Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Tuesday's Reviews - Wonder Woman (2017)

If you'd asked me how I felt when the Wonder Woman film was first announced I would probably have told you I didn't give a shit. I was never really into the character, despite my love of badass women, and my limited view just made her seem a bit campy and annoying. Then there's the issue of an endless stream of disappointing DC films. Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice were both just too dark and completely thoughtless. Then Suicide Squad ruined the chance to be something different and fun by being completely obvious and uninspiring. So, yeah, maybe thanks to their insane love of Zack fucking Snyder I was kind of convinced that DC would somehow fuck this up. Wonder Woman had a lot to live up: it's the first comic book movie about a female superhero. They beat Marvel at showing a woman being awesome front and centre. It needed to be good. With their track record I couldn't help but feel that was unlikely... but then again I'm old and cynical by now.
Question: how many times did I actually cry during Wonder Woman? Answer: 1. Question: how many times did I nearly cry during Wonder Woman? Answer: a bazillion. From the moment I started tearing up during the opening scene depicting strong Amazonian women training for battle I knew this film was for me. Finally, a female-led superhero film that shows how strong women can be whilst still remaining feminine. I was instantly hooked. It looked like this was going to be the film I'd wanted: somewhere where women can kickass and show they can do whatever their male counterparts can do. Which is probably why this film takes so many pointers from previous superhero films. Just like Captain America: The First Avenger we travel back in time to World War 1 to see where the breakout character of Dawn of Justice came from. Like Thor we become immersed in a world of Gods and great warriors before being planted firmly in a realm away from mankind. Finally, there are plenty of nods to Richard Donner's classic Superman films.

However, Wonder Woman is a key film in its own right as it is the first female-led superhero film by either big comic book distributor. Yes, there have been attempts to cater for women in the world of comic book movies but the less said about either Catwoman or Elektra the better. Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, has the weight of Hollywood on her shoulders as she attempts to prove that women have a place in superhero films. Not just front and centre but in the audience too. There is still an obscene generalisation that it is only men who enjoy action films, which in this day and age if frankly an absurd thing to claim. Thankfully, with Patty Jenkins and the insanely amazing Gal Gadot at the helm, Wonder Woman has smashed all kinds of records to, hopefully, show that 2017 was the moment women made their presence felt in the world of comic book movies.

To briefly sum up the narrative before my endless appreciation of this film: Diana is one of an island of Amazons who were created by Zeus to protect mankind from Ares, the God of War. After Zeus dies attempting to overthrow Ares, the Amazons are sent to a secluded island, Themyscira to hide. They spend their time training for the inevitable battle when Zeus final gift, the God Killer, will vanquish their foe forever. Diana, daughter of the island's Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) wants to fight but is forbidden by her mother. She is trained, in secret, by Antiope (Robin Wright) until she becomes the greatest fighter the island has ever seen. Just in time, as it happens, because war comes to Themyscira in the form of an American pilot and the fleet of German soldiers chasing him. Diana suspects Ares is the reason humanity if at war and, with the pilots help, goes to the frontline to confront and kill him. There's also the obligatory romance because, really, what kind of woman can go to war and not fall in love?

Wonder Woman may owe a lot to the films of Richard Donner but it has so much fun subverting them that it becomes a whole new thing. Instead of the dashing heroic man saving the damsel in distress, we see the strong, beautiful woman leaping into danger with the puppy-dog eyed pilot lolloping after her. Not that Chris Pine could be accused to lolloping, of course. We clearly have a flipped arrangement of the classic Clark Kent and Lois Lane relationship going on here and its great. More than that, actually, because Pine's American Spy, Steve Trevor, has some depth to him. He's not just the Jane Foster of Wonder Woman; he has his own story arc and everything. Steve has to overcome his own demons about the war whilst also casting his sometimes sarcastic eye over Diana's way of life. What Chris Pine is essentially doing here is WW1 Captain Kirk but, hey, if it works it works.

Steve is more than a match for the Amazonian Princess, Diana, who absolutely sizzles on screen thanks to Gal Gadot's portrayal. Diana is both terrifyingly strong and noble whilst being incredibly naive and tender. We knew from Dawn of Justice that the ex-Israeli military woman could handle the action sequences with ease but here she proves that she has the talent to bring the character to life. She is brave, sweet, moral and, though we've seen it countless times, an adorable fish out of water. She is also, more importantly, funny. A trait that has been sadly lacking in the DCEU for its last 3 films. The visual and narrative links to Clark Kent are numerous, even down to the clothes that Diana uses to remain incognito in WW1 era London, but it all just works.

Wonder Woman is a film that relishes in tackling the excitement of a comic book movie by ensuring the action scenes are over-the-top and visually stunning. However, it does fall into the comic book movie trap of having a final battle scene that just becomes a heavily CGI'd, garish affair. The final 30 minutes of this film drag and lose the glorious momentum of the previous film. My one criticism is that Wonder Woman is so bogged down in Greek mythology. The rest of the film is kind of silly, very important and glorious celebration of the character and women in general. The hunt for Ares just drags it down into the murky, dark waters currently housing every Zack Snyder film ever made. It's too much. I would have been happy if Diana and co. just kept rescuing innocent people from German soldiers.

Wonder Woman is the perfect DC film. It overshadows its predecessors and shows them just how easy it could be. It offers important messages about female empowerment and feminism whilst also addressing that pesky subject of humanity doing terrible things to each other. I didn't expect to enjoy this film but I'm happy to eat my own words. This is one of the best films I've seen all year. Gal Gadot is my ultimate hero and Robin Wright is the biggest badass of all time. I sat through this film with a massive grin on my face... until the finale. But, still, it's a wonder to behold.

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