Saturday, December 16, 2017

No, I Didn't Like Wonder Woman

If you're wondering where my review of The Last Jedi is I had to get called out of the theatre about 45 minutes in to deal with some family stuff. Everyone's definitely OK, but it did require my undivided attention. I'll be getting to see the rest of The Last Jedi sometime this coming up week. Ironically enough I'd planned this review of Wonder Woman anyway, so here's what's definitely the minority opinion on Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman is not a mediocre movie. Mediocrity happens when the film makers phone it in or are so inept that everyone is left scratching their head, wondering why they bothered to say anything at all. Mediocrity is not Wonder Woman's problem. It shoots high and misses. But it's better to have great aspirations and fail to achieve them than to have none at all. And Wonder Woman definitely has a great and beautiful vision in its sights. But the problem is that Wonder Woman tries to stick to the explicit formula of a superhero film while trying to complete its vision, which is actually a clever subversion of the superhero formula.

Let's start with what's good about this movie. Diana and Steve are the core of this movie. Their chemistry is genuine and propels them both into the plot. Steve manages to inspires Diana while still being flawed and normal. And, even though Steve is intimidated and impressed by Diana, he's not overwhelmed by her power. He doesn't see her as a hot goddess, like any other man would, but as a person. To actually pull off that relationship is an amazing thing. Ares had the potential to the best villain I'd ever seen in any superhero movie. Those moments when he first introduces himself are incredible. My jaw dropped when he was revealed and I loved his motivations and methods. When I think God of War, I don't think of what they revealed and that's what made it work. The subtlety, the performance, the whole thing... up till a certain point.

Those are pretty much the only things I liked about the movie. The Island of the Amazons struck me as silly. I get it: Gadot's Israeli and they wanted to keep her accent, but literally nobody else in the movie pulls it off and it destroys my suspense of disbelief every time. I hated slow-mo in 300, I hated it in BvS, but I hate it here the most. And that's because this movie doesn't jive with slow-mo. Unlike BvS and 300 there was actually potential in Wonder Woman to be a good movie, not some two-bit trash that doesn't have any coherent thought behind it. And then there's the ridiculous end fight with Ares, where you realize that WWII happened without Ares and that's incredibly depressing and upends the movie.

But that's not what sealed the deal. As much as the formula grated on me throughout the movie Wonder Woman was doing pretty well, all things considered, and especially for a DC film! The Snyder-ness was almost gone and I could kind of enjoy it! But then the movie had the audacity to tell me how to feel. From the explanation of Steve's good-bye to the ending spiel about hope and all the garbage that I was feeling until they told me to feel it. Show, don't tell, is Film 101. Apparently the last third of this movie forgot to do it. They didn't need to tell me to hope in a corny over-dub, the story was telling me that on its own quite admirably, thank you very much! But the overdubs and the explanations and the "Please hope!" ruins it for me. Instead of it being genuine it was just corny and hackneyed. Wonder Woman didn't need a huge ending fight, nor does it need fancy action, nor does it need a stupid "I'll hope no matter what" speech that sounds like something Snyder would write in a vain hope that you'll ignore his inherent nihilism. The core was so solid. Nothing else needed to be done.

This movie could have been incredible. It really could have. All the ingredients are there, despite a set up that left much to be desired and the shoehorned superhero antics. But the ball is dropped every time, just as I'm about to believe in it. And that's a crying shame. Despite my (obvious) hatred of anything Zack Snyder touches I really wanted to like this movie, and  DC almost had me on this one. Almost. I know I'm in what's probably a very vocal minority. But here I sit. Wonder Woman is certainly not a horrible movie, it's not even a "bad" movie. But it's certainly not a good one. And that's a shame.

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