One of the horror genre's "most widely read critics" (Rue Morgue # 68), "an accomplished film journalist" (Comic Buyer's Guide #1535), and the award-winning author of Horror Films of the 1980s (2007), The Rock and Roll Film Encyclopedia (2007) and Horror Films of the 1970s (2002), John Kenneth Muir, presents his blog on film, television and nostalgia, named one of the Top 100 Film Studies Blog on the Net.
Gal Gadot is a marvel (despite being a
D.C. character) as the title character in Wonder Woman. Radiant, and not just physically,
but through the confidence she projects, one just can't help being in love
with her. "And the Wonders you can do," indeed. She not only conquers the evil Germans, but
also the film's flimsy script.
In modern day, Bruce Wayne sends Diana Prince
(Gadot) a photo that reminds her of her first adventure in WWI Europe one
hundred years previously. Diana had grown up the Princess of Themyscira, a paradise island, with her
fellow Amazonian warriors in a land free of male intervention. When an American
spying on the Germans crashes into the island's sea, Diana saves his life and
becomes invested in a world in chaos outside her nirvana, desperate for a
hero. Already discovering her super
powers, she joins this young man, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) on a journey to the
front to stop a diabolical German scientist (Elena Anaya) and her partner, a
blood-thirsty General (Danny Huston). The scientist has combined mustard gas
with hydrogen to create the deadliest killer of the industrial age.
Patty Jenkins, who once directed Charlize
Theron to an Oscar for Monster, wisely keeps the camera
focused on her magnetic star. The fight scenes are well-choreographed, utilizing
slow motion photography to make Diana more dynamic. Jenkins also allows Godot's
natural exotica shine through to give the character an appropriate
other-worldliness. Jenkins and editor Martin Walsh could have benefited from
cutting a good 30 minutes from the film.
The beginning sequence in Themyscira suffers the most by plodding along
with predictable sequences.
The script by Allan Heinberg (with a story
by Zack Snyder, Heinberg, and Jason Fuchs) is the movie's only liability. Many
characters, particularly the villains, are shallowly drawn. The two obvious
villains are stock characters with little motivation other than pure hatred for
humanity. Too much backstory is left out with the assumption that audience
members are loyal comic book fans. While many seeing the movie have absorbed
the comics for decades, the writers ignore those who have not, leaving many
questions for those not in the know.
For one, Diana obviously ages, at least on
the island, but doesn't age at all after leaving the island. The explanation is
not given. Second, Themyscira apparently has a protective layer to separate it
from the rest of the world, yet why do Steve and the Germans who attack
penetrate it easily? And how are Steve and Diana able to sail from the island
to London, passing through this layer with no complications?
Two scenes that do work well due to the
actors' selling of the dialogue are the argument between Diana and Steve and
later between Diana and the main villain about man's fallibility and whether
the species is worthy of favor from the Gods.
Gadot is a natural, magnetic talent. She
and the always charismatic Pine have superb chemistry. In an early scene,
Jenkins reverses the cliché of sexual politics by having the camera leer over
Pine's naked body. As opposed to male nudity in past films, where the male is
empowered, Pine feels exposed, vulnerable, as female actresses have been made
to feel by male directors for over a century. It's a shrewd reversal.
The villains played by Anaya and Huston
suffer the most from the script. Anaya has a creepy mask, similar to the mask
she wore in the Pedro Almodovar chiller The Skin I Live In that visually
illustrates her shattered morality, but the script doesn't pay enough attention
to her other than to make her a mad scientist. Huston, a gifted actor, also
plays the stock German fascist.
Production design is luscious. The island,
early 20th century London, and war -torn France all pull audiences into the
locations. Lindy Hemming's costumes only enhance Gadot's luminescence.
Wonder Woman strips away the
idiotic Hollywood conceit that women directors with women leads are
antithetical to action hits. Both Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot blast the genre
to the planets. It would have gone beyond the Milky Way with a better script,
one with the nuances and sophistications of D.C.'s The Dark Knight or
Marvel's The Avengers, Iron Man 3 and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Note to audience members used to sitting
through every moment of the end credits, remember unless you're dying to know who
did the catering while the crew was in Greece, this is a D.C. film, not Marvel.
There are no post-credit sequences. This critic made that mistake and is STILL
sitting in the theater awaiting the credits to finish (not true, but feels like