Wonder Woman Movie Review: ‘Amazon’ Grace!

A plane comes crashing into the seas and a princess jumps in to the save the drowning pilot from his doom. That, my friends, is Wonder Woman taking the plunge to save Warner Bros. and the DC Extended Universe after the misfires it have churned out post Dark Knight Rises. Sure, it was a job for Superman. Or maybe Batman. Or even Joker perhaps. But who would have thought it would eventually take the much ignored yet most popular female superhero to come and set things right for the DC movie franchise

It certainly wasn’t an easy ride. Despite all the big summer flops they green-lit, the studio execs were always wary of a solo ‘Wonder Woman’ project.  This is a project that has seen several announcements, script rewrites, big names roped and dropped until finally Snyder and team decided to get Patty Jenkins  (director of Theron’s Monster) and give it a go. WB tested the waters by briefly introducing the character in the Batman Vs Superman movie, but with this big screen splash, 75 years after the first appearance of this character, they are certainly going to rewrite the rules on how a blockbuster is made.

For now, the folks at Warner Bros will not only swallow the bitter pill, but also will put on their best smiles for finally getting one right. And they have director Patty Jenkins to thank for it, who smartly decides to chuck out the Nolanesque brooding hero template and stick to the structure of the charming 1978 Superman original.  We are briefly introduced to the godlike abilities of our central character before she is let loose into the real world. The ‘fish out of water’ thus gives the movie its charming moments and the director manages to tap in its potential.

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Told in a flashback mode, we are introduced to the magical hidden world of Themyscira (Paradise Island) and the childhood days of our Amazonian princess. With no men or children in sight, here Diana is brought up amidst Greek myth stories and hard trained warrior women.  Though her mother Queen Hippolyta is strongly against her precious daughter being trained in the ways of combat, she finally relents in and Diana is raised a fine and fierce warrior under the guidance of her aunt, Genera Antiope (Robin Wright).

However, her perfect world is turned upside down when the aforementioned pilot comes crashing into their world for with him comes the German soldiers who has been chasing him. In the battle that follows, arrows and bullets are fired in equal measure with  both sides losing lives. Soon Diana hears about the war that is being fought out there in the real world, and she decides that she needs to stop it by killing the God of War, Ares, whom she firmly believes is out there.

So she bids goodbye to her mother and Themyscira and sails with the first ‘man’ that she has encountered, a spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) to stop the war. Trevor takes her along but is in no mood to burst the excited gal’s bubble. At least, not for now!

Diana figures out the functioning of the real world, much to her bewilderment, and learns the hard way that stopping a war may not be as simple as slaying one person.

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Origin stories are tricky because most of them involves the challenge of getting some weird backstories from the comics and translating them successfully to the sensibilities of the present day audience and to the visual medium. On that count,  Wonder Woman was never going to be an easy sell. You not only have to sell  the god like princess with superhuman abilities (all gifted by gods), but also the silly devices like  Lasso of Truth, the Magic Tiara, the Indestructible Bracelets, and of course the  invisible jet (the last one, not making an appearance here).  Of course the writers do not waste a summer explaining how each and everything works but we get enough demos to go with the flow.

After all, the character one is really invested in is that of Wonder Woman and because the central character works, everything around is given a hall pass, however ridiculous or over the top it may seem. Wonder Woman is played out like a Disney princess who is out trying to explore the world unknown. She is naive , innocent and determined to make the world a better place, which instantly makes her endearing and appealing. Her simplicity immediately makes her stand out from the rest of the self-aware, wise cracking heroes from both Marvel and DC that is out there. So we enjoy as we watch the lady take pleasures out of the simple things like babies and ice creams. But we are also the first to cheer and root when she decides to get into ass kicking mood. Diana stepping into the no man’s land , charging on the battlefield was certainly the highlight moment of the film.

Gal Gadot may have appeared rather stiff in her earlier outing, but here she seems like a perfect fit embodying both the beauty and the brawn enabling her titular character to come alive and stay memorable. Chris Pine lends a charming supporting hand and the chemistry of the lead pair works in the screenplay’s favour. The quite moments works extremely well due to this factor.  The rest of the cast does not really make an impression, barring of course Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen and to an extent Lucy Davis.

Once again the villains are remarkably weak and the movie suffers its worst in the third act with the big villain reveal, which only paves path for a boring CGI heavy final battle. Yes, the studio is happy to repeat the same mistakes from their previous outings. That final battle is the sole reason why the film that should have wrapped up stronger and greater is now kept away from being a great superhero flick.  And that is such a pity considering all the things Patty Jenkins got right until that moment in terms of execution.

Yet, there is a lot to cheer in this rather decent but bloated outing. Of course one can rejoice in a female superhero flick getting this kind of response and welcome. Probably enough to get the folks at Marvel studios to rue the fact that they did not OK a Black Widow project when they had the chance. So for now those bragging rights shall be with DC as the Gadot-Jenkins combo shows how to spectacularly carve out a superhero flick out of clay and infuse life into it.  And most importantly,  asks that important question , ‘why should boys have all the fun?’

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Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, Lucy Davis

Directed by Patty Jenkins

Screenplay  Alan Heinberg  /  Story by Alan Heinberg,  Zack Snyder, Jason Fuchs

Based on DC character created by William Moulton Marston

Studio  Warner Bros

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