As a movie goer and avid comic reader, it has been clear to me for a long time that there is a problem with the DC cinematic universe. Since the horrendous Batman Forever where producers insisted on veering away from the dark humour that is Tim Burton, they have consistently put out films that have been an utter disappointment.
Despite the financial success of their films and the quality of the first 2 Christopher Nolan Batman movies (I am sorry but that third one was just bad), DC seems to have continued on this downward spiral of bad cinematic experiences; from stunt casting, peculiar costume and set designs, as well as strange plot points. But this year with the release of Wonder Woman it was touted that the tides had turned.
Initial reviews of Wonder Woman were of epic proportions. 98% on Rotten tomatoes (a site that despite popularity I consider with little regard), Feminist using this as a poster child for future female led action films (even though they were initially upset that she had shaved armpits), and critics giving it nothing but thumbs up. I am not sure why.
I myself was quite eager to see this film and was holding out on hope that it would be as great as people were saying it was. But me not wanting to judge a film until I saw it, I kept my thoughts and opinions to myself.
As the movie opened, a crane shot of the Louvre zoomed in to focus on its famous glass pyramid and a figure walking purposefully across the screen. A package is delivered and Diana Prince the receiver. It is a case that contains an original photographic plate showing her as Wonder Woman in the midst of rubble and surround by what looks like her team. She sits there looking at it with both fondness and sadness. This throws us to a flashback which we stay in to the end of the film.
It is a good setup for the origin story. We spend some time on Themyscira with the Amazons as Diana, first a small precocious child, grows into a skilled warrior trained by the best and most gifted of her people. A man crash lands on this hidden isle of warriors and tells them of war, death, and the end of the world. Against her mother’s wishes she leaves the island to save mankind.
It is the first World War, and she is taken to 1910s England. The role of women is still relegated to the background. Obedient, submissive, and sheltered. Everywhere she goes people try and fail to put her in her place. She does not understand what being a woman has to do with her ability to fight, strategize, or help. She is fearless because she has never been oppressed. She complains about restrictive clothing, she comments on the idea of a secretary, and walks into meetings of yelling men who are suddenly rendered speechless because a woman is in the room. Men scoff and roll their eyes when she says she can help, fight, and defend.
As with any superhero film despite the odds, due to her will and determination, she saves the day. The film culminates in a big battle full of flames, explotions, and revelation. Though knocked down over and over, both physically and emotionally, our hero gets back up until the battle has been won.
After watching all this I get why people like it and want to believe it is great. Wonder Woman presents a great role model to young girls, the story is good, the acting is fine, and it isn’t just a mash of nonsense. But does it deserve all those accolades? No, it does not. This is a mediocre film and I feel sad to have to say that.
People keep referencing the other movies in the current DCU to show why this movie is great. I agree with them in that in comparison it is far better. But being better than garbage does not make you great. It is better structured, cast, and cut but there are a lot of issues with the film. My biggest problem is Gal Gadot.
In my Batman v Superman review, I stayed away from critiquing her performance as she did very little. She said few words and in battle she looked good in the costume so there wasn’t anything for me to complain or rave about. Where as with this she had to carry the film. I found her really bland. She was the least interesting character in the whole thing. I wanted to know more about the other Amazons, her rag tag team of freedom fighters, even the secretary.
The Amazons, that included the acting chops of Robin Wright and Connie Neilson as well as new-to-me faces Ann Wolfe and Ann Ogbomo, had presence and gravatas. They are meant to. They are supposed to be formidable in not only physical skill but also wit and knowledge. When Diana left the island I kinda hoped the audience would be left behind, or at least taken back, to see how this society worked. Chris Pine as Steve Trevor was a great casting choice. Usually I find him a bit much, he tends to over express as if a stage actor trying to project but in this he balances Gadot’s blandness. Ewan Bremmer as the troubled marksman Charlie had stories to tell that we never got to hear. Lucy Davis, who you may remember from The Office, original British one, and Shaun of the dead, was Etta, Steve’s secretary. She was so plucky and fun. I would have liked to see much more of her overall.
Then there were the scenes in the film that fell flat due to direction, editing, or bad dialogue, that were clearly supposed to be pivotal and grand. For example, the moment where Diana first became Wonder Woman, she drops her cloak, climbing out of the trenches, and is revealed in all her regalia. She walks into no-mans-land deflecting bullets standing up for right against evil. And I felt nothing. I should have been awed. It may have been the music, editing, the preceding scenes that detracted from the intended awesomeness that was unfolding on screen but the intention was not realized.
Then there was the final battle. Where the god of war is revealed as a horrendously CGed monstrosity that is simply comical. And at the end of a supposed will breaking thrashing of our hero, comes to a realization, why the world of man it worth saving. It is because….of love.
Fuck and you.
It broke the scene. I rolled my eyes so hard I gave myself a headache. Keeping the, “OH COME ON!” internal was a feat of strength and will. And if that one line was omitted it would have been just that much better. Why do female superheroes have to do things for love? Why can’t they do things for duty, honor, or as Wonder Woman said before the ridiculous line, because people are so much more? It relegated her back to a lame stereotype.
Wonder Woman was acceptable at best. I cannot deny that it is much better than the other DCU films, it may show that their films may be improving, and it may prove that female lead action films can make money, but the film does not deserve this amount of lip service. At least this makes me slightly hopeful for the upcoming DCU movies.