So, another DC superhero movie. I’m going to be honest, my opinions on DC movies are almost never in line with the common consensus, so I guess I should explain what I think of the last few. I really liked Man of Steel, it’s one of my favorite superhero movies. Batman vs Superman is deeply flawed and has some really boneheaded decisions, such as the inclusion of Doomsday, but (having only seen the Ultimate Edition) I actually do like it. It’s not a great film, but it’s passable. And then we have Suicide Squad. Ok, look, despite all the hatred this movie gets, I don’t think it’s that bad. It’s one of those proverbial “guilty pleasure” movies, where it’s not campy enough to be enjoyable as a completely lighthearted action film, but it’s not so serious as to be enjoyable as such. Instead, it seems to take itself a bit more seriously than it should, and so the holes in its silly premise stick out very prominently. Despite that, it’s still a kinda fun movie, largely because of how great some of the cast is. The whole point of this tangent is that my opinion on pretty much every big DC movie in the last few years is different from the average internet commenter. With that said, Wonder Woman, the newest addition to the DC canon. Before I get into this, know that I’ll be spoiling the fuck out of this thing, so if you want to avoid that, I say go watch it and come back. It’s worth a look, at the very least. Now, on to the film.
Good lord, this is a mixed bag if ever I’ve seen one. The first thing I have to talk about is the main heroine. She just isn’t all that compelling, to be honest. Sadly, the writers seemed to take a more Marvel-esque approach and sent most of her screen time with this really stupid running joke about her trying to take conventions of early 20th century life (such as clothes, manners, guns, military leadership, etc) and compare them to the customs of the Amazons. It could’ve worked if handled pitch perfectly, but it drove me crazy after a while because of how annoying I found it. There are some moments where I want to like her, but I just can’t because she’s so alien to common sense. Compounding this is the fact that Gal isn’t that great an actress. Thankfully, it’s never hard to understand what she’s saying, but her ability to emote leaves a lot to be desired at times. Even weaker than her is the main villain, Ares, played by David Thewlis. Right there is his first problem. The casting choice works fine when he’s in disguise for his first appearances in the film (more on this later), but even when he shifts into full war god form for the final battle, he still has the same face, same physique, and same voice. I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t work. It feels awkward and doesn’t fit the tone at all. It would’ve been better if they’d gotten someone who’s really good at being soft spoken but can dial up the intensity when needed, like Daniel Day-Lewis. Definitely a weakness of the film. However, with that said, I absolutely need to talk about the supporting cast. While the early supporting characters (the other amazons) are all pretty forgettable, it’s the main set of other protagonists that forms easily the best thing in the movie. First off, they got Chris Pine, and that guy is just plain likable. He’s got a ton of great lines in this movie and he delivers them amazingly. He had me in stitches laughing at times, and when he needed to be serious, he could pull it off quite well. Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, and Eugene Rock are great as well, even if they get a lot less screen time than they should. More on this later. Despite the ever irritating Characterization Via Gimmick trope appearing yet again, it’s a bit more forgivable this time because all the actors are so good at their roles. Other than Ares, there are two villains early on: General Ludendorff and Dr Maru, played by Danny Huston and Elena Anaya respectively. Huston is really fun to watch, almost as much as the support crew. You can tell he’s having a blast, and it absolutely shows. Anaya is more reserved, but she’s still pretty good at what she does. But again, they needed more development, and they didn’t get it. More on this later as well. Aside from that, most of the characters are barely in it. Chris Pine has this funny little assistant, but she’s only there for a few minutes at most. So, the character cast is pretty hit-or-miss.
Now for the story. The first act takes place on the island of the Amazons, setting up the existence of Ares, a weapon that can kill him, and the childhood/powers of Wonder Woman herself. Then Chris Pine shows up with a German battalion in hot pursuit, and a bunch of people die in the resulting battle. Everyone wants to keep Pine locked up, but he tells them about an experiment the German army is working on for a type of mustard gas that can burn through masks. This makes absolutely no sense, but it works as a plot catalyst. Ah, what the hell? I guess I’ll explain why. According to their explanation, it’s based on hydrogen instead of sulfur. Thing is, that sulfur is the most important part of the molecule, and the structure is set up in such a way that it can’t function if the sulfur is replaced with something else because it holds everything together. Plus, it’s not necessary to change mustard gas in order to counter gas masks, that stuff soaks through clothes and rubber already, so gas masks already do very little to stop the horrific damage it does to people. Okay, science lesson over. Now, back to the plot. Because of Pine’s explanation, Diana (soon to be Wonder Woman) uses her insane powers to steal a bunch of relics (her outfit, lash, shield, and sword) and runs off with him in a a sailboat. He wants to get the notebook on gas research to London, but she wants to go to the front line and assassinate General Ludendorff (no relation to the real Erich Ludendorff), the guy overseeing the project, because she assumes that he’s Ares and is possessing the German army to make them act evil. Yes, this is the worst part of her character, and I find it incessantly annoying after a while. Anyway, they go to London, share the document with the details of the project, and end up going to France themselves with three others after the British leaders refuse to intervene because they can’t jeopardize the armistice. Anyway, they head off to the front, reclaiming a town because Wonder Woman can deflect bullets with her wrist guards and shield. Skipping forward through an espionage ball, the village getting bombed, and tracking Ludendorff to his secret base, let’s pick up here. Wonder Woman kills Ludendorff, only to realize he wasn’t Ares, he’s only a human. She goes nuclear as a result, and refuses to do anything. Chris Pine and crew go off to prevent a plane loaded with the gas from bombing London, and it’s revealed that their one sponsor in Parliament is actually Ares. Wonder Woman fights him and is losing when Chris Pine sacrifices himself to destroy the plane, so she goes even more ballistic and kills Ares. The war ends soon after, story over, whee. Okay, so what do I like and what do I not like about the story itself? What I find especially interesting is that this is a superhero movie that would work better without the superhero stuff. Or rather, the main plot and the secondary plot would both work better as separate movies. Because they’re both packed into one, they end up being crushed together and neither gets all the development it should. So, I feel like it would be better as 2 different movies, maybe with some crossover between them, such as characters from both partaking in the same battle once or twice. The first movie would be the plot of Wonder Woman hunting Ares during WWI, and the idea is that it’s focused more as a “manhunt” type of plot, hunting down his associates and trying to figure out who he’s disguised as. Flesh out everyone more, focus on the main plot almost exclusively. Meanwhile, the subplot about Chris Pine and co tracking the storage of gas would be its own movie, a kind of crazy over-the-top WWI action movie, kind of in the vein of Wolfenstein, but a different time period. I dunno, it’s just an idea, but I feel like it would work better. Since they try to pack so much into one movie without extending the run time to match, both plots end up getting squashed together and neither really gets developed as much as it should be. Quite a shame, and it’s my biggest problem with the movie.
On the technical side, the film is just fine. The visuals are competent, though I wish the color was a little stronger at times. The sound is alright, the actors range from passable to great, the music is solid, etc. Nothing especially remarkable.
Overall, this is a solid movie. Not as good as Man of Steel or the Dark Knight movies, but still good nonetheless. The plot unfortunately suffers from being too big for the run time, but it’s made up for with strong technical aspects and (some) very likable characters. The excellent supporting cast makes up for the weak heroine and weaker villain, and it all balances out. Because of this, I am issuing Wonder Woman a B rating, with a Minimum Rental recommendation. It’s probably not something I would buy on Blu-Ray or anything (though considering how much my folks loved it, I very well might have to), but I would definitely say it’s worth seeing, as it’s a pretty decent movie.