So, here we are. The summer movie season is in full swing and superhero movies are raking in cash. Congrats to the likes of Guardians of that Galaxy 2 for being the third highest grossing movie so far this year. On its heels is Wonder Woman, the latest from DC based on the most iconic female comic book character ever. If you spend enough time on Monkeys Fighting Robots, you’ll notice I almost never comment or write about comic book movies. I love comic books, I’ve written a few indie books, and I even wrote a Monkeys Fighting Robots comic that’s coming soon. So stay tuned! But I don’t watch the movies anymore. I can’t even bring myself to bootleg them. Comic book movies are, generally speaking, mediocre at best. But I love my wife, and she loves Wonder Woman, so we waited until the hype died down and took Sunday to watch it. And here we are, and I’m left wondering, “Did I watch the same movie as everyone else?”
10 Reasons Why Wonder Woman Is Mediocre (At Best)
Problem #1: BOOM!
The first act is essentially a clumsy and lengthy (EPIC) exposition bomb. The script for this film would fail every screenwriting class across the world. We spend 20 minutes learning that Wonder Woman comes from an island of women who train their entire lives for war. In a sort-of flashback, we also learn about Ares, the God of War, and how bad he is, but he’s dead, maybe. From a young age, Wonder Woman wants to be a warrior, because her entire existence is on an island of woman training for combat. Wonder Woman is indoctrinated. But her mother doesn’t want to train her even though, again, the Amazonians entire existence is training to one day fight. I offer Exhibit A of a script with little thought put into it.
Problem #2: Dream Within A Dream
Steve Trevor crash lands on the island and is followed there by enemy Germans who raid the beach. After a short, but sweet action scene with almost no inspired shots what-so-ever (300 is calling, and they want their unused effects back), we get ANOTHER flashback into Trevor’s moments leading up to arriving on the island. So, we’re now in second level inception flashback. By my count, there were three flashbacks in total and one pseudo-flashback during the exposition bomb.
Problem #3: Cartoon Villains, Part 1
Trevor’s flashback is short and introduces a gas that the enemy is creating. But the enemy also creates another gas that makes soldiers super-strong for brief periods. But they never once consider mass producing THAT gas even though it would give them a massive advantage in the war? It’s another contrived idea necessary for the plot but wildly illogical and Exhibit B of a thoughtless script.
Problem #4: War? Meh.
Before grade school level humor regarding Steve Trevor standing naked in front of Wonder Woman, he warns an island of women trained for combat that there is a massive war going on around the world. “Meh.” That’s basically the response from Wonder Woman’s mother. But Wonder Woman wants to fight because she’s a trained warrior and that’s what warriors do. Is she a hero or just logical? I offer Exhibit C.
Problem #5: Not-So-Special Effects
The film dials back the Snyder-established desaturation a bit though not without leaving the movie mostly colorless after the first act. Still, it suits the film for the most part. But whenever there’s CG involved, things get dicey or downright hideous. By some unwritten rule, all superhero movies must end in a mass-destruction action extravaganza that’s slathered in CG. Two actors screaming and posing in front of a green screen while CG debris and chaos swirls around them. It’s almost always awful and ages quickly. Wonder Woman didn’t waste any time and just went with effects that already look dated.
Problem #6: Walk Straight Ahead
Act 2 is essentially a no man’s land of ideas. The only remotely interesting scene here is, of course, No Man’s Land when Wonder Woman crosses a battlefield. Looks cool, right, sure, except we saw most of it in the trailer for one. Secondly, here is an opportunity for Wonder Woman to take charge, not only of her actions but the people around her. She’s been trained for combat ALL HER LIFE. Her strategy amounts to “walk straight into a hail of bullets.” Never does she think to order Trevor to flank the enemy or provide cover.
Also consider, up until maybe a week ago, Wonder Woman didn’t even know guns existed. And her first memory of a firearm is when Germans invaded her island and murdered a few of her people, including her beloved aunt and trainer. But, she seems completely okay with walking towards it all. Exhibit D.
Problem #7: Love Your Man Because … Reasons
During Act 2 Trevor and Wonder Woman share a kiss (maybe sleep together too?). Why do they kiss? They’ve known each other all of a week. Wonder Woman is hyper-focused on killing Ares who is supposedly the source of all war. But, hey, it’s a chick flick, gotta have her fall in love with a man she barely knows who has been telling her what to do since they met.
Problem #8: Time For Your Closeup
In a film about what is essentially a female Superman, the action scenes are lackluster at best. It’s a direct effect from poor directing choices. Putting aside the 2006 effects, the film is riddled with medium to close shots consistently, rarely allowing for a true sense of space. Compare it to action scenes in similar films like Deadpool or even Batman V. Superman where there’s a greater scope than simply the upper torsos of every character in front of CG backdrops. Dialogue scenes are almost entirely shot with a standard over-the-shoulder style like any average TV show. It wouldn’t be so bad either if the dialogue weren’t so humdrum.
Problem #9: Cartoon Villains, Part 2
Ares and the entire point of killing him are completely irrelevant. War will go on with or without Ares, so Wonder Woman’s role in the movie is ultimately pointless. Trevor could’ve learned of the gas and plane and stopped it just the same. Ares would keep “whispering” into man’s ear and war would continue regardless. In fact, considering that World War ONE was only the first massive global conflict, and conflicts haven’t ended since WWI, then it’s safe to say Wonder Woman’s efforts in killing Ares were in vain. It was just to satisfy the film’s need to kill the unremarkable final boss in a lazy third act.
Problem #10: Who’s The Hero?
As much as Gadot looks the part, she delivers already bad dialogue in clumsy ways. Worst yet, Gadot makes forced reactions while listening to other characters talk because, as an unconfident actor, she doesn’t know what to do with herself when not talking or striking a cool pose. Proof of Gadot’s lack of ability to carry the film on her own is in the way the film is structured to include her ragtag team of all male characters to keep things interesting. However, none of them are all that interesting. And Trevor’s role is co-leading man in a story called Wonder Woman. Sure, Lois is in Superman, but she’s undoubtedly a supporting character. Here, Trevor proves to be the useful hero who sacrifices something for the greater good. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman kills an old man in Lord of the Rings cosplay for reasons that ultimately have no real importance except to finish the boss and unlock the credits scene.
I know I’m in the minority here, but that’s normal for me.
Did I watch a different movie from everyone? Was the euphoria of Wonder Woman finally (and deservedly) getting her live-action movie so powerful that it doesn’t matter that this film is ferociously flawed? It pales in comparison to the 2009 animated film about Wonder Woman which I highly recommend.
About halfway through the film, I thought, maybe I’m just crazy. That I’m too far gone with superhero movies to enjoy them anymore. But then I looked over at my wife, a fan of Wonder Woman since she was a little girl, and on her face was confusion growing with frustration.
I know I’m in the minority here, but that’s normal for me. Wonder Woman is dreadfully slow, uninspired, and then speeds into a third act that is wildly uninteresting. I’m happy that Wonder Woman finally got a movie. But here’s hoping the next one gives the character a much better role to fill.