The good, not so good ‘Wonder Woman’ news — and what piqued my interest
Wonder Woman (Rated T)
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, David Thewlis
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction
Dwight’s Rating: Not bad
Okay, so there’s some good news and some not so good news!
The new film “Wonder Woman”, currently whipping up a frenzy both emotionally and financially in movie theaters all over the world, is better than its predecessor: last year’s silly “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” — which in turn was slightly less ridiculous than its outrageously violent predecessor, “Man of Steel” (2013).
That’s good news. And as such, a case can be made that DC Films is on an upward trajectory with its recent releases — something that definitely can’t always be said about archrival Marvel Studios’ multiple releases (from various film distributors) within its so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Not so good: While its better than its predecessors, it would certainly be a stretch to say that it’s even among the best ever in the genre. And any claims that this new release represents a rebirth for comic-book movies are as exaggerated as some of Wonder Woman’s superpowers and the film’s special effects.
But we can give it credit for trying.
Set in 1918 during the “Great War”, which would eventually become known as World War I, we meet Diana, princess of the Amazons, training to be an unconquerable warrior. She is raised on a sheltered island paradise, and rescues an American pilot (Chris Pine) who tells her about the massive conflict that’s raging in the outside world. Convinced that she can stop the threat, Diana leaves her home for the first time. Fighting alongside men in a “war to end all wars” she finally discovers her full powers and true destiny as Wonder Woman.
Gal Gadot as the title character represents more of the good news. The Israeli actress’ appearance as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman in “Batman v Superman” became one of the only reasons to watch that challenged flick. And as the anchor of this film, she is a joy to watch.
Also good, co-star Pine as that pilot Chris Trevor. Gadot and Pine are a great combination, with fantastic chemistry. From the moment Diana rescues Chris, you can feel the sparks between them. And the film milks this romantic connection for all it’s worth. At times, there’s a strong sense of “Casablanca” — another famous “love story” set during war times (WWII in that case).
However, “Wonder Woman”, especially whenever Pines is on screen, has a better sense of humor than that decidedly unfunny classic. And in this regard, it’s probably much more like “Roman Holiday”, with Pine’s character traipsing about the city with a clueless and awkward “princess”, much like Gregory Peck did with Audrey Hepburn back in 1953.
But that’s bizarre, isn’t it? Mentioning “Casablanca” and “Roman Holiday” while discussing a comic-book superhero movie? Is this part of a plan to blatantly appeal to wider (i.e. female) audiences? Is this what it takes? Is this good or not so good?
Let’s call this one a draw!
What’s definitely not so good is that these cute little romantic moments take place in long scenes nestled in deep valleys between the sporadic spurts of action. Also, the lengthy set up between Diana as a young warrior and the point at which she realizes she’s a “god” is far too drawn out. While this long journey is reminiscent of the path of the original “Iron Man”, the story in “Wonder Woman” isn’t nearly as compelling. The end result is a movie that is way too long, with at least a whole half-hour that could have been cut.
When we finally do get to the action, it is the typical stuff — nothing special, nothing mind-blowing. It suffers from the same issues afflicting anything with Superman; when non-humans battle each other, all we get are long scenes of non-humans battling each other.
How many times can a god or alien super-being be thrown across a field, smashed into a tank, shot, or blasted by a cannon, before it becomes a monotonous bore? Say what you will about Marvel movies, but whether they’re born mutants or genetically enhanced or clinically altered, their characters are generally “human beings” deep down, and it’s not impossible to hurt them.
Also potentially not so good would be for “Wonder Woman” to follow the aforementioned “Iron Man” down a treacherous path with its inevitable sequel(s). With so much time dedicated to establishing the characters and setting up Wonder Woman’s backstory, at the expense of action, the risk is a sequel being overly heavy on action, as it’s hard to imagine any subsequent films being as verbose as this. But will those who liked what they saw here be onboard with such a dramatic shift?
In a year that’s already seen comic-book movie blockbusters “Logan” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Part 2”, “Wonder Woman” certainly had some tough acts to follow. But it has, without a doubt, piqued my interest and I’m curious to see where things go from here.
So at least that’s good!
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “ Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email [email protected] and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.