Movies

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman

Ever since I heard that there was finally going to be a standalone Wonder Woman movie, I’ve been living in anticipation of seeing it. Last night, my household went to do so. Picoreview: goddamn, you guys, that was satisfying. 😀 I had a few quibbles with it, but they were minor quibbles at best. I teared up twice during the movie. Chris Pine is now certainly my favorite of the small sample set of versions of Steve Trevor I’ve seen. And most importantly, Gal Gadot was a complete delight to watch, from start to finish.

I shall also note for the record that even at our showing at the local iPic theater, we had two different women in full on cosplay, one as Wonder Woman and another as Supergirl. And I spotted a third woman wearing a Wondy tiara. Because we are a nerd town. It’s TRUE.

Spoilers lie beyond the veil that hides Themiscyra from the world of men! And I DO MEAN SPOILERS.


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The quibbles

Okay, so first I’ll talk about the quibbles I had with the flick, all of which in the grand scheme of things are pretty darned minor.

One: the musical score did not particularly stand out to me, except during Diana’s battle scenes later, and the screaming guitars they had for her kinda didn’t work for me. Particularly given that this was a period story. I’d have liked that guitar line better as her battle music if it were a modern-set story.

(Since I haven’t actually seen Dawn of Justice yet, I don’t know if this was used as her battle theme in that film. If it was, I suppose it makes sense to keep musical cohesion? But still.)

Two: Paul and I agreed, and Dara snickered along with us, that with all due respect to David Thewlis, who certainly did a lovely job with what he was given, he was miscast as Sir Patrick/Ares. Because Paul and I just could not look at him and not think of Remus Lupin from the Harry Potter films. Intellectually I get that having an otherwise unassuming-looking man playing the God of War keeping a low profile is a pretty brilliant way to play it. In actual practice, though, part of me kept waiting for him to call the Defense Against the Dark Arts class to order and start pulling boggarts out of the nearest closet.

Three: Speaking of the aforementioned Sir Patrick/Ares, I feel like his overall plan seemed a trifle contradictory. Wait, he’s working for an armistice in the hopes that mankind will destroy itself? How’s that supposed to work again?

Four: I really wish some of the other women in the plot had had more to do. Etta Candy was sorely underused; hell, most of her mileage in the movie showed up in the trailers. And Dr. Maru, a.k.a. “Doctor Poison”, in particular got way less mileage than I feel she should have. Brilliant chemist with a disfigured face, recruited by the German army? Fuck yeah I want to know more of her story.

Five: And I feel like we missed some important data, too, with that whole thing she pulled off with giving Ludendorff that gas to “restore his strength”. What was going on there, other than, obviously, “red herring”?

Six: Where the hell is Themiscrya actually supposed to be, canonically? Clearly not in the Mediterranean, because it sure didn’t seem like it took very long for Diana and Steve to sail from there to London.

But that’s pretty much it for quibbles. Now let’s talk about the good stuff!

Ooooooooooo shiny

One: The Amazons, in general, were amazing to watch. To a woman, they were glorious in the early battle scene with the Germans trying to storm their beach in an effort to catch Steve Trevor. More than once I kept thinking they were pulling off Legolas-grade acrobatics. The elves of Middle-Earth could learn a thing or two from these women!

Bonus points for multiple women of color in their ranks.

Two: Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta: awesome and regal and OMG, she’s the actress who played Lucilla in Gladiator. I just confirmed that looking the movie up on IMDB, because I thought she looked familiar to me somehow, and I couldn’t place her!

Three: Robin Wright as Antiope. Robin Wright, comma, who played Buttercup in The Princess Bride. 😀 I would NEVER have placed her if I hadn’t already read elsewhere that that’s who was playing this role! But oh good gods she was great, both in her desire to train Diana, and in her willingness to stand up to her queen to do so.

Four: Young Lilly Aspell as little Diana. (heart) (heart) (heart) That kid is only 8 years old, says IMDB, and yet she was riveting. Nice job on picking up on the correct accent too there, kid!

Five: The training fight with Antiope, where Diana slams the bracelets together for the first time and BOOM. Niiiiiiice. 😀 Particularly given Diana’s being torn between shock at “OMG I WOUNDED ANTIOPE” and “wait I just did something AWESOME”.

Six: I did not expect the Germans to be hot on Steve’s trail when he showed up, and yet it totally made sense. And I really did like the shock that one German was expressing as he leaned in and out of the veil surrounding the island, and the way the environment shifted around him as he did so.

Also, having the Germans show up so fast certainly did give us the necessary excuse to see the Amazons in battle. 😀

Seven: Steve. Oh gods, Steve was charming as hell. I can’t decide which of his lines were my favorites.

“I’m… above average.”

Or,

“Have you never met a man before? What about your father?”
“I have no father. I was brought to life by Zeus.”
“…well, that’s neat.”

Or his response when Diana mentions reading all twelve of the treatises on pleasure. “Did you bring any of those?” >:D

I really liked that in general, he was not intimidated by Diana. He was funny (e.g., his reactions to the Lasso of Truth), willing to let Diana do what she does best once he realized she completely outclassed him in fighting, sincere in his attraction to her, and above all, heroic.

Also, side props to Mr. Pine for turning on a German accent at least twice that I noticed, rather seamlessly! I think if it’d been my film I would have had him actually speaking German, but at least that helped contribute to the idea that as a spy, Steve was capable of pretending to be German in a believable way.

Eight: Steve’s cohorts. These guys, I think, helped contribute to the overall Captain America: The First Avenger vibe I got from this flick, even though this plot was moved into World War I. Because yeah, these were basically Steve’s Howling Commandos. (And let us not ignore either that our primary male character here is, in fact, named Steve, and that he’s got a blond-haired, blue-eyed, square-jawed heroic thing going on. ;D ) I appreciated that two of them were men of color and that their experiences with racism were called out in dialogue. And I found both Sameer and Charlie adorable in their individual ways, particularly once Charlie sang on camera.

Nine: Although we got sadly way less of Doctor Poison than I would have liked, I did very much like her scene with Steve. And how he sabotaged his own effort to charm her by being distracted by Diana’s entrance. His reaction to Diana in the dress was not even quite so interesting as Maru’s reaction–because I could tell that she was on the verge of letting herself be sweet-talked by Steve, only to have reality come slapping back hard. This is a woman who is clearly used to being upstaged. And that the actress playing her got that across in one scene was, I think, the biggest argument as to why exactly Doctor Poison was sadly underused in this film.

Ten: Speaking of Captain America: The First Avenger, once we saw that big fuckoff airplane they were going to load up with the gas, I think that’s the point at which I realized that that puppy was going to have to be brought down. But it didn’t really sink in for me that they were going to kill Steve off to do it, not until his last scene with Diana where he gives her the watch. At which point I went “OH SHIT”.

Eleven: I love how they did the Lasso of Truth as essentially a strand of golden light, really. It looked glorious, particularly when Diana started using it in battle.

Twelve: DIANA.

GOOD GODDESS. DIANA.

I loved so many things about her. Her moral compass. Her determination. Her innocent and unapologetic reaction to much of the world. Her mounting realization of her own capabilities. And not since River in Serenity have I seen a woman be a sheer symphony of balletic grace in a fight. *.*

I had so many favorite little bits of how Gal Gadot portrayed her, but notable among those are:

  • As previously mentioned, her reaction when she slammed the bracelets together for the first time and made a massive BOOM.
  • Climbing barehanded up the side of that tower to swipe the sword, and realizing she could make her own handholds by PUNCHING.
  • “Oh, a baby!”
  • Her reaction to seeing a corset, and asking if that was that passed for armor to the women of London. HA.
  • Her first major step towards superherodom, i.e., the walk across No-Man’s Land. I totally teared up as she did that.
  • Her not so much ignoring societal strictures on women as being completely and utterly oblivious to their presence. It was a joy to behold. <3
  • During her final fight with Ares, when he threw lightning at her, and she caught it and PLAYED WITH IT for a few seconds. With this look on her face like OH OKAY I GET IT NOW, and then promptly hurling it RIGHT BACK at Ares. Pro tip: throwing lightning at the frickin’ daughter of Zeus is not the most intelligent battle strategy. Just sayin’.

Thirteen: The ending.

Oh gods, the ending. And specifically the bit where Steve blows up the plane, and Diana sees it go, and that’s the trigger to push her over the edge.

And Ares offering her the chance to kill Doctor Poison. And her backing off on it as she only belatedly realizes what Steve had said to her just before he handed her the watch and went off and blew himself up in that last act of heroic sacrifice.

And that last victory celebration in London, in contrast to Diana quietly touching Steve’s picture on the memorial wall. I was freely crying by then. *sniff*

Fourteen: Final note, re: the framing story, with Diana in the present day receiving that photograph from Bruce. I went in a bit dubious about that, but found that I didn’t actually mind it at all. And I suppose if DC’s going about it a bit bass-ackwards and doing modern-day stories and THEN older origins, having that bit of framing story in there was perhaps helpful. And it gave me at least a tiny grain of interest in eventually going back and watching Dawn of Justice.

All in all:

As I said in the picoreview up at the top of the post, all in all, not a hundred percent perfect… but the only quibbles I have are minor quibbles. And the rest of it was everything I had hoped for.

I think I need to see this again. Because Diana needs more of my money. 😀

Editing to add:

Corrected this post to note that it was just me and Paul, not Dara, who had the quibble with casting David Thewlis as Ares.

Editing further to add:

I have been advised that the instrument featured in Diana’s battle theme was not a guitar. It was a cello. This will warrant me paying closer attention to the soundtrack. O.O

I have further been advised (see the comments on the angelahighland.com version of this post, if you’re reading this on Dreamwidth), that Ares playing a long game on the armistice does in fact make historical sense. And that it ties in nicely with his motives!

Editing one more time to add:

Here are review links from my three major sites that I follow:

Movie Review: Wonder Woman on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

Oh Yes, Wonder Woman Is Everything You’re Hoping It Will Be on The Mary Sue

The Wonder Woman Movie Is An Experience That’s Long Overdue on Tor.com

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13 Comments

  • Reply jemmaprophet June 4, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    Regarding your quibbles!

    (Very spoilery, etc.)

    — Yes, that is her theme from Dawn of Justice. It’s also not guitars — it’s a cello, played by a badass lady! I think it’s supposed to evoke the wailing of warrior women (it kind of reminds me of Xena’s yodeling, of all things) but it might not be to your taste. It’s grown on me a lot.

    — Re: The Armistice. This one is a gift to a history nerd. The armistice agreement was so _backbreakingly punishing_ that it basically drove Germany right into the arms of fascism, bringing us right back to World War 2 within a generation. The war was over; they were utterly exhausted, and there wasn’t any way to keep it going, really, even if the baddies had succeeded with their gas. But the armistice is the gift that keeps on giving — without it, WW1 might have actually been the war to end all wars, or at least the war to keep a lid on things for a while. I actually loved that they didn’t explain this in detail, but it was true. Diana killed Ares, but the armistice was signed anyway, and lo, history continued.

    Most of the rest I fully agree with. I just got back from seeing it a second time and it totally holds up to a second viewing.

    • Reply Angela Korra'ti June 4, 2017 at 9:19 pm

      Dara gave me a bit more commentary about the armistice, yeah, and between that and what you have to say, that does make things make a bit more sense now for what Ares had in mind. Thanks!

      And oh, okay, that was a cello?! DAYEM. Okay, I need to go find the soundtrack and give that a proper listen.

  • Reply GlennS June 4, 2017 at 8:15 pm

    Okay. I *liked* the screaming guitars; they were… otherworldly. Just like Diana.

    I also like the idea that Ares was such an unassuming-looking chap. Oh, and the Armistice? It’s just that. It’s not a peace treaty. It only suspends the war until both sides can get ’round to making BIGGER weapons. *Which is exactly what happened*.

    As for Themiscrya’s location. I figure that barrier wasn’t *just* time, it was space… especially since not only was the weather different, *so was the time of day*. Steve flew out of Belgium, heading for London. Those old aircraft don’t have much range. So the virtual-location of the island *had* to be between Antwerp and the mouth of the Thames. It *almost* works; the distance is a little far seeing as they left after nightfall London time (it was dark *outside* the barrier too) and they arrived at London Bridge early morning – even accounting for winter, he had to have caught up with that tug fairly soon to make it; a boat that small doesn’t have much over the bottom speed.

    Definitely love the mix of women on the Island. I’d read the cast list and knew to look for Robin Wright… she’s still gorgeous, despite being a year older than me. 🙂 And still as feisty as ever. Queen or no queen. And yes, the kid was a heart-stealer. I hope she does what Emma Watson is doing and grows up to be a whoop-ass feminist.

    Ach, noo, Charlie, lad, yer a piece o’work… and what’s with the bloomers under the kilt? But, yeah. That whole crew was awesome. And so was Diana’s total obliviousness to the idiocy of late Victorian English fashion and social mores. Love it that Etta Candy was *willing* to be just as feisty as Diana and her legacy, but in Proper British Fashion. Fistycuffs. 🙂

    Okay, that’s odd. This being Belgian, they totally threw around tons of French (although so far as I could tell, *Metropolitan-accented* French, which is TOTALLY WRONG… someone gave me a crash course in French accents last week, and that didn’t sound *different* enough to be Belgian…) without subtitles or anything, but … OH. Of course. LOLOLOLOLOL It’s the Kevin Costner thing again.

    Gal Gadot, being Israeli, is no stranger to multiple languages. Hebrew, English, and Yiddish are pretty much de rigueur on the streets of Tel Aviv, and probably Arabic as well… Après cela, le français est un jeu d’enfant. (Why are my hands going like an Italian when I say that out loud? 😉

    Chris Pine? Est américain. Zut alors. (Gripping hand, it’s *far* more common for Americans who do go college track to get French than German… )

    Two things about the ending. First, think about it. If you’re essentially Zeus’ daughter, *who are you*? An archer, a warrior, and one famed for *not needing men*? What’s her NAME?! There was NO WAY she could have the guy. It would’ve been Woman of Steel, Man of Kleenex. (This is also why in the comic books she ends up with Clark, at least in my headcanon… )

    And to the framing story: Yeah, it leaves it hanging just how much she tells Bruce. Good. And I *love it* that the City she’s looking out over at the end, claiming her immortality and her Mission… isn’t *either* an American city *or* London. I thought it was a really good way of dropping her into contemporary time *and* giving us the audience the full backstory. (And why she looked exactly the same after a year shy of a century.)

    I wasn’t *quite* as impressed with it as I was with, say, The Force Awakens… I did not, in fact, need kleenex, though I was silently cheering when she went Over The Top… and yeah, toying with Ares just a bit before sending him to Hades … *feral grin*…

    But, no, while I thought for a minute Steve might crash the gas into the Channel, that would’ve been worse… and I pretty much saw it coming even before he gave her the watch that he wasn’t gonna make it… but I think that’s one of the beautiful points of the movie, that while she did have feelings for him, she needs *no one* to be a complete character.

    And the closing lines… as Talis’ hashtag puts it, #pourinlove. It’s the only way to really win. THAT was what was so satisfying about this movie. Not the whoopass, not the feminism… the *love*, and the trust therein. Not just man to woman, but human to human.

    • Reply Angela Korra'ti June 4, 2017 at 9:31 pm

      Re: Diana eventually ending up with Clark… ffft. I get that that’s headcanon for some folks and even actual canon in some of the comics, but ffft. Clark with anybody besides Lois just feels like blasphemy to me. 😉 Too much of my formative influence for Supes coming in from Superman: The Movie, with a heft side helping of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

      Re: Diana not winding up with Steve… if you think Diana and Steve didn’t have sex in that bedroom scene in the village, just after the dancing and just before everything went to hell and the poor village got destroyed, dude, you were not paying attention. It was telegraphed miles and miles in advance. All that discussion of treatises of pleasure, and whether Steve considers himself a typical example of the male sex? And their scorching chemistry?

      They totally had sex.

      Which means, by extension, that the whole Woman of Steel/Man of Kleenex thing, at least in the context of what we’re presented in this story, does not hold up. (But then, I never liked the whole Man of Steel/Woman of Kleenex argument against Lois and Clark having sex, either.)

      Feel free to believe otherwise if you like, but I’m just sayin’, two adults who were clearly interested in one another, heading into a dark bedroom? They didn’t stop at smooching. 😉 And the overall language of the entire shot was telegraphing it. It’s not like we really needed Steve and Diana to be putting their boots on after, you know?

      All that said: I’m not saying the movie shouldn’t have killed Steve off. It was absolutely appropriate to the narrative, and it gives a nice little bit of nuance to the modern-day Diana in the framing story. And it really rather contributed to the Captain America vibe I was talking about, as well. In Captain America’s first flick, Steve goes into the ice after nobly sacrificing himself by crashing the aircraft, and Peggy Carter has to live out the intervening years without him. But in this movie, again we get a Steve nobly sacrificing himself, only this time it’s the love interest doing it, and it’s the heroine and goddess Diana who lives out the intervening years without him. I find it a nice little bit of parallel.

      The strength of the similarity between this movie and the first Cap flick does, in fact, go a long way to contributing to this being my first active interest in anything the current DC movies are doing. <3

      • Reply GlennS June 4, 2017 at 9:45 pm

        With respect to what happened off-camera… I dunno. It *leaves it open…*

        What I *will* admit to thinking when the scene cut away was, HA! They’re pulling an Anna!

        Yes, *you* were the first thing through my head at that cut. (You’re *very good* at making *very clear* what happened while we the audience weren’t looking, while quite pointedly saying it’s none of our business… and, yes, it’s a talent I for one appreciate. So, frankly, does the Duchess, who is Explicitly Not Looking for that sort of thing…) For what it’s worth, *you* did a better job of it.

        • Reply Angela Korra'ti June 4, 2017 at 10:37 pm

          I thank you for the vote of confidence, though fairness compels me to point out that comparing how a film handles a sex scene (or in this specific case, the allusion to one) vs. how a book does it is kind of apples and oranges. And I don’t think you’re being entirely fair to the film.

          In the case of my book (assuming you’re talking about the end of Bone Walker), really, all I did was have Kendis explicitly tell the reader that she and Christopher did, in fact, have sex, and that no, she wasn’t going to include that in her recounting of the story.

          In the case of the film, we don’t have someone explicitly saying one way or another what did or did not happen. But then, that wouldn’t be appropriate anyway, unless you’re dealing with a film that breaks the fourth wall, or unless you’re dealing with a latter scene where the topic comes up in relevant dialogue. For my money, having Steve and Diana step into the darkened bedroom, very, very focused on one another, and proceed to smooching while the scene cuts a fade to black was more than enough to indicate what happened. And I didn’t need any more than that.

          My favorite books, whenever characters wind up having sex, hardly ever do any more than that. I love a well-executed fade to black, and IMO, the film did it nicely.

          Mind you, I almost never need to have a sex scene be on camera in general, either in a book or in a film. The vast majority of the time, if I’m engaged by an awesome set of characters, I don’t feel like I need to read about them or watch them going at it. But this doesn’t mean I want to deny the possibility that these characters would ever have sex at all, if it’s appropriate and in character for them to do so. I’m perfectly happy with a fast allusion to it happening, a fade to black, and then the plot moving on.

          Which is exactly what the film did.

          But again, I thank you for the vote of support. 🙂

  • Reply Sonya June 5, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    Great review of a great movie! It was such an emotional experience. I cried three times: when Antiope died, when Steve sacrificed himself, and No Man’s Land. No Man’s Land was overwhelming. Seeing her rise up that ladder and meet the oncoming fire was in my opinion the most EPIC superhero scene ever. Just spectacular! Diana saying that she would fight for those who can’t fight for themselves – she really is the perfect hero for this garbage fire of a year. I loved her sincerity, her openness, and her deep capacity for love. The movie may not have been 100% perfect, but Wonder Woman is a character we need so much right now.

    • Reply GlennS June 5, 2017 at 4:15 pm

      “she really is the perfect hero for this garbage fire of a year.”

      Yes, yes she is. The awesome blend of kick-assery, refusal to acknowledge stupid societal norms, and love and trust despite imperfection. Her last lines were what really hit home.

    • Reply Angela Korra'ti June 5, 2017 at 7:06 pm

      Testify, sister!

      And yeah, her ascent into No-Man’s Land was glorious. I noted quite intriguedly that The Mary Sue had an article up earlier today talking about how, in fact, that scene almost didn’t make it into the movie. Patty Jenkins apparently had to fight to keep it in there. Well fought, ma’am!

      • Reply GlennS June 5, 2017 at 7:10 pm

        Yep. Patty’s own bit of whoop-ass, well-executed. While I ‘spect there’ll always be a few pejoratives that can’t get past the fact she’s OMG NOT A DUDE, I *strongly* expect there are a fair number of people down in Hollyweird that are giving the lady the same respect that Diana’s comrades gave her after that performance…

      • Reply GlennS June 5, 2017 at 7:13 pm

        Oh, yeah, one more thing: HEY, MARVEL, WE WANT NATASHA! No more bl—y excuses!

        • Reply Angela Korra'ti June 5, 2017 at 8:27 pm

          +1

          Yeaaaah. Paul and I talked about this a bit–Paul pointed out correctly that Black Widow’s actually not the only Avenger who hasn’t gotten a film yet, Hawkeye also hasn’t gotten one. BUT.

          I still really really want to know what the hell happened in Budapest. 😉 The LEAST they could do would be give us one of those eight-minute-or-so one shots, the ones they’ve been sticking on the movie DVDs and Blu-rays!

          Though in the absence of a proper Black Widow flick, I will at least be happy we’re getting Captain Marvel.

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