Film review: WONDER WOMAN, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Prior to seeing the new Wonder Woman film there was hope it would provide something different from the typical po-faced tedium of DC adaptations like last year’s awful snoozer Batman vs Superman. Wonder Woman does offer something a little different and in many ways it succeeds although a little it too often succumbs to superhero movie formula.

The film does not begin well. Set on a utopian all-female island of amazon warriors, it’s remarkably cornball and resembles something out of Xena Warrior Princess. There we’re introduced to the young princess Diana (Gal Gadot), daughter of the amazon queen Hippolyta (Connie Neilsen). An exceptional warrior, Diana sees it as her lifelong mission to rid the world of the defeated war god Aries whom she thinks is still lurking somewhere waiting to wreak his revenge. When an American First World War spy, Steve Trevor (Chris Pyne), crashes on the amazon island, Diana learns about the global conflict and believes it to be the work of her nemesis Aries. With Trevor she sets off for the western front to battle the cruel German Ludendorff (Danny Huston) who she thinks is Aries’ stooge.

This film presents a major dilemma, the idea of someone running around the trenches of France in a skimpy superhero costume would seem slightly ridiculous and possibly disrespectful to war veterans, although with films like Rambo this wouldn’t be the first time. Fortunately, Monster director Patty Jenkins handles these scenes appropriately, balancing potent action with a sense of fantasy that distances the film from the real horrors of the war.

Overall, however, the action scenes are a mixed bag. Jenkins orchestrates some set-pieces in thrilling and inventive fashion – such as Wonder Woman rampaging through a German-held town – while others, particularly the tediously predictable superhero smack-down finale, are waterlogged with cgi and have the artificiality of a video game.

A bonus in this film is its use of music which is better than in most superhero films and effectively underscores the drama and energises the action scenes.

Gal Gadot, who looks remarkably like Angelina Jolie here, has an appealing phlegmatic confidence and deals well with role’s physicality. Still, her performance lacks depth and nuance and her delivery of dialogue isn’t always convincing. Surprsingly, Chris Pyne, who has sadly little charisma as Captain Kirk in the Star Trek re-boots, has found in Steve Trevor a very effective mix of wily action hero, romantic lead and comedy relief. Thankfully, the film takes time to develop his character and his relationship with Wonder Woman.

There’s an array of side characters including Steve’s mercenary buddies Native American, Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) and the Middle-Eastern Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui) through whom the film briefly attempts to make points about racism and American imperialism but neither these issues nor the characters are developed sufficiently. Ewen Bremner also appears as a character disturbingly like Spud from Trainspotting while fine British actor David Thewlis adds some thespian cred as a member of Britain’s Imperial war cabinet.

At 140 minutes this film is too long and with its convoluted and not particularly interesting espionage plot, it drags in places. Still, while far from perfect, Wonder Woman is a lot more fun than many recent cinematic superhero efforts.

Nick’s rating: ***

Genre: Super hero/ action/ adventure/ war.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Patty Jenkins.

Release date: 1st June 2017.

Running time: 141 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.

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