By Marc S. Sanders
Actress Gal Gadot’s breakthrough role is Diana, Princess of Themyscira. The character was carved out of clay by the God known as Zeus to grant a wish to her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) for a daughter. She was then raised by Amazon warriors on this isolated island, cut off from the outside world, and populated only by women. When a World War I German plane piloted by Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American spy working for the British, crashes into the waters of Themyscira, Diana rescues him. The two partner up in the real world of The Great War, and Diana now introduces herself as Wonder Woman.
The storyline to the much awaited DC Comics hero adaptation is pretty pedestrian. Diana’s naivety puts her on this path to fight in the war to locate the evil God of War, Ares. If she kills Ares, the war ends and everyone lives happily ever after in peace. That’s her impression at least. Trevor has a much more grounded perspective, though he doesn’t squash Diana’s wild imagination.
Wonder Woman is a very welcome film because of its outstanding cast. Gadot is a good actor and the camera loves her. She’s got great chemistry with the always reliable Chris Pine, who is just as good here as he is with the Captain Kirk role. David Thewlis from the Harry Potter films is the English militarist who assigns them to a dangerous mission on the European front lines. He’s great too. I don’t see enough of him in films. Connie Nielsen is fine along with the influential warrior, Antiope (Robin Wright) who teaches Diana how to be a powerful fighter. They’re all entertaining and different kinds of super beings than what we’ve seen in say all the Marvel films. As well, director Patty Jenkins proves that gender should not be a factor in the capabilities of excellent direction. She stages plenty of good moments.
The plot, as I said before, is very simplistic; kind of boring actually, and immature. Maybe that’s because the villain(s) of Wonder Woman are not very exciting. Danny Huston is flat as a German commander who absorbs a mustard gas chemical that alters his facial appearance for a fleeting moment to offer some CGI effect. However, we never really see him fight anyone, especially Diana. He just walks into rooms and has really nothing to say or do beyond that. There’s also a disfigured scientist who goes by the comic booky name Dr Poison. Oooooo!!!! Scary!!!!! No witty puns. No interesting skills except for a plastic, deformed facial mask. She just sits at a desk and appears studious. An interesting red herring reveals itself late in the film but that’s not available to carry the picture from the beginning. So the journey is bland.
Because the plot is very trying, the film runs a little too long. There’s a lot of talking moments that do not advance or progress the storyline. As I watched the film for only the second time, I kept regarding multiple scenes as cutting room floor material. There’s just a lot of fat to this film that could’ve been trimmed.
Honestly, I was hoping for more adventure. While the CGI is quite apparent, I can forgive that because Patty Jenkins made a great looking film nonetheless. Gal Gadot looks great in the fight sequences and the war torn European sets are really absorbing. However, when you break it down there’s really only three action scenes in this overly long picture. The supporting cast is fine. There’s humor and heart to the film. I like the moment when Diana tries ice cream for the first time. A sweet moment to humanize the character. Pine and Gadot are great scene partners too. I just think that if the story and motivation of Diana was stronger that we could have had a more substantial script. I mean, really? Find a guy in all of Europe, who’s actually a God of War, kill him, and then suddenly everyone will drop their weapons and make love or bake and sew? Is that what’s going to really here by film’s end? I was cringing often as Diana would insist on this being the only resolution to The Great World War. It just sounds too silly for me to swallow.
Warner Bros with DC films almost always, JUST ALMOST, gets there. Not withstanding the dreadful Suicide Squad, they get good actors to play their heroes. The directors are at least decent. They all blend well together but they go cheap on good screenwriters. I keep holding out faith. After six (I think) films in their “Justice League” universe I’m holding out for that 100% score on the next film. “Wonder Woman” is likely only second best for me behind “Man Of Steel,” but I’m thinking the studios still might have something better up their sleeve that we have yet to see. For the time being, I’m remaining optimistic.