Wonder Woman has many of the same problems that plagued the previous DC films. It’s overly long, over stuffed, the pacing is off, and the third act becomes a typical CGI slug fest bathed in gray. It seems like disappointment, right?
While there are disappointing aspects to the film, Wonder Woman still manages to shine because of a genuine heart. The film gives the heroine her proper iconic treatment, but more importantly, it grounds her motives in very real emotion. Gal Gadot shines in the title role despite this imperfect film’s awkward attempts to be more than it should be.
Heart of a Hero
Diana (Gal Gadot) has lived her entire life among the Amazons of Themyscira, an island hidden from mankind. The daughter of Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), she has longed to prove herself as a warrior and trains with her aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright). When pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes on Themyscira, he brings “the War to End All Wars” to the Amazons. She leaves with Trevor, believing the Amazons’ arch enemy Ares is behind the terrible conflict. Her quest reveals a dark world that Diana never expected, but it will form the noble heart of a heroine.
It may be stating the obvious, but Wonder Woman’s strength lies in Gal Gadot’s Diana. She is the heart of the film, a heroine who believes absolutely in her quest. Gadot takes away any doubts about her acting abilities here, as she gives the heroine’s somewhat naive view of good and evil weight. This attitude could have easily been comedically bad, but Gadot and director Patty Jenkins present her desires beautifully. On the surface, it’s naive, but it is simply the first step towards her emergence as a heroine.
Chris Pine makes an excellent foil to Gadot’s Diana. His Steve Trevor is a classic throwback to the old time action heroes, but like Gadot, he gives his character genuine motives. Trevor is a good man and despite his cynical view of the world, he believes in good. He is also very charming in the role, but never upstages Gadot.
Together, Pine and Gadot have excellent chemistry. Their relationship is always one between equals, as both learn from each other. Some fans may be turned off by the direction their relationship takes, but it’s the key to Diana’s transformation into Wonder Woman. And it’s one of the more touching aspects of the film.
Wonder Woman is a film about that transformation and whenever the film focuses its attention there, it is brilliant. Themes of love and the good mankind is capable of are excellently portrayed here, and when Diana becomes Wonder Woman because of those themes, it strikes all the right emotional chords. Whether you are a hard core DC fan or a casual movie goer, those moments will inspire.
The action is a highlight and…surprise, surprise…the use of slow motion serves the film well. Wonder Woman’s fighting style is gracefully poetic, and Jenkins gives us a full view with that slow motion. She and the other Amazons are a joy to watch as they fight. Thankfully, there is not trace of the shaky cam style that often destroys action sequences.
Jenkins’ chief achievement is the way she portrays Wonder Woman herself. She displays utter confidence in the character and she knows what to focus on. Jenkins gives us a champion not only for the film, but also for the audience. She gives us a fully realized beacon of hope that is rare for a summer blockbuster.
All of that said, there are some glaring flaws with Wonder Woman that come uncomfortably close to derailing the whole thing. That unfortunate DC film trait of trying to do way too much rears its ugly head here. From pacing problems to bad character development on several levels, the film takes some bad stumbles.
Gadot and Pine are great in the lead roles, but every other character is paper thin. Granted, they’re only supporting characters, but Wonder Woman is going for an epic feel, building towards a huge world. The fact that no other characters really register is not something you want happening.
Take a look at one of the characters Diana and Steve team up with, Charlie (Ewen Bremner). We learn the sharpshooter suffers from PTSD…and that’s it. The film never does anything more with this information. Like the others in that iconic pictograph, he is seemingly there to simply look cool. The other characters in that team aren’t given a whole lot to do either.
That’s only one example. Characters show up, play up their plot device and move on. Tragically, this happens with Robin Wright’s Antiope. There are some intriguing aspects to the character and, like always, Wright shines in her scenes as the woman who trains Diana. But her relationship with Diana is so short it never completely registers like it should. Which is strange, considering the amount of time spent in Themyscira.
And that leads to the film’s biggest flaw. The pacing is inconsistent, creating the problems with character development. The narrative seemingly contradicts itself, often lingering for too long on certain sequences, making you feel the film’s two hour and twenty minute run time. Other times, it ends important sequences abruptly (ie, Antiope’s scenes). Wonder Woman also awkwardly tries to tie into Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, creating some inconsistencies with Diana’s character.
Then there’s the whole “Who is Ares?” storyline. The film unnecessarily complicates the reveal, as it becomes painfully obvious who the true villain is. It spends so much time trying to preserve the “twist” that it ruins an intriguing antagonist. Once the character manifests, Ares’ attitude towards humanity plays well against Diana’s motives. That confrontation also devolves into a CGI slug fest that is all too familiar and almost devoid of dramatic tension.
…But Still The Best DC Has Produced
For some, these flaws are back breaking. For others, they are nitpicks from a story nerd. But Wonder Woman would have been better served as a simpler story, possibly focusing only on Diana and Steve in their journey through a war torn Europe. The rest feels unnecessary, as the main theme is so good.
This is still one of the best recent DC films due to a confident director, a star making performance and powerful message of hope. Much like the character in the film, Wonder Woman gives me hope for the future.
SCORE: 7 OUT OF 10