WONDER WOMAN doesn’t measure up, no matter its cultural relevance…

Posted on June 6th, 2017
Posted on June 6th, 2017

by Coop Cooper

Considering Wonder Woman is one of the biggest superhero icons of all time, it makes little sense as to why it has taken so long to make a feature film about the character. Many attempts have been made only to see the projects die in early development. There was even a TV pilot starring Adrianne Palicki in 2011 that was never aired because it was deemed too terrible. It seemed the property was cursed and even studio execs at Warner Bros said the character was unfilmable. However, when “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” introduced Gal Gadot as the Amazonian princess, Wonder Woman proved that she is too important to ignore. Too bad the film couldn’t solve the problems everyone was worried about.

The Amazons were once divine warrior troops for the Greek gods, but betrayals by humans and the god Ares drove them to isolate themselves from the rest of the world on the remote Paradise Island, away from mortal man. Princess Diana (Gal Gadot) is sheltered by her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), who does not want her daughter to become a warrior, but the headstrong Diana defies this wish by training with the formidable guard, Antiope (Robin Wright). When a WWI fighter plane, carrying the Allied spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), crash lands on the island, he convinces Diana that the ‘Great War’ is in danger of destroying the world. Steve has stolen plans which may help end the war. Diana agrees to return Steve to his headquarters in London if he will guide her to the battlefront in Belgium where she believes the Greek god Ares is manipulating the war in order to destroy humankind.

I was really rooting for this film since the trailer looked amazing but most of this film cribs its storyline from Marvel’s “Captain America” and “Thor”, both of which are better superhero films. I liked the Amazons very much at the beginning of the film and I feel that Robin Wright should almost get a Best Supporting Actress nod for her intimidating portrayal as Antiope, captain of the Amazonian guard (20 years younger and she would have been a terrific Wonder Woman). The action scenes were well choreographed and it looked great. My primary problem with the film is the script. For example, “Wonder Woman” has one of the worst final villain reveals of all time. I’m talking “Scooby Doo” bad. It couldn’t have been much worse if they pulled off the mask to reveal Don Knotts as the bad guy.

Diana in 2017 is potentially far more interesting than the Diana of 1914. The Diana in this film is socially inexperienced and a stereotypical fish-out-of-water. She makes silly mistakes with predictably silly results. Once again, “Thor” and “Captain America” somehow managed to do this better and I attribute that to the snappy writing and better character development. I really wanted to get past all of the cultural conflicts and naivety with Diana, knowing it would be painful, awkward and cliché. She even has a couple of teenage meltdowns in the film that reminded me of the behavior that people complained so much about with Danny Rand in the recent “Iron Fist” series on Netflix. Diana in 2017 would be bitter, jaded and older than anyone else on the planet. THAT is the Wonder Woman I want to learn about because you know she is going to be no-nonsense.

Wonder Woman should be an obvious feminist icon but it is hard satisfy that qualification in the modern age unless the icon is uncompromising. The Wonder Woman in this film is certainly a compromise between an image of her that is powerful and one that is objectified and sexualized. No doubt this version of the character is the most serious and feminist so far. She speaks out when she is treated differently and displays open frustration at the male-dominated world she walks into. Even Steve Trevor chooses his words VERY carefully around her, probably out of respect, attraction and maybe a little bit of fear (but let’s face it, he was written to be politically correct). In one scene, Diana struts out on the battlefield, walking like a supermodel while bullets are whizzing past her. It looks intentionally like a slow-motion “Baywatch” shot. While the casual filmgoer – or jaded film critics like myself – won’t have an issue with this, some diehard feminists might. That “Baywatch” moment I mentioned segues into the coolest action scene in the film, but there are many scenes where Gadot seemed glamorized over all substance. You can tell me it’s all in my head, but was there a single shot where she had even a smudge of dirt on her even after a WWI trench battle? I challenge you to find one. As for her acting, it is passable but not A-list. Too bad she is easily out-shined by Robin Wright and Lucy Davis who doesn’t get near enough screen time as Etta, Trevor’s secretary and the film’s best comic relief character.

It’s a corny origin film that makes a ton of mistakes and leaves behind a lot of logistical holes (like sailing from the coast of Turkey to London in a day or the lame way the film tries to avoid subtitles). It was a nice try and director Patty Jenkins should get a lot of credit for pulling the cast and crew through a nearly impossible project to deliver a surefire blockbuster. Most people aren’t going to care about my gripes and will enjoy “Wonder Woman” for what it really is, but it might be too PC for some people and not enough for others. That train of thought is a losing battle so you might as well forget it and try to enjoy it.

I wasn’t excited about DC Comic’s “Justice League” coming out later this year in November and “Wonder Woman” didn’t change that feeling. I do think Diana will be more interesting in “Justice League” now that she is alone and has outlived everyone she knew from 1914. In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to Marvel’s “Captain Marvel” in 2019 which has potential to be an even better, female-driven superhero movie.

P.S. Did anyone actually say the words “Wonder Woman” in the entire film? If they did, I sure missed it. Awkward.

Rating: 2 and ½ out of 5

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