Monday, June 5, 2017

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

The last DC Comics movie I saw was one of the Batman movies with that awful Christian Bale in it. I had debated seeing Suicide Squad, but the reviews kept me away. I’ve always been a Marvel fan (X-men mostly), but Batman was always interesting. I’ve never read a Wonder Woman comic, or really any comics that are female-centric, mostly because there really weren’t any growing up. I didn’t know the origin story for Wonder Woman, but I didn’t know the origin story for most of the Avengers characters either. While Wonder Woman is an absolute powerhouse of a movie, lots of action, lots of conflict, it lacked heart. I just never felt invested in the movie. The characters were real enough, though I felt more connected to the minor characters than the major ones, such as Wonder Woman herself and Chris Pine’s character, whose name I think was Steve, and thus got me confused with Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. There may be some SPOILERS ahead.

The story starts out with Diana getting an aged picture from Bruce Wayne. The movie shifts, without much of a transition, into the past, into Diana’s youth. The audience is treated to the island of the Amazons. There are no men and the women do everything. Diana is set on training to be a warrior even though her mother doesn’t want this. Ultimately, she gets the training and shows off things others can’t do. The island has been hidden from the world and a lone man comes crashing into the surrounding area (Chris Pine). He’s saved by Diana and a fleet of German soldiers are after him. They kill quite a few Amazons, including Diana’s aunt, who had been training her.

Of course, Diana’s mother forbids her to assist, but she defies her, joining Chris Pine to go back to the War (World War 1). Interestingly, Diana never seems to get cold even though she’s hardly wearing anything. There is a particularly humorous sequence with Chris Pine’s secretary Etta Candy (played by Lucy Davis, and she stole every scene she was in), where they dress Diana in regular clothes. Chris Pine’s character defies direct orders about the impending armistice and goes off to find a crazy scientist who is creating some toxin that will kill anything and everything it touches. The movie continues with a rapid pace through action sequences with a couple quiet moments before the main battle sequence occurs.

Visually, the movie was quite stunning. The special effects were quite impressive. I particularly liked the effect of the lasso that Wonder Woman uses. The acting was solid. I felt like there could have been a better balance between humor and action, or even humor during action sequences, but I guess that isn’t something DC comic movies can do. The story flowed fairly smoothly. I thought it surprising that Chris Pine’s character would sleep with Gal Gadot’s character, it didn’t really make sense and was only implied. For someone who is supposed to be a gentleman, that took me by surprise.

The real elephant in the room has to do with quality, I think. I’ve been struggling to put into words why I felt sort of unaffected by this movie. After most super hero movies, especially the Marvel ones, I feel better when I leave, inspired. I don’t know if I never felt drawn into this story. There was something about it that felt out of place. In my mind, I tried to compare it to Captain America, which was set in a similar time period (ie, the past) and things just stood out. While Diana was alone, Captain America knew the people he was working with, so the buddy part of the story worked differently. The romance between Diana and Steve Trevor (maybe?) vs. the romance between Captain America and that one agent was not at the forefront. I wonder if the writers made a concerted effort to put romance for all to see, since it has a woman lead. Why couldn’t Wonder Woman be awesome without having a guy in the picture. And really, was Steve Trevor the hero because he sacrificed himself to save those people, whereas Steve Rogers sacrificed himself to save the world. It isn’t a level playing field and that frustrated me. If this is the first step to women super heroes, great. But female super hero movies should be just as strong, the heroines just as strong, as their male counterparts. I don’t know what other people thought. This movie did not inspire me to want to see other DC movies, but it did give me hope that the next Wonder Woman movie might be better.

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