FILM REVIEW: There’s plenty of laughs to be had, but WONDER WOMAN knows when to take itself seriously
Wonder Woman (12A)
Running time 2hr 21mins
IT’S been a while since we saw a female-driven superhero movie; despite Marvel’s material offering bountiful sources of shoddily-clad silliness (a Black Widow solo outing has been greenlighted), DC Films appears to have beaten them to it, with Wonder Woman, the fourth addition to their (so far underwhelming) cinematic ‘universe’.
While it gets its mission statement in early – needless to say, this is a sideshow to the Batman/Superman story arc – there’s much to like about the flick in its own right, and it’s possibly the most enjoyable entry in the franchise to date, a far cry from the breathtaking clumsiness of Suicide Squad.
It is, nevertheless, a real Frankenstein’s monster of a picture, tying together disparate elements in such a way that the
audience will never be able to fully immerse themselves in the film’s full vision, even if the ride itself is acutely enjoyable.
Though there’s thankfully little here of the straight-faced lore-mongering that has come to define Marvel’s silver-screen ventures, Wonder Woman’s premise is a little on the convoluted side, defying articulation in the space of a few easy sentences.
Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) grows up among an island community of warrior-women, entrusted by Zeus with the God Killer, a mysterious, powerful blade. When a downed pilot (Chris Pine) brings news of apocalyptic violence from the outside world, Diana, convinced of supernatural interference, vows to accompany him back to Europe, in the grip of a bloody ‘war to end all wars’, and destroy the evil once and for all…
More so than in the case of any other genre, superhero films have an oft-crippling tendency to confuse cheesy excess with genuine moral depth – Batman v Superman, whose ‘action’ revolved around a set of immensely silly, very boring character subplots, will no doubt go down as the classic case study in this phenomenon.
Wonder Woman was going to prove an even harder sell in this regard; there are few comic icons as self-referentially broad and camp, and a less rigorous treatment might have seen it go off the other end in an attempt to compensate with ‘grit’ and ‘darkness’.
The film treads with surprising care, and Gadot’s act, executed with remarkable sensitivity, wins the day – we laugh WITH Diana, not at her, and the movie’s sincerity ultimately shines through. She is, by turns, bold, vulnerable, naïve and empathetic.
There’s plentiful laughs to be had (a fish-out-of-water odyssey through London provides the cream of the hearty comedy), but Wonder Woman knows when to take itself seriously – in keeping with the comics’ progressive ethos, there’s a strong anti-war current running through the story, with some rather gruesome glimpses at the fighting on the Western Front.
Unfortunately, the film is jarringly unfocused, unevenly stitching together its worlds of magic (Diana’s homeland is a place of Arcadian idyll) and war-horror. The epilogue, featuring a predictably explosive set-piece battle, feels bland, aimless and unnecessary (an antagonist is introduced virtually out of nowhere).
Refreshingly, after a string of flops, the DC movie franchise has finally found its feet. Nevertheless, Wonder Woman, despite the best efforts of its cast and team, still feels a touch awkward, somewhere between tedium and triumph.