Sunday, June 11, 2017

Some thoughts about Wonder Woman

The world is at war and needs Wonder Woman to stop it.

Themyscira has remained hidden from the rest of humanity awaiting for the upcoming arrivalof Ares and send the ultimate weapon to stop him. However, this battle is much more complicated than Diana could have ever expected.

Guess who is here to save the DCU (or should I say DCEU?).

Since her appearance in the movie Batman Vs. Superman, fans have been clamoring for a Wonder Woman film where they could explore the origins of Diana in an appropriate way. Mind you, the fact that Batman Vs. Superman had, let's just say, mixed reactions made the whole situation really worrying since people were not sure about what to expect. Directed by Patty Jenkins, does this movie manage to deliver the kind of story that most people were hoping for?

Well, at this point the answer should be an obvious yes. Is not a perfectly-crafted flick but it certainly gets the job done much better than previous offerings from the DCEU. Let's see why.

The premise is very simple but effective. The plot is situated just at the final years of World War I, the Amazons from Themyscira are raising and preparing Diana to her inevitable conflict with Ares, the God of War. However, once that a man named Steve Trevor arrives into the island, Diana will realize that she has to end a war that she has never faced before and therefore her own naivity might get in the way.

There's a pretty strong concept here. Wonder Woman's history in WWI is rarely explored. Sometimes writers try to put a version of her around that period but for the most part her role is suited in modern times. In many instances the story is really reminiscent to the first Captain America movie but I believe that Wonder Woman is much more successful at executing it.

The depiction of Themyscira is really solid. Is basically what most writers try to accomplish whenever they handle that mythological place. A paradise where warrior women try to become stronger with the purpose of ending wars. Again, the concept is quite accurate in that regard and the rest of the classic cast that inhabits the island follow suit. Mind you, the early scenes are not perfect due that they rely a bit too much in overexpostion at telling Diana's origin just like her mission. Things do get better once that Steve Trevor enters the picture though.

I believe that the story really shines once that Diana and Steve start interacting. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is an amazing choice since she manages to give the character the kind of majestic and strong presence she deserves. I mentioned the same during my thoughts in the BVS film but here everything becomes even more evident since the actress fluctuates between the naive and fierce personalities of Diana in a believable way and the manner how she reacts to "men's world" is quite appropriate.

Chris Pine as Steve Trevor was also a pleasent surprise. It could have been pretty easy (and quite frankly tiring) to make Steve into a typical manly and sexist guy who apparently were so prominent during that era but the director and writers fortunately knew that it would go against his classic characterization and thus portray him as a determined yet sweet man. He's very traditional in his own beliefs about duty and love which makes almost every scene where he appears charming.

The clash between both personalities is really entertaining, this is because of the chemistry that both Gadot and Pine share which make you believe that both end-up caring for each other a lot. Huge props to the build-up of their relationship since their conversations were quite natural(Well, as natural as the cincurstances allowed).

The rest of the cast is also quite enjoyable. Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) is quite reminiscent of the classic WW sidekick and has her own funny and relevant moments. Charlie (Ewen Bremner) showcases nicely how a war can affect people and also has a solid personality. Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui) also supports that idea by demonstrating how someone's dreams can be frustrated because of the fight. Finally Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) becomes one of the most interesting characters here due to his powerful presence and compelling lines despite of not having a huge role per se.

And that's the thing, most of the supporting cast are not as relevant to the plot as Diana and Steve. However, they still show a lot of charisma during their scenes that make you immediately invested in their fate and success. All of them are likable in their own way and strangely enough contribute to the message of equality that Wonder Woman has always represented.

You see, I had a few problems with the Wonder Woman Rebirth book written by Greg Rucka due that he put really heavy-handed and forced themes about "equality" that ended-up being one-sided and quite unrealistic to be honest, so much that it was hard to take such ideas seriously most of the time.

The Wonder Woman movie on the other hand, focuses mostly on a "show, don't tell" direction which works wonderfully. The cast is really diverse, not only for the different races but also because of the different situations that each of these characters have been facing. The war has affected all of them in multiple ways and each of those aspects are explored in a respectful manner regardless of their gender or race. Even the moments where they talk about inequality make sense and feel more natural considering that this story takes place at the beginning of the 20th century where those problems were truly abundant. The themes are really well-executed.

I think my favorite proof of this is how the Steve Trevor situation is handled. During Rucka's run on Wonder Woman, Steve is mostly just a sidekick who is constantly pining for Diana to the point where he barely has any personality and life beyond her. Here however, Steve has truly a purpose, an important mission that he needs to achieve yet his feelings for Diana are equally as emphasized. This inner conflict makes his character much more complex and makes the final moments of the movie even more dramatic and climactic.

Speaking of themes, I also really enjoyed how the story explores the fact that wars are more complicated than just being a "Good Vs. Evil" fight and thus the appearance of a superhero to solve it can be admitedly silly. The innocent attitude that Diana takes early on really reinforces that concept which makes her ultimate clash with reality really satisfying.

THEN AGAIN, the immediate appearance of Ares at the end kinda defeats that concept. Yes, I do like that he's pretty much like the Devil where he simply influences violent tendencies in people to create war instead of simply controlling them to do so. However, the fight between Diana and him is the weakest point of the flick, this is not helped by the not so convincing special effects which are mostly poorly done. The whole superhero vs. supervillain segment kinda ruins what the movie has been developing. I would have prefered if Ares was an actual myth and Diana was forced to find another way to end the war but I guess a superhero movie needs a supervillain and David Thewlis does a decent job at that by delivering a twist as well.

Elena Anaya as Doctor Poison was a compelling choice. The villain is barely used in Wonder Woman stories so I was glad to see her again and in an interesting portrayal to boot that also supports the idea that men are not really the only bad guys.

The choreography is solid but once again, I wish that more effort was put in the effects which do hurt how those scenes are handled.

Despite of those issues, I really enjoyed my time with Wonder Woman. Is surprisingly the most mature story from the DCEU so far, it deals with such complex themes in such an effective way that is hard to not be invested in it. I hope that the upcoming sequels are just as successful.

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