Gal Gadot and her Golden Lasso aren’t able to whip this inconsistent DC effort into shape.
Before you even think or say it; no, Gal Gadot has not “saved” the DCEU. At this point, the disastrous collaboration between Warner Bros. Studios, and DC Comics Entertainment, is beyond saving. However, after a plethora of exhaustively terrible superhero movies (Marvel are entirely guilty in this too, you know…), director Patty Jenkins has at least softened the blows with Wonder Woman. That’s not to say the film is “good” – in fact, the Amazonian’s solo outing is largely a disappointment – but it does have some colour, character, and cooly implemented humour.
The biggest problem with comic book cinema in general is the seeming inability for singularity. Everything has to build, or contribute, to a larger ‘universe’. Films feel like commercials for forthcoming films, which themselves too feel like commercials. Never are the creatives behind these multi-million studio tentpoles given any sense of freedom; instead succumbing to the cloying grasp of executives and accountants. Jenkins’ slice of pie – which very much is part of an extended filmic landscape; with the gargantuan Justice League arriving later this year – is entirely guilty of this, too. Despite being the only female-led title in DC’s latest roster, never does Wonder Woman have the opportunity to be fully individual. Gadot’s shimmering siren certainly gets to soak up the spotlight (itself only offered after her brief stint in the abysmal Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice somewhat impressed), but you can never escape the notion that this is little more than a innocuous serving of a larger, duller course.
Still, we get what we’re given, and must make do. A traditional origins tale in every sense, we meet Diana Prince (Gadot), Princess of Themyscira, upon a secluded and tranquil island. In the warm tropics, she is taught hand-to-hand combat from infancy. Training is a lifeskill for the ladies of the land, much to the distaste of Diana’s mother, who wishes for her to remain pure. A good job then, that she is equipped for battle, as war is heading their way. A dashing fighter pilot, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), washes ashore when his vessel crashes, and he brings news of heinous conflict in the outside world (the First World War, to be exact). Leaving the comforts of home in a bid for the greater good, Diana insists Steve lead her to the fight, with the hope of restoring peace on Earth once more, and unlocking the warrior within.
A simplistic narrative, which owes a rich debt to Captain America: The First Avenger, aside, Wonder Woman attempts to unveils a side of the DCEU which has been so desperately absent: heart. Allan Heinberg’s airy prose ripples throughout early scenes, bringing a sprinkle of chuckles along the way. The warming nature of its central character setup is elevated by the comedic brushstrokes, and for once we are treated to balanced screen duality between its two top performers. Perhaps the most enjoyable element of the film’s design is a bait-and-switch between Diana and Steve. It manages to straddle two separate fish-out-of-water arcs, each with their own unique laughs, simultaneously. Firstly, Steve is an alien in a foreign land – a sunny utopia aligned with armoured females – before roles reverse and our heroine is the oddball. The World War I setting provides a perfect platform for the feature’s very deliberate feminist jibes, played without even an ounce of subtlety; much like the entirety of the DC franchise, really…
However, it isn’t long before a traditionalist yet inoffensive build is quickly and sadly squandered. Wonder Woman‘s utterly exhaustive runtime – a whopping 141 minutes; perhaps 40 too long – begins to run out of steam and ideas as we enter the muddled second act. Tones begin to collide; dialogue begins to falter. We’re introduced to a gaggle of dimensionless support acts, who further slow up proceedings, and by the time the inevitable climatic showdown arrives, nausea has well-and-truly set in.
Little more than Snyder in a skirt, Jenkins cranks up the aesthetic boredom to nullifying effect. The big battle is laden with that hideous visual style now seemingly a trademark of the production house; ridiculous and incoherent combat sequences, all tacked together with Frankenstein editing, and rendered with mind-shatteringly poor CGI. How did this movie cost nearly $150 million again? Diana throws a punch, or a tank, or whatever, and her nemesis (don’t even bother asking; the villain is as dreadful as you think) flies up 3,000 feet before blasting her with lighting, or whatever, and she zooms in super fast-then-slow motion for 3,000 feet. Watching this war drone on and on is enough to require matchsticks for the eyeballs.
The partnership between Gadot and Pine is, in the introductory stages, charming. Despite neither lending high-calibre performances, the chemistry is there, and their screen relationship does enough to deepen the audience-character experience. Wonder Woman’s most enjoyable moments are without question the scampish antics shared between the unlikely twosome. Much like their ragtag allies who we scoop up midway through, no other supporting performance is even a scratch; so much so, you’ll probably forget everyone else in costume.
Jenkins’ film is very flawed, but it is on occasion, fun, and that is worth reporting. Gadot and her lasso will sadly not provide the cure for those suffering from superhero fatigue, mind.
Wonder Woman is out now in UK cinemas in IMAX 3D and 2D.