Friday, June 02, 2017

WONDER WOMAN Does The Iconic Superheroine Justice

Now playing at multiplexes everywhere:

WONDER WOMAN (Dir. Patty Jenkins, 2017)

It’s no secret that the implementation of the DC Extended Universe hasn’t been a critical success so far. The first three entries – MAN OF STEEL, BATMAN V. SUPERMAN, and SUICIDE SQUAD – have been chaotic fiascos with cluttered storylines, mishandled mythology, and poorly drawn characters that it was near impossible to care about.

But there was the glimmer of light that was the introduction of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in B V S, and that gave hope that her solo movie, opening today, would be the first actually good movie of the DCEU.

Well, that hope has been satisfied as WONDER WOMAN is a wonderful (sorry, couldn’t resist) crowd pleaser that breathes new life into the franchise. A radiant Gadot owns the screen as the iconic superhero, bringing kick-ass charisma, fearless finesse, and a knowing wit to her role. She’s joined by Chris Pine, trading his Starfleet Captain attire for a U.S. Army Air Force Captain uniform, as Steve Trevor, who crashes his plane near the island of Themyscira, the land of the Amazons, while being chased by German soldiers.

Before this, we see little Diana (as played at different ages by Lilly Aspell and Emily Carey) training with her aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright, who’s having a great week with this and season five of House of Cards dropping on Netflix), in secret as her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Neilsen) disapproves.

Fully grown and ready to rumble, Diana rescues Steve from drowning, fights the attacking Germans, then travels with Steve to find Ares the Greek god of War, who she thinks is responsible for World War I.

Diana and Steve travel to London, where he gives the film’s McGuffin – a notebook which he stole from German chemist Dr. Maru aka Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya), which has chemical formulas for gasses powerful enough to destroy gas masks – to Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis) of the Imperial War Cabinet.

After getting outfitted in proper period dress with the help of Steve’s secretary (the British Office’s Lucy Davis making the comic most of her limited screentime) the duo travel to the frontline with a ragtag crew, including Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, and Eugene Brave Rock, that reminded me of the scrappy rebel team that was assembled for the heist in ROGUE ONE.

Diana believes that the sinister General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) is Ares so she aims to kill him, but she doesn’t realize that this is one of those movies that has a secret bad guy in it to provide a third act twist.

With her 
shield, bullet-proof bracelets, and lasso of truth (not to mention her “God Killer” sword), Wonder Woman fights her way through gunfire, explosions, and all the spectacle that you’d come to expect from a summer blockbuster, but with an energy and gusto that stands up to some of Marvel’s best action sequences. The dark, gritty textures of the film’s look (courtesy of cinematographer Matthew Jensen), also give the proceedings gravitas that compares favorably with their comic book movie competitors.

One of my only complaints is that at two hours and 20 minutes is a bit too long. A few scenes drag and couldve been cut down with no loss of narrative, but as it is an origin story, I bet the filmmakers thought its epic length was justified.

But Gadot and Pine’s palpable chemistry, which has an element of screwball in their between action set-piece banter, keeps the film's formula flowing for the most part. 

Its great that WONDER WOMAN was directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins, partly because it would just feel wrong if it wasn’t, but really because judging by her filmography (MONSTER, episodes of Arrested Development, The Killing) she’s much more talented than Zach Snyder, who’s to blame for two of the aforementioned epic fails of the DCEU, but to be fair, Snyder did co-contribute to this films story. 

Wonder Woman will return in the next DC entry, JUSTICE LEAGUE, due out later this year, but since Snyder is helming that, my expectations are very low. I’m betting that Jenkins does the iconic superheroine a lot better 
justice here.

More later...

No comments: