“WONDER WOMAN 1984” (2020) Review

“WONDER WOMAN 1984” (2020) Review

Following both the box office and critical success of the 2017 movie, “WONDER WOMAN”; Warner Brothers Studios and the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) franchise quickly set out to capitalize on its success with a sequel that had been scheduled to be released six months earlier than it did.

Like the 2017 movie, “WONDER WOMAN 1984” featured Gal Gadot in the starring role of Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman and Patty Jenkins as its director. And like its predecessor, the 2020 movie featured a period setting and Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Diana’s true love. I know what you are thinking. How could Pine portray the same role, considering his fate in the previous film? Let me explain.

Set in Washington D.C. 1984, nearly sixty-six years after the previous film; Diana finds herself dealing with a greedy and desperate businessman, along with a co-worker at the Smithsonian Institution and her own selfish desire when an ancient artifact that grants wishes goes missing. After Wonder Woman secretly foils a robbery at a local mall, the D.C. police asks the Smithsonian to identify stolen antiquities from the attempted robbery. Diana and her colleague, geologist and cryptozoologist Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva notice one item, later identified as the Dreamstone, contains a Latin inscription claiming to grant the holder one wish. Neither woman is aware that failing businessman Maxwell “Max Lord” Lorenzano seeks to use the Dreamstone to save his bankrupt oil company.

Both Diana and Barbara unknowingly use the Dreamstone to fulfill their personal desires. Diana wishes for the resurrection of her dead lover from World War I – Captain Steve Trevor. And Barbara wishes to become like Diana – which leads her to acquire superpowers similar to the latter’s. After discovering the artifact’s new location, Max Lord seduces Barbara and steals the Dreamstone from the Smithsonian. Using the item, he wishes to become the artifact itself and gains its wish-granting powers. Diana, Steve and Barbara discover that the Dreamstone had been created by Dolos/Mendacius, the god of mischief aka Duke of Deception. The Dreamstone not only grants a wish, it also exacts a toll on the user until the wish is renounced or the artifact is destroyed. Following Steve’s return, Diana slowly begins losing her superpowers. Barbara begins losing her humanity. As for Lord, his wish and new role as the Dreamstone not only makes him a wealthy and powerful businessman, but allows him to create chaos and destruction throughout the world.

When Warner Brothers first released news about “WONDER WOMAN 1984”, I must admit that I had a few misgivings about the film. But my misgivings were rather minor. I found it unnecessary that this film would also be a period production, like its 2017 predecessor, “WONDER WOMAN”. In fact, I suspect that Warner Brothers, the DCEU franchise and director-writer Patty Jenkins had decided to use this period setting to exploit one aspect of the previous film’s success. My misgiving toward the film increased when I learned that Chris Pine would return as Diana’s lover Steve Trevor, since his character had died in the 2017 movie. I wondered how Jenkins and the other two screenwriters – Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham – would find a way to bring back Steve.

In the end; Jenkins, Johns and Callaham brought Steve back using the Dreamstone and Diana’s wish as narrative devices. I found this acceptable . . . to a certain degree. Diana’s use of the Dreamstone also allowed the film to explore her inability to recover from Steve’s death back in 1918 and her willingness to succumb to selfishness in order to keep him around. In fact, the film’s opening sequence foreshadowed Diana’s willingness to embrace selfishness for her own personal desire. The opening scene featured the much younger Diana participating in an athletic event on Themyscira against older Amazons. After falling from her horse, Diana’s desire to win the event leads her to cheat during the final race by using a shortcut after her fall. Although Diana’s use of the Dreamstone had been more of an act of wishful thinking on her part, her stubborn refusal to renounce her wish and give up Steve exposed her unwillingness to do the right thing and learn to face grief all over again.

When I first learned that Jenkins would also serve as a screenwriter for “WONDER WOMAN 1984”, I had feared she would allow reverence for the Diana Prince character prevent the latter from being well-rounded. Fortunately, the director-writer proved me wrong. By writing Diana with a degree of ambiguity, Jenkins allowed Gal Gadot to give a better performance than the one she gave in “WONDER WOMAN”.

But there were other aspects of “WONDER WOMAN 1984” that impressed me. Despite my misgivings about the setting, I have to give kudos to production designer Aline Bonetto for her excellent re-creation of Washington D.C. circa 1984. The movie seemed to permeate with that particular period in history, thanks to Bonetto. The art direction team led by Peter Russell, Anna Lynch-Robinson’s set designs and Matthew Jensen’s cinematography also contributed to the movie’s mid-1980s setting. But I especially wanted to point out Lindsay Hemming’s costume designs that perfectly captured the decade, as shown below:

“WONDER WOMAN 1984” also benefited from the cast’s first-rate performances. There were performances that struck me as solid and competent – including Lilly Aspell, who had returned to portray the younger Diana; Gabriella Wilde as Max Lord’s secretary Raquel; Natasha Rothwell as Diana and Barbara’s Smithsonian co-worker Carol; Oliver Cotton as Simon Stagg; Lucian Perez as Lord’s son Alistair; Stuart Milligan as POTUS; Amr Waked as Emir Said Bin Abydos; Ravi Patel as Babajide; Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta; and especially Robin Wright as Diana’s aunt Antiope.

However, I believe the best performances came from those who portrayed the main four characters. Chris Pine gave a warm performance – much warmer – as the resurrected Steve Trevor, who not only found himself a man out of time, but also growing aware of Diana’s continuing grief over him. Pedro Pascal gave a very energetic, yet complex portrayal of failing businessman Max Lord. I thought the actor managed to skillfully conveyed all aspects of Lord’s personality – his insecurities, capacity for love, desperation, charm, cunning and ruthlessness.

I was very impressed by Kristen Wiig’s performance as Barbara Ann Minerva aka Cheetah. I thought she handled the transformation of the geologist-cryptozoologist who becomes a super villain was more than exceptional. I found it subtle, skillful and very effective. Although I was impressed by Gal Gadot’s portrayal of the naive Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman in 2017’s “WONDER WOMAN”, I felt that she gave a better performance in this film. Yes, Gadot did an excellent job in conveying the more positive aspects of Diana’s character – her warmth and heroic determination. But I feel that the actress gave an exceptional performance in conveying the more negative aspects of Diana’s nature – her willingness to engage in her selfishness and especially her unhealthy and never-ending grief over Steve’s original death. Gadot’s portrayal of this aspect of Diana’s character was especially on full display when Steve tried to convince her to renounce her wish.

“WONDER WOMAN 1984” also featured some pretty decent action sequences. However, I felt there was only one sequence that really impressed me. It featured Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor’s fight against against Lord’s men and Cheetah inside the White House. I thought Jenkins did an outstanding job in directing this sequence.

I wish I could say that “WONDER WOMAN 1984” was a first-rate movie or a sequel that truly lived up to the original film. I wish I could say this, but I cannot. This movie was mess, despite its virtues. As I have constantly stated in the past, I believe the backbone of any film is its story. The narrative for “WONDER WOMAN 1984” had potential, but screenwriters Geoff Johns, Dave Callaham and Patty Jenkins just . . . they pretty much screwed over the film’s potential.

First of all, what was the point in setting this film in the mid-1980s? The 2016 movie, “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” had established that during the 97 years following Steve Trevor’s death, Diana had more or less isolated herself due to her growing cynicism toward humanity and her grief over the former’s death. I have a theory about this – either Patty Jenkins was offended by the idea of Diana not engaging in any costume vigilante activities during that near century; she and the Warner Brothers Studio suits wanted to cash in on the success of the period setting for “WONDER WOMAN”; or both. Nevertheless, showing Diana as Wonder Woman foiling a mall robbery in 1984 Washington D.C. pretty much undermined the established canon from “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN”. Sloppy writing, folks. Even if it is minor.

Speaking of the mall robbery . . . this scene will probably go down as one of the most cringe worthy I have ever seen in a motion picture. I realize that the robbery had served as the catalyst for the Dreamstone story arc, but . . . oh my God! It was a travesty. The entire scene felt as if Patty Jenkins had pulled out every cliché about the Wonder Woman character and the mid-1980s in general . . . aaaannd ramped it up to the extreme. Another cringe-worthy sequence proved to be watching the world fall into chaos after Max Lord managed to convince a great deal of humanity to make a wish. I never realized that a competent director like Jenkins was capable of going over-the-top.

Another exaggeration I found in “WONDER WOMAN 1984” proved to be Steve Trevor’s reaction to the year 1984. I realize Jenkins and the other two writers wanted a repeat of Diana’s reactions to London 1918 in “WONDER WOMAN” . . . only from Steve’s perspective. But the mistake they made was including Steve’s reactions to escalators and subways. Why? Both innovations had already been in existence before 1918. The escalator had been in existence since the late 19th century – roughly 30 to 40 years before the 2017 movie’s setting. The subway or rapid transit systems had been in existence in Great Britain since 1863. The innovation first made its U.S. appearance in 1897 Boston and sprung up in New York City a few years later. Since both innovations had existed years before 1918, why on earth did this film have Steve reacting to both like some kid who had stumbled across a prize?

I also had a problem with the resolution of the whole Lord/Dreamstone situation. From what I understood, once Lord had renounced his past wishes as the Dreamstone, Barbara Ann aka Cheetah lost her powers. I do not see how this is possible, considering that she had gained a copy of Diana’s powers through her first wish – before Lord became the Dreamstone itself. I saw nothing wrong with Barbara Ann losing her second wish (or Lord’s, since he was the one who actually made the wish) – namely being an apex predator. But she had never renounced her first wish – which means she should have remained as powerful as Diana by the film’s end.

Did anyone notice how often Jenkins had Diana used her Lasso of Truth as a weapon a lot? I did. Yet, there seemed to be no sign of a shield or sword. I had no problem with Diana not using a sword and shield in this movie; but Jenkins, Johns and Callaham practically had her heavily depending upon the lasso as a weapon like the Jedi in “THE CLONE WARS”. It seemed too much. Speaking of weapons, “WONDER WOMAN 1984” also introduced the armor of a legendary Amazon named Asteria. Apparently, Diana had sought out this Amazon in later years, but only found the latter’s golden armor. Diana later wore this armor during her last fight with Barbara Ann aka Cheetah. When the media first released images of this armor, I was not impressed. And my instincts proved to be correct. I do not know how Asteria, whom the mid-credit scene revealed as still being alive in 1984, lost her armor. But the latter proved to be a waste of time – not only for Diana, but also to this viewer. Wearing the armor did nothing for Diana. It was not able to protect her from Barbara Ann’s claws during their fight. In fact, it did not take Barbara Ann very long to damage the suit. What was the point in introducing the armor in the first place?

“WONDER WOMAN 1984” introduced two new abilities for Diana that were part of comic book canon, but not featured in any previous DCEU movies. One of those abilities left me feeling flabbergasted – namely Diana’s ability to fly. That is correct. Wonder Woman flied . . . like Superman. Diana had possessed this ability in the comic books since the 1980s. My only previous experience with Wonder Woman had been the 1970s cartoon, “THE SUPER FRIENDS”, and Lynda Carter as the titular heroine between 1975 and 1979. Wonder Woman’s ability to fly was never seen in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN”, the 2017 movie or both versions of “JUSTICE LEAGUE”. Why was it important for Jenkins to introduce this ability . . . in this film? During this period in Diana’s life? I do recall Wonder Woman’s invisible plane from the 1970s. But in “WONDER WOMAN 1984”, Diana suddenly remembered that she had inherited her father’s ability to render something or someone invisible. And she used this ability to make the plane she and Steve had stolen to fly to Egypt . . . invisible. Now, I realized that although the invisible plane was part of Wonder Woman lore, I saw this plot twist as unnecessary. One, why introduce this ability when it was not previously shown in other DCEU movies? And two, why steal a plane in the first place? Neither Diana or Steve ever considered that the man whose body Steve occupied had a passport. The whole sequence struck me as dumb.

Since I had brought him up, I might as well focus my attention on the one aspect of “WONDER WOMAN 1984” that I believe sunk this film. Namely, Steve Trevor’s possession of the nameless handsome strange. Why in God’s name did Jenkins, Johns and Callaham allow this to happen? Why did the writers allow Steve’s spirit to take possession of some man without the latter’s consent? Why did they allow Steve to take control of the man’s apartment without his consent? Why did they allow Diana to have sex with this man’s body . . . without his consent? All of this happened without Diana or Steve even considering the issue of consent. And it was disgusting to watch. The entire situation smacked of rape to me. If the genders of the three characters involved had been reversed . . . what am I saying? This situation managed to generate a great deal of criticism anyway . . . and quite rightly. What I did not like was Jenkins’ attempt to brush aside this controversy. If Jenkins, Johns and Callaham wanted Steve back that badly, they could have easily allowed Diana’s wish to manifest Steve’s body again . . . wearing his old World War I uniform. Why did they not consider this? I could have tolerated this film a lot more, despite its flaws, if Jenkins and the other filmmakers had not pulled this disgusting plot point with Steve Trevor and the handsome stranger’s body.

Believe or not, “WONDER WOMAN 1984” had its share virtues – a few pretty good action sequences, costume and production designs that perfectly reflected the mid-1980s and some damn good performances from a cast led by Gal Gadot. Unfortunately, I believe the film’s flaws – especially in regard to the Steve Trevor and handsome stranger characters – really undermined it. I have not been so disappointed in a comic book movie since Marvel’s 2016 film, “CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR”. What a damn pity!

“WONDER WOMAN” (2017) Review

 

“WONDER WOMAN” (2017) Review

Since the release of “MAN OF STEEL” back in 2013, the D.C. Comics Extended Universe (DCEU) franchise has been in a conundrum. Although the 2013 film and with the two movies that followed – “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”and “SUICIDE SQUAD” – were all box office hits, they had been heavily condemned by many film critics. Then along came “WONDER WOMAN”, the first superhero movie that featured a woman in the lead since 2005. 

Directed by Patty Jenkins, “WONDER WOMAN” is basically a flashback on the origins of Princess Diana of Thymerica aka Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman. Some time after the events of “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”, Diana received a package at her Antiquities Curator office at the Louvre Museum. It came from Bruce Wayne aka Batman and it contained the original photographic plate of her, Steve Trevor and their comrades during World War I:

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The photographic plate led Diana to recall her past, starting with her childhood on Thymerica Island. While being raised by her mother, the Amazonian Queen Hippolyta, Diana learns about Zeus’ creation of mankind and his son Ares’ jealousy of his father’s creation and the latter’s attempts to destroy humans. After the other Mount Olympus gods were killed by Ares, because of their attempts to stop him, Zeus created a weapon for the Amazonians, a “Godkiller”, in case Ares decides to return. Although Queen Hippolyta has no trouble telling Diana about Zeus, Ares and the other Mount Olympus gods; she forbids her sister and military leader of the Amazons, Antiope, to train Diana. Eventually she relents and demands that Antiope train Diana harder than the other Amazons.

During the last year of World War I, Diana rescues an American military pilot named Captain Steve Trevor, after his plane crashes off Themyscira’s coast. The island is soon invaded by German sailors from a cruiser, pursuing Trevor. The Amazons engage and kill all of the German sailors, but Antiope sacrifices herself to save Diana. Interrogated with the Lasso of Hestia, Trevor informs the Amazons about World War I, his position as an Allied spy and his mission to deliver a notebook he had stolen from the Spanish-born chief chemist for the German Army, Dr. Isabel Maru. The latter is attempting to engineer a deadlier form of mustard gas for General Erich Ludendorff at a weapons facility in the Ottoman Empire. Against her mother’s wishes, Diana decides to help Steve’s war efforts by leaving Themyscira and accompanying him to London. Recalling Hippolyta’s tales about Ares, she believes the latter is responsible for the war and hopes to kill him with the help of the Lasso of Hestia and the “Godkiller” sword that Zeus had left behind.

As I had earlier pointed out, “WONDER WOMAN” received a great deal of critical acclaim. In fact, it proved to be the first film in the DCEU franchise to do so, leading many to regard it as better than its three predecessors. Do I feel the same about the movie? Not quite. Do not get me wrong, “WONDER WOMAN” struck me as a first-rate movie that I found very entertaining. As a woman, I found it personally satisfying that it proved to the first successful comic book heroine film. More importantly, it was also the first comic but the first to be directed by a woman. In the end, “WONDER WOMAN” became one of my top favorite movies from the summer of 2017. Many people were surprised that most of the film – namely the flashback – was set during the last month of World War I, especially since Wonder Woman’s origin began during World War II. It could be that Warner Brothers wanted to avoid any comparisons with Marvel’s Captain America, whose origin began around the same time. I am glad that the movie was mainly set during World War. One, I feel that it would have been compared to Marvel’s 2011 film, “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER”. But more importantly, the World War I setting meshed better with the film’s portrayal of one of the villains, Erich Ludendorff. And without the World War I setting, I would have never experienced one of the best action sequences I had seen this summer – Wonder Woman’s foray into “No Man’s Land”, as seen in the images below:

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Thinking about the No Man’s Land” sequence reminded me of other action scenes in the movie that I found satisfying. Those scenes include a montage of Diana’s training as a warrior, the Amazons’ defense of Thymerica against invading German sailors, Diana and Steve’s encounter with a group of German spies in a London alley. The “No Man’s Land” sequence eventually led to another fight in which Diana, Steve and their companions led a liberation of the Belgian town Veld, which had been occupied by the Germans. You know what? It is possible that I may have enjoyed this sequence even more than the charge across “No Man’s Land”. One, it lasted longer. And the sequence featured more of a team effort between Diana, Steve, their three companions and troops from the Allied Powers. In fact, one scene featured Steve remembering an Amazonian tactic from the Thymerica battle and utilizing it with Diana in Veld. I literally smiled at that moment.But “WONDER WOMAN” was not all about action scenes. Personally, I regard the movie as a character study of its lead character. Ever since Diana had informed Bruce Wayne that she had walked away from mankind for nearly a century in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”, I have always wondered what led her to become that slightly cynical woman. For me, “WONDER WOMAN” told that story . . . to a certain extent, thanks to Allan Heinberg’s screenplay. The Princess Diana aka Diana Prince that we see in this film is an intelligent woman with a fierce sense of justice and duty. Whereas her mother and other fellow Amazons want to isolate themselves from humanity and the rest of the world at large, Diana views Steve’s arrival and his revelation about the war being raged to save humanity from what she believed was Ares’ destructive influence. Diana is also portrayed as a compassionate woman incapable of turning a blind eye to the devastating effects of war upon the Belgian civilian population and servicemen like Charlie, a Scottish sharpshooter and ally of Steve’s, who suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder (PSTD). She also possessed enough compassion to become aware of the discrimination that Steve’s other two friends faced – the Blackfoot warrior and smuggler Chief Napi and the French Moroccan secret agent, Sameer.But Diana’s belief in Ares’ role in the Great War also revealed some negative aspects of her personality. One aspect of Diana’s personality in this film was her naivety. There were scenes in which her naivety about the “world of man” that I found humorous – namely her shopping trip with Steve’s assistant, Etta Camp; her introduction to ice cream; and her discussions with Steve about human sexuality. But there were plenty of times when I found her naivety very frustrating – especially in those scenes in which Steve tries to explain the true ambiguous nature of human beings and the war. A good example was Diana’s interruption of the Allied Powers’ high command and her attempt to instruct the generals on how to “run a war”. Many found this scene as an example of Diana’s feminine empowerment. I found it as an example of her naivety and a bit of arrogance on her part. In these scenes, Diana seemed to display a stubborn, almost hard-headed and blind reluctance to let go of her misguided beliefs. Because of this unwillingness to believe she might be wrong about matters, Diana killed one of the characters believing him to be Ares without any real proof. I found this moment rather frightening. This hard-headed trait revealed what I believe was one example of Diana’s penchant for extreme behavior. Diana’s angry and frightening reaction to Steve’s sacrifice was another example. And the hard lessons she had learned about humanity, along with personal tragedy, led to her almost century long foray into emotional isolation. In many ways, Diana’s journey is that if an idealist, whose positive assumptions had been ripped away in the most painful manner.

While watching “WONDER WOMAN”, it seemed obvious to me that Patty Jenkins is more than a competent director. She is obviously first-rate. Mind you, I do not believe that she possesses Zack Snyder’s razor-sharp eye for imagery. And yet, judging from the sequences of the Thymerica battle, Diana and Steve’s arrival in London; along with the outstanding “No Man’s Land” sequence, it seems obvious to me that Jenkins has a solid grasp of imagery and is capable of being a visually original director. It helped that cinematographer Matthew Jensen and film editor Martin Walsh contributed to Jenkins’ visual presentation of “WONDER WOMAN”. I would not consider the costume designs from “WONDER WOMAN” to be among the best of Lindy Hemming’s career and a costume designer. But I thought she did an excellent job in designing the Greco-style costumes for the Amazons – including Diana’s Wonder Woman costume. And I found her re-creation of the 1918 wartime costumes for the characters of both genders well done:

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Although I believe there is a great deal to admire about “WONDER WOMAN”, I do have a few complaints. One of them happened to be Jenkins’ use of slow-motion filming in many of the film’s action sequences. Yes, I realize that Jenkins was not the first director to use this form of filming action scenes. Her fellow DCEU director, Zack Snyder, was notorious for his use of this technique – especially in his pre-DCEU films. Unfortunately, I found myself getting tired of the slow-motion technique not long after ten to fifteen minutes into the film. I mean . . . good grief! Jenkins not only used it in the film’s every action sequence, but also in one scene that featuring one of the Amazons’ combat training sessions. I just got tired of it . . . really fast.My second problem with the film centered around the final action scene between Wonder Woman and Ares. I had no problems with Ares’ revelation about his identity. And I certainly had no problems with his revelations about the true nature of humanity and the war itself. And I found Wonder Woman’s reactions to his revelations and Steve Trevor’s sacrifice rather interesting. But why . . . why in God’s name did Jenkins and Heinberg find it necessary to have Diana say the following line to Ares before their final duel?“It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love. Only love will truly save the world.”

While the sentiment is lovely, it contradicted Diana’s cynical attitude and words to Bruce Wayne, following Clark Kent’s death in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”:

“A hundred years ago I walked away from mankind; from a century of horrors… Men made a world where standing together is impossible.”

Now, one could say that Diana had acquired this attitude during the 97 years between her showdown with Ares and the incident with Doomsday. But she made it clear to Bruce that she had walked away “a hundred years”, which is roughly between the end of World War I and “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN”, save a three years. Why did Jenkins and Heinberg allow her to spout that line about how love with save the world? Was this some emotional sop to those critics and moviegoers who wanted to pretend that Diana had managed to avoid wallowing in her grief over Steve and disappointment over Ares’ revelation? If so, that is bad writing . . . or bad timing. Jenkins and Heinberg could have saved the line for Diana’s narration at the end of the movie. After she had received the photographic plate and Steve’s watch from Bruce . . . and after she had finally lifted herself from her cynicism and detached air.

I certainly had no complaints about the movie’s performances. Mind you, there were two performances that failed to knock my socks off. One came from veteran actor Danny Huston, who found himself saddled with the clichéd riddled character of General Erich Ludendorff. Huston did not give a bad performance. Being a first-rate actor, he did the best that he could with the material given to him. But the screenwriter’s portrayal of the character reeked with the Hollywood cliché of an aggressive German military officer, straight from the “Ve haf vays of making you talk” school of screenwriting. And I believe this may have hampered Huston’s performance. I also had a slight problem with Eugene Brave Rock, who portrayed one of Steve Trevor’s allies, Chief Napi. Rock was not a bad actor and I found him very likeable. But it was easy for me to see that he was not exactly the most experienced actor. And I was not surprised to discover that he had spent most of his film career as a stuntman and stunt trainer. When Ewan Bremner first appeared in the film, I suspected that he had been cast to portray another one of the many comic roles he has portrayed in the past. However, his character Charlie proved to be another kettle of fish. Thanks to Bremner’s skillful performance, Charlie proved to be a tragic figure whose peace of mind had been ravaged by the violence of war. Elena Anaya, whom I have never heard of before this film, gave an intelligent and intense performance asIsabel Maru aka Doctor Poison, the Spanish-born chemist recruited to create chemical weapons for the German Army and specifically, for General Ludendorff. Unlike the latter, Dr. Maru is a villainess straight from the pages of the D.C. Comics titles for Wonder Woman. And yet, thanks to Anaya’s performance, she was not portrayed in a ham-fisted manner. But I must admit that I adored Saïd Taghmaoui’s portrayal of French Moroccan secret agent, Sameer. I found his performance charming, witty and very intelligent. And in my view, he had the best line in the movie (about Diana, of course):

“I am both frightened… and aroused.”

Connie Nielsen’s portrayal of Diana’s mother, Queen Hippolyta of Thymerica proved to be more interesting that I had assumed it would be. Frankly, I thought Queen Hippolyta would be a somewhat bland parent figure, who was simply protective of her only daughter. In the end, Hippolyta’s protectiveness toward her daughter proved to have a major impact upon the latter. This same protectiveness, along with her world-weary response to Diana’s decision to leave Thymerica revealed the true, ambiguous nature of the character and Nielsen did an excellent job in conveying it. Robin Wright had an easier time in her portrayal of Diana’s aunt, Antiope. The actress not only did a great job, I was especially impressed at how she embraced the more physical aspects of the role. After all, Antiope was the Amazonian army’s lead general. I was very surprised to learn that the actress who portrayed Etta Candy, Steve Trevor’s assistant, was none other than Lucy Davis, who had a supporting role in the 1995 miniseries, “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”. Personally, I adored her portrayal of Etta. Like Taghmaoui, she was a walking embodiment of charm and wit. I especially enjoyed Davis’ performance in the scene that featured Diana and Etta’s shopping trip. David Thewlis gave a superficially pleasant performance as the dignified Sir Patrick Morgan, a diplomatic liaison with the Imperial War Cabinet. I found him intelligent, subtle and a little tricky.

I have a confession to make. I have always liked Gal Gadot as a screen presence. Honestly. She has a very strong presence. But I have never considered her as a top-notch actress . . . until recent years. But I must admit that her portrayal of Princess Diana of Thymerica aka Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman really knocked my socks off. I was impressed at how Gadot managed to portray Diana during two distinctive phases in her life – the naive, yet stubborn young woman who seemed convinced that she knows what is best for the world in this film; and the cynical and weary woman who is somewhat contemptuous of the world in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”. And she did such a marvelous job in conveying this two phases in Diana’s life . . . in two different films. Ms. Gadot has come a long way. I think Steve Trevor might one of my favorite roles portrayed by Chris Pine. Aside from the fact that he has great chemistry with Gadot, Pine gave a very entertaining portrayal of the American intelligence officer who first befriends Diana and later, falls in love with her. I found it fascinating to watch Pine convey Steve’s intelligence, cunning and wry sense of humor. I also found it fascinating to watch how Pine conveyed Steve’s struggles with Diana’s naivety, stubborness and impulsive behavior. And he did so with a great deal of skill.

“WONDER WOMAN” is the fourth film released through the D.C. Comics Extended Universe (DCEU). And like the other three, I found myself not only enjoying it very much, but also impressed by it. Aside from a few flaws, I thought director Patty Jenkins did a first-rate job in telling movie audiences the story of how Princess Diana of Thymerica became Wonder Woman . . . and how she also became that world weary woman from 2016’s “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”. And she did so with a first-rate movie crew and a wonderful cast led by Gal Gadot.

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The Complexity of Wonder Woman

 

“THE COMPLEXITY OF WONDER WOMAN”

Ever since the release of the DCEU’s new movie, “WONDER WOMAN”, film critics and moviegoers have been raving over it and raving over the Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman character as this ray of sunshine in the middle of Warner Brother Studio’s DCEU’s “doom and gloom”. Sigh! 

First of all, the main reason I had looked forward to seeing “WONDER WOMAN” in the first place was my curiosity over the main protagonist’s development. I was curious to see how the Wonder Woman/Diana Prince character had transformed into the somewhat cynical and weary woman that I saw in the 2016 film, “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”. That was it. I was not that concerned about Wonder Woman being portrayed as some unstoppable figure of action in the middle of World War I or some one-dimensional feminist icon.

To be honest, if Wonder Woman had simply been this “symbol of goodness and hope” in this new movie, I would have dismissed her as a boring character. I would also have dismissed the film as not worthy of my time. I believe that kind of description would have shoved Wonder Woman into some kind of whore/Madonna category, with her being “the Madonna”. Wonder Woman was a lot more than this “symbol of hope and compassion” . . . this Madonna. A lot more.

For me, Princess Diana aka Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman was a person . . . an individual who was compassionate, strong-willed and intelligent. But she was also a person whose bubble-like upbringing by her mother, Queen Hippolyta, also led her to become a rather naive and unpractical person by the time she left her homeland of Themyscira Island with Steve Trevor. And her unwillingness to let go of her naivety also revealed that she could be quite stubborn. The reason why I liked the portrayal of Diana in “WONDER WOMAN” in the first place was that the movie was not afraid to show both the good and the bad about her character. And I have to thank director Patty Jenkins; screenwriters Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder and Jason Fuchs; and actress Gal Gadot for this well-rounded portrayal. I found the Wonder Woman characterization quite refreshing and an example of really good writing.

As I had stated earlier, I did not watch “WONDER WOMAN” in order to view the main character as some kind of one-dimensional feminist ideal or some symbol of everything that is pure, good and whatever form of moral saccharine that many critics seem inclined to dump on her. I wanted to see a story about a woman, a complex woman with virtues and flaws … and how she was forced to grow up and develop as a character. And as far as I am concerned, that is what I got.