SBox Recommends: Wonder Woman (Movie Review)

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Welcome back to SBox Recommends, where I see a movie, review it, and then find out if this movie is right for you!

If there was any series in Hollywood that deserves a break, it’s the DCEU. The closest equivalent to Disney’s MCU, the young series has yet to prove itself as a viable competitor to the Marvel brand. Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad were unable to find unanimous praise with critics and audiences, and only one of them can really be defined as not a financial disappointment. This made 2017 an incredibly important year for the DCEU, as it may be its last chance to dazzle audience with its two offerings. Each is as important as the other, but only one of them has the misfortune of being first. And so comes the million dollar question: Can Wonder Woman save the DCEU?

Story

Wonder Woman is a historical action film based on the 1941 comic book character from DC Comics. It’s the fourth film in the DC Extended Universe and the first female led superhero-movie since 2005’s Elektra.

Themyscira is the home of the all-female Amazonian warriors, including a young princess named Diana. Diana strives to be a great warrior like the others on the island, and eventually proves to have an unusual amount of power even for an Amazonian. One day a plane crash-lands near the peaceful island, bringing with it, of all things, a man named Steve Trevor. A 1910’s American spy, Steve tells the Amazons of the terrible World War that is occurring outside the island and how he must return in order to stop the Germans who wish to prolong it. Diana believes this to be the work of the god of war himself, Ares. With the help of Steve and his small team of soldiers, Diana sets out to end the war by finding and defeating Ares once and for all.

Writing

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It gives me great pleasure to finally come out and say that a DCEU movie has excellent writing. No weird editing. No narrative problems. No inconsistencies. No character altering resolutions. No Martha. At last, just a straightforward action movie.

The best way to describe Wonder Woman is as a blend of Captain America and Thor (which isn’t too surprising as director Patty Jenkins was originally set to direct Thor: The Dark World). It’s basically a supernatural, fish-out-of-water period piece and it works wonderfully. While the setting of World War I gives the film a distinct feel among other comic book movies, the mythology gives the film an extra oomph, propelling it to something very special.

One thing I personally liked about the film is the way they handled Wonder Woman’s arrival to the regular world of man. Similar to Thor, she spends quite a bit of time trying to understand and adjust to certain customs and principles of our reality. Much of it is, of course, played for laughs and character development. However, the bulk of the movie focuses more on the ideological differences between the two worlds. See, Diana’s background grooms her to place emphasis on honor and justice above all else; things that aren’t always practiced by average people. This makes her interactions with a war-torn world very interesting. In fact, those moments of her and Steve Trevor exploring those differences are some of the best in the movie.

I also enjoyed the origin story. Yes, I know there’s a longstanding disdain for origin stories among many fans, but I assure you this one gets it right. For starters, the origin is treated as an unofficial prologue to the main story of the war, giving enough time to explain where she comes from and some of what she can do without over-explaining it. It gives you just enough information to get the adventure started and then trusts you in implicitly figuring out the rest through the adventure itself. Instead of being told everything, some things are instead shown in a way that drives the plot forward, which is fantastic.

Character progression for everyone involved is another high point of the movie, as is its narrative flow. Gone are the days of constant flashbacks and over-the-top editing that made you wonder when, where, or even what you are. This is a story that moves solely in chronological order, with only one flashback sequence in the whole movie. Thankfully it’s a well-placed one. The dialogue also moves away from philosophical exposition and towards lighthearted, contained conversations. It feels natural instead of epic, which is a nice change of pace from, say, BvS.

It’s honestly a very tight narrative all-in-all. Not without the occasional pacing problem, forgettable scene or predictable moment, but still an overall good story. Is it a great story? No, but it is an enjoyable, standard one.

Effects/Action/Cinematography

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Part of what makes this film shine is the fact that it actually kinda shines. This is definitely a pretty looking movie — one that utilizes a much brighter color pallet compared to passed DCEU films. The infamous grays and blacks of those films are replaced by deep shades of blue along with yellow and red. (How fitting). This not only makes Wonder Woman and the land of Themyscira stand out in each scene, but also does a good job at contrasting Themyscira from Europe, which isn’t as dynamic or bright. This may be the best use of color scheme in a superhero movie since Sin City.

As for the film’s action scenes, they’re amazing, eye-catching and fun. The filmmakers clearly took full advantage of what Wonder Woman can do, creating a very distinct set of fight scenes. The way she moves from one opponent to the other in some of these scenes is great, and her near-invincibility, strength and arsenal are fully utilized here. It almost reminds me of 300 in way (down to the occasion slow-mo), but if Superman couldn’t fly and was a Spartan. Really it’s something you’ll have to see to understand, but the bottom line is that it’s fun.

Each fight scene does a good job not overshadowing the other while also not appearing the same. Of those 5 or so scenes I believe 2 of them stand out above the rest: the Battle on Themyscira and the first war battle. The same clearly cannot be said about the final battle scene, as this is where things get a bit too CG for some people’s tastes. I personally didn’t have a problem with the battle itself. The setting and circumstance was interesting enough, and I do think it’s memorable. However, it is slightly inferior to other fights in the film. So, you’re mileage will vary in terms of the third act being a problem or not.

Acting

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Starting with the Amazing Amazon herself, Wonder Woman is played by Gal Gadot, and… let’s get this out of the way now:

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That is one good looking woman! Plus, her performance doesn’t disappoint either. It’s not fantastic by any means, but it hits all the right notes both for the story and the character. She brings to the role a tactical, determined, and optimistic edge, and her sense of justice and curiosity of the new world around her are definitely shown. She’s also the emotional center of the film, capable of making you feel for and (most impressively) with her. It’s incredibly hard not to like or relate to her (whether you’re male or female), and I’d definitely say she’s one of the best parts of the movie.

Gadot is especially good next to her co-star Chris Pine, who plays a very charismatic Steve Trevor. His is a very human and natural take on the character. Seeing as Diana is a demigod, Pine somewhat takes on the form of the audience as the person we’ll definitely relate to. He’s a bit of a wisecracker and a realist who reacts to some of the abnormal situations as almost anyone else would. Like Diana, he carries a sense of duty, bravery and determination to what he believes in, even if it doesn’t quite align with Diana’s purer version of justice. In fact, one of my favorite scenes in the film is when Diana and Steve argue over whether to help a civilian with a very difficult problem. The film does a great job at creating scenarios that are tough calls instead of just making Diana always right and Steve always wrong. Again, he’s the realistic one and plays a good balance to Diana’s occasionally naive optimism to situations.

Gadot and Pine have great chemistry, too, whether comedic, emotional, and even romatic. You can see why the two like each other. They lean on each other, learn from each other, and relate to each other where it counts. Literally any moment with these two in it together is fantastic.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for some of the other characters in the movie. While no one gives a bad performance in the movie, no one else besides Pine or Gadot are particularly noteworthy. The three members of Steve’s team — Sameer, Charlie, and Chief — are likable in the moment, but ultimately forgettable aside from the occasional funny line from, I think, Sameer. Queen Hippolyta and General Antiope are a bit more memorable, but aren’t in nearly enough of the film to make too great an impact passed the first act.

The German villains are interesting in their own right, though. Danny Huston character is a General who wishes to prolong the war for German victory, and Elena Anaya is a sadistic chemist who provides the German army with various gases. They honestly would’ve been more interesting had they been given more screentime or interesting dialogue. Instead they’re only serviceable additions to the story.

The only other interesting side character is Sir Patrick Morgan, played by David Thewlis. Unfortunately, he’s very much relegated to the background for certain reasons. However, he’s worth noting for having a surprising effect on the plot and for doing a great job with what he was given. The same can also be said for Lucy Davis as Etta Candy. In fact, I wish she was in the film slightly more.

Production Value/Score

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The film is a very standard looking movie. Good lighting, good camerawork, and sound mixing, etc. I’ve already mentioned the editing is straightforward and standard, with the occasional slo-mo for action scenes, as well as the color pallet being much brighter and smarter than expected. The only things worth mentioning are the set design and the score.

A majority of the movie was filmed appropriately in Europe as well as in famous European landmarks, and they did a great job recreating the wartime atmopshere and look of the area. You can tell a lot of it was filmed outdoors as much as possible, which I personally liked. However, it’s the island of Themyscira that takes the cake as the best location in the film. The Amalfi Coast in Italy was a fantastic choice for the paradise island. So sunny, elegant, and peaceful looking. The water shines and everything sticks out as the camera gets the perfect, stunning shots of the location. Fantastic choice!

The film’s score, while not the most memorable thing in the world, is also really good. The Wonder Woman theme returns from BvS in just one very appropriate scene as to not overuse it. Other than that, I particularly liked the piece that appears in or around the final battle as well as in the first war’s battle scene. There’s also a really nice song during one of the film’s more somber moments.

Overall

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Is this film the best in the DCEU? Yes, without a doubt. It sits comfortably above Man of Steel as my favorite offering from this universe thus far, and definitely puts the DCEU in a much better position than before. Is it the best comic book film ever as many are saying? I wouldn’t go that far. It’s certainly a breath of fresh air for the subgenre, but it still has its fair share of problems. The plot, while good, is a bit by-the-numbers, the CG is a little obvious at certain points, and a handful of characters are either underserved, underused, or forgettable. What I will say to that argument is that Wonder Woman is a very enjoyable, fun, energetic, and triumphant movie with great leads, superb action scenes, excellent visuals, and down to earth dialogue. In time, I’ll probably see this as one of my favorite superhero films ever; a film worthy of all the praise it’s getting, and will continue to receive in the future.

Verdict: 9/10

Recommendations

Forget everything you may have felt about the DCEU before. This film is different. Any fan of superhero/action movies should definitely give this a go. Otherwise, this film probably wasn’t on you’re radar to begin with. This film will definitely serve people of all ages and genders without over-serving any one side. If you’re worried about female-misrepresentation, you’ll find this film gets it right. If you’re worried about the film bashing you over the head with messages, you’ll find the film does no such thing. Fans of the comics should also be right at home here. It’s a very crowdpleasing film on the whole, which means almost anyone can find something to enjoy with this movie.


Did you see the movie? Do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments below!

I’m SBox180. Thanks for reading!

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