Wonderful!!!!: A review of "Wonder Woman

Written by Scott Powhatan Collins
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I can't believe it!! I just cannot believe it!!
Dear readers, I am going to go on record at this moment to tell you that I was not, in any way, looking forward to seeing this film. Now, before you jump to any conclusions, my reluctance has absolutely nothing to do with the character of Wonder Woman, a superhero fixture within my childhood and lifelong love of comic book warriors. My reluctance had absolutely, positively everything to do with the overall quality of the DC Cinematic Universe as of late and especially when compared to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has beaten the DC films hands down over and again.

Essentially (and if you are regular visitors to this site, I apologize for any repetitiveness), Director Zack Snyder's inaugural features "Man Of Steel" (2013) and "Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice" (2016), were not disasters but they were indeed visually striking, intermittently involving would-be epics that were severely undone by incoherent storytelling messiness, a complete lack of joy within the CGI bombast and excruciating overlong climaxes where every single item except the movie theater itself was reduced to a mindless, heartless, soulless rubble (Michael Bay would be so proud!). Writer/Director David Ayer's inexcusable "Suicide Squad" (2016) was such an unmitigated disaster, that it very nearly made me want to swear off future DC films altogether.

And then, there was Gal Godot herself. Once again, my initial dismissal of Godot had nothing to do with an eternal allegiance with Lynda Carter who portrayed the iconic role of Wonder Woman in her television series from the 1970's. It was just that Godot made for quite a weak impression within her debut appearance in the role during "Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice." Yes, she clearly looked the part. She obviously fit the costume. Her full entrance in the film (with that downright nifty theme music) was the movie's sole awesome moment. But, then, she began speaking and I was so put off by the woodenness of it all that I could not possibly imagine her carrying a full film on her own shoulders. Gal Godot just felt to be not up to the task at all, but here she was, cast in the role she would portray over a series of films and quite possibly, she just may have been unable to act!

For me, the bar was set at an extremely low level. But then, the initial reviews and their high marks piqued my curiosity, allowing me to just give DC one more try. And dear readers, I am so, so thankful that I did because "Wonder Woman" is a flat out winner, a wonderful, wondrous feature that not only has given the DC characters their best film by a mile, but the finest one since Director Christopher Nolan's game-changing "Dark Knight Trilogy" (2005/2008/2012) and even further, the film conjured up emotions of which I have not felt since Director Richard Donner's "Superman: The Movie" (1978) and Director Richard Lester's "Superman II" (1981).

Director Patty Jenkins, who helmed the brutal, brilliant "Monster" (2003) spotlighting a transformative performance by Charlize Theron, may have been a most unlikely choice to bring this figure to vivid, vibrant life. But, it turns out that she was the best choice without question, as she not only brought the DC Cinematic universe back from near death, she has outpaced and outclassed the generally more consistent Marvel films and ultimately, she has finally made one of the very best films of 2017!

Charlize Theron in Monster

While bookended by sequences set during present day Paris, Patty Jenkins' "Wonder Woman" is an origin story primarily set near the conclusion of World War 1 but begins with our titular heroine as a free spirited child named Diana born on the island of Themyscira, home of a race of Amazonian warrior women created by the Gods of Mount Olympus with the purpose to protect mankind from Ares, the God of War

The Amazons are led by Diana's Mother, Queen Hippolyta (the glorious Connie Nielsen) and her sister, the military General Antiope (Robin Wright), whose training sessions capture the intense interest and inspiration of young Diana (played by Lilly Aspel), much to the Queen's chagrin and worry. Reluctantly, the Queen allows Diana to be trained by Antiope in the ways of an Amazon warrior, lasting throughout her childhood, into her adolescence (played by Emily Carey) and finally, her young adulthood (now played by Gal Godot), all the while believing that she will one day be called upon to defeat Ares in battle utilizing the "Godkiller," a ceremonial sword

The course of Diana's life is irrevocably altered when a plane miraculously crash lands off the coast of the island and carrying United States Army Air Service Captain and Allied spy Steve Trevor (a terrific Chris Pine), whom Diana rescues from drowning. Immediately thereafter, German planes, in pursuit of Steve approach the island, thus engaging in battle with the Amazons.

With the realisation that "The Great War" is at hand, Diana, feeling her destiny to defeat Ares calling loudly, leaves Themyscira against the wishes and orders of the Queen to join Steve on a voyage to London. From here, the newly christened Diana Prince fully embarks upon a life-changing, world saving odyssey that will find her on the front lines of combat against the insidious General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston), the mad scientist Dr Poison (Elena Anaya) and their exceedingly lethal mustard gas chemicals. But most importantly, her own inner journey towards a greater self-discovery and understanding of humanity itself

Patty Jenkins' "Wonder Woman" is a fully engrossing, enormously entertaining comic book epic that marries the worlds of mythology, classic Hollywood romantic comedy, espionage and war films, and the modern day superhero genre effortlessly and seamlessly. It is a beautifully filmed production in which the CGI special effects do not overwhelm but somehow carry a throwback charm to a time when superhero films were not so ponderous and self-consciously dour and dark. In fact, "Wonder Woman" possesses qualities that have been long missing from the comic book film genre from both DC and Marvel, and those qualities are an unabashed sense of fun and most especially, a healthy dose of old-fashioned innocence that makes the experience feel as rich as the most fantastical dream.

Whatever trepidation and resistance I held towards Gal Godot during her initial film appearance have been marvellously erased with her full-fledged starring performance. Godot is sensational, fashioning a sense of joy, awe and naivete that is completely infectious and engaging to regard as she allows us to become as amazed as Diana becomes throughout the film. Without hyperbole, Gal Godot's performance unearthed in me feelings I have not really had for films like this since Christopher Reeve made us all believe that a man could fly. Yes, she is that good and I am sorry that I ever doubted her!
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

One sequence, in particular, is the spectacular "No Man's Land" battle, during which Diana first appears in the complete and iconic Wonder Woman attire--bulletproof bracelets, the golden Lasso of Truth, plus shield and the Godkiller sword all at her disposal. Just watch Godot's face during this lengthy action set piece where she defeats legions of German soldiers and throws tanks and I guarantee you will be as equally enthralled as the character, who is just so amazed to discover all of the things that she can do and all in the service of the greater good. Her sense of astonishment is ours, in turn, making for a film that scales heights over and again, completely on the shoulders and good will of Gal Godot whose star-making performance is precisely what this iconic character demands and deserves.

Chris Pine is absolutely perfect as the heroically rogue-ish Steve Trevor, who engages with Godot with a dazzling light comedic touch that allows the twosome to elicit stupendous chemistry that accentuates Diana's "fish-out-of-water" comedy of manners, her richly paced romance with Steve and her growing understanding of the grey areas of the human condition, especially when it comes to the insanity of war

In my recent reviews of Writer/Director James Gunn's "Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2," I remarked upon the shallowness of that film's leading actor Chris Pratt, for whom big biceps and a glib nature counts as a full performance. Thankfully, Chris Pine in "Wonder Woman" completely escapes that trap and has discovered how to create a full and rich performance out of material that could be more than a little silly. Pine always finds the correct notes, as he is always in service of Gal Godot (for it is her movie), never trying to claim the spotlight from her but is always there at the right moment with the right delivery of a wry line of dialogue, a bemused expression at the majesty he is able to witness while also being a first rate conduit for Diana to experience the fullness of the human experience in humor, romance and a surprisingly effective level of pathos.

Gal Godot and Chris Pine are a perfect team and they are aided superbly by the film's expertly chosen supporting cast, which includes Steve Trevor's ragtag trio of sidekicks, all portrayed by Ewan Bremmer, Eugene Brave Rock and Said Taghmaoui, the masterful David Thewlis in a duplicitous role and even the charming Lucy Davis (from the original BBC version of "The Office") as Trevor's trusty secretary

And even still, none of these performance could possibly have been allowed to shine so brightly if not working in the service of Allan Heinberg's witty, cleanly written screenplay and the pitch-perfect direction of Patty Jenkins, who never has one superfluous moment and is armed with a determined and clear-eyed filmmaking vision that affords her tremendous agility with transcending all of the superhero movie trappings, creating an experience that is deeply involving, honestly exciting and more than a little moving.

Trust me, dear readers. I have no need to ever sit through another origin story again yet in "Wonder Woman," everything felt fresh and new again. The film's extended climax, itself a comic book movie trapping as so many of these films, most infamously the DC brand, descend into a battering ram of numbing audio/visual cataclysm during which the world ends ten times over and yet nothing happens.

By establishing her characters so strongly, and giving us ample time to be invested in Diana's cause, mission and conflict so thoroughly, Patty Jenkins ensures that everything that occurs within the climax of "Wonder Woman" carries the proper weight, where (frankly) we give a damn because we are completely invested. For the first time in quite some time with this particular genre, I was not bored for one moment during the epic battles, which are engaged essentially on three fronts, where mythology and a more grounded reality collide powerfully and themes of sacrifice, honor and love are paramount--not how many explosions can we blast the movie screen with.

And at the centre of it all is Diana Prince, her open-heartedness, her purity, her bravery and her unquestionably bad-ass warrior status is downright inspirational. I know how this film affected me. But I can only imagine what this film could possibly mean for young girls and hey, adult women in the audience who really have not had a film like this to call their own at any point during our glut of comic book films for nearly the past 10 years...at least!!! Representation is everything and Patty Jenkins clearly took up the challenge of bringing this classic figure to such vibrant life with all of the fierce creativity and skill that, again, this character so richly deserves.

At the outset of this review, I proclaimed that I just could not believe that this film turned out so exceedingly well, especially with the low quality of what preceded it. I am hoping powerfully that as DC continues to build their cinematic universe, they look to what Jenkins has achieved and follow her template. With all due respect to Zack Snyder who is ensconced in a personal family tragedy, I just don't have high hopes for the already filmed "Justice League," which will arrive this November. But afterwards, the DC films brain trust need to study Jenkins' outstanding work carefully and proudly for after hitting such a high bar, they can't go back down in quality.
Justice League the Film

Yes, I am still undergoing my strain and sense of superhero movie fatigue but with Patty Jenkins' "Wonder Woman," my love of the genre has been fully rejuvenated as she has delivered a film of such imagination, adventurousness and a most delightful jubilation that just makes the film fly through the clouds

And in turn, we happily fly right along with it!

Scott Powhatan Collins was born and raised in Chicago, IL and is a current resident of Madison, WI.He is a lifelong enthusiast of music, books and films. Hisbrain is filled with DJ dreams, filmmaking fantasies, literary luxuries and all manner of useless information. He chronicles his thoughts and reviews on his two blog sites Synesthesia (http://savagejukebox.blogspot.co.uk/) and Savage Cinema (http://wwwspcsavage.blogspot.co.uk), and is always on the lookout for the next piece of art to blow his mind and capture his heart.
Read 3393 times Last modified on Sunday, 18 June 2017 11:23
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Scott Powhatan Collins

Scott Powhatan Collins

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