BR: Wonder Woman (2017)

October 15, 2017 | By

Film: Excellent

Transfer: Excellent

Extras: n/a

Label:  Warner Home Video

Region: All

Released:  September 19, 2017

Genre:  Superheroes / Action

Synopsis: The origins of Wonder Woman are chronicled in this vivid action-drama as little Princess Diana evolves into a powerful anti-fascist warrior.

Special Features:  7 Featurettes: Epilogue + Crafting the Wonder + A Director’s Vision( Themyscira + The Hidden Island + Beach Battle + A Photograph Through Time + Diana in the Modern World + Wonder Woman at War) + Warriors of Wonder Woman + The Trinity + The Wonder Behind the Camera + Finding the Wonder Woman Within / Extended & Alternate Scenes /Gag Reel. 



There have been many attempts to capture the magic of DC’s popular heroine in film, a TV pilot, TV series, and animated productions, but Patty Jenkins’ 2017 film showcases Princess Diana (Gal Gadot) in an almost classically structured superhero adventure film, spending an unusual level of detail on her backstory before the first signs of danger finally reach the invisible Amazon domain called Paradise Island.

In the first act, Diana’s introduced as a rebellious combative child who manages to break her mother’s will and gain defensive training from aunt Antiope (Robin Wright, who’s simply amazing), gaining skills as a teen before she freaks out her community using a maneuver that sends Antiope flying across a field. Diana doesn’t know she’s the daughter of Zeus, crafted from clay by mother Hippolyta (Gladiator’s Connie Nielsen), and it’s her very slow learning curve in becoming a warrior with a greater grasp of the outside world that shapes the character’s arc.

What’s most fascinating about the drama is Diana’s vast knowledge and defensive skills are counter-balanced by her whole unfamiliarity with everything that exists beyond the invisible dome: it’s deliberately amusing and horrifying to see her equate the villainy of the Great War to one wayward God, Ares, and for a while everyone nods or shrugs off what’s written off as a delusion, carried by a gifted naïf who believes using the God-killing sword from her island’s sacred tower will kill the lone source of misery and suffering, and bring the world back to its own paradisiacal state.

Diana’s the gifted child inexperienced in the quirks of human behaviour; she’s deeply principled but impulsive, wanting to stop and better the lives of every suffering soul, yet requiring figurative and physical tugs by Maj. Steve Trevor (Star Trek’s Chris Pine) to keep moving towards stopping a villainous team determined to thwart the 1918 Armistice being drafted by the Allies.

The film’s greatest strengths are in Jenkins’ insistence to bounce material off Diana, making Wonder Woman wholly about the character’s growth and steep learning curve, and allowing fans of the legendary heroine to enjoy the movie as a standalone journey outside of the DC universe. The film is bookended by present day scenes, but they’re short teasers that frame the dramatized period when WWI transformed a Princess into a warrior, now deeply embedded in the flawed and dangerous world of humans.

Who the villains may be and whether Ares exists is actually immaterial because the film’s first two-thirds are about framing the Edwardian era and allowing Diana’s brief quips to challenge and puncture the period’s sexist normalcy: she slams the term “secretary” as a cosmetic description of forced servitude; displays of ambition cause laughter among staid old farts luxuriating in their old boys league; and she’s dragged out of the British Parliament but proves valuable in the end because of her linguistic skills and knowledge of lethal chemical elements.

None of the script’s political jabs linger, but they’re potent, especially the clothing shop montage in which the selection of dresses are metaphors for the sexism that prevent Diana from being her defensive self. Torn delicate fabrics symbolize the feminism that can’t be contained, and the winning outfit is a more practical, business-like jacket and skirt made of tough fibres.

It’s admittedly easy to read subtext that may or may not be deliberate, and what may resonate may be wholly unintentional, but perhaps that’s the attraction of the film in which things seem subtle rather than vague. A key example occurs in the back & forth discussions of evil, goodness, love, and the broadness of human cruelty which does seem to resonate in an era when Middle Eastern countries are being torn up by war and mass migrations, and desperate despotic leaders use civilians to test the most efficient form of mass killing – there’s a more than palpable connection between the chemical warfare developed by The Chemical Witch and implemented by rogue German Ludendorff to barrel bombs and chemical dumps within Syria’s civil war.

The extended lulls between action scenes do delay the big finale genre fans expect, but there’s nothing irrelevant nor wasted in the quiet scenes, especially the hysterical ‘wristwatch scene’ in the grotto where Diana encounters a naked Trevor; their night in the liberated German town, and its working class volk who’re exterminated days later by Ludendorff.

Where the film falters is in flipping to the conventional, overlong up & down battle between Diana and the lead villain(s), being knocked down, getting up, trying new maneuvers before being pinned down again, and through rage, becoming victorious after a few more tries. It’s the prolonged finale that non-fans of bloated comic book epics hate, but Jenkins avoids the ADD cutting that often transforms action montages into video game vignettes; the CG movements are less mechanical and more natural, and none of the action choreography’s ruined – it’s respected and enhanced by ratcheted frame rates which never muck up a sequence’s geography.

Ruper Gregson-Williams’ score is fine and generally transcends the Zimmer Formula of Brooding Action, but with the finale so elongated, the musical mobiles within battle cues just revolve as aural wallpaper, perhaps because the main sonic impacts come from sound designer.

With a sequel announced not long after the film broke box office records in 2017, there’s much hope that the creative team will approach the next adventure with the same care and patience, and rather than construct the typical free-for-all, multiple superhero entry, let WW do what she does best – save a small part of humanity unfettered by franchise demands.



© 2017 Mark R. Hasan



External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB  —  Soundtrack Album — Composer Filmography
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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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