Wonder Woman Review: An Amazing Blockbuster

Diana is one of the amazons, a race of superpowerful women who have remained hidden for thousands of years on the magical island of thermiscyra that all changes when dashing spy steve trevor crashes on the island, bringing the first world war with him

with steve, diana sets out on a quest to fulfill her destiny and destroy the evil god of war ares, who she believes is behind the conflict after the i think it’s fair to say dismal performance of both batman versus superman and suicide squad – and by performance i mean with critics, because both of those movies made a load of money- wonder weoman has a bit of an unfair burden to carry, which is to redeem the dceu it’s fair to say that she was one of the better parts of batman versus superman last year, and i’ve been exicted to see this film since i saw that one not only that, but the film has an interesting director in patty jenkins, formerly known fo rsmall indie films and award winners like monster not only that, but she has a weird track record with superhero films as she was originally hired to make thor, the dark world

so how does wonder woman fare, is it fine, or is it wonderful? i like to rate my blockbusters on a five star scale because i believ ethere are five thigns every blockbuster shoudl do it should have a plot that makes basic sense on first inspection characters hsould be believeable or likeable or maybe both, and i should understand why they’re doing what they’re doing in each scene it shoudl be basically competently made, maybe with some pretty direction, cinematography, special effects it shouldn’t be needlessly offensive to anyone in the audience

and if all of the rest of those aspects are there, then it should make you feel something as well, so thrilled or make you laugh or something like that how does wonder woman fare on the five star scale? the plot is pretty cool, right from the beginning it makes the decision to foreground the photograph that was her cryptic character message in batman versus superman it’s a picture of her, steve trevor and the rest of the gang of guys she’s hanging around with what was interesting to me was that they didn’t go straight to the war setting but that they start off with diana’s childhood, and a fair chunk of the movie, maybe the first half hour or so of where diana was growing up and training that’s a nice thing, partially because it allows them to set up diana as a character, along with her mum and her aunt who are quite important characters in the opening part of the movie, but also because it allows them to dump a load of exposition that explains the plot of it

i mean i’ve read a fair few DC comics but i didn’t know that many specifics of wonder woman’s backstory, i don’t think she’s been that popular since the 70s when the lynda carter tv show was on air the actual general plot of the movie is pretty generic, it’s about a secret enclave in an enemy faction in a war developing a secret weapon to try and turn the tide of the war kinda the plot of hellboy, that’s definitely the plot of captain america the first avenger, it’s a plot that i’ve seen before but that’s not necessarily problematic some of my favourite movies, movies like indiana jones, have really generic plots you get a lot of separation between the wonder woman plot of the film where she’s working her way across europe towards the front, and the villain’s parts of the film where they’re cackling and developing this secret evil gas

those parts never really gel and it doesn’t really seem like the intent of the filmmakers that they ever would, so it feels a little perfunctory, it feels a little like they just have to have an evil secret villain in there for a superhero movie to function and that’s kind of a recurring theme with this film, as it was with logan earlier on in the year really the best parts of ww are the parts that are happy not being a superhero film and don’t fit that mould for me, i’ve seen so many superhero films that i like stuff that’s slightly different, so that’s a plus for me and might not be for other audiences characters! how do i feel about the characters in the film? characters are sort of a mixed bag and villains definitely get the brunt of that

there’s not much detail on who they are, why they;re doing what they’re doing other than the fact that they’re evil and they want to win one thing i liked about the movie is that they really explained the wonder woman backstory, it really went in and said ‘this is who Diana is, this is where she’s come from, this is the world that she’s from’, and then it also did the same with Steve trevor I really liked that because he’s sort of a character who could be for want of a better word sort of blank, a sort of square-jawed fighting talk guy, he could be a bit like Chris pratt’s character in jurassic world and he isn’t, he’s a well drawn, subtle character gal gadot is an excellent casting choice for wonder woman, she’s a difficult character to cast- she has to be very physically fit and strong, but also kind and caring and diplomatic, and i think she’s a good fit for that she brings a sort of naïveté to the role which is not there at all in batman v superman

sometimes i think in an origin story they forget that the character is new to themselves if not the audience doctor strange really suffered from that, i didn’t feel any separation between strange at the start of the film and strange at the end of the film Diana at the start of the movie is very naive and by the end she’s quite inured to the horror of war, and she’s grown up a lot over the course of the film Steve trevor also gets a proper arc, he is this dashing hero but he’s also deeply horrified by war and just desperate to save lives at the end of what is ultimately one of the bloodiest conflicts in history and it doesn’t hurt that chris pine is a fantastic casting for the role, he’s such a charismatic guy and he’s a really fun actor when he’s on screen

he brings a lot of lightness to a film which is part of a universe at least that is deeply gloomy most of the time when gadot and pine are onscreen their chemistry is palpable and believable and just lovely, i kind of melted a bit watching them fall in love with each other there’s also a lovely supporting cast of people who are quite skilled in the roles they’re playing the kind of ragtag bunch of mercenary soldiers who Diana and steve work with to get to the front are really nicely drawn, they don’t have much screen time but they all get something to do there’s a native american guy, there’s a Scottish sharpshooters, and there’s a guy, i think he’s Algerian

each of them sort of fulfil a stereotype but at the same time they develop a little beyond that they have enough time on screen to have characters there’s a lovely bit when the native american guy says he lost everything he had, all of his culture, in a war, and Diana says ‘who was that war with’, and he points at Steve who is asleep and says ‘his people’ that’s a nice character motivation because it allows them to draw out some of the themes of just how complex the conflicts that are in modern world are versus what Diana was told they were like the sharpshooter guy is a funny dude and he’s really skilled at shooting but he’s also got a nasty case of shell-shock, yknow PTSD,

and it’s not glossed over, it’s not a light thing in the film, and that’s a realistic thing that comes from that conflict the directing in this film is heads above what you get in a normal superhero movie, and i hate myself for saying it but it;s so nice to see a big budget american blockbuster feature film were it’s clear that the director actually had an idea about how to approach that film and then she just got to do it there’s obviously a bit of executive meddling, there’s a few edits that are a bit weird, but i think by and large what we get it we got what patty jenkins wanted and that’s amazing, that never seems to happen and especially not in the DCEU, where bvs definitely felt like a movie made by committee and suicide squad- the less said about it, the better jenkins has an eye for picking out odd little reverie moments in the context of this massive blockbuster feature

they liberate a Belgian village and have a quite little scene there, 10 minutes or so just of character action that feels so well researched and well drawn and obviously came out of a good relationship between the director and actors and the rest of the creative team moments like that really made this movie stand out for me, and again i don’t think i’ve seen anything like that in this blockbuster season apart from logan which again felt very much like someone’s particular vision for what this film should look like one risk of taking a film which is as silly i guess as a superhero film has to be and placing it in the context of a very real, very bloody real-world conflict, is that you can get stuff very wrong and really offend people both civil war and batman versus superman had sections that really misrepresented african politics for instance but on the flipside it can make your film feel much more real if it’s grounded in real world conflicts

so it’s a difficult balance to get right and i think jenkins did it really well here there’s a scene around the middle of the film where diana is walking through a whole load of tommies getting ready to go out and figth and it’s all like flags waving and brass bands and she buys an ice cream and eats it and people are saying goodbye to their sweethearts and having a last kip of their drinks before they get on the train to go and fight, and it felt sort of twee and Americanized and not at all what I understand that conflict to have been like once they’re off the train they’re in a ship yard watching everyone leave and then they go around a corner to their boat and it’s the ship that’s coming back and it’s these men who are bloodied, broken, missing limbs and shocked by the horror of war, and diana is completely taken aback by the difference there that’s a really interesting moment to put in a film that’s basically about fighting and how righteous that is

i talked a lot in my review of civil war last year about how the film represented violence as being the only possible solution on the left or the right for any sort of conflict, and i felt that was a really gross misrepresentation of the politics of war a lot of commenters quite rightly said yknow it’s a superhero movie, it’s about punching people at the end of the day you have to represent force as being the righteous decision, otherwise youre not working within that genre, it’s like saying you wanna see a western without any horses in it i srot of get that point of view and yknow i like a good punchup as much as the next guy but what you can do is balance it in the film and i think that’s what jenkins does here by introducing loads of scenes where diana is completely taken aback by the horror of the war that surrounds her and by really making par tof the plot the idea that humans are complex, messy people who find moral judgements really difficult and can get swept up in wars, i think jenkins sugars the bitter pill of having a film that’s based around violence

she does something that dc at their best have done really well which is to say look we can have values and still fight for what we believe in say that to yondu killing like 200 people jus for fun because hey there’s a 70s song and a good idea for a weapon and we wanted to show it off in our film! so there are a number of sequences in the film where it really feels like jenkins is very much in control i can’t think of a clearer example than the expoisition scene where you find out all about zeus and ares and the background of the amazons and thermiscyra, which is done as a sort of series of animated renaissance paintings that are in like a storybook i mean that’s a really interesting way to cover quite a expensive i guess and long period of the comics kind of history is the film offensive in any way? no

and i also feel like it advances a lot of really progressive ideas quite subtly without being too jarring because it’s very appropriate to the subject matter you know your first 30 minutes of the movie there’s no men on screen essentially, no-one speaking on screen is a guy and that’s just really refreshing, to have a load of women on screen as senators and leaders and fighters and then have that directed by a woman, that’s very very rare thing to have, especially in a movie of this size and release being progressive in films is not about being a ‘social justice warrior’ or like over representing to the point where it’s completely inconsistent with history a lot of the politics around this has gotten really polarised because people only ever hear about that on the right wing there’s a lot of people who are like ‘urrgh i can’t believe they made hermione black’, as someone said to me the other day, or they’re like ‘ oh they made the character a gay poly trans person even though they weren’t explicitly said to be that in the book’

i can see that there’s two sides to the debate on that and i can understand the moderate positions on both of those sides, i feel like the debate mostly is polarised way too much and in reality most of the purported examples of ‘SJWs’ going super over the top are actually not really that over the top and also are pretty responsive to the text in most cases obviously i’ve kind of picked my side in one way or another because i’ve got a list of reasons why i wanna like a blockbuster which includes not being offensive so you know kind of where i stand on that but on the other side of it i am respectful of the reality of the film, what they’re trying to portray i feel like wonder woman does a really good job of being progressive while also being completely consistent with the comics and the reality of the conflict they’re portraying at the end of the day it doesn’t even need to be as obvious as taking main characters of the film and making sure they are of different ethnic backgrounds to the other characters

it can literally be as simple as in a crowd short in Wonder Women there are a group of soldiers coming toward the camera, and behind them another group of soldiers and behind them a big row of people, and just some of those soldiers are guys with turbans, they’re sikh guys, because there was a big sikh contingent in the soldiers who fought the first world war that’s historically accurate, but you better believe at some point someone had to say we’re gonna have sikh people in there, because otherwise they would’ve been cast all as being white young guys because that’s the kind of popular conception of what a group of soldiers in the first world war would have looked like i don’t even see that as progressive, i literally just see that as accurate i give ownder woman full marks, i think it did really well last but certainly not least, and kind of a check on whether or not wonder woman did well enough on the other four criteria, is did the film make me feel anything

one of the most disarming things about the film is just how funny i found it i found myself laughing quite a lot in the film, as did the rest of the audience there are some really good lines, mostly thanks to kind of a double act where chris pine plays this world weary dude and diana is this very matter of fact, but also quite naive character so they can have a lot of banter together and that was really good fun another plus of having a solid set of supporting cast is that you can have really good interactions on screen throughout which makes it feel much more emotive, much more lived in, when they come under threat i’m gonna talk briefly about spoilers so if you haven’t seen the film, probably just stop right here and then come back once you’ve seen it

everyone gone? okay, good! one of the things i liked about the film a lot was that it wasn’t afraid to pack an emotional punch and i think in the context of showing a real life conflict you gotta be okay with killing off some of your characters a wonderful scene in the film comes around the mid-point when diana talks to a woman in the trenches who’s from a nearby village in Belgium, and they literally are starving to death just because food isn’t getting in, and Diana just cracks and she leads a charge through no man’s land into the village and completely wipes out the Germans it’s an awesome sequence and one that is really true to her character and then later in the film all of that village is killed by a gas attack and it packs a punch because just ten, fifteen minutes before, you were kind of watching a love scene in the context of a lovely little village dance, all celebrating having had their freedom given back to them and then the film does it again, right at the end, where we realise that steve is not going to live through the war

it’s a bit of a giveaway from the start of the film that the guys are gonna die because there’s a photography of them that is the main plot point of her character in bvs and yknow it’s been about a hundred years, old age would get them what came as a surprise to me was that they did kill off steve trevor in the course of that film, and the sacrifice that his character does is a great example of how to do a character arc steve has been someone who throughout the whole movie has said sometimes you do just have to do something to stop something bad from happening but also by virtue of being a spy and sort of the nature of that conflict he often goes for a middle ground and hasn’t given his all in this last moment in the film, and partially from diana’s example, he realises that something is important enough to die for and it’s the lives of all these people

and his last conversation with diana she doesn’t hear at the time and so we get this muddled, rushed, goodbye and he just hands her a watch and we have no idea what he’s said as an audience, and he runs off into this plane and dies saving millions of people he’s just like ‘i wish we had more time together’, but he’s smiling as he says it, he knows this is the right thing to do and he goes for tit i think that’s an incredibly moving character beat it have in a mainstream american action blockbuster it feels very similar in fact to an emotional beat at the end of captain america where captain america- steve- decides to get on a plane and go off and sacrifice himself because that’s the conflict

it’s slightly the other way around because the mortal person is left on the ground in that one yknow that beat really rang true and it was because of a whole set of good character work, a plot that makes basic sense on first inspection, and a director who knew what she was doing the whole way through the picture i had a little tear welling up in my eye at the end of that film which i’m not proud to admit but i think is a sign of how well that beat lands so for me, i think the wonder woman is a very good blockbuster i think it makes serious inroads on being a five star blockbuster on that rating scale because yknow the plot makes basic sense, the directing’s basically good, the characters make sense in every scene and they’re funny and they’re likeable, they’re fun, they’re believable

and yknow it made me feel something in quite a strong way does it have some problems, yes, absolutely, ave i forgiven worse, yes, absolutely what i invite you to do as a viewer is to lose any sort of partisan relationship you might have with dc vs marvel or blockbusters versus art films, and just try and watch wonder woman as a general audience member and see how much you enjoy it, because i suspect the answer will be quite a lot one thing that isn’t covered by that rating system which i’ve thought about increasingly is audience reaction i’ve said previously that as a critic i love going to live screenings and watching stuff with big audiences because it gives me a sense of what that audience thinks of the film and how the film really plays with the people it’s supposed to be seen by

but the flipside of audience reaction and judging by that is that you can give a review that’s really positive to an ultimately bad film so i’ve been trying to think about ways to understand how an audience reacts to a film without compromising quality of the films i wanna be giving good review to one thing that i’ve really hit upon definitely with family film sand stuff like superhero movies that have a strong kid audience is does the film stay with the audience, is it a story that’ll stick in their head,s will it inspire people and that’s one of the reasons why i really loved wonder woman because it made a really strong attempt to not only have a load of women characters of diverse backgrounds and interests, yknow not just the heroine and the island of magical women that she comes from but also a sassy sidekick character whose from a very normal background and even the villain, one of the main villains is a woman and i think it’s important for movies to be as happy to have strong female bad guys as it is for them to have strong female heroes in and amongst that patty jenkins makes the decision to spend the first 15 minutes of the movie with a little girl who’s learning what it is to be a strong woman, and i think that’s a wonderful choice, because it will inspire young women who watch that film to go on and be anything they really want to be

diana might be a superhuman who’s made by the gods which isn;t exactly an achievable career goal for a little girl but she’s also a multi-linguist, an art historian, she knows a lot about ancient culture, and she’s an athlete those are things which are important and foregrounded very heavily and really give Diana a status as a role model which i really think bvs didn’t do for batman or superman i liked wonder woman so much i almost want to judge it as not being a blockbuster, as just being like a general release movie on its own like i did with logan basically i feel like it falls short of the mark on a number of things there, i feel like i’d probably give it a 65 out of 10 for an actual movie but for a blockbuster i think it’s a 5 out of 5

i’m quite happy putting this as second best blockbuster so far of the year, logan i think was just a little bit above it but i think it’s a wonderful film and definitely worth the ticket price that you’ll pay for it so feel free to go see the film with boyfriend girlfriend wife husband anything else you wanna put in that box and yknow family young and old kiddos i think will really enjoy it if you’ve seen the film and enjoyed it, comment down below! peace to my deaf and hearing impaired viewers, thanks for watching!