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Wonder Woman – Spoiler Free Movie Review

Batman v Superman (poster)Alright, before I start this review, I should make a few things clear. I am not a big fan of DC’s Extended Universe thus far. Which is a polite way of saying I think Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad were all awful awful films. I could very easily write a week’s worth of articles analysing every baffling storytelling decision each of those films make and still barely make it past the first act.

So, with that said, I was approaching DC’s Wonder Woman with more than a bit of hesitation. While I’d certainly love for the first major female superhero movie to be a smash hit (Why no, I’ve never heard of this Catwoman or Elektra, why do you ask?), I didn’t have all that much faith in the finished product. But, well, now having actually seen it for myself, all I have to say is this:

YEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSS! DC, YOU BEAUTIFUL GODDAMN BASTARDS! YOU ACTUALLY FINALLY PULLED IT OFF! YOU FINALLY MADE A GOOD SUPERHERO MOVIE! FINALLY!

Wonder Woman (poster detail)

*coughs awkwardly*

Ahem.

So yeah, in case you couldn’t tell, I liked it. I liked it quite a lot, to be honest. Quite frankly, when DC announced their ‘dark and mature’ Cinematic Universe, this is exactly the sort of movie I was hoping they would make. Not the pretentious drivel like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman that mistook brooding for depth, not the unmitigated disaster of Suicide Squad which didn’t know what movie it wanted to be, this was the sort of dark and mature DC movie I was looking for all along. And Patty Jenkins knocked it out of the park.

Wonder Woman (poster)Because, for all the innocence and inherent goodness of the titular protagonist, Wonder Woman is a dark and mature movie. It may not be overly brutal or brooding, but the movie really does not shy away from showing the horrors of war compared to how something like the first Captain America movie does (and I love that movie, don’t get me wrong.) Plus, it gives us a fantastic heroine, forces her to face those horrors head on in the ways that will hurt her most, yet still have her come out the other end changed, but still with the idealistic traits that made her so likeable in the first place.

Compared to the first Captain America, which had WWII as more of a convenient backdrop, Wonder Woman actually explores the idea of a superhero in WWI in interesting and intelligent ways. It contrasts Diana’s idealistic attitude with the fatalistic ‘for the greater good’ mind-set of the generals and fighters and both sides end up being right in some ways and wrong in others. It’s a significantly more nuanced exploration of ideals than anything in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman (and it did the Jesus symbolism better too.)

Wonder Woman - Diana PrinceAs for other elements, I’m ashamed to think that I ever doubted Gal Gadot in the role of Diana Prince. She nails it and nails it perfectly. While Snyder wrote Wondy in Batman v Superman as effectively a sexy lamp who can fight good, this movie actually bothers to give Diana a personality and Gadot knocks it out of the park. She’s naïve but determined, innocent but always ready to do the right thing. She can go through major character moments without a single word, yet you can read every bit of her turmoil and thoughts on her face. Oh, and Chris Pine was also very good too. As were most of the side cast. Kudos to them too.

Now, I’ve heard a lot of people complain about the third act and…honestly…I didn’t think it was all that bad. Or bad period. I mean yeah, it was a bit CGI cartoonish, but it still managed to do a good job of bringing Diana’s character arc and the themes of the movie full circle in a satisfying way (something that a movie like Logan never truly managed). Plus it had a few damn emotional moments and the final end of the battle genuinely gave me chills. I didn’t even mind the villain that much. Yeah there were some silly elements to him, but his motivations were more complex and three-dimensional than most Marvel villains. Could the movie have been improved without him? Maybe. But I still enjoyed what he brought to the table.

Princess Diana and Queen HippolytaHonestly, it was actually the first act I had the most problems with. Specifically, the pacing while the movie was on Themyscira felt really…wonky to me. I’m not entirely sure what it was but a lot of moments and scenes really didn’t feel like they had sufficient room to breathe properly and/or didn’t get as strong a set-up and payoff as they needed. Even the characterisation I don’t think came through as strongly as it could’ve. On the other hand, the excellent acting, set design and direction helped fill in the gaps plenty, so I can’t say that first act was actually bad. Just that it could’ve maybe used a bit of tightening. People complain about the Marvel formula, but they’ve got the pacing in their movies down to an art. (Although, to be fair, Wonder Woman is still leaps and miles ahead of the rest of the DCEU films in terms of pacing and story structure.)

But even with that in mind, yeah I really enjoyed Wonder Woman a lot. It’s much more ambitious than most Marvel films but, unlike Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, it actually knows what it’s doing when it comes to said ambition and thus deserves credit even when it stumbles. I still don’t have much faith in Justice League being good, but if can capture even a fraction of the magic of this film, I might just start genuinely anticipating DC films again.

Justic League (poster)

Now, naturally, I’m planning on seeing the movie a few more times and my overall opinion may go up or down once I’ve had time to digest it more but, for the moment, I’m giving it a very strong 9.2/10.

(Which, by the way, is higher than any other superhero movie I’ve watched this year, Logan and GOTG Vol 2 included).

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Rating: 8.4/10 (8 votes cast)
Wonder Woman - Spoiler Free Movie Review, 8.4 out of 10 based on 8 ratings
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One Comment

  1. JMack says:

    Hi, Malcolm. Nice review. You’re right where I am. Act 1, a bit slow and “wonky” is a good term. I struggled with disbelief of a world with zero actual culture beyond training. Act 2, fantastic, with one complaint. Act 3, I had a great time, even if the final battle descended into genre 101 climactic battle.

    [Spoilers to follow.]

    Complaint: How convenient that generic town they save is right next to High Command which is right next to Dr. No’s evil base. oh, wait, wrong movie. That kind of geographic reductionism makes me nuts.

    Praise: Ares as odd ball politician is so much more interesting than Ares as bad ass fighter. When he apparates around in the ‘seduction’ attempt, very cool. Then he spends 25 mana for a huge red spell and we have the slap down. Which was fun, but, meh, seen it again and again.

    Anyway, I had a great time, and this was a grand movie. I also read a lovely review that talked about Chris Pine’s performance as a guide for guys in a movie mostly viewed as a model for gals.

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