow it, believing that no threat will come their way in their lifetime… however long that is. Yeah, it’s never made clear if these women are immortals or just have really long life-spans, but whatever! No one cares! But of course, Hippolyta knows that her daughter has a strong will and eventually concedes that if she must be trained, then she must be trained to be better than the greatest of their warriors. And who better to train her just for that than their greatest warrior, Antiope (Robin Wright). I feel like in a lesser script, they could have easily made Antiope a reluctant teacher, jealous of Diana’s eventual combative prowess. But maybe that’s the cynic in me because you see that she has long desired to train Diana and even trained her in secret before her mother found out, eventually caving in to both of their desires to see her become a warrior like them. Even when Diana is an adult, she’s clearly a great warrior, but still has enough to learn.

Oh, and don’t worry, these ladies aren’t just here for practice fighting either. They get their moment to shine as an army right as soon as Steve arrives. German forces find Themyscira and invade the shores in pursuit of the American. They start bungee jumping off the side of cliffs and ride in on horseback, arrows flying like a cloud of locusts, a fair number of Germans are killed. But even the Amazons aren’t invincible as a few of them get killed too, which does feel like a loss that carries weight. I mean, these are warriors through and through. To be taken down by a projectile weapon that you can’t see just like an injustice (no pun intended). But at the same time, you know that these are warriors who know the score and know that death is a possibility, so there’s even this subtle sense of pride that they’re going out doing what they do best. I do kind of wish that this sudden realization of how advanced mankind’s weaponry has grown since their last encounter with men would be more of a shock to the Amazons post-battle, but I guess that wouldn’t have kept the story in focus, so it’s probably for the best that it becomes a cliff-note to be ignored, so no brownie points lost.

Honestly, I could probably go on forever talking about everything on Themyscira. But there’s a ton more to talk about and it’s also worth geeking out over.

How about the lady of the hour… or the, two and a half hours? Gadot is phenomenal as Wonder Woman. Despite never having read the comics, it’s pretty clear that if you’re going to make a Wonder Woman movie, she needs to stand for justice, strength, independence, compassion, and probably a myriad of other adjectives and adverbs that I don’t know about. Well, I would say this movie did all of that justice. She understands that this war has taken lives of noncombatants and wants to be a part of ending it. But when she gets up close and personal to the carnage, both outside and inside of the fighting, she’s horrified. She spends half the movie being kept away from the direct conflict and constantly told no. So when she, Trevors, and their ragtag team arrive at the trenches, and Diana is faced with a woman who begs her for help, which would entail storming No-Man’s Land across German machinegun fire into a German-occupied town. Of course, Steve tells her that it’s impossible to cross and that no man can do it. Aside from my mind immediately turning to LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003) and realizing that bad guys are defeated by grammatically political incorrectness, Diana says, “Nuh-uh, bitch, I ain’t no man. I’m Wonder Woman. This is what I do.” I… might have paraphrased a bit. In any case, this is the scene that many will be talking about because it’s such an awesome piece of runtime. She deflects bullets with her bracers and stands her ground as an unrelenting barrage of machinegun bullets pepper her shield as the Allied forces charge behind her and they take on the German forces, pushing through and saving the nearby town. It’s the first time we see Wonder Woman in her full garb and it’s about as bad-ass as you can imagine. This piece of superheroism should be remembered big time.

But more than her bad-assery, Diana is still a person who takes time to understand the world that she’s stepped in to. Or, maybe it’s more accurate to say that she hesitantly accepts the way things are. I don’t think it’s quite as well done as it was in THOR (2011), as Thor simply accepts the way things people do what they do, whereas Diana can complain a little bit. Not to the point of annoyance, thankfully. Her motivations are understandable, but there is that impatience that rubs me in the wrong way. But only a little, so I don’t really dock points for that. Still, she plays along, is respectful of customs for the most part, and only challenges the norm when the need is truly understandable.

I’ve only known a couple takes on the character of Steve Trevor. There’s the World War II version from JUSTICE LEAGUE the animated TV show, and there’s Nathan Fillion’s take in the animated movie WONDER WOMAN, which took place in the present day. It’s pretty clear that Trevor’s character is always a cocky and joking kind of guy, but still fiercely committed to his causes and beliefs with an unshakable conviction. If I were to hazard a guess, he’s basically the DC equivalent to Captain America if he were a supporting character. But I have to say, this is probably the best iteration of the character that I’ve seen yet. If there was anything I disliked about the animated film’s version is that he does attempt to get Diana drunk in order to get lucky. I don’t know, every other version seemed to be a gentleman and knew better than to make neanderthal decisions like that. Granted, it was probably unintentional and he was simply too drunk to think clearly, but it’s still kind of a weird moment for the character. Pine’s Steve Trevor is more akin to the animated show’s iteration. He’s a gentleman, funny as hell, charming, and kind of a dork. I mean, it’s a character we’ve seen before and seen Pine play before, but he’s so good at it that it never gets stale. To me, it makes sense that everything he and Diana go through would create this bond that would ultimately lead to a romance. It’s not forced and it feels very organic. They don’t always agree on their respective methods, but they both want to end the war and want the senseless killings of innocents to stop.

The supporting characters are hit and miss. Bremner’s Charlie is the most standout. He’s a drunken sharpshooter who is the comedy relief, but it’s revealed that he suffers from PTSD. And even though this is obviously been done before in just about every war film to exist, Charlie is such a likable kind of fool that when you see that vulnerability in his eyes, Bremner really sells it and you empathize with him. The others get the shaft a little bit. Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui) is the well-meaning flirt and Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) is the Native American of the group. Beyond that, they don’t really have a discernible set of personalities that will make them all that memorable. Luckily, they’re not annoying, so you don’t hate seeing them on screen, so I let that go.

The villains are… serviceable. While I really like the design of Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) with her prosthetic left-side jaw, I have to say that they’re something of a bore. Sure, their actions are the driving force of our heroes, the bad guys making all new gases that threaten hundreds of lives, but they themselves don’t leave an impact. Although, there is this one deliciously evil scene where Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and Dr. Maru meet up with some German generals or whatever, and when they disappoint him, he locks them in a room with a single gas mask and gases the entire room. Although, earlier we learned that their newest gas weapon eats through the masks. Dr. Maru exclaims, “That mask won’t help them!” But then Ludendorff says, “They don’t know that.” And then the two laugh maniacally and run away like a couple of kids that played a prank. It’s… bizarrely out of place. Neither character acted like that before this scene, nor do they ever act like that afterward. Once more, I’m letting this slide because the moment barely lasts a minute and… it was kind of funny.

As you’ve probably noticed throughout the review, I’ve mentioned some moments that I’ve let slip and don’t let myself dock any real points from the movie. I bet you think I’m just making excuses to give this movie a perfect score, aren’t ya? Well think again, you damn dirty nay-sayers!

Remorsefully, it’s not a perfect film. My itty bitty gripes are proof enough of that. But I do have some legit problems with the movie that I couldn’t let slide. They’re smaller problems, but still distracting enough to warrant a few eye-twitches. Some will remember in the trailer, there’s a scene with Diana wearing a blue dress in a gala with her sword sheathed in her back, and that bit was criticized for, “Does no one see that sword?!” Well, sadly, that scene is actually even stupider even with context. I suppose you could have made the very, very, very thin argument that she could have said that it was just a decorative piece in the shape of a sword’s hilt for fashion purposes, but… no, that thing sticks out like a sore thumb and you’re left wondering why this isn’t causing a panic. In fact, I’m pretty sure you can see another woman eyeing Diana’s dress from the back and for all intents and purposes should have seen the sword hilt. But no. They just… don’t.

***SPOILERS***

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Also, I’m pretty sure I missed what the hell those pills that Ludendorff took were for. He takes these pills that make the inside of his skin glow silver, but I’m not sure if they really did anything. Were they supposed to make him immune to the gases they were creating? If so, why did he need to leave the room full of German generals that he killed? Were they supposed to give him super strength? It barely matters in the end because when Diana meets up with him, he’s killed off pretty quickly and in an anti-climactic way. So… whatever those pills did either didn’t work, didn’t work very well, or didn’t affect anything in the long run.

But by far the ultimate sin of the movie is this. We learn that Ludendorff wasn’t Ares the whole time like Diana thought, but in a twist, we learn that Ares was actually Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis) of the Imperial War Cabinet. They have an epic fight, as all climaxes need ’em in superhero movies, but what made me nearly scream at the screen was when we learn that the “God-killer” sword that Diana’s been wielding this entire time wasn’t actually the God-killer. Turns out, Diana’s heritage as a demi-god was kept from her and she’s the God-killer. Wanna know how we learn that? Because Ares doubles as the God of Dumb-asses because he tells her right her face that she’s the only one that can kill him! This is the same damn problem that I had with THE CONJURING 2 (2016). What kind of bad-guy with a weakness just tells the heroes how to kill them?! I said before in that review, so I’ll it here. A vampire isn’t going to tell you to open the blinds on a bright and sunny afternoon, a werewolf isn’t going to hand you a loaded shotgun with silver shells, the Wicked Witch isn’t going to beg for a yacht party in the middle of the ocean, and zombies won’t be wearing bulls-eyes on their foreheads while giving you advice on aiming accurately. So why is this turning into a trend?! You know if he didn’t open his gob, he would have won that fight. Or more likely and impressively, Diana would have fought him to a stalemate and he would have fled, while still keeping her demi-god status a mystery and we could have kept Ares on as a sort of nemesis for Diana in future solo films. But nope, like a dumb-shit he is, he tells her his weakness and she exploits it and kills him.

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, this movie is definitely a must-see for everybody. Men, women, boys, and girls. Especially girls because not only is this the first female-lead superhero film, but it’s done such great justice for the character and I feel like there’s something that everyone can cheer for. It’s got a little bit of everything. Comedy, drama, romance, war, it’s a really good film. Sure, it could have benefited from a bit of tweaking in the script, but what few problems I have with the movie, both small and big, don’t hold it back any more than a German sniper holding back Wonder Woman from toppling a roof on him. I may have only seen it once so far, but I plan on seeing it again. Highly recommended at your biggest theater with your loudest screens, wherever it may be and I can’t wait to own this on Blu-Ray when the time comes.

My honest rating for WONDER WOMAN: a strong 4/5

UPDATE (MORE SPOILERS): I am changing the rating to a 5/5. I have officially seen the movie three times in theaters now and there’s one thing that tipped this over for me. When Diana and Steve are in the boat, sailing away from Themyscira, they have this bit where they’re talking about marriage. Steve’s line goes something like, “…to love, honor, and cherish ’till death do you part.” It took me three viewings to see the immense weight his final scene really has. After he sacrifices himself, Diana eventually flashes back to the words that Steve said during her ears-ringing moment. His lines go, “I can save the day, but you can save the world! I love you!” I feel like what makes this moment so fantastic is because even though it’s not a wedding happening, he’s breaking this preconception of marriage. Here’s what I mean. What is he doing right at that moment? He’s loving, honoring, and cherishing her, and death parts them. He even goes so far as to give her his watch, a band that wraps around an appendage… kind of like a… okay, I know I’m grasping at straws here to make this scene more powerful, but that’s honestly what I’m taking away from that whole thing and it’s so well-subtly backed that I can’t help but fall in love with this movie because of it.

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