More noise than signal

Wonder Woman

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

What I’ve been thinking that cinema needs right now is more comic book superhero films. We’re almost down to fifteen a year right now, so it’s nice to see DC step up to the plate and offer up this origin story for Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, who you may remember from last year’s Batman vs Superman.

This takes us back to the ever-increasingly misnamed War to End All Wars, towards the tail end if American spy Steve Trevor Bob Dave is to be believed, played by one of the interchangeable Hollywood Chrises. Probably Evans? Maybe? Who can keep them straight? We find this out after he’s pulled out of the wreckage of his plane by the then simply named Diana off the coast of the hidden island of Themyscira, with a shower of Krauts in hot pursuit.

Unfortunately for ze Germans, said island is home to a race of Amazonian warrior women, Zeus’s army in the battle against the troublesome God of War Ares, and Fritz and co are swiftly dealt with. With the lasso of truth, Diana compels Steve Trevor Bill Colin to tell all about his mission, thus dropping a big ol’ bucket of exposition on things.

With the war seemingly lost, General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) is rolling the dice on a desperate push from his only remaining weapons facility, and the deadly new form of mustard gas Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) has created. Well, deadlier.

Sensing that this must be the work of Ares, and them being supposed to stop them and that, Diana defies her mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) to head off to our world to stop this nonsense by finding Ares and killing him, reasoning that he’s most likely found at the heart of all this strife.

Meanwhile the Allies, largely represented by kindly ol’ Sir Patrick (David Thewlis) are too busy talking about a armistice to countenance doing anything about this threat, at least openly. So a small slush fund is discreetly opened to provide Steve Trevor Frank Colin and Diana the means to hire a small team of specialists, spy Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui), marksman Charlie (Ewen Bremner), and smuggler Chief (Eugene Brave Rock), with the aim of breaking through the front lines, tracking down Ludendorff and stopping his weapons of mass destruction.

And so it goes, and I’m sure by this point we’ve all seen enough comic book movies to imagine how this goes. Patty Jenkins directs Allan Heinberg’s script, Heinberg being one of the comic writers, and I can only assume that this helped flesh out Diana’s character, having so far in the post-Nolan DC universe perhaps the most readily understandable motivations and drives.

The whole film, indeed, takes more of a cue from earlier Marvel origin stories than anything from the Snyderverse, and while that does make it a much less interesting story, it certainly makes it a far more coherent and accessible one. From the script to the effects to the performances, Wonder Woman is a consistently polished product that clearly has more mass market appeal than any of Snyder’s efforts.

Millions will no doubt rejoice at that new, although as one of the brave few pseudo-defenders of Snyder’s reign of terror, I kind of missed the rough edges that’s afflicted the DC Universe so far. While Wonder Woman provides proof, were any really needed, that skipping the whole Phase One origin stories and attempting to drop a complete comic book universe in from almost the outset was daft, Wonder Woman‘s refusal to even hint at the broader questions about heroism that Batman vs Superman skirted around without properly addressing feels a little disappointing.

But then, Suicide Squad didn’t do any of that either, and Suicide Squad was also a pile of dung, and this very much is not, so let’s be thankful for the victories we have. Wonder Woman‘s not perfect, to be sure, but there’s no flaw in this that’s not endemic to most origin stories, most notably the marginalisation of the villain, condensing that mostly into the final act and coming across as a bit of a rushed CG lightshow rather than a satisfying climax.

The motley crew assembled by Steve Trevor Bobby Nigel might as well not be there, for what little purpose they serve, and if you’ve not guessed who’s revealed as Ares from the first time that character opens his mouth I’d be very surprised, but none of that really gets in the way of enjoying the film.

It’s a very solid turn from Chris Pine, and a better one from Gal Gadot, who provides the strong female lead performance we’ve been waiting in vain for from Marvel Studios, and it’s apparent success will hopefully cause the bands of Gamergate oxygen-thieves who somehow have the time and energy to be angry about films with women in them to eat enough crow to choke on it.

Yes out of ten.