Friday, June 9, 2017

Review of WONDER WOMAN: A Gorgeous and Glorious Gal

June 8, 2017



When it comes to comics, I was more of a DC kid growing up than Marvel. My favorite comic books were those about the Justice League. It is certainly odd that apart from Superman and Batman (both of whom have had multiple incarnations with different actors), no other DC superhero ever got a live-action film deal. (I will not count that terrible joke of a Green Lantern film with Ryan Reynolds. It should be expunged from movie history.) 

When it comes to excellence in superhero movies, it had always been Marvel over DC. The last one from DC that had any kind of critical acclaim was with Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, which included "Batman Begins" (2005), "The Dark Knight" (2008) and "The Dark Knight Rises" (2012). Again, it had to be about Batman. Even "The LEGO Batman Movie" shown earlier this year was excellent.

A so-called DC Extended Universe series was launched with "Man of Steel" (2013) then "Batman v Superman" (2016). These two films considerably darkened the colorful DC world I knew from the comics, but they were both met with conflicting reviews. This third DCEU offering though had been gaining nothing but positive reviews since it opened last week, being hailed the best DCEU film thus far, and good news is -- neither Superman nor Batman is in it this time, only Wonder Woman.

Diana was the daughter of the Amazon Queen Hippolyta on the island of Themyscira, an island isolated by Zeus from the corruption of the outer world.  One day in 1918, a plane carrying a young man crashed into the ocean near her island, and Diana rescued and revived him. Under the spell of the Lasso of Truth, the man introduced himself as Steve Trevor, an American soldier and spy. Idealistic Diana was determined to go into the real world with Steve, in order to find Ares and end the destructive war outside.

Except for brief modern day bookend scenes, this whole film was a throwback origins story, set during World War I, a period film as emphasized by its sepia tone filter. The pace was slow, taking its time to tell us everything we need to know about our titular super-heroine of divine birth and abilities -- from her idyllic childhood to her initiation into the real world. 

Moments of frank action were very well choreographed, shot and edited, with slow motion and other visual effects employed for optimum drama. As conveyed by director Patty Jenkins (whose only other film before this was "Monster" in 2003, for which Charlize Theron won her Oscar for Best Actress), the violence is violence, but with an eerie elegance about it. But you will wish that there were more of these spectacular action scenes as these may seem few than expected for a superhero film. 

This film dwelt more about the horrors of war and its sad consequences on the people, and that message was told very well. However, a curve ball was thrown into the sensible narrative towards the end, and I did not really like how it came out so randomly, from out of completely nowhere. It was as if the writers were written into a corner as to how the war deity Ares was to reveal himself.

Chris Pine is such a gentleman actor here, fully aware that his character Steve Trevor is not the star nor the focus of the film. Yet Pine gives a performance so winning and charming, he will be also remembered for this film. His best scenes were those with Diana in the spring water bath at the cave ("I am above average.") and that on the boat ("I do sleep with women."), delivered in sheepish awe of his beautiful savior. And then, of course, there was his touching declaration of love, echoing what we all feel for her.

More than the whole film itself though, the most wonderful thing about "Wonder Woman" is its charismatic lead star Gal Gadot herself. We had a brief glimpse of her during the "Batman v Superman" movie last year, and boy, did she steal that film from under the feet of Affleck and Cavill! We wanted to see more of her, and now here she is in her own solo movie and she totally owned her role. 

As Wonder Woman, Gadot is gorgeous, glamorous, graceful, giving -- everything how we imagined Wonder Woman to be. She was able to carve out a Wonder Woman so distinct from the iconic portrayal created by Lynda Carter in her campy 70s TV series. Gadot's portrayal of Wonder Woman is confident and no-nonsense as it should be. Gadot's Wonder Woman felt real, warm and down-to-earth despite her divine origins and super-powers. 

Thank God, all those planned Wonder Woman films being floated since 1996 reportedly with actresses like Sandra Bullock, Lucy Lawless, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Angelina Jolie and (yikes!) Mariah Carey to play the title role never pushed through. Destiny was waiting for the perfect timing, even if it took another 20 years before this first Wonder Woman live-action feature film to come out. The ideal actress has finally arrived worthy to play this well-loved heroine. Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman. 8/10.


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