7 July 2017

REVIEW: Wonder Woman


WONDER WOMAN
Released June 2017
Directed by Patty Jenkins
Scored by Rupert Gregson-Williams

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This review contains SPOILERS.

Wonder Woman. I can't accurately describe the absolute thrilling, exhilarating sensation I felt when watching some of the scenes. I love superhero films. Wonder Woman is the first big studio film with a female solo lead. It's impossible to not feel something when seeing a woman, a kind, empathetic, strong and fierce woman, take the lead. Not elbow candy or a side kick.

I meant to publish a review as soon as I saw the film (which was a few days after it's UK release a month ago) but as I sat down I felt completely lost for words and couldn't seem to string two words together, never mind a sentence. A few days ago I discovered my brother had kept a newspaper front cover that contained a WW poster for me, which made me finish this draft.

It's been a month since WW was released here, so now that the hype has gone down & I've had time to properly think and dissect it, I thought I'd share a short review and some thoughts.

Wonder Woman is more about Diana's mental journey - discovering the world of man, the fear, hatred and passion. It's Diana becoming Wonder Woman.


PRODUCTION

I'd like to start by briefly discussing the production of this film. Directed by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman does not disappoint in terms of cinematography or art direction. Much like the other DC films, the cinematography is definitely their strong point, with the colour grading, costumes & general art direction are at the top of the game . The sets were beautiful : Themyscira had an utopian feel to it but yet still felt believable. The musical score composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams was incredible: exhilarating and heart-warming at the same time. No Man's Land, Wonder Woman's Wrath are my favourite & I've been listening to them almost daily.


I wasn't overly impressed with the beach battle cinematography & editing (much to my disappointment they didn't include that insanely beautiful shot on the Amazons charging on the horses despite heavily featuring it in the trailers) - I believe this is because they wanted to showcase the Amazons physical strength instead (fast paced stunt-focused shots) For the No Man's Land sequence however, it was a different story entirely. I was simply blown away by the cinematography & editing, it's definitely earned it's spot amongst my favourite superhero-action-sequences. It was simply flawless.

DIANA PRINCE


Diana is kind, empathetic, curious, fierce and stubborn in her belief. Discovering the world of Man, she is comically clueless in terms of social graces & human interactions. She is stubborn in her belief, and unafraid to speak her mind and express her disapproval. In terms of plot, Diana is convinced that it is Hades she must defeat in order to end the war ravaging the world of Man. This is something she firmly believes to the very end of the film, where it turns out that she's right after all. I felt a surge of disappointment at this plot twist: it would have been more interesting to see Diana deal with the fact that humans are just capable of doing such evil on their own - instead, it was revealed that Hades was in fact pulling the strings the entire time, which sadly restricted further character development on Diana's behalf (not to say that there wasn't any character development at all, but there could have been more if it was revealed that Hades had nothing to do with it).


Diana is driven by her moral compass, and her moral, emotional & physical strength. She refuses to stand idle whilst people are suffering: she is a truly kind-hearted & empathetic woman, a trait that is very much lacking in the world of superhero films. This empathy & kindness is needed today more than ever, both in film & in mundane life. Wonder Woman also portrayed a character who is confident in her capabilities, who knows her strength and her worth. Diana is confident in her mind and body: she is open about her sexuality & the female body (see boat scene!).


I think a lot of people will agree with me when I say that the No Man's Land sequence is the most important moment of the film: it's the first time we see Diana bearing the iconic armor, shield, rope & boots. It begins with slow motion close-ups of these iconic aspects of Wonder Woman's armor, before revealing it in it's entirety with a full body shot. And what's more is that it wasn't sexualized once. It's the first time we properly see her physical strength put to use in combat: it's Diana becoming Wonder Woman.

This impressive sequence lasts around 8 minutes, the perfect amount of time for an action film. I like to think filmmakers are catching on to the fact that viewers prefer multiple bursts of action throughout a film rather than one huge 15 minute chunk of action in the middle and end (for instance the airport sequence in CA Civil War).



 I was completely overwhelmed by this part of the film, I have never felt that way in a cinema before. I quite literally burst into tears when Diana was running towards the line of fire. It was so beautifully orchestrated and powerful. A mixture of pride, happiness and awe overwhelmed me, and I have no shame in admitting it. A woman lead, taking on the bad guys on her own - because it was the right thing to do, because she wanted to help. Not eye candy.  Not a sexy side-kick. I think back to when I was in my teens, how most of the women in action films were people I couldn't in any way, shape or form identify with. If this film inspired me as much as it has, imagine how the younger generation feel. I would also love to know how the older women in my family would feel watching this. I don't know if I'll ever experience that feeling in a cinema again.

We have bursts of action throughout the film (Amazon Beach Battle, No Man's Land, Finale + others throughout) however the finale was a bit of a let-down. I enjoyed it, but the Hades twist sadly cheapened - for lack of a better word - what could have been an otherwise interesting learning curve for Diana: that humanity can be evil, ruthless, cruel without the help of an Olympian god. I also felt that the scene in which Diana defeats Hades was a little contradictory. Although I firmly believe Diana was at her full potential in No Man's Land, you could be inclined to think that she only reached her 'full potential' (AKA defeating Hades) was when she witnessed Steve's death. A love interest's suffering/death is often used as a plot device in film & tv, suggesting that Wonder Woman could not have accomplished her goal unless Steve had sacrificed himself - something that I disagree with. Although, this scene could be interpreted entirely differently. Diana's pain from witnessing Steve die for what he believed in gave her the strength that only love can give - Yes, you could say the grief over a love interest pushed her further than anything ever had before - but it wasn't just grief, it was love, and anger. & love isn't a negative trait. You can be strong and still feel.
We say we want strong female characters, and more often than not, we get characters who don't get emotional, because it's ''girly'', a term which still has a negative connotation to it. We need characters who, like Diana, are both loving and dangerous. Strong in many ways. So.. I guess this could be debated.



This finale was true DC style : 15 minutes of too-many-explosions-and-throwing-things. It was good, but could have been better.

As for the other characters in the film, Steve Trevor,  Etta the secretary, Hippolyta, Antiope, Ludendorff & Dr Maru - I loved the casting. For one, the Amazons: not all 25 year old blonde, white women - but a diverse ensemble of women of all ages and sizes. Athletes, actresses & models. It was so refreshing to see women on screen who had lines on their faces, grey in their hair, bags under their eyes: all the Amazons had a strong, fierce presence on screen (more than 2 women in a single scene? IN AN ACTION FILM?!). I do wish we saw more of Dr Maru, who could have been a formidable villain if given more screen time.

Overall, I think the symbolism of this film is what struck a cord with me. Diana's pure goodness, kindness, and desire to help those who are suffering, is something that the world desperately needs. The Amazons' wisdom, support for each-other, and pure power is to be admired - I have never seen so many women on screen together, being absolutely bloody bad-ass. Wonder Woman is thrilling, heart-warming, awe-inspiring.


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