Can Diana pull it out of the bag for DC? Grab your sword and shield and strap on your best heroic tiara and join me to find out in my review of Wonder Woman!
DC and Warner Bros. have released three films so far in the DC Extended Universe and my reactions have run the gamut of horror to “meh”, so it was with some trepidation that I went to see their fourth offering in the form of Wonder Woman. I’m pleased to say that I think that DC might finally be on the verge of hitting their stride with this movie, however, that is not to say that it isn’t without its flaws.
Let’s start with the main problem that this film has, because it’s a big one and really effects how you’re going to react to it: the run time. At two hours and twenty one minutes it’s a significant chunk of movie, but unfortunately it really feels as though it’s got story enough for about an hour and forty five minutes at most. I found myself sitting for long stretches of what felt like over long set up and fairly clunky exposition between the more entertaining sections of the film, especially during the opening acts on Wonder Woman’s home island of Themiscyra. There is so much there that could have been streamlined. Also, the opening and closing scenes that bracket the meat of the movie are almost painfully forced efforts to remind you where this film sits in the DCEU continuity.
Im happy to say that aside from the issues mentioned above the combination of a well written script, a good setting, actors that are well chosen and bring personality and charisma to the proceedings and a director who can make something that fits in with the overall style of the DCEU whilst being eye catching and individual all come together to make an entertaining film. There are some truly iconic moments that Patty Jenkins, the director, and her team have created. For example; the sight of Diana, Princess of Themyscira single handedly charging across No Man’s Land is an image that has burned itself into my brain through sheer awesomeness!
So, Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot simply shines as Diana. She has charm, wit and most importantly an innocence that sets her apart from the previously dour heroes we have been treated to by DC. Chris Pine is also great as Steve Trevor, the American pilot that is Diana’s conduit to the modern world. Apart from matching Gadot’s good looks he is funny, serious and interesting enough that he isn’t just relegated to “side kick” material. With the large amount of run time the secondary cast actually get a lot of chances to fill out their backstories, but aside from bringing some more amusement into the film I’m not sure that we couldn’t have done with a little less of them. Unfortunately the bad guys again get short shrift, but that seems to be par for the course for superhero movies these days.
The film’s real power however, lies in the quieter scenes between Diana and Steve. Although there is a romantic interest in there this is really the story of two people, one a total innocent who is discovering her power and the other a complete cynic who has seen the worst mankind has to offer, learning to see the world through one another’s eyes. They manage some great moments of organic comedy as well as playing with some themes that are quite deep for a blockbuster movie. The use of power, the responsibility of everyone to look after one another, the refusal to accept the world as it is and to be a catalyst for change are all touched upon. Sadly they aren’t explored more deeply, as this would have given the film some serious emotional punch instead of the little taste we are given. Setting the movie during World War One is another big strength as it allows the film and Diana to directly confront sexism and political conniving in a way that is ever so slightly removed from the modern day, so that it makes you think about the issues instead of reacting from a personal stand point that I suspect a modern setting might have evoked. I am so glad that Wonder Woman brings hope and heroism to the DC films, two things that have been sorely lacking so far. My fingers are firmly crossed that this trend will continue later this year with Justice League.
All in all Wonder Woman is a film that looks glorious and dares to dredge a little deeper than just good and bad, but struggles to maintain its energy for much of its overlong run time.
Three Moons out of Five.