Wonder Woman

At long last. A DC movie not directed by Christopher Nolan that isn’t a flaming pile of garbage. AND it has a female lead. Being progressive is good (look at the box office receipts) but literally just being good is even better.

Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) is the doe-eyed do-gooder child of the queen of the Amazons. And all she wants to do is fight. But Mom refuses to let her train for some reason that won’t be explained for much too long. But then she lets her train, and just in time! Because professional spy Steve Trevor’s (Chris Pine) plane just crash landed through Diana’s homeland’s protective shield, and the Germans are close behind.

Steve reveals that the world outside of Diana’s bubble is at war, specifically World War 1. He needs to get back to England ASAP to stop General Erich Ludendorff (A real historical figure) from releasing a new kind of gas on the Allies. One that gas masks will not be able to stop. Diana is positive that this war to end all wars has been started by her ancient enemy, Ares, the god of war. She asks Steve to take her to the front so she can find Ares, kill him, and end the war.

While not the best of actresses, thriving more on intense emotions rather than subtle ones, Gadot is a perfectly capable Wonder Woman. Her innocent belief that she can stop the war is inspiring, and she has the moxie/strength to back it up. Her fish out of water story is as old as time but it never feels tired. It’s a fresh take and you’ll love her being absolutely flabbergasted by the 1917 patriarchy. And clothing styles. And means of talking.

Chris Pine is equally awesome as the grizzled, and hilarious, love interest. His whole world turns upside down when he discovers Diana. But he’s seen too many horrible things to just trust that she will fix the broken world he lives in. It’s another showcase for his excellent acting abilities and I’m happy to report that he plays well as ‘second fiddle’ when for so long he’s been the leading man.

The setting for the film is very unique. The backdrop is World War I and thank god Wonder Woman at least treats it with a little more than basic lip service to one of the most terrible moments of destruction in our history. She cringes and weeps for soldiers coming home disfigured, horses wallowing in mud, women and children dying from incessant artillery fire. Hers was a world of swords and shields. WWI is death incarnate and its effects are still felt today.

Not that it keeps her from punch-murdering Germans left and right. Some slick action sequences abound when she decides to charge no-mans land in an attempt to save a nearby village.

Which kind of tempers Wonder Woman’s lofty philosophical ambitions. The best dialogue of the movie comes from Chris Pine when he pleads with Diana about the nature of war. There is no one bad guy that ends it. Maybe war is caused by us. Maybe humans are not all good. It’s moving, poignant, and nuanced.

Which is why it irks me a little. Ludendorff was a real live person who led German forces near the end of the war, and he is reduced to a comic book villain who just wants to gas people. You know who else gassed people? The British. The French. The Germans just did it first. Diana could have easily chosen the other side in her search for Ares. Because WWI didn’t really have a villain. It is one of the most pointless wars in history. Where generals on both sides sent millions of men to their deaths, just to set up an even greater conflict down the road. As Sherman said, war is hell. Its glory is all moonshine.

Maybe it’s too much to expect that from a comic book movie. But the deeper themes and tones are in keeping with this DC universe in general. High-minded ambition, tone-deaf execution. Wonder Woman, despite clear signs of Zach Snyder’s grubby little paws, rises above in it’s execution. Yet, it doesn’t quite clear the hurdle it set for itself. At least it actually tried.

3 out of 4 stars.

 

 

Nitpicks:

Did you hear that dialogue between Robin Wright and a lackey early in the movie? “How’s she doing? Good. Good, good work. Keep working.” Jesus Christ, where was the editor there?

They went from Greece(?) to London in one night. On a sailboat.

They went from London to Belgium in a night.

WHY does it have the same dreadful color palette? Fucking Zach Snyder.

Why is DC’s CGI so much worse than Marvels? Does anyone else notice this?

They cross no man’s land and take a town than all of sudden has electricity and beer and the germans don’t counter-attack? Come on!

Dr. Poison is a terrible villain name.

This is going to inspire a lot of little girls into making them think that DC makes good movies. They, and I, are going to be sorely disappointed when Justice League comes out.

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