Review for Wonder Woman
I’ve been looking forward to watching the new Wonder Woman film ever since I heard that it was the best DC Universe movie to date, the film that might finally get that franchise on track, and back on par with the far more successful Marvel movies. I should have remembered that ‘best’ is a relative term, and Wonder Woman has quite a bit of work to do to redeem the DC universe. I may have been impressed by Man of Steel, but it was a tentative appreciation that hinged on its deficiencies being rectified by Batman v Superman. When that didn’t happen, it left both films as ultimately thin, hollow but crowd-pleasing visual spectacles. As for Suicide Squad, that’s yet to hit a bargain bucket cheap enough for me to consider watching it.
However, there aren’t too many comic book movies out there that are based on female characters, and even in a comic book world that is weighted towards the masculine, the history of film adaptations fail to match even that ratio. There should be novelty value at least in Wonder Woman. However, I did quite recently see the Hollywood adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, and was surprisingly impressed by it. Wonder Woman is also directed by a woman though, and we’ll have to go even further back for a similar combination of gender in comic book adaptations and directors. Rachel Talalay’s Tank Girl is a guilty pleasure of mine, so I’m a little surprised to find myself saying that Wonder Woman does have some shoes to fill...
Growing up as the sole child on a paradisiacal island of Amazons, Diana wanted nothing more than to be like the warrior women around her. But her mother was against teaching her the ways of war in a time of peace, and told her of the legends of her people, of how the god Zeus was betrayed by his son Ares, who brought war to mankind after killing the rest of the gods. Then war comes to the island when an American pilot crashes near the beach, and the Germans pursuing him attack the Amazons. Steve Trevor tells of a war to end all wars, a mass slaughter pitting the world’s nations against each other, where not even the innocent are spared the violence. Diana realises that such chaos can only mean that Ares is sowing the seeds of mankind’s destruction, and as an Amazon warrior, it’s her duty to take up the Godkiller sword and hunt him down. She isn’t ready for what the world of man is truly like, and what her destiny entails.
You have a pixel perfect 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p transfer, while the Dolby Atmos track is audiolicious, even if I could only play the core TrueHD track. You can also choose between DTS-HD MA 5.1 Italian, DD 5.1 French, Japanese and English Audio Descriptive, with subtitles in these languages, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish. Wonder Woman is a very stylised film, with the island of the Amazons coming across is sharp relief, with hyperreal colours, but the outside world having more limited and stylised colour palettes, a sense of visual nostalgia to them. The film gives good set and costume design, but is let down by the usual noticeable CG. When you have characters pulling off patently impossible stunts I get pulled out of the movie looking for CGI replacements. The audio is immersive, the action is excellently conveyed, while the dialogue remains audible throughout. Wonder Woman gets a really nice theme (first debuted in Batman v Superman), although it infuriatingly defies any attempt to hum it.
You get one disc in a Blu-ray Amaray, with an o-card slip cover repeating the sleeve art and blurb. There’s a leaflet with a UV code, and a DC leaflet.
You get quite a few extra features on the disc, beginning with a nice Epilogue: Etta’s Mission, which adds 2:41 of fun.
Crafting the Wonder is the first of the Making of featurettes, and lasts 16:26.
There are five more featurettes in A Director’s Vision.
Themyscira: The Hidden Island (4:56)
Beach Battle (4:56)
A Photograph Through Time (5:07)
Diana in the Modern World (4:39)
Wonder Woman at War (5:03)
Warriors of Wonder Woman offers a 9:53 look at the training.
The Trinity (16:05) puts Wonder Woman in context with Batman and Superman. There’s also a brief glimpse of the forthcoming Justice League.
The Wonder Behind the Camera celebrates the equality behind the scenes; it’s not just in having a female director that Wonder Woman makes a statement.
Finding the Wonder Woman within sees a few poets wax lyrical about the hero. (23:08)
There are five Extended Scenes running to a total of 9:14.
There is an Alternate Scene: Walk to No Man’s Land which lasts 1:04.
Finally there is a Blooper Reel running to 5:37.
I’ve decided that I hate making of features for modern films. You see a great, visually evocative scene, wonder at its beauty, applaud the director’s vision, the cinematographer’s art, and then you take a look behind the scenes, and see a couple of actors in front of a sea of green.
Taken in isolation, Wonder Woman is a strong film, entertaining, well-written, with a decent story, engaging, if rather obvious messages, likeable characters, and a sense of humour. The last two items make it an outlier in the fledgling DC Universe (Although Joss Whedon’s touch on Justice League should have a similar effect), and it’s easy to accept this as the best DC offering to date. Unfortunately, you can’t really take these things in isolation anymore; 100 years of cinema, 20 years of wall-to-wall comic book adaptations, and the constant fan criticism and observation that permeates the Interwebs means that you’re always going to compare one film to half a dozen others. In that regard, Wonder Woman actually feels rather tired and unoriginal. And that isn’t just down to the number of times I wondered if I’d previously seen a scene in Captain America.
It’s a rare superhero movie that doesn’t give good origin, and Wonder Woman is no exception, giving the character mythical status from the off. That mythical world collides with the real when pilot Steve Trevor crashes near the island, bringing news of the Great War in progress. Diana’s sees a mythical cause for this strife, reflecting her upbringing, assuming that it is the god Ares sowing chaos in the world of man, her duty as an Amazon warrior to put him down. Steve Trevor on the other hand has a more human face to target, that of the German General Ludendorff, and his staff chemist, Dr Maru, creator of a lethal gas that threatens to prolong and intensify a war so close to armistice.
The main character arc of the film sees Diana’s growth from naive warrior to genuine hero, the shedding of her idealistic beliefs that all men are good, and it is the gods that taint their hearts, play with them as game pieces, to understanding that both good and evil reside in the hearts of man, that humanity can both aspire to greatness yet bring about the most heinous of atrocities, all with no urging from divinity of any kind. Wonder Woman also does benefit from a female perspective, both from the director, and the character, and we do get a strong, female superhero who doesn’t pander to male audiences. There are aspects to this Wonder Woman, thoughtful, caring, restrained (she’s a lot less destructive, more reluctant to spill blood than her DC Universe stable mates), and while her innocence is dented by the horrors of war, it’s never shattered. She’s certainly a good role model.
While this is no Blackadder Goes Forth, Wonder Woman does give some idea of the futility and pointlessness of the Great War, the generals spending human lives as if blood were currency, the innocents destroyed, the hell of the front lines, and visually (except for the obvious CGI) quite arresting. It’s when it comes to the story that Wonder Woman never gets out of first gear. Admittedly familiarity with such films can draw contempt, but Wonder Woman was so predictable. As soon as a certain character appeared midway through the film, my first impression was, “That’s the villain!”, and sure enough that was indeed the villain who faced our superhero in the traditionally overblown CGI climax. In fact, the film really only had one surprise for me, ruling out a certain character from a potential sequel.
If you’ve never seen a comic book adaptation before, then Wonder Woman might just be the best comic book adaptation you’ve seen. That didn’t come out quite the way I intended to type it. But in a year where Logan was cheerfully rewriting the superhero rulebook, Wonder Woman adheres religiously to the old edition.