I, and many, many other movie-goers, loved DC and Patty Jenkin’s recent Wonder Woman movie. It was the DC movie we’d all been waiting for, hell, it was the superhero movie we’d all been waiting for. It’s got a kick-ass female hero, two incredible settings (the beautiful Themyscira contrasting with the tragic backdrop of World War One), a female director AND it actually delivers on all its promise
There are problems. Problems that when watching to moving I couldn’t ignore. Problems that distracted me so much that when I left the movie theatre I had to think for a good ten minutes or so about whether I’d actually liked the film (spoiler alert: I loved it). It wasn’t helped by the fact that I saw Wonder Woman quite late in its run, and had been listening to my friends rave about it for weeks. Still, I don’t think I could have not questioned some of the writing choices and the VERY odd casting decision that drags this movie off the instant-top-ten-films pedestal and leaves it stranded somewhere in my top hundred. I’m not saying these issues ruined the movie for me, I’m fairly sure no amount of issues could ruin such a visually and emotionally strong film, but they certainly stick in the mind.
SPOILERS ABOUND BELOW FOR WONDER WOMAN!!! READER BEWARE!!!
Before I get too ahead of myself though, let’s talk about the things that work for Wonder Woman and one of those is definitely the woman herself. I have to admit, I was one of those people who was initially against the casting of Gal Gardot who sported none of Diana Prince’s traditionally curvy stature. I’ll be the first in line for a piece of humble pie. Gardot shines in the role, balancing the innocence, anger, love and comedy of her part perfectly. The performance combined with strong writing and direction gives the audience one of the most tangible superheroes to date, showing a woman who cannot fully comprehend the world she finds herself in but is determined to make a word-changing difference.
Nowhere are the strengths of the movie more brilliantly shown that during the siege, liberation and consequent destruction of the village of Veld in the middle of the film. It shows the horrors of war, the brilliance of a hero who isn’t willing to accept civilian casualties and the consequences of naivety, all within about thirty minutes of screen time. Chris Pine (Captain Steve Trevor), Ewen Bremner (Charlie) and Said Taghmaoui (Sameer) all shine in their supporting roles during this sequence too, showing the effects war has on those caught up fighting it. The cinematography and score are incredible, creating what is probably my favourite superhero fight in a movie ever as Wonder Woman almost single-handedly frees Veld. Contrast this with the film’s finale and the movie’s issues all too quickly become apparent.
The finale shows Diana facing off against Aries, the god of war, who is not only secretly her half-brother, but who has been disguising himself as Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis), one of the British politicians behind the armistice. As they fight, Captain Trevor and Co are busy in the background blowing up a factory of deadly gas recently invented by Doctor Poison, a German scientist. As a former modern history student, I do love the nod to the armistice having a big role in causing World War Two, but that is where my appreciation of Wonder Woman’s finale begins and end. It seems to drag on and has enough unnecessary explosions to make Michael Bay come at least once, and despite having more talking that there normally would be in the epic finale of a superhero movie, it doesn’t really give Gardot or Pine the chance to emote at all, preferring clichéd lines about love and duty. However all these sins could be forgiven if it weren’t for the biggest problem of all of them, the casting of David Thewlis as Aries.
Don’t get me wrong, I love David Thewlis. He’s my mother’s favourite actor. He has an incredible subtly about him and his performances seem to always hint a deeper layers than are seen onscreen. However, he is not a convincing Greek god, let alone god of war. He just looks weak, and British, and all the things Greek gods aren’t. Sure it makes for him being a surprising villain but once he was revealed my partner and I spent the subsequent fifteen minutes wondering how Diana wasn’t wiping the floor with him, bad CGI armour and all*. It was a very disappointing end to a film that had been incredible up to that moment, and wasn’t helped by a weird present day sequence with Diana jumping of a Parisian rooftop for no apparent reason.
Overall, Wonder Woman was a truly incredible film, but it’s ending felt rushed and kinda ruined the memory I had of the experience. It’s an amazing superhero film, probably the best we have so far, but we can do better. DC? Marvel? It’s up to you now.
*Literally the only shitty CGI in the film, it’s like they wanted us to think he was a terrible villain…