Length: 141 mins
Writer(s): Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder, Jason Fuchs
Dir.: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Neilsen, Robin Wright, Danny Huston
Opening to rave reviews from both critics and audiences, Wonder Woman has had an impressive opening weekend, to say the least and looks set to be one of the most successful DC Extended Universe (DCEU) films so far. Serving as a retroactive origin story for a character we were introduced to in the abysmal Batman v Superman movie, the story follows Dianna Prince (Gadot), Amazonian warrior and all-round badass, as she strives to save the world from the war to end all wars. Teaming up with an American spy (Pine), Dianna leaves her idyllic island paradise and heads for the front line as she searches for the villainous Ares – Greek god of war and the cause of all the world’s woes. It’s an entertaining movie – the characters are likeable and complex, the action is well shot and kinetic, it’s visually impressive and refreshingly free from pretension. So basically nothing like any of the other DC flicks. That’s probably why it’s doing so well.
In a recent interview, Wonder Woman’s director, Patty Jenkins, stated that there were no deleted scenes from the film. Barring some minor edits towards the end, everything that she shot made it into the final cut. I find this fascinating, if I’m honest – but mainly because I can’t decide whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s certainly an improvement on the previous DCEU movies – both Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad had clearly been edited to the point of nigh on incomprehension – but the vast majority of any film is made in the edit. Things change from script to screen, elements that may have looked good on paper don’t necessarily work visually, stories evolve and develop, and the inevitable unnecessary scene is cut for time. The result should be a trimmed down, sleeker, more polished movie that works both visually and in terms of story and pacing. Wonder Woman didn’t get the benefit of any of that oversight, and while the film doesn’t necessarily suffer for it, there is a reason movies are made this way.
That’s not to say the film is bad because it isn’t. The story is straight-forward but benefits from that simplicity, the pacing is decent, the performances are good, the dialogue is… well, it’s not great – but it’s not bad either. I just feel that, in hindsight, the film could have been a bit tighter and elements of the narrative could have been fleshed out a bit more. With regards to the former, there are a couple of clunky scenes here and there which are surprisingly jarring when compared to the rest of the movie. A few sequences run on too long past the point of being funny or engaging, there are a couple of plot holes that are never explained, and one or two odd story choices that don’t necessarily ruin the movie – but definitely took me out of the experience.
For instance, without spoiling anything, there is a nice little scene towards the beginning of the movie where Wonder Woman is talking to Pine’s pilot character. It’s a cute scene and is genuinely funny and endearing… and then just keeps going for another five minutes for no real reason. Following this, Wonder Woman and the pilot make it to London on a sailboat seemingly in one evening. Assuming they were starting somewhere in the Aegean, that’s fucking impossible. Later on, there is a scene where Wonder Woman has left her sword somewhere and then has an encounter with another character. The movie cuts to something else for a bit, then cuts back to the exact same scene – same framing, same placement of characters, same everything – only this time Wonder Woman has retrieved her sword. Gadot even did a little jump before the camera rolled so it looks like she’d just landed. As I say, none of these clunky bits are bad enough to spoil the movie – they’re just odd little moments that could have easily been avoided with slightly better writing.
Outside of Gadot and Pine, who get the benefit of having the most screen-time, the supporting cast of characters feel a bit one dimensional at times. The performances are good, don’t get me wrong, and there are some great actors in the cast – they just don’t really get much to work with. For example, Danny Huston plays the villainous Ludendorff, the film’s main antagonist, but we don’t actually get to see that much of him – and when we do, he’s almost clownishly evil, with little nuance or depth in his performance. Further, at times it feels like the movie pulls its punches when it comes to the more complex issues of its setting. One of the supporting cast is a Native American character (thankfully played by a Native American actor) who mentions that his people lost everything to the Americans in the last war. This isn’t elaborated upon or addressed later – and what could have been an interesting character moment just doesn’t happen. This occurs a couple of times during the movie, and these ideas are never really fleshed out. If we had had more time to see the team bond and for their characters to develop, these moments could have carried some real weight. As it is, they feel like missed opportunities.
Ironically, one of the chief strengths of this movie and the main reason why it is the best of the DCEU films so far is that it has so little connection to the wider universe as a whole. There is a brief mention of Batman at the beginning of the movie, but for the rest of the runtime, the film focuses on telling a great story about one character. This is what DC/Warner Bros. should have been doing from the very beginning – establishing their characters, letting the audience get to know them, and then – after you’ve sufficiently built momentum and got movie-goers invested – then you make a team-up movie. You know, like Marvel did? All I could think about while I was watching Wonder Woman was ‘this is great, why couldn’t they have done this for everyone?’ Not only is Wonder Woman a legitimately good movie in its own right, it serves to highlight just how bad the other films have been up to this point.
All in all, Wonder Woman is a really enjoyable movie and I highly recommend seeing it. A much more competently made film than anything we’ve seen from the DCEU so far, it has great characters, fantastic action scenes, and a light tone that sets it miles apart from the grim nihilism of Batman V Superman or the forced LOL-random ‘humour’ of Suicide Squad. And you can accuse me of virtue signalling if you like, but having a big budget action movie with a female lead, helmed by a female director, making a shit-tonne of money at the box office is definitely a step in the right direction.