Review: Wonder Woman
Gal Gadot stars as Diana, Princess of Themyscira, raised on an island of Amazon women. She’s the demi-god daughter of Zeus and an Amazon woman named Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), and raised as a warrior woman. Into this setting literally crash-lands American Intelligence officer Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who finds his current feminine surrounds baffling, and their ignorance to the World War (I) going on around them even more baffling. Thus we begin the main plot, which involves Diana assisting Steve in trying to stop the conflict by heading to early 1900s London to find the god Ares, whom she believes is a higher power behind the growing conflict. Danny Huston plays Ludendorff, a nasty German General, accompanied by a scarred Elena Anaya as mad scientist Dr. Maru. David Thewlis and James Cosmo play a British diplomat and Field Marshall Haig, respectively. Robin Wright plays Amazon woman Antiope, who helps train Diana as a warrior.
This 2017 DC Comics flick from director Patty Jenkins (a million miles from “Monster”) and screenwriter Alan Heinberg (A veteran TV writer/producer of shows like “Party of Five”, “The OC”, and “Grey’s Anatomy”) came with a lot of commercial and critical hype before I got around to seeing it. It’s supposedly more than a cut above the average of the current crop of comic book movies and a great female empowerment movie on top of that. It’s neither of those things, nor is it a remotely good movie of any genre. Yeah, once again I’m gonna be ‘that’ guy and say that I really don’t get the appeal of this film at all. I swear I don’t actually like being the odd one out.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks this film never finds its way around is its leading lady. Gal Gadot supposedly plays Diana Prince, AKA Wonder Woman. From her wooden opening narration, she proves herself cataclysmically miscast in such a role. The accent for a start just confuses the hell out of things. Yeah, it’s a fictional character, but it’s a fictional character named Diana Prince and Gadot in no way sounds like a Diana Prince (Though to be fair, it’s explained that Diana Prince is just the name of her alter-ego once she interacts with the outside world. Fair enough, but she still doesn’t convince as ‘Diana Prince’ to make that alter-ego work anyway). Since Gadot speaks with quite a thick accent, it messes with the rest of the film and forces her fellow Amazon women to adopt weird, half-hearted non-American accents too. It doesn’t go well, with Robin Wright not only a good 15 years too old to be convincing in such a thing, but giving an uncharacteristically awful, stilted performance. She and Connie Nielsen aren’t helped by the horribly stilted, woefully cheap dialogue. However, Gadot’s the real offender, she makes Brigitte Nielsen’s turn in “Red Sonja” seem like Bette Davis in “All About Eve”. The first act plays cheaply and very 1980s New World Pictures Sword & Sandals & Titties flick, minus the titties. I kept looking out for Sybil Danning, Edy Williams, or the late Lana Clarkson. Nope, we’re actually meant to take this phony, chaste “Deathstalker” shit tediously seriously. Surely ‘Girl Power’ and #MeToo aren’t the only reasons this film was routinely praised and loved by one and all? It’s really dopey.
The film’s biggest problem is that it makes absolutely no goddamn sense whatsoever. With a lead character played by an actress whose accent confuses the audience with regards to her ancestry/ethnicity, that’s bad enough. Even worse, we’re told that Diana isn’t even a ‘true’ Amazon, at one point, but a demi-god and daughter of Zeus and an Amazon (Hippolyta, an Amazonian from Greek Mythology, where she was the daughter of Ares, who has a different role in the film). What? Also, are the Amazons human? Who the fuck knows here. However, it’s not just the character that confuses. The entire worldview on show here is completely incoherent and unconvincing, I needed more guidance and I’m definitely not a dumb person. I literally had no idea where and when this thing was set. I didn’t know if it was meant to be taken as relatively real, entirely fictitious fantasy, or if it was meant to be some kind of “Watchmen”-esque fictionalised revisionist take on real historical events. The island the Amazons inhabit felt vaguely Ancient Greece to me, but then Chris Pine turns up as an American Intelligence officer during what appears to be WWI. I say appears because it’s only after 25 minutes that the Ottoman Empire gets mentioned, cluing me into which war this was meant to be. Yet, Diana and her people appear to know nothing of anything outside of their strangely Ancient-seeming society and don’t even realise a World War is going on in the world around them. They must be at least relatively close in proximity given Pine ends up on the damn island, so they come across as ignorant morons. Amazons of course are a part of Greek Mythology, so why they’re being transplanted onto the same plane of existence as real-life earth history like WWI is truly baffling to me. They’re like some kind of Narnian Greek or something, so it’s aggravating to have Diana constantly exclaim things like ‘Why are they fighting? Why are they killing each other?’. Well, maybe if you opened your damn eyes to the world around you while you were magically learning languages you might actually know. The woman is stridently ignorant, and her anti-war sentiment (strange as it is, for a woman raised by Amazonian warriors, I might add) would seem more appropriate to Vietnam and the post-Vietnam era, anyway. So that’s weird, too. Also baffling is how Diana can speak hundreds of languages, including those beyond her limited existence among the Amazons. She also instantly knows which accent is appropriate for which person, even if she meets that person whilst they initially speak English. So why is she ignorant of WWI and basic social protocols of Western societies? If as I say it’s meant to be a “Watchmen”-esque alternate reality, fair enough, but it’s awfully lumpy and left unexplained to my complete dissatisfaction.
There’s too much in the set-up of the film that needs explaining (and isn’t explained) before I could even begin to get into this, let alone accept its silliness. I’m all for female empowerment, but do we really need a film where mythological Amazons take out a bunch of WWI German soldiers? With bows, arrows, and swords up against gunfire? A chick with a shield and magical wrist-cuffs or some shit? Ugh, no thanks. So in addition to the usual modern superhero arrogance of not giving outsiders some basic bloody context and alienating me, it’s also ridiculously laughable. It speaks to the problem I’ve had with a lot of these modern comic book films in their mixture of real-life/historical references and the comic book world. The original “Iron Man” was an especially uneasy blend, but this is easily the worst example of this idea because it just doesn’t explain things well enough.
I said that Gadot has no charisma, and while Chris Pine is better in that regard, he also has a naturally jerky screen presence that has never ceased to rub me the wrong way on screen, and is pretty bland, too. These are our leads and they simply won’t do. Gadot, for instance, has horrendous comic timing so that the fish-out-of-water elements don’t even work. The supporting cast is sadly not much better, and not just the aforementioned Wright and Nielsen. Danny Huston appears to be affecting a Hungarian accent as our chief villain, and the man who was truly blood-curdling in the underrated “30 Days of Night” is genuinely awful and completely limp here. He isn’t menacing, intimidating, interesting, or enjoyably hammy, though the script is partly to blame for barely giving him even one dimension to work with. It’s an utterly useless role. Even worse is the usually excellent Elena Anaya having a dreadfully ‘off’ day acting like a dopey silent movie henchman/secondary villain. Terrific character actors David Thewlis and James Cosmo are given little to work with. I also didn’t appreciate the completely idiotic character assassination of one friend turned foe in the final act. That’s not a surprising twist, it’s an unnecessary and (at a moment’s thought) ridiculous one. Speaking of ridiculous ***** SPOILER WARNING ***** The ending is truly vomit-inducing. She saves the world through love? Oh fuck off, not only is that actually sexist it’s just idiotic and eye-rolling. ***** END SPOILER *****
So what did I like? Well, as shot by Matthew Jensen (“Chronicle”, “Fantastic Four”) it’s a good-looking movie without getting too Zack Snyder wanky superhero posing. The Lasso of Truth is also one of the film’s few highlights, it’s pretty damn cool and the one good weapon the title character wields. That’s where the positives end though, I’m afraid.
This dopey, Z-grade flick is so stupid, dull, and incoherent I can’t for the life of me work out where the critical and commercial hype has come from. I know I’ve not often been a fan of the recent crop of both Marvel and DC Comics adaptations, but this one is easily one of the worst so far. It’s almost as bad as DC’s previous “Suicide Squad”, though it really seems like I’m way out on a limb on my own here. If you love the film, that’s awesome and you’re in quite large company. I hated it.