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Saturday, 3 June 2017

At The Fleapit: Wonder Woman (2017)


Every piece of art should be considered on its own merits, for what it is, not what it isn't.

However, with a franchise film like Wonder Woman it's very difficult to excise it from the context of the broader DC Extended Universe (DCEU) of movies.

Without wishing to dwell too long on comparisons, it's simple to say that of the hot mess (although occasionally fun and exciting) that has been the other films so far blurted out higgledy-piggledy into this comic book superhero franchise, Wonder Woman is the strongest, and most coherent, entry to date.

That's not to say it's a perfect movie - far from it. It has some magnificent moments, but at two hours 20 minutes, it's way too long for the story it's telling, stretching its plot out tortuously, bordering dangerously on boring at odd points.

Gal Gadot is striking as Amazon princess Diana, the heart of the story, raised on an isolated island of immortal warriors, hidden from the sight of man by Zeus himself.

Their peace is shattered when - in 1918 - American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes a stolen plane just off shore, bringing behind him a fleet of German ships eager to get their hands on the crucial documents he is trying to deliver to the War Department in London.

The Armistice is being negotiated, but bonkers German commander Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and his resident chemist, Dr Maru aka Dr Poison (Elena Anaya), are cooking up a killer gas that could turn the tide of the war and bring victory to the Germans.

There is a level of jeopardy introduced at this point suggesting that Diana and Steve are now in a race against time to get back to England, hand over the plans, and presumably thwart Ludendorff (who Diana believes, because of her mythical upbringing, is actually Ares, The God of War, and the last surviving Hellenic god).

But this sense of urgency is quite patchy, with, for instance, an extended comedic sequence in London of Diana trying on various early 20th Century outfits at a department store, in a - rather pointless - effort to blend in.

Part of the reason the film possibly feels so long is that it suffers from a surfeit of supporting characters. Many of these, such as the brilliant Etta Candy (Lucy Davis, from The Office), who is actually one of my favourite secondary characters in the movie, really could have been cut and it wouldn't affect the story one iota.

I suspect these characters were kept largely because their quirky personalities made for good trailer fodder (such as Ewen Bremner's shell-shocked Scottish sniper, Charlie).

Under Patty Jenkins' steady direction there's a lovely - and telling - tonal shift from the bright and uplifting Amazon island of Themyscira to the grey fug of man's world, the world of The Great War seen through their grim filters that have dictated the dreary visual appearance of the earlier DCEU flicks.

I was, kinda, hoping that when Diana ultimately triumphed (not really a spoiler), the brightness would spread to 'our' world. But, I guess, the point is, while that war is over, war perpetuates.

It's also probably worth mentioning at this juncture how closely Steve Trevor's personal arc in Allan Heinberg's script mirrors that of another Steve in another comic book war movie, Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger, even down to assembling his rag-tag team of 'larger-than-life' surrogate Howlin' Commandos.

Most of the quality action beats from the first two acts of Wonder Woman have already been given away in the trailers, leaving the bulk of the surprises to the final act.

Even though the third member of the villainous triumvirate didn't come as a total shock, there's a number of cracking fight sequences along the way, accentuated by Tina Guo's breath-taking Wonder Woman cello theme, which always brings a lump to my throat.

The true nature of Diana's backstory is played as a mystery through the film, and once it is revealed, it goes some way towards explaining her nebulous suite of superpowers, that at times gave the niggling impression that she could magically do whatever the plot required her to.

Ultimately, Wonder Woman is a good movie - with a strong lead and some solid supporting performances - given a slight bump by the fact that it's better than Man Of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad, but it really needs a pair of scissors taken to its running time, and bulging cast list, to tighten it up and let it become a great film.

6 comments:

  1. I look forward to seeing this tomorrow afternoon.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Some Wonder woman back ground stuff

    All kinds of Wonder Woman Wonderment with Gal Gadot, Lynda Carter and Cathy Lee Crosby!

    GOODSTUFFs BLOGGING MAGAZINE (295th Issue)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A very comprehensive round-up. Thanks for sharing that (and thanks, as always, for the links to HeroPress)

      Delete
  3. Nice review; thank you! No question I'm going to see it when my life lets up on me for a few hours, but reading this kind of stuff helps me decide if it's one I need to drag Laura along for or not. (I have to choose those wisely...BvS set me back YEARS in getting her to trust me on choosing movies for us...)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you enjoy it and I await your review with interest.

      These days Rachel and I rarely go to see films together, as she had a habit of falling asleep during films I wanted her to see with me (the last was The Force Awakens).

      So it's just much easier that she sees her films and I see mine. It's just easier that way ... and Alice never gets left on her own ;-)

      Delete

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