Wednesday 7 June 2017

Thoughts on Wonder Woman (NON-SPOILER VERSION)

This was a good movie, maybe even a legitimately great one but I'm writing this about three hours after leaving the cinema so I'll let the euphoria fade before making that judgement.

On Sunday I wrote about how I thought Wonder Woman's success vindicated the DCEU approach. The drive towards more auteur-driven superhero movies and a greater variety of creative visions really pays off here. Well, it pays off for me, at any rate, I know there are plenty of people who felt it paid off in Suicide Squad or BvS or Man of Steel and ain't no problem with that. With an approach like this, mileage varies a lot.

Hell, even DC's habit (much older than the DCEU) of reinventing the wheel at the drop of a hat works here. Shoving Diana into the action of the First World War rather than the Second was a fantastic idea. There's so much more drama to be made out of having her interact with the “bad” world war, the one that was just a bunch of alliances and pacts getting in each other's way until the worst conflict in human history happened. Surprisingly, there's a lot more attention paid here to the period detail than many serious films about the period: one of the film's major set pieces takes place in the German occupied Ottoman Empire; Indian soldiers in turbans appear several times; even the most sympathetic characters (besides Diana, that is) are moved to callousness by the hopelessness of the conflict; and, some actual thought goes into placing the story at a point in the war where we don't see Wonder Woman rather insensitively winning a war that in reality cost millions of lives whilst still giving her a good reason to be involved (more on that tomorrow).

As to Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot is great in the role even though it took a while for her line delivery to really click with me. I've not seen her in anything before (I decided to skip BvS somewhere between learning about the peach tea and “Martha!” scenes) but once you're used to the voice it really works. Chris Pine is perfectly cast as Steve Trevor and its clear Pine has a good sense of what Trevor is there for, never getting in the way of Gadot's performance.

Lucy Davis' Etta Candy is, sadly, not as prominent a role as the trailers might have led people to believe but that's more than made up for a brilliant trio of companions Diana and Steve pick up along the way played by Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner and Eugene Brave Rock as Sameer, Charlie and The Chief and, yes, there is a perfectly good reason for a Native American to be hanging around that even provides a great moment for Diana's education in how Man's World works.

Patty Jenkins' directing is top notch, by the way. Every fight scene is fantastic, busy with action on multiple levels and sheer power granted to Diana in those scenes is, whilst ultimately nothing special in the genre as a whole, something we're just not used to seeing a female superhero doing. Jenkins has an enviable sense of space with Paradise Island being all open spaces and clear skies whilst the London sections are full of crowded spaces indoors and out.

Most of all, though, at no point does the action stop to stare at Gal Gadot's body. Now, it would be a braver man than me who could claim that the camera doesn't linger on her, she's a stunning woman and the star of the movie, but what the camera conspicuously does not do is linger on her breasts or backside, nor is she ever blocked into a shot in such a way to emphasis body at the cost of moving her face out of shot. There have been something like five MCU movies with Black Widow in them and ever damn fight scene, I swear...

So, yes, this is a really good movie. I'm not sure I'm sold enough on the character to see Justice League just on the strength of her being in it but I'm more than on board for any sequels or spin-offs to this movie DC might want to greenlight in the future. 

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