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Tube-o-vision – ‘Wonder Woman’ Video Review

Wonder Woman marks an upswing for the DCEU, but can she mix it with the big boys? We review.

Text version…

Wonder Woman tells the story of Diana, the princess of a magically protected island entirely populated by armour clad warrior maidens. Sounds good so far doesn’t it! Then one day Captain Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine, crashes his plane off the coast of the island, and Diana plunges in to save him.  Unlike most men Captain Steve does not turn into a gibbering wreck and beg to be allowed to live out his day on the island. No, he’s a man on a mission. World War I rages in the world outside, and Captain Steve has an evil German scientist to stop from developing evil poison gas. She even has to wear a mask to cover parts of her evil face. Did I mention that she’s evil? Diana leaves the island to help him armed with her bullet proof wrists and a sizzling gold lasso that forces whoever it holds to tell the truth.

Fans of the D.C. Extended Universe will be relieved to know that Wonder Woman is actually rather fun, and marks a vast improvement over the poker faced Batman v Superman and the frankly pestilential Suicide Squad. Cleverly it manages to act as both an origin story and an adventure story in its own right. The movie gets off to a bright start as we spend time watching the young Diana train and quickly grow into Gal Gadot. Laughably the movie attempts to explain away Gadot’s charming accent by requiring all of the other women on the island to speak in approximately the same way. The results are unconvincing to say the least and make them sound less like imperious Amazon warrior maidens and more like a gaggle of East European cleaning ladies. But never mind. Then when Diana runs off with Captain Steve to save the world the experience leads to her becoming the Wonder Woman who provided Batman v Superman with its few, much needed, bright spots.

Unlike the previous entries in the D.C.E.U. Wonder Woman’s plot is refreshingly simple and allows room for plenty of light-hearted laughs as the character comes to terms with her new surroundings. Much like Marvel’s Thor, Wonder Woman is at its best when functioning as a fish out of water comedy, which is clearly the only sensible way of making an audience engage with a superhumanly attractive individual wandering about war time London wearing golden armour. Speaking of which, Wonder Woman is a handsomely made film that revels in its period trappings. Early 20th Century London has rarely, if ever, been recreated in such grim, prim and proper detail. But by far the best thing about Wonder Woman is Gal Gadot, who not only looks the part, but conveys just the right amount of mischievousness, naiveté and feisty outrage. Her clear brow furrows in disbelief at the way mankind is destroying itself. And when she bursts into boardrooms full of stuffy old men making military decision, she’s always the most powerful presence no matter how much they may sneer at her. Now that’s star power!

Wonder Woman is far from an unqualified triumph however, although the movie gets the character, the feminist tone, and the atmosphere dead on, the action sequences are severely lacking, revealing the limitations of director Patty Jenkins when it comes to this kind of material. In undercooked Zack Snyder style, when Wonder Woman does springs into action the movie shifts into slow-motion, presumably to give us ample time to be impressed as Diana stops bullets with her costume jewellery, rags the bad guys around with her glow in the dark bondage whip of truth and leaps miles into the air, a feat she seems only capable of doing when given a convenient spring board. It’s all too soft, too CGI and there’s nowhere near enough of it. Worse still, the villain of the piece is almost entirely devoid of personality, or novelty. And the climactic battle is little more than Diana and the big bad hovering static in mid-air blasting each other with over-egged special effects. Not exactly the pay-off we were waiting for.

Failings aside, however, it is refreshing to finally have a halfway decent superhero movie with a female lead. No, it may not be quite good enough to mix it with the big boys, but it’s as near as dammit. And with a truly star-making turn from Gadot, that’s wonder enough.