Hello and welcome to our first joint review- Wonder Woman!
John’s Rating: B+
Kelly’s Rating: Solid B+. Hey, we agree on something!
Synopsis: Princess Diana of the Amazons ventures to Man’s World to stop the Great War.
After 75 years in comics, animation, and a cameo in Dawn of Justice, the most famous woman superhero finally gets her own damn movie! The DCEU has had some real duds so far, so we didn’t want to get our hopes up. The trailers looked promising and seasoned director Patty Jenkins was at the helm. Would this be the film that brings much-needed legitimacy to the DCEU?
John: I came out of the film with a burst of optimism, the kind I feel when I watch Richard Donner Superman or the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films. It was in no way perfect, but as an origin to the character I think it was pulled off very well.
Kelly: I heard so many good things about Wonder Woman and I really struggled with not getting too excited for the first female-driven comic-based movie (Catwoman and Elektra do not exist). The trailer was great, the ads were fantastic, and it was shaped to be a really good movie. And it was! If we are strictly talking origin movies, I would say WW is easily in my top 5. Not as great as Ant-Man or Spider-man in my book, but better than Thor and possibly Iron Man.
John: It’s not to hard to beat Thor really. Let’s start with Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot. What did you think of her portrayal of the character?
Kelly: I thought Gadot was a fair choice, given how women are typically portrayed in comic books and comic book movies as well as the high demands of the role. They needed someone “pretty” (check) to satisfy studio expectations, someone athletic (check), and someone confident (check). I knew they were going to go with a model-type, though I wish she had more acting skill having only seen her in one of those Fast and Furious movies. (Is this the part where I namedrop Alexa Davalos? She would have been perfect!) Gadot’s not the best actress: her two faces are concerned or smug, so some of the more talk-heavy scenes fall flat or don’t quite carry the depth of the conversation, but she did a wonderful job with the action sequences as well as the more inquisitive, curious dialogue. Her anger, though- it’s all hands and volume. Her accent does work.
John: I agree. As someone who is familiar with her character in other media, I thought Gadot certainly looked the part and was very convincing in some scenes. However, I feel she is weakest during dialogue heavy scenes. It’s common for action films to not have the best acting, but I was hoping for a deeper performance in such a landmark film. Let me be clear, she is not bad- I just feel her abilities are limited in the acting department. Be that as it may, I cannot stress how much joy and awe I felt seeing the woman I have read about for years fully realized and fighting on screen. When she speaks about her beliefs and her duty towards helping innocents, I believe it. There are moments when Gadot reaches Christopher Reeve’s level of performance. Gadot also sells action really well.
Kelly: Physically, Gadot just nails it. The costume was phenomenal- I’m glad the skirt deactivated the Harley Quinn-distraction shorts or tight pants would have provided. It was light enough to provide her with movement and motion, but heavy enough to stay in place with enough pleats and cuts to be practical. Not to mention, the stunt work and choreography was just absolutely perfect for this movie. It was graceful and athletic and every single move she had was a natural reaction from what happened directly before it. I’m not even at the tip of the Amazon iceberg. She and the other Amazons look like natural born fighters. I bought it. Sign me up.
John: CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE AMAZONS?! I can’t honestly think of any movie where it is entirely women for a long stretch of time. There isn’t a single penis in the first thirty minutes of this movie and it is great! Their costume design looked practical, but also was ripped straight from the comics.(At least the ones that don’t overly sexualize the Amazons). Themyscira is beautifully shot and is gorgeous to look at. The Amazons themselves were diverse in athletic physique and in ethnicity. Their action scenes are one of the bests and they show off their badass skills. They do gravity defying flips, swing from cliffs with bows and arrows, charge through a group of German soldiers on horseback! It’s kinda like 300! except with badass ladies! My only gripe is I want to see more! Not a strike against the movie but I want to get a full dose of what Themyscira is like outside of the warrior women aspect.
Kelly: Completely agree- the Amazons got my hyped for the rest of the movie and I would totally watch a movie about Connie Nielson and Robin Wright winning over mankind. I really appreciated the casting of two “older” women in these powerful roles instead of two hot younger women who can get by on being “immortal.” Their traits of wisdom, strength, intelligence, and integrity are what shone through as their beauty. I mean, they’re very attractive women but they weren’t cast on their looks or physiques alone. It was nice to see the highlights of these characters were more than what meets the eye.
John: The first 30 minutes are brilliant. Not only do they give us a glance of Amazon society, but they set up Diana’s journey. It was really fun and engaging watching Diana grow more powerful with the training from Aunt Robin Wright. By the way, Wright was completely unrecognizable to me. I usually see her on House of Cards in gorgeous outfits, but she is totally believable as this hardened warrior.
Kelly: Speaking of unrecognizable- holy crap, Chris Pine can actually act. I always marked him off as a pretty boy, but between watching this movie and then seeing him on Saturday Night Live a few weeks ago, I get his appeal. He carried a significant amount of the dialogue Gadot couldn’t really sell. His last scene is so powerful and it’s all in his eyes. The character of Steven Trevor was extremely well-written. Given the time period the movie was set in, he could easily have been a sexist, chauvinistic dude, but this Steven is super neutral when talking about Diana’s physical appearance (just saying she is “distracting” rather than “attractive” or “hot”) and has no masculinity issues in giving praise to her capabilities as a warrior. THIS IS HOW SONS SHOULD BE RAISED (with Pine’s singing and comedic abilities).
John: He has the demeanor of a 40’s action hero but none of the grosser aspects of them. In an interview Pine says he was channeling Indiana Jones and I can totally see it. He sells being thrust into a crazy fantastical setting and is hilarious as Diana’s guide through man’s world. The back and forth between Steven and Diana ranges from hilarious to straight up tragic. I especially have to give Pine props on an especially tough scene where he has to explain some hard truths. It was definitely a relief that they didn’t do the typical “Sexist man learns that women are more than just pretty things to look at” type of arc for him like Nathan Fillion’s Trevor in the animated film. Steve knows that Diana can handle herself and treats her as an equal. He was a great supporting character. However, did you think he hijacked the movie into some mansplaining levels?
Kelly: I did think it was unintentional but hilarious that this movie was all about women and female empowerment and then had a man explaining a whole lot of things to her. It helped that his character was, again, neutral and somewhat annoyed by some of the sexist things thrown her way though. It’s less antagonistic towards people who declare feminism isn’t necessary. (It is!) I think they played on her beauty a bit much though. I get that it’s funny because Diana is so much more than her looks and these simpletons just don’t know yet, but at the same time, I was a little annoyed there wasn’t even a scene where she asks Steven why he keeps calling her “distracting” or why someone asks for her picture. Wouldn’t that stand out to her? It could have opened the door for a really good conversation about the demands of a woman’s physical features.
John: There were other opportunities to discuss the deeper evils of Man’s world that the film chooses to throw a bone at but doesn’t lead to anything. Diana’s companions are both men of color and speak about the problems they face being men of color. Samir wants to be an actor and even says he’s not “the right color” to be successful. Chief is a Native American who has been displaced by the genocides committed by “Steven’s people”. These would make greater segway into the theme of humanity’s ability to do terrible things but it is just thrown into the wind. They even have a scene around a campfire and do nothing with it! EVERYONE KNOWS THAT WHEN THERE IS A CAMPFIRE IN MOVIES PEOPLE TALK ABOUT THEIR FEELINGS. It’s also kind of funny that Charlie, a Scottish marksman is given more attention than the other two.
Kelly: Yo, side note- I wanted to know so much more about Chief when he rode into that trench and all these soldiers were like, “Chief is here! He’s going to save us!” I’m thinking Chief must be badass if all these pre-internet people know about him! What a wasted opportunity. I think those two moments you highlighted were, again, really good opportunities for Diana’s curiosity to open those conversations- she comes from this world where women of every color are present on the council. Why wouldn’t she question an explicit statement about racism from one of her friends? Or confront Steven about, “Hey, Chief said you killed his people. What’s the deal?”
John: They definitely could have used a bit more depth and tying into the overall theme of the film. Diana grew up in a multi-ethnic female utopia. I think she would have a word or two about genocide and racism in general. Speaking of which, how did you think the villains held up?
Kelly: Meh. I thought they were pretty surface-level. They were lacking in motive. There’s no grander scheme for them other than they want to win the war. Dr. Poison had lots of potential as a mad scientist, but she was sorely underused.
John: For a film that is looking at the moral faults of humanity these bad guys were too generically evil for evil’s sake. WW1 isn’t like WW2 where there is a straightforward bad guy. It is very complicated and could have used a morally complicated bad guy to help the theme of the film. Danny Huston as Ludendorf is not very entertaining or interesting. As for Dr. Poison, aside from a really badass design, she is just one note.
(Slight Spoilers Ahead!)
John: In the climax, it is revealed that a minor character is actually Ares, the God of War. While his action scene was pretty cool, the reveal itself was lame. One could see it a mile away and there is no real lead in to it. It’s the kind of twist that works for a TV show but in a movie, where there isn’t a lot of time to flesh out a character, it doesn’t work.
Kelly: Yeah, I didn’t think the twist was as powerful as intended- Ares-human-form turns out to be a fairly minor character until the last twenty minutes or so. Also, I was highly disappointed by Ares’ physique- I mean, come on! We’re making such a big deal about Diana and how Gadot’s not buff enough but then you have a scrawny, pasty dude as your God of War. I feel like an easily more compelling story would have been to make Dr. Poison the big reveal, wanting to wipe out humanity. She’s a female, it’s some lady-on-lady action, she already has a villain scar, BOOM. Done.
(End of Slight Spoilers!)
John: Just another addition to the trend of lackluster comic book villains honestly.
Kelly: But do you think that’s a fault of the writing or the direction? I think the lack of bad guy development falls on the script- the direction was clearly there.
John: I think it goes without saying that the direction in this film was impressive as hell. Especially from a director who has never directed any action films! Patty Jenkins deserves all kinds of accolades for pulling this off. The film is shot beautifully and there is a good juxtaposition between Themyscira and the WW1 era Europe. I’m not a fan of the cold blue and gray color grading the DC films use but I will say it works with the WW1 setting. They even brighten up the color on Diana’s armor so that she stands out. It’s also commendable how the film can have silly scenes like Diana trying on clothes and the horrors of chemical weapons in the same film without the tones clashing. The action itself is absolutely jaw dropping in some places. The No Man’s Land scene is going down in my top superhero action scenes! I was literally tearing up it was so damn cool!
Kelly: I knew we were in for some kickass visuals based on the promotional materials alone. If you look at the posters for BVS and Man of Steel, they’re just so sad and serious. The bright golds and bronze stood out against the despair of the other two and definitely set the excitement leading up to release.
John: I think that would be my greatest takeaway from this film. This film is about hope and helping others not because they “deserve it” but because it’s the right thing to do. It isn’t like Henry Cavill’s Superman where heroism is seen as a burden and leads to suffering. Diana’s culture is based around the ideal of helping others and helping them see past their ignorance even when doing so seems pointless. It’s unapologetic with its sheer optimism. The kind of unapologetic optimism you get from Christopher Reeves’ Superman from being a god damned Super Hero!
Kelly: Though I do have a problem with her attributing her belief in love after experiencing romantic love. Don’t get me wrong: I love the evolution of Steven and Diana’s relationship- but I feel like she didn’t acknowledge the morals of camaraderie and homosocial relationships she had on Themyscira. Even though Steven helped shape her view of Man’s World, it was Themyscira that molded her courage and ethics from the get go. I think there is still room for a lot of improvement, despite all its achievements.
John: I can totally see your point. While the film is great and revolutionary in some ways, It still has its foot steeped in some cliches. Hopefully they can be stamped out in the next film.
Kelly: What are the top three things you’d want in the next WW? I’d say mine are no love interest, more Themyscira/sisterhood, and more side eye from Diana towards the male characters. And no swords in dresses. Just… no.
John: It would be really self indulgent to wish for more Amazons. . . .but instead I would like for a deeper dive deeper into Greek mythology. The next I would like is for them to bring in a woman screenwriter. Perhaps that would help iron out more of the cliches that surround female lead stories. Lastly, I would like for them to keep these Wonder Woman films mostly independent from any other DC properties. IT’S BAD ENOUGH THAT SHE HAD TO WAIT 75 YEARS FOR HER OWN MOVIE. At least for the first sequel let Diana’s journey continue on her own.
Kelly: Never going to happen because WB just doesn’t know how to handle a bunch of things at once. We can hope though!
John: DC finally made a good movie, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!!
That was our first joint review! Let us know what you think!