Sunday, June 04, 2017

Wonder Woman

Year: 2017
Director: Patty Jenkins
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya, David Thewlis, Lucy Davis, Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock

Plot: Diana of Themyscira was raised by her mother Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. Sheltered from the outside world, she was trained to be a great warrior that will save mankind. When an American spy from WWI stumbles upon her island and tells the Amazonians of the great war, Diana leaves with him to join the battle where she seeks to kill Ares, the God of War, whom she believes is behind it.

Review: Here's an example where the movie lives up to the hype, and not a moment too soon. The DCEU is in dire need of a victory, no matter how small. I'm happy to report that Wonder Woman the film is indeed wonderful, pun intended.

This fourth entry into the DCEU is an origin story, much like Man Of Steel, Batman Begins and most of the MCU's Phase One entries. Since this story takes place outside of the DCEU's current storyline (being set in the WWI era), it has the distinct advantage of being its own animal without any ties to the rather convoluted mess that the first three entries have already caused. Thus, director Patty Jenkins and writer Allan Heinberg are able to tell Wonder Woman's story without having to worry about continuity. As a result, Diana's tale of heroism is fascinating and inspiring as we see a young woman, riding on the back of the stories told by her mother, train hard to become a warrior and eventually take the fight to evil forces and save innocent lives, all the while not knowing a secret about her existence.

What I enjoyed the most was seeing Diana's view of the world. She sees it in black and white, even when it's clearly a dark shade of grey, but she still stands by the qualities she was raised with. This is best presented in a scene where she tells off a roomful of generals who understate the lives of their men in the field. Her naivete is obvious, but what she says to them is absolutely true, and she didn't care if they thought she didn't belong in that room. Diana's commitment to her principles is what makes her such a great hero, and that's the film's real trump card.

While Jenkins no doubt earns plenty of credit for steering the film steadily and telling a story filled with loads of action and thrills, it would not be great without the talents of Gal Gadot. This is truly a star making turn for her as she gives Diana the great presence a hero requires. Not only does she convincingly portray someone like a fish out of water when she arrives in the modern world, she truly embodies the character of a warrior who has dedicated herself to saving lives and doing good. In short, she makes you believe in her, and I don't think any other actress could have done better.

Chris Pine, who is more or less Diana's sidekick/love interest, also puts in a fine performance as Steve Trevor, as he attempts to educate and assist her as best he can. Pine and Gadot work well together on screen and it shows. Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright are also quite convincing as Diana's mother and aunt respectively (I'm impressed with Wright for excelling in the fight sequences). Lucy Davis lends some humor as Steve's secretary while Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner and Eugene Brave Rock make up Steve's motley crew of war spies, each providing their own stories to tell.

The villains are played by Danny Huston and Elena Anaya. While Huston's German general doesn't get much to do, Anaya's Dr Maru is an interesting baddie which I hope to see more of in the future. Finally David Thewlis pops up as a British spy, and is rather crucial to the film's third act.

As far as action goes, Gadot is phenomenal in every sequence. Watching her take down a group of soldiers in a room in the film's second act is so much fun. There are some great sequences in the first act as well when the Germans attack Themyscira. Compared to the first three DCEU films, the visual effects here are much better as it feels more contained and not overdone. Kudos also goes to the cinematography by Matthew Jensen and the superb score by Rupert Gregson-Williams.

If Wonder Woman has any flaws, it would be Jenkins' decision to use a CGI generated villain at the end. It looks slightly better than the recent King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword, but I still would have preferred something more practical. There are also a few incidents that seemed too convenient, and Jenkins relied on slow-motion a tad too often during a few action beats, but other than that, the film is pretty awesome.

So, is the DCEU redeemed? No, not quite. One film isn't enough to repair the damage that still lingers. I'd say redemption is earned if the upcoming Justice League film turns out to be great. But for now, movie fans can rejoice in the fact that the DCEU can make a good film. Wonder Woman is highly recommended. (8.5/10)

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