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Review: Wonder Woman – “Maddeningly written and told”

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Directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster), ‘Wonder Woman’ stars Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious 6), Chris Pine (Star Trek Beyond), Connie Nielsen (Gladiator), Robin Wright (House of Cards), Danny Huston (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), David Thewlis (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), and Lucy Davis (Shaun of the Dead).

SPOILERS AHEAD

The latest instalment in the DCEU is a big deal. Firstly, because following the critical lambasting of every one of their films so far – they sorely need a win; and secondly, because ‘Wonder Woman’ is the first female superhero movie™. Apparently we don’t count ‘Catwoman’. So it’s a shame then that ‘Wonder Woman’ is no good. Not as bad as ‘Batman v Superman’ or ‘Suicide Squad’, and not for the same reasons, but still – no good.

With a cracking cast and director, and a ton of good will, this should have been a slam dunk, but an awful script written by Allan Heinberg (‘Grey’s Anatomy’, ‘The O.C.’) — from a story by Zack Snyder — and some strangely low looking production values, are the beginning of ‘Wonder Woman’s problems.

Oddly book-ended with modern day scenes in Paris that ensure we are never worried about our hero’s fate for a moment, Wonder Woman (Gadot) receives a letter from Bruce Wayne asking about “her story”, so she thinks out loud for us and Batman’s benefit. Before she was Wonder Woman, Diana was a girl growing up on an island of Amazon’s. Her mother (Nielsen) doesn’t want her to learn to fight, but her aunt (Wright) does. There is no tension here as when Diana is caught training a few scenes later her mum turns out to be totally fine about it. There is also a secret that neither woman will disclose to Diana about her origin – which turns out to be obvious and unimportant anyway.

After thirty minutes of slow motion training that sucks anything cool from Gadot’s impressive acrobatic physicality by tainting it with Snyder’s dull and played out style, Steve Trevor (Pine) crash lands on the island, pursued by ze Germans. He and Diana spend some awkwardly unsexy time in a magic cave before he lets slip about The Great War going on outside the Amazon’s island. Even though it has been explained that the Amazon’s whole creation, let alone existence, centres around them ending war and the god of War – Ares – none of them fancy it, so Diana runs away with Steve to sort it out herself.

Painfully unfunny fish out of water scenes follow as Steve attempts to clothe Diana, and she talks out of turn upsetting a lot of old dudes lots of times. Steve’s secretary (Davis) pops up as a comedy vacuum comedy sidekick whose name is “Candy” and is supposed to be funny as she is not as thin as Diana. Once we finally get to fighting in the war, Diana and Steve hook up with a carefully “It’s a small world after all” cast crack team who are all actually terrible at what they have been hired to do. Their Allo Allo-ing bumbling enabling them to survive, let alone end a war, would seem like something of an insult to soldiering, if the “war” in ‘Wonder Woman’ was not so pain and blood free anyway.

Diana thinks a German general (Huston) is Ares and is intent on killing him, naively assuming this will magically switch off the war. This may have held more weight if a single character actually bothered to explain the reality of reality and war to her, instead of letting her sappily run around like a super-powered toddler. This is dodged numerous times, and Steve and the soldiers even joke about it behind her back.

Eventually, everything boils down to Diana fighting Ares in a slug fest just like any you have seen before, while Steve executes a genius plan to destroy a lot of poisonous gas bombs by detonating them… IN THE ATMOSPHERE. This seems like the worst plan ever – but at least it is understandable. Ares’s dastardly plot is just incomprehensible and completely unmemorable.

‘Wonder Woman’ frequently looks like a low budget direct to video title, with a minor villain wearing flimsy pound shop goggles while running around bad guy bases with Danny Huston that are laughably barely set dressed locations on an industrial estate that was free for a few hours. There are one and a half good action scenes. However, they are smothered in so much CG that they look like video game cut-scenes, and so much slo-mo that they probably account for a massive portion of the swollen and painful two and a half hour running time.

The awful writing mentioned earlier results in scenes and lines that say nothing and go nowhere, only to be repeated again later as if they had some kind of weight – when they were actually meaningless word salad. Half the lines should have been cut entirely, with every character, but especially Steve and Miss. Candy, getting more than enough “zingers” that are actually clangers. The other half of the time, lines seem to simply be missing. We see something of significance happening, and a line required, but with no reaction. Just Chris Pine staring blankly like he doesn’t remember what it is.

Attempts at feminism are patronising and borderline insulting, and ‘Wonder Woman’ is maddeningly written and told. Instead of being a saving grace for the DCEU, ‘Wonder Woman’ proves that no matter the character or director this particular superhero universe is determined to remain sad, drab, overlong, ridiculous and boring. But maybe ‘Justice League’ and ‘Aquaman’ will be good?

There are no mid or post credits scenes.

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One Comment

  1. “Oddly book-ended with modern day scenes in Paris that ensure we are never worried about our hero’s fate for a moment…”

    I think you’ll find that her story is book-ended by seeing her alive and well in modern-day via “Batman v. Superman”, and knowing that she’s set to appear again in “Justice League” later this year. Besides that, I don’t think anyone expected her to die in her first movie.

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