Sunday 9 July 2017

Wonder Woman by Allan Heinberg

DC Comics haven't had a lot of luck in terms of their movie adaptations. Certainly Christopher Nolan's Batman franchise has been a hit, but elsewhere the results have been somewhat dire. 

Zack Snyder's recent Superman (and now Batman) movies are, I think, numbingly poor. As was Suicide Squad from the normally excellent David Ayer. And then there's Green Lantern...

So my hopes were low for the new Wonder Woman movie. How wrong I was. It's an absolutely delightful popcorn picture, and also one of the best films of the year.

It gets off to a rocky start with a long, long, long prologue on Paradise Island, the enclave of Amazons where Diana (Gal Gadot) grows up. We ploddingly establish the set up for the film — basically that there's a bad guy called Ares, who will turn up later in a rather obvious twist.

But as soon as plucky pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) turns up, and Wonder Woman is precipitated into the real world, the movie hits its stride and never puts a foot wrong.

The smartest decision by the writers was making Wonder Woman a period piece. Perhaps because of their inherent silliness, comic book stories work vastly better at a remove from the modern day world.

Crucially, though, unlike the World War Two setting of, say Captain America — which presented a ludicrous fantasy of a racially integrated US Army — Wonder Woman takes pains to actually try and depict the real horror and suffer of its own period — World War One.

When Diana sees the casualties of the mass slaughter she registers horror, and so does the audience. 

Gal Gadot is absolutely radiant in the lead role, playing the part with real heart and humour — "A baby!" she exclaims in London (you don't have such things back on the island) and has to be dissuaded from racing over to inspect the kid.

But that heart and humour were put there in the script. The screenplay is by Allan Heinberg (who has a distinguished track record in television, including Scandal) developed from earlier drafts by Jason Fuchs and, of all people, Zack Snyder. 

(One doesn't expect heart or humour from Zack Snyder.) The movie is splendidly directed by Patty Jenkins, best known for Monster (2003).

Wonder Woman has some terrific actions sequences (and a rather dull final battle). But for me the real pleasures were the small moments of fun, and some surprising character development. 

Among the ragtag band of good guys who join Diana on her quest is an American Indian, called simply the Chief (played by Canadian actor Eugene Brave Rock).

Diana, who of course knows nothing of our world, has a late night camp fire chat with the Chief about his history, and he tells how his ancestors lost everything. "Who took that from your people?" she asks.

"His people," says the Chief tersely, nodding at the sleeping Chris Pine.

Wonder Woman is a fun movie, a classic, a wonderful blend of reality and fantasy and better than it has any right to be. If you only see one summer blockbuster, I urge you to make it this one. 

(Image credits: Plenty of posters at Imp Awards.)


  1. While the opening bits on Paradise Island were a bit too long, the only point I thought the movie really fell down was some of the CGI battle work. In particular, wide shots of Diana using the lasso in which Diana herself was also CGI just looked ... wrong. When the actress was on the screen herself, it all worked. CGI doesn't yet have the ability to create people who aren't in the uncanny valley.

    I liked the Chief pointing out the flaws of Steve Trevor's people because it ended up being a great bit of foreshadowing ... but I thought the bit of brotherly love among enemies after the Big Bad's defeat was a step too far.

    You're right about the heart in the script, though. That's what the recent Superman movies lacked. Superman loves this world and its people and especially Lois. They make him smile. I don't actually recall Superman smiling in the recent movies. (Batman is grim, but he's SUPPOSED to be grim. He's never gotten over the loss of his parents. That's his core trait.) Wonder Woman is a warrior, true, but in this movie she's a warrior who never had to fight a war, so she doesn't have the dark side of loss until the battle on the beach and those losses (and the later horrors) give her determination, not a dark soul like Batman. Luckily, this movie remembered that.

  2. What a great comment! Thank you for providing such a thoughtful note. You spotted a number of things I missed, too. As for the Uncanny Valley, how true! Thank you for reading.