As is a continual trend with these DCEU films, I didn’t pay much notice to Wonder Woman when it released. I’ve never really gotten into the Wonder Woman comics, and after Suicide Squad I kept myself fairly removed from the DC films, despite hearing generally positive reviews about Patty Jenkin’s film. I was happy for the film from my removed position, success, critically and commercially, for a film directed and led by Women is always a good thing, even if, personally I was uninterested in it. So when I got ready to watch this I was excited, thinking that the streak of bad and mediocre films would be over, and the franchise would break new ground. But actually watching the film it seemed to fall into the exact same pitfalls as its predecessors but this time differing itself with faux-feminism and a European setting.
The conversation around the feminist aspect of the film might prove to be challenging, after all as much as I consider myself an ardent feminist I am still a man, and thus while I’m happy to converse and argue my arguments why I don’t think this film is as feminist as it makes itself seem like, I would never argue that having a strong-female lead that will in turn, hopefully, grant girls and women of all ages a hero to look up to in the same way that men and boys have had for years and years. In this regard, the film is undoubtedly feminist, and having Patty Jenkins as a director is a big step in the right direction if DC and Warner Brothers actually want to promote inclusivity and diversity. The problem for me is the “feminist” elements of the script, which incidentaly was written by a man; Allan Heinberg. Who in turn is credited for the story alongside Zack Snyder and Jason Fuchs. I feel it’s important to highlight how the script and story were formulated by three men as it shines some light on the kinds of “feminism” that is instilled in the script, things like Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince, remarking that a secretary’s job sounds a lot like slavery, or questioning why women in Britian have to wear corsests to restrict their stomachs. Scenes like Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor going to sleep on the other side of the boat because it would have been improper for them to sleep next to each other after only just meeting, a concept that Gadot’s Prince doesn’t seem to understand, are played like a feminist, subtley sex-positive moment, but in reality they weren’t designed as stuff, they’re engineered for comedy, under the guise of feminism. And this is my biggest problem with this whole part of the film, none of the supposedly pro-feminism moments ever feel genuine but rather just feel manufactured to lure unsuspecting audience members to feel that the film is trying to make a stance. I also think this is why anti-Captain Marvel crusaders online loved to compare the two films because while Marvel’s film actually makes some deep and insightful points about the patriarchal structures at play for women, Wonder Woman only makes you think that it’s doing so. But honestly I’m eager to see what Patty Jenkins does with the sequel as this time she’s actually writing as well as directing, so I’m hoping the feminist stance in that film will feel more meaningful and genuine.
Along a similar line of thinking, I do think the biggest problem with this film comes from the script. At two and a half hours long, the film suffers from its length and the subsequent pacing issues that come with it. Perhaps the biggest weakness of the whole film is complete lack of awareness that leads to a staggering narrative disconnect. Wonder Woman is shocked at the horrors and brutality of the war, proclaiming how she intends to defeat Ares in order to prevent all the needless deaths of innocent civilians…..then proceeds to single handedly decemate the German troops. Now obviously the film presents the war as a complete binary, British = Good, Germans = bad. After all, we’re told it’s the German soldiers who are producing an even more deadly form of mustard gas to win the war, and it was the German’s who invaded the previously peaceful beaches of Themyscira at the start of the film and killed her aunt. But the problem with this view is it completely neglects the real world logic and reality that both sides’ armies were composed of drafted civilians who had little to no stake in the power struggle that launched the war to begin with. The poor injured British citizens are seen as terrible casualties of the war that Diana needs to prevent, but as her body count rises there’s not even a thought about the innocence or lives of the German soldiers and their families that Wonder Woman is ruining in the process. I wouldn’t take as much of an issue with this but one of the driving points of Wonder Woman’s character is this idea of preventing war and its needless violence, so it creates such a weird dissonance in the narrative that shows a complete lack of forethought or nuance in the script. This is even highlighted by the end with the reveal of who Ares really was, as it pretty much cements the idea that Wonder Woman’s quest has been built on lies about who the real enemy is, but there’s never a watershed moment where she realises her errors, she just embraces the power of love to overcome Ares. It’s such a lacklustre ending as it completely disregards any deeper points or arguments the film may have been trying to make about war.
And aside from the lacklustre script, story and pacing. The film just falls flat on the technical side too, the cinematography is decidedly bland, with the night-scenes being lit poorly and the day-time scenes lighting is often at odds with the cgi-effects. In all fairness there are a few moments here and there where I thought the camera work was good, one part I really liked was the alleyway fight in London. This scene utilised some really interesting use of angles to heighten the action of the scene, and this is the same of some of the early scenes on the mystical island of the amazonians. But for most of the film I thought the action felt cheap and relied too heavily on poor effects.
I think out of all the films I’ve watched for the DCEU so far this is the most I’ve felt let down by. It’s not the worst, I’m looking at you Suicide Squad, but this is the only one so far that I’ve gone into expecting good things only to be proven wrong. This might be my biggest hot take of this whole review, but Gal Gadot’s performance does nothing for me, she’s such a bland actor I feel she brings nothing to the role that interests me. She and Chris do have some form of chemistry, but the characters themselves are so paper-thin that I never felt emotionally attached to characters to get even remotely invested into their relationship. For me, this whole film is a big misstep, I can only hope that Wonder Women 1984 will prove to be better.