I had a huge blob of ‘huh?’ in my throat the first time I watched Wonder Woman; so, I had to watch it again to be sure I wasn’t overreacting. The ‘huh?’ in this case wasn’t awe-inspired. Rather, it was the incredulous ‘I-can’t-believe-this’ kind of ‘huh?’ that inevitably transmuted to ‘please-I-want-my-money-back’.
Apart from the laudable girl/woman power themes and the usual good is good and evil is bad peculiar to superhero movies; there was an overriding sense of urgency about the whole movie; judging from the storytelling, the pacing (which felt wrong because of the aforementioned urgency) and the hurriedly done character development.
Perhaps, this WW standalone movie should have been 2 movies and not 1. Maybe showing us more of Themyscira and Diana’s origins/development may have worked better. For most wo(men) and initiates to WW/comic lore/superhero genre it’s hard not to enjoy the movie even if just for the tacky jokes but for someone who has above average understanding of the character (WW) or has seen a handful of superhero movies─ very difficult.
So to put things in clearer light, let’s examine what went wrong in WW and what was wonderful. As expected, good news first.
DISCLAIMER: Readers should (t)read carefully hereon as there might be spoilers.
Wonder Woman: What was wonderful.
- Gal Gadot as the face of WW is divine and her portrayal of the character was believable─ we saw this even in BvS; Dawn of Justice. Though most have vilified it, I loved her thick eastern European (hope I got that right) accent throughout the movie. Her poise, composure and carriage were as well spot on.
- Themyscira – The depiction of the mysterious city was in my opinion accurate and sellable.
- The Amazons – Hippolyta, Antiope, Artemis etc. characters were wonderfully represented by actresses Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright and Ann Wolfe. The first two are in their early fifties while Ann Wolfe who played Artemis is 46. It is indeed remarkable and a plus to the movie that they had the ideal androgynous build for the roles they were casted for. Worthy of mention also is Ann Ogbomo who played Philippus.
- The Message – Emphasising girl power based on a mixture of skill and knowledge acquisition while encouraging womenfolk (mankind) to take responsibility of challenges and face them is a win for me. Diana is portrayed as a well-read, battle-ready woman in the movie and having such an icon as a model for young girls (boys too) in this age is just fantastic.
- Casting – The casting was good. C’est fini.
Wonder Woman: What was wrong.
- The Storytelling – The sometimes frenetic storytelling in WW revealed an urgency to get things done with as quickly as possible. The lazy writing which it betrayed was obvious in the plot where there were so much contrivances or convenient incidents to move things on. Instances of this are when Diana is made to be naïve one minute, a genius the next e.g., the part where she asks if a corset is body armour (please!) and next she’s striking a model’s pose while sporting designer spectacles. And the whole sword/shield carrying after dressing up in civilian clothes was just silly.
Surely, they must have civilians back home in Themyscira?
Plus, isn’t she supposed to be well-read? In the alley scene, without any warning we suddenly see Diana blocking bullets with her bracelets (for real?) after supposed spy Steve Trevor (surrounded by goons with guns) decides the best step is to head-butt one of them; I mean, ─let’s forget initially that Diana is behind him but doesn’t see the bearded German spy until he points his gun─ four guys with guns and Steve is unarmed with a woman.
His best tactic is to take one out in the hope that the other three will let him go or what? Contrivances abound I tell you. There’s a consistent disregard for tactic throughout the movie from both Diana and Steve. Skip to next event and we see them all shooting at Diana’s bracelets of all places. All of them (again, please!). To sum up this part, the needless death at the end where Diana battles Ares was the death knell for me.
- Ares’ Costume/Casting – The costume was pitiful─ or maybe the CGI rendering of it. It wasn’t at all convincing and contributing to the disaster was casting a geriatric-looking David Thewlis as the character. As Ares in form of Sir Patrick Morgan? Pass. As Ares himself? Epic fail. Which begs the question; how did Diana stop ageing while Ares/Sir Patrick couldn’t?
- The Villains – One is ideally supposed to hate/love a movie’s villain(s); hate them for masterfully personifying evil or love them for masterfully performing the role. At best, one should be neutral. WW villains were weak to the extent of being pitiful and that was a great disservice to the movie.
- The Tropes – Every movie has its tropes and the objective is to make them as bearable as possible. WW was built around the emasculation of men around Diana; a spy who can’t spy (head-butt first and let Diana rescue), a sniper who can’t shoot, a Turkish (maybe Middle Eastern) comedian and a Red Indian who apparently had to be there for the sake of political correctness. One word; boring. Furiosa in Mad Max; Fury Road and Black Widow in the Avenger movies are notable exceptions to this convenient trope. The needless death at the end also works here too.
- The Humour -The jokes were overdone in a bit to ─I daresay─ be like Marvel. Basing most (maybe all) of the jokes on either Diana’s naiveté or Steve’s chagrin got boring prematurely. Literally made it DOA.
- Character Development – Funnily, only Steve Trevor’s character played by Chris Pine in a supporting role passed this test. Diana’s character was too meshed up to be solid. Too rushed. For this reason, WW fails as an origin story for me.
- The Paradox at the End – Beginning; Diana believes killing Ares will stop the war. A reality she discovers later to be false. Then we are shown how the war ends once she kills said Ares.
- The Plot Holes – They were annoying. Diana dancing with a sword in her back defied all the laws of physics/biology. Portraying the Germans as the bad guys during World War I wasn’t just a major goof but an offense of grave proportions. The German ship that did not cross Themyscira’s barrier, what happened?
- The Constant Captain America Rips – Steve Trevor is a blond soldier fighting the Germans and played by Chris Pine. Steve Rogers is a blond soldier fighting the Germans and played by Chris Evans.
Diana’s indestructible shield. Doctor Maru’s horrible face akin to Red Skull in Captain America─ only heroes are meant to be beautiful?. Steve riding a motorcycle scene. Steve in the final plane scene etc.
We can write these of as mere coincidences but to quote Monsieur V from the movie V for Vendetta; “I, like God, do not play with dice and do not believe in coincidence”.