Wonder Woman is currently receiving rave reviews from critics and movie viewers alike, so it’s apparent WB and DC finally have the rousing blockbuster they’ve been yearning for. I personally found it be a good film, yet one nearly derailed by its third act.
To elaborate: I loved the beginning of the film, where we watch Diana grow from a special child (the only one on her island) to a powerful young warrior. Connie Neilson and Robin Wright are spectacular in their roles as Hippolyta, the queen of Amazons and her battle-hardened general Antiope. Hippolyta is protective of her daughter Diana, leading to respectful disputes with Antiope over Diana’s training. Anitope’s logic eventually prevails, allowing her to train Diana harder than any Amazon before her. This eventually leads to a first act climax when Chris Pine’s character Steve Trevor crashes his damaged plane into the sea, changing Diana’s life forever.
His crash is quickly followed by German invaders, which leads to the first powerful moment in the film: the clash of Amazons. The battle’s choreography is breathtaking, displaying the power and grace of the Amazon warriors as they meet the Germans on the shoreline.
Even more impressive is Robin Wright’s scenes as Antiope. You can tell she completely bought into the role. Her face practically shines with fierceness, and her fight scenes are a deadly blend of athletic prowess and brutal ferocity. I would have loved to see more of her character in the film, but unfortunately that was not to be.
The battle is a highlight that manages to stand out despite the onslaught of action scenes I’ve seen in similar movies. The Amazons have never faced enemies with guns before, but they fight on despite heavy casualties until the battle is won. I really loved this sequence in the film.
After that it’s a matter of stealth and persuasion that allow Diana to leave the island with Steve in order to stop the WWI, the ‘war to end all wars’, which Diana is firmly convinced to be caused by Ares, the sworn enemy of the Amazons. (There’s a backstory about Greek Gods, Zeus and Ares, and the Amazons being created to bring love and light to humanity. Just go with it.) Yes, it would make perfectly sense for the Amazons to go en masse to stop the enemy they were sworn to destroy, but for some reason Hippolyta would rather stay on the island protecting…okay, I don’t really know what. But we know the movie is called Wonder Woman, not Wonder Woman and the Amazons, so the plot demands that the Queen allow her only daughter to go alone with a man they just met, to stop a war the Amazons know nothing about.
I’ll stop nitpicking and praise Gal Gadot instead. In her brief time so far she so fully encompasses the spirit of Diana that I really can’t see anyone else in the role after this. Not only does she pull off the strength and skill of a born warrior, but she effortlessly brings a sense of purity and goodness to the role as well. Diana is a true hero in the sense that she instinctively wants to do what is right. It’s something that contrasts sharply with DC’s other ‘heroes’ so far: the reluctant, morose Superman and the murderous, clearly unhinged Batman. In fact, Diana is presented as the hero both aforementioned characters should be inspired by.
This is especially displayed in the “No Man’s Land” battle, which is the best part of the movie. Here Diana takes action when no one else dares, standing up for the forgotten victims of the war by taking a solo charge against formidable enemy lines. The scene is powerful, perfectly filmed to introduce Diana as a powerhouse and a protector. From the first bullet block to the ‘shield’ finale, this part of the film truly rocks. There are quite a few special moments, allowing Gadot and company to shine in their action scenes.
Which is why the third act of the film was a huge letdown for me. I suppose there must be some contractual obligation for superhero movies to include an explosive battle composed of murky CGI, but I was really hoping WW wouldn’t take that same predictable route. But of course it did, bringing the movie to a limping finale when it could have have found a way to be truly great. Sure, Diana faces off against the fearsome Ares, but not only do the special effects appear dated and shoddy, the battle itself goes on too long and feels utterly anticlimactic. To be honest, everything involving Ares felt a little goofy in the film, so the final showdown just didn’t pack the punch it should have. I’ll put it this way: remember that awesome boss battle between Thor and the metal robot thing at the end of first Thor movie? No? Yeah, this basically feels the same way.
Ultimate summary: Wonder Woman is a blend of Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor, with a title character that surpasses both of those movies. Diana’s first film may not be perfect, but the character and the actress are. Hopefully the next film can be more Winter Soldier than Dark World, because the world is definitely ready for more Wonder Woman.
When Bard Constantine isn’t consumed by pop culture, he writes gritty futures and far-flung fantasy. Find out more at bardwritesbooks.com