Saturday, 3 June 2017

Amazonian Might - A Wonder Woman Review

Wonder Woman is not a movie that is designed for me. In a way I suppose you can take it in a sexist sense. As a man, the narrative of the Amazonian goddess does not exact seem all that relevant as I do not face the same struggles that a woman does. But more fundamentally, I am not familiar with the series in question. I come at this movie as a general movie-goer, not as a comic book nerd nor semi-familiar ultra-fan. I know no monumental stories involving her, I don't know any of the villains that she fights, I don't really even know where she lived. The only things I know are the aforementioned goddess title, the Lasso of Truth, the invisible jet and some of the more sensational parts of her character's background. I mostly came about watching this movie in part due to the wave of positive reviews that seemed to be a rarity for DC and in part to finally understand their main heroine whom I had neglected for so long.

Since it is the first film to ever have Wonder Woman as the lead, the film definitely seemed to cater to certain needs that a beginner like me would have. For starters, I was able to find that her name is Diana (yes, I did not know) and that she lives on the island of Themyscira with other Amazonian women. She is told great stories about the war between Zeus and Ares, and how Ares being the vengeful god of war that he is, came to corrupt man. She later is told that if Ares were to ever show himself again that only a weapon deemed "the god killer" would be able to defeat him. After saving Steve Trevor, an American spy who crashes near the shores of Themyscira, she comes to find that a massive war is brewing in the human world. Believing that it is the work of Ares, she goes along with Steve to stop the war.

I was generally optimistic when it came to Gal Gadot being Wonder Woman. Even though Batman vs Superman had her in the cameo corner, I could see that there was more potential. Wonder Woman proved to show that potential in full force as she could properly balance bright-eyed idealism with stern determination and fish-out-of-water antics with sophistication. Though her voice didn't have the proper energy for certain moments, her expressions and actions more than made up to express her character.

The whole cast was a ton of fun as well. I absolutely loved seeing the Amazonian women kick some serious ass as they went on horses armed with only arrows, swords and shields to charge at German soldiers armed to the teeth with guns. Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine), much like the Cap who shares his first name, was able to provide a sincere charm and reserved demeanour that worked well off of Diane's more brazen attitude. Later on in the movie, we come across a group of mercenaries who offer some wonderful banter as we transition to larger scenes. And of course the villains were entertaining, with Dr. Poison (Elena Ayana) having a quiet madness to her and Ares relishing in the destruction of mankind through his ruthless actions.

As expected, the action was wonderful throughout the film. It was focused, with the proper angles and use of slow motion accentuating each movement, making each hit have it's impact. The cinematography was vibrant, with even dark and dreary scenes popping out like an intense comic page. Both elements would have been well enough to simply sate the masses but what I think took this film into riding the waves of high praise was what DC movies were lacking, balance. Wonder Woman allowed itself to be comedic, to be light-hearted, in a way that felt natural rather than as an awkward way to offset the rest. The characters were able to breathe and interact with one another as humans rather than exposition devices or melodramatic caricatures.  It was able to tell its story without rush, and let the pieces fall into place.

There are certainly some imperfections this movie has, most of which I can't speak of without spoiling it. But part of why I feel it necessary to embolden the strengths of Wonder Woman is that it is bold enough to deserve such. I could have not been more perfectly introduced to Wonder Woman's character and her raison d'etre. She carries the standard badass nobility of a superhero, but her warmheartedness and frankness allowed her to stand out alongside her contemporaries. The moral of the movie was not particularly new or radical but it was so genuine in carrying it through that I could not help but feel emotional over it. It disappoints me that by simple virtue of being a female lead that it will come to be a battleground for the constant culture war that the Internet wages. It is a movie that is larger than the politics that has surrounded it and will come to surround it in the coming days. Even if this film does not do proper justice to the source material for some reason, I feel that it can serve as a magnificent interpretation of her character.

At a time that superhero movies have become to feel derivative, I'm glad that Wonder Woman managed to stand out as a bright beacon amid the tired, the gritty and the hollow.

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