LITTLE GIRLS, BIG BOYS
Film Review by Fiore
The first step to Warner Bros’ THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA is WONDER WOMAN, starring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. Let’s hope the JUSTICE LEAGUE is considerably better than WONDER WOMAN, which is a plodding, estrogen-filled excuse for a superhero movie. It shifts constantly between the superhero genre and a Lifetime Movie of the Week. The film is an exercise in how not to assemble a superhero movie.
To begin, the character of WONDER WOMAN undergoes a metamorphosis greater than Bruce Banner. I’m probably showing my age here, but I remember WONDER WOMAN as an Amazon warrior. She had incredible strength, could leap like THE HULK, had a magic lasso, power bracelets, a sword and shield and she rode around in an invisible airplane.
This new version of WONDER WOMAN still has the bracelets, lasso, shield and sword, but has ditched the plane because she can fly, like SUPERMAN. She is no longer an Amazon warrior, but a god from Olympus; the daughter of Zeus, which makes her HERCULES’ sister, though the son of Zeus never possessed powers quite like this.
While I can readily accept these new nuances, and the script does encapsulate both the formed clay and Zeus origins of WONDER WOMAN, this film character crosses the line by exhibiting the powers and abilities of a half-assed anime presentation. In the concluding reels, WONDER WOMAN harnesses lightning bolts like THOR, and shoots laser beams and power rays from her bracelets. Coupled with a few poor matting sequences and the final reel plays like the pages of a poor Magna comic.
The film opens with a direct tie-in to BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN. Bruce Wayne sends Diana Prince the original photo of her during WWI and asks her to tell him her story. Then, through over two hours of flashback, we discover how a young Diana grows into WONDER WOMAN. As origin tales go, this one is told concretely, though molded by a standard template.
By the time a young spy pilot crashes into the waters off the Amazonian coast, Diana is ready to bring peace and love to the world. Her fascination for Steve Trevor (Pine) is also a motivating factor. Diana is convinced General Ludendorff of the German High Command, played by Danny Huston, is the reincarnation of Aries, the God of War. By killing him, she can bring about world peace. The duo is added by Sir Patrick of British Parliament, played by David Thewlis. WONDER WOMAN also stars Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright and Lucy Davis.
1.1 KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
1. THE ATTACK ON THE BEACH
2. THE BOAT RIDE
3. NO MAN’S LAND
So, with new and improved powers, and a noble cause, what makes WONDER WOMAN fall flat? I believe it is Director Patty Jenkins. Twice before she was presented with opportunities to direct superhero films, and twice previously she was fired from the projects. The problem is the Woman Warrior Agenda in Hollywood.
Hollywood is always looking for oppressed groups to champion. Their latest cause celebre is women. The belief is movies are male-dominated, and more female voices need to be heard. Nothing wrong with that; however, the manner in which the studios are handling the situation is disastrous. They are latching onto primarily anti-America and ‘we are the world’ documentary makers and thrusting them into blockbuster superhero projects. This is akin to taking a slow-pitch softball player and inserting her into the Yankees’ starting line-up. It’s not going to work.
Jenkins begins the film in grand fashion. It has all the markings of a superhero epic, but then, at the beginning of Act Two, she brings the quicksand. WONDER WOMAN bogs to an incredibly slow pace. All momentum built dissipates and viewers are treated to fifty minutes of Kumbaya and John Lennon’s “All You Need Is Love”. Pine tries his best to carry the film through the swamp, but the task is too daunting, even for his screen charisma. Jenkins worked with Editor Martin Walsh, but retained final editing decisions. It’s not that Screenwriter Allan Heinberg penned a bad tale. It’s just assembled poorly.
The trade magazines are touting WONDER WOMAN as a breakthrough for women directors. There were even screenings of the film held nationwide, designated as “women only”. That sounds prejudicial, but I guess that’s permissible if your promoting the H3L agenda.
Let’s take a look at the report card for WONDER WOMAN:
1.2 ACTING = B
1.3 CINEMATOGRAPHY = B
1.4 SOUND/MUSIC = B
1.5 EDITING = F
1.6 LIGHTING = C
1.7 SCRIPT = C
1.8 SFX = C
1.9 ACTION = C
Special Effects Supervisor Bill Westenhofer provides decent SFX, however several key matting sequences are lame. WONDER WOMAN leaping toward the camera from a bell tower looks cartoonish. The climactic battle with Aries offers both the best and worst of the SFX menu. Rupert Gregson-Williams (one of the dreaded three-name people) provides a rousing score. The end credit theme is particularly good.
Gadot makes a good WONDER WOMAN. As her showcase piece, this could have been a lot stronger. When you have good characters, a decent script and competent folks behind the camera, and the production just doesn’t work, pin it on the director. In this instance, Jenkins is clearly out of her depth. Perhaps the PC publicity will help WB counter the lesser quality of the film.
Fanboys will love WONDER WOMAN, as will those smitten with Gadot’s incredible looks and screen presence. I’m glad I saw WONDER WOMAN. I enjoy superhero movies. But, I wouldn’t sit through this one again. It’s too long, too boring in the second act and can’t determine if it wants to be a superhero movie or a click flick.