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New Release Review - WONDER WOMAN

wonder woman movie review
Wonder Woman leaves her island home to help end WWI.







Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Patty Jenkins

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, David Thewlis, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston, Lucy Davis

wonder woman movie poster


There's a moment in DC Comics' Wonder Woman's first standalone movie in which Gal Gadot's Diana Prince is perusing an item in The Louvre when she is interrupted by a sound that's sadly become all to familiar in Western European cities - the boom of an explosion, followed by police sirens. We don't see how she resolves the situation; instead we're left to err...wonder how the superheroine might deal with modern day terrorism. I'm still wondering, as despite sitting through a 2hr 20 mins film called Wonder Woman, I still know very little about the alliterative hero in question.


wonder woman movie

This may be director Patty Jenkins' film, but its basic story was laid down by Zack Snyder, who has now done for Wonder Woman what he did for Superman, i.e turned an inspirational hero into an over-emotional, murderous sociopath. WW speaks a lot about peace, but she kills more people in this movie than most super-villains. The movie lays down its hypocritical notions of heroism early on with a very Snyder-esque sequence in which we learn of how Zeus created an island of Amazonian women (part Renaissance Fair, part Lilith Fair) whose duty was to defend the world from the evils of men. We're told that their peaceful ways were a counterpoint to the violent nature of the male species, yet their entire daily routine seems to consist of preparing for battle, and when strangers turn up in the form of the WWI era German Navy, they immediately open fire on the interlopers, killing them all save one, Chris Pine's American spy Steve Trevor.

Despite the film's title, this is arguably more Trevor's story than WW's. Possibly due to Gadot's limited range (she's great with the physicality of the role, and performs adequately in the comic moments, but given more than two lines of dialogue, she doesn't fare so well), she's somewhat sidelined, a cross between a hench-person, called upon anytime some ass needs kicking, and the sort of 'born sexy yesterday' woman-child archetype that has plagued sci-fi movies since their inception. The relationship between herself and Trevor consists largely of the latter mansplaining the ways of the world while the former throws hissy fits.


wonder woman movie

For a movie whose marketing has heavily hyped its feminist credentials, Wonder Woman isn't shy about imbuing its protagonist with that most damaging of negative female stereotypes, the still frustratingly persistent notion that women can't control their emotions. Whenever presented with an obstacle, WW blows her top, acting without thinking, in contrast to the rational men around her. The film's faux progressiveness extends to a pair of side characters - a Native-American (named 'Chief', of course!) and a North African, members of a motley crew assembled by Trevor - whose sole purpose seems to be to tell us the movie has cast some non-white actors (both literally verbalise their ethnicity, in case we hadn't figured it out). Ironically, despite their competent skills, it's a useless white man (Ewan Bremner as a sniper who can't shoot straight) who gets far more attention.

Those flaws aside, for the most part Wonder Woman is a fun romp, at its best when evoking classic derring-do pulp fiction, less successful when it believes it has something profound to say about humanity. Save for the obligatory overlong and overblown climax in which our hero battles a giant robot/alien/god/whatever against an indecipherable CG backdrop, the action sequences have a spring in their step and don't outstay their welcome. Jenkins constructs such scenes in a coherent manner that her peers would do well to observe, breaking large scale battles down into manageable and relatable chunks, and the metal-esque theme that accompanies WW's heroics adds a shot of adrenalin.


wonder woman movie

The film's first half has an agreeably light touch, with Lucy Davis a standout as Trevor's caustic secretary in the fish out of water London section (the movie's most enjoyable sequence, as WW contends with early twentieth century sexism). As the initial villains, Danny Huston's General Erich Ludendorff (who, despite the WWI setting, is for all intents and purposes a Nazi) and Elena Anaya's Doctor Poison commendably embrace the camp nature of such comic book antagonists. If the first half gives us a W.E. Johns' inspired tally-ho take on WWI, the second half opts for the not so escapist grime of Siegfried Sassoon. It's a jarring shift in tone, and a reminder that Zack Snyder is ultimately in charge of this cinematic universe. In the world of comic book movies, behind every good woman director there's a vulgar male auteur looking over her shoulder.

Wonder Woman is in UK/ROI cinemas June 1st.



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