“Wonder Woman”: the DCEU finally delivers a Wonder-ful superhero movie

Nutshell: Director Patty Jenkins takes the DCEU reins from Zack Snyder, delivering a mighty blow for female superheroes, and single-handedly bringing the franchise back from the brink of death. As Diana Prince, Gal Gadot is a revelation as the fresh-faced badass. Your move, Justice League. Grade: A

“There’s nothing you can do about it…. Keep moving.”

Story: A sweet young girl unknowing of the ways of the world decides to journey far from her idyllic life in order to save the world.  Oh, did I mention the sweet young girl is an Amazon princess? No?  Well, she is.  Smackdowns ensue.

Genre I’d put it in: Amazons Doing It For Themselves

Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Based on the DC Comics heroine.  Part of the current DC Extended Universe of films (DCEU).

Gotta say: For some reason I was very apprehensive about this film.  Okay, there are definite reasons.  The muddled mess DC seems to make of their DCEU (though I have to admit I enjoy the director’s cut of BvS).  That hideously sexist TV pilot that never got off the ground.  That terrible TV movie that was supposed to be for a TV show that never got off the ground. That horrific new TV pilot that never got off the ground. And, of course, my childhood love of Lynda Carter, fighting for our rights, and the ol’ Red White and Bloooooo-hoooo.

But the team of Jenkins and Gadot have made me a believer.

They’ve done what Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad failed to do; give me hope for really good DC films.  Oh the stories are out there; anyone who’s been reading New 52, Rebirth, or even the good ol’ earlier age comics can tell you that.  The one-two punch of director Patty Jenkins and screenwriter Allan Heinberg (The O.C., Scandal) manages to temper Zack Snyder’s tween-boy overkill (Snyder did craft the original story idea) while delivering plenty of great throwdown action.  All this while dancing backward and in high heels. Okay, wedges.  What, I can’t appreciate a good round of ass-kicking and a sweet pair of kicks?  #MyFeminism

And that ass-kicking is fantastic.  Get that bad taste of Marvel’s Iron Fist out of your mouth y’all; Wonder Woman‘s fight choreography is truly a thing of beauty.  Sure, there are the usual jump cuts, extreme wide shots and close-ups during it all, but it’s obvious that not only did the fight choreographer know the ropes, but the cast could easily pick things up.  (Doesn’t hurt that Gadot is in fact a practiced martial artist.) There’s a lot for the cast to pick up too, from the graceful martial artistry of the Amazons to the brutal elbow-meet-nose bar fighting, and that life-or-death battlefront mayhem.  It all looks amazing, and it’s impressive as hell.

All in all the film doesn’t go full dark as most DC films like to do, but there’s still a constant thread of edginess throughout.  From young Diana longing to train with the other Amazons – and they definitely train for a purpose – to World War I’s Western Front, the colors and shadows are deeper, richer.  As if things could go from ripe to rotten at the drop of a magical lasso.  Cinematographer Matthew Jensen borrows from his work on True Blood and Game of Thrones to deliver lavish, spectacular visuals that manage to look beautiful but feel dangerous.  Academy-Award winning costumer Lindy Hemming (Topsy-Turvy) gets marvelously historical with gorgeous 1910’s dresses, gritty dougboy uniforms, and of course that breathtaking Wonder Woman armor.

Then there are the performances.  Gadot is just as charming and edgy as she was in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  But given her own stage to stand on, she fills it to perfection.  Diana’s confusion, dismay, and horror at the idea that the war won’t stop even when…well, spoilers darling. Let me just say it’s an affecting, brutally heartfelt performance. Gadot is more than able to handle helming this film, and that not only bodes well for her future career, but for the DCEU. As her partner-in-war, Chris Pine plays Steve Rodgers as a guy who may be all for the good guys winning, but to misquote Sherlock, while he’s on the side of the angels, he ain’t one of ’em.  There’s just enough Captain Kirk playful darkness in Rodgers to make the character feel lived-in, rather than a cookie cutout.

The gang of hyper-talented oddballs that Rodgers enlists to help save the world from a deadly gas outbreak at the hands of a desperate group of Germans (you’ve seen the trailers, right?) play more as a second-tier ensemble, with the film focusing on the horrors of war, and the gang’s attempt at saving whomever they can from its horrors.  But there’s plenty of nods to their backstory; Scottish marksman Charlie (Ewen Bremner) suffers from “shell shock”, The Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) is a Native American whose seen his own share of people taking over other people’s land, and African Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui) found his skin color got in the way of his dreams of celluloid stardom.  Any one of these would have made a great movie in itself, so it’s nice that their backstories are as vibrant as the performances these actors deliver.  Bee-tee-dub, while the time spent on the Amazon island of Themyscira is relatively short, Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright are amazing as Queen Hippolyta and General Antiope, with their “Amazon warriors as wise women” vibe. Works beautifully, and is wholly believable that these competent, beautiful, women-of-an-age are total badasses.

Notice I didn’t metion the Big Bad here?  Yeah, that’d ruin things sweetie.  But suffice it to say that while I kind of figured it was something to that effect, it was a blast when the story climax hit nonetheless. Though I would have liked a touch more…well, read on far below if you really want to know.*

Heroic ending all tidy and nice, complete with the rising sun of a new day. Get it? (Actually, after the enormous amount of brutality it works extremely well here.)  Fin – now cue Downton Abbey! Seriously. There’s no post credit scene to wait for, so why not?

#Protip: Love that absolutely badass electric cello theme music Ms. Prince has as her jam?  Me too.  Check out cellist Tina Guo – who wrote the score – absolutely shred. GET IT GURRL.

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Spoilers.

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Still with me?

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SURE ABOUT THAT?

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Okay then.  Invisotext, activate!

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I was shocked that the baddies so often shown in the trailers ended up being 90% MacGuffin.  While yes, Diana leaves the island not only to help the world of man but to put a stop to Ares, it felt a little like a cheat.  Mostly because DAAAAYAM that gas in the trailer was epic!  But I guess it’s better to have an Amazon fight a god than a gas.  Still, was a shocker, even though it was delivered well, and Ares got to don a Sauron-Meets-Frazetta helmet.

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