It’s nearly impossible to watch “Wonder Woman” and not have your mind wander to our country’s current political climate where female rights are being trampled upon, leaving many women feeling as if they are being treated as second class citizens by the powerful white men in charge. That’s a big reason why the latest D.C. Comics superhero film resonated with me in a way few have before. No matter if you love it or hate it, this movie is a spirited rallying cry for feminism and is sure to empower girls of all ages.
The most any Wonder Woman fan could hope for is that the new movie doesn’t stink (it doesn’t). In fact, the middle third is pretty damn good cinema, with a creative (if implausible) real-world story line and scattered truly touching moments. What a pity that the film has bookends that can’t stand up to the rest of the project.
Director Patty Jenkins is efficient in delivering a good looking, enjoyable film, and it’s put together far better than any other big screen D.C. Comics project (which I realize isn’t much of a compliment, but it’s still an achievement nonetheless). I just wish she didn’t rely so heavily on slow motion twists and turns. It sure does look cool and fierce at first but after sitting through shot after shot of the same old thing, those visuals become tired parodies of themselves far too early. The movie also tries too hard with its story and ends up throwing every genre under the sun into the screenplay, hoping something will stick. There’s the usual ‘superhero saves the day’ story, but it’s also a war movie, a tender romance, an origin story, a buddy sidekick adventure, and a poignant feminist drama. Simply put, this movie is all over the place.
Besides the odd WWI set story, the elephant in the room is the acting. Let’s not sugar coat anything here: the performances are bad, especially for a big-budget franchise. Chris Pine just sort of sits there, a mostly insignificant character with the charisma of an old boot. Gal Gadot certainly looks the part but her performance is at times spectacularly awful, even causing me to giggle inappropriately through a couple of scenes. Thank goodness for the fantastic Robin Wright, who has an all too brief supporting role as the intense warrior Antiope. I’d love to see her have her own movie!
What works about “Wonder Woman” is when the story concentrates on the humanity of these characters. Thanks to the incredibly terrific “Logan,” it’s going to be nearly impossible to review a superhero movie without mentioning the incredibly high bar that it has now set. I realize not all films can operate with such an introspective, small scale focus, but when “Wonder Woman” isn’t afraid to go there, it really soars. Too bad the filmmakers (and studio) chose to chicken out and devolve into another computer generated crapfest which totally brings dishonor to the 120 minutes that preceded it.
The action is what you’d expect from a summer blockbuster: lots of CGI explosions and a ho-hum evil villain with a finale that resembles a bloated, tiresome cartoon. After another fifteen minutes of duplicate shots and an overlong ending where our heroine fights the Greek god of war Ares, I found myself longing for the earlier, better, more focused, and personal parts of the film, like the horror Diana experiences when she encounters guns for the first time or the sly and suggestive humor of her natural curiousness when she sees a naked man.
“Wonder Woman” is still a better-than-average superhero movie: but doesn’t she deserve far better than that?