Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins, is a film that absolutely succeeds at establishing, and then fully developing, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, as a character. It also achieves something I was not expecting; and that was a character relationship that truly transcended everything else in the film. But of course the film is not without problems, and I think those problems might sadly hold the film back from being something more than just another superhero movie. Through my review, we can hopefully explore more of what it is that makes the film stumble but also shine, so let’s get to it.
The film tells the origin of, Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) – played by Gal Gadot – princess of the Amazons. After saving, Steve Trevor – played by Chris Pine – Diana seeks to fulfil her destiny, and defeat Ares, the God of War. But the war she finds herself involved in is the war to end all wars (what we now refer to as World War 1). However, the atrocities she inevitably comes across will not only re-shape her as a person but will go onto shape the person she becomes.
So when your primary character is also the title of the film, you hope/expect that it serves them in a way that makes them someone deserving of a film of their own. Well, I’m happy to say that, Wonder Woman without a doubt achieves that – and more.
One of the things that is really important for your primary character to do, and something that helps make them a person that the audience engages with and wants to continue watching them, is for them to grow. You want the character(s) – over the course of a film/story etc. – to learn, adapt, and evolve in ways that are meaningful and impactful. To not do this at all is… frankly redundant storytelling. In terms of what I’ve just referenced, Wonder Woman (as both a film and a character) is not by any stretch of the meaning, redundant.
As a character, Diana/Wonder Woman (*heads up, I’ll simply be referring to the character as Diana for the rest of the review*) goes on a journey that is utterly heart-breaking and truly transformative. Starting off as a naïve but good-minded individual, Diana becomes someone who is shaped both by the infinite tragedies around her and the new relationships she forms.
So let’s start with the relationships she forms after leaving home and entering the unforgiving world, filled with war and suffering. For me, some of the most standout scenes; the moments that caused me to take a step back and realise that this film was showing something that a lot of superhero films never focus on; was when Diana would see the true suffering that war has on people, and just how low humanity is willing to go to have their ideology be the prevailing one. Both the performance by, Gal Gadot in the moments and the way in which it is all communicated to the audience is heart-breaking and outstandingly well done.
There are some really harsh moments to take in; moments that don’t usually get the limelight in a big budget film like this one. Not only did I find it bold, but I found it to be some of the most resonating moments in both the Wonder Woman film and the current DC Universe films.
It is in these moments that it is so easy and clear to see changes forming in, Diana. You can see the revelations forming in her head and you can see her begin to realise that there is so much more to the world than she could have ever imagined. Her naïve, positively shaped ideals of the world are easy to notice in the beginning of the film, and then to see them shattered and new ones being built before our very eyes is some of the best development of a character in a superhero film in some time. As an individual, Diana truly does evolve and become the person she will be known as going forward, in this film, and I have to say, it is really refreshing to see a big budget superhero film make such a definitive statement of its character.
But there’s more to, Diana than just her solo journey. She forms a genuinely wonderful and memorable relationship with, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Pretty much from their first moment on-screen together, to their last, they as a duo deliver some of the best moments in the film. The humorous bond they begin with, that then evolves into a more meaningful connection, offers the most laughs and the most heart in the whole film. Both, Pine and Gadot have a great on-screen chemistry with one another and that really comes across in their characters. From the way that they banter, or misread a comment that then turns into an awkward moment; to how they become an inseparable duo that make every scene more engaging, due to how wonderful they are together. The experience of watching the two of them grow together and help one another become better people is perhaps the greatest achievement of the film.
The two characters help to define the other, they help to make moments more than what they are, and by the end, I was completely invested in everything that the two of them were. It feels full, it feels complete and it is simply the most pure, rewarding aspect of the whole film. You could have stripped away all the superhero stuff; all the fights and explosions and need to save the world, and just have it be the two of them going on a little romantic adventure, and I would have still happily sat there and soaked up every single second they were on-screen together being wonderful.
But, unfortunately, there are other elements to the film, and they don’t come anywhere close to the heights of elements I’ve touched upon so far. The primary example and perhaps one of the most glaring issues in the film is the total lack of a memorable or well-handled antagonist.
So for nearly all of the film, I was of the mind-set that, Wonder Woman was about to be the worst example of an under-developed villain in a superhero film (an issue that seems to plague the genre as a whole). But once the film had shown its cards and made it clear as to what it was doing, I was left in a difficult spot. It seems that the end goal with the villains in the film, Ludendorff – played by Danny Huston – and Dr. Maru (Lady Poison) – played by Elena Anaya – was to suggest that there isn’t just one evil out there; a single person that you can kill and all the world’s wrongs will be righted, and in the context of, Diana’s development of a character, it makes sense and certainly achieves its goal of delivering that message to her.
But here’s the problem: With how woefully the villains are developed; with how little time they actually spend on-screen being fleshed out (I would seriously forget sometimes that they were in the film. It was only when it would inevitably cut back to them that I would remember they existed). I was left feeling there to be a big villain shaped hole in the film. I felt there to be no threat; there wasn’t anyone specific that I had to root against, there was no one that I could see/remember that stood out as someone who needed to be stopped. It left a huge portion of the film feeling empty.
It didn’t then help that these villains were supposed to be the primary catalyst for the events of the story taking place. I struggled to remember why the protagonists were doing what they were doing, and I struggled to see a clear reason to invest in the main plot itself. It was this that caused me to feel disconnected from a part of the film – leaving it to not feel like a full, well-rounded experience. One where all the pieces fed into one another, creating something that was whole and was satisfying.
Because when you have a film that is on for 2 hours and 21 minutes, you need to make sure you fill that time with enough to always keep you engaged. And the film sadly doesn’t do that. Despite my absolute love for many parts of this film; primarily Diana, Steve and their personal story. I did find myself struggling to always be fully attentive. There were quite a few times where my attention to the events on-screen would lag, and I would feel… bored… detached.
And I’m sorry to say that the action scenes in the film were also a contributor to by boredom and my detachment. The action in this film is not good. Sloppy editing, dull, poorly choreographed fight scenes and way too much ugly CGI messes, make every moment of action in the film uninteresting to look at or experience. Only the advancement by Wonder Woman through ‘No Man’s Land’ offered any spurt of excitement and intensity. The rest was either unpleasant to look at, or simply was just impossible to follow. Why if you’re heroes main way of dispatching bad guys is hand-to-hand combat, would you not take the time to train your actors to act them out and then clearly show them on-screen in all their brilliance. Hiding it all in quick cuts and bad CGI is not the way to do it.
Again, it is a similar situation to the antagonist element of the film: I just wanted to get back to, Diana and Steve, because nothing else was really offering anything stimulating.
And so now I come to the wrap-up portion of my review and I need to decide where I come down on this film. So here’s what I’ll say: Wonder Woman is not without its faults – there are quite a few (I didn’t get the chance to touch upon them all as my review was already running too long). And the faults unfortunately do hold it back from being a great film. But, not only is the film the best in the new universe of DC films, but it is able to offer things that keep it from becoming another mid-tier superhero film. It certainly does come close to being another forgetful experience; where the blandness and the faults outweigh the good things. But there was something that stuck in my mind; something that made the film resonate within my thinking box.
And so you have an interesting situation. The film offers and succeeds with both its lead character and the relationship she forms with her counterpart, Steve (who is also really well defined). But those succeeding elements are still surrounded by the tropes and the unchanging tedium’s that make up superhero blockbusters; the paper thin plots and weak antagonists and… And all the noise and the distractions that overloads and overbears the experience of trying to sit and enjoy a well-made film.
But – and that’s an important but – when you cut through all the noise; the big silly fights and the tedious monologues and all the other tropes of superhero films, it is Diana and it is the relationship between her and Steve that prevails. It, in the end, is what pushes past all the noise and reminds you – reminded me – that they are what mattered in the film. And it is because of them and what was accomplished with them – individually and together – that Wonder Woman leaves a mark, a mark worth appreciating and accepting how wonderful it is.
So, I will be recommending, Wonder Woman. There is something special to this film, and the reason I say that is because it is able to overcome issues that would have easily sunk other films. So you should definitely make the effort to go see, Wonder Woman, because I think you’ll really be happy with what it ends up giving you. I know I was.
I’d both love to know what you thought of the film and my review. So feel free to leave any opinions, feedback etc. in the comments down below. If you’re interested, you can follow my blog directly, or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsRamblings. That way you’ll always know when I post something new. All that is left to say is thank you. Thank you for reading my review and I hope you liked it enough to return.