I went to see Wonder Woman with Biggles early last Sunday morning. As you might expect, the cinema was not particularly busy and as a result those people who had brought cavernous containers of popcorn made more of a bad impression on us than normal.
There are only two things more annoying than someone eating popcorn noisily – people talking during the film and people sneaking peeks at their mobile phones. All three sources of distraction break the magic of watching a film on the big screen and prevent you from fully immersing yourself. Its like spotting a hole in the screen or an over-bright emergency exit sign in your eye line. Or watching a film in 3D.
So a popcorn induced non-immersive experience unfolded and led to me being slightly underwhelmed by a film most of my friends had been giving rave reviews. It might be worth noting that most of these people were women who made more of a connection with the lead character than I did.
The problem was not with the lead actors – both Gal Gadot and Chris Pine were very good as Diana and the oddly named Steve Trevor. Neither was it with the special effects which were excellent throughout. The problems were the length and pacing of the film, the casting of David Thewlis as Sir Patrick (a major spoiler will follow shortly), a badly orchestrated balancing act, and the end. And before I elaborate let me just say that I liked this film in a lot of ways – all the reasons other people have already mentioned elsewhere – I just wanted MORE! Perhaps I had set my hopes too high.
In terms of the length and pacing the film simply felt too long. It was a bit like Titanic in a way, because you know Diana turns up to help out Batman and Superman in the Dawn of Justice movie so this is just going to be an origin story along the lines of Captain America but set in WWI instead of WWII, and they needed to make it quick and punchy with lots of action and not too much down time. There was way to much down time and during those moments i just sat there and listened to the crunching noise echoing around the cinema like some kind of DTS demo.
I like Thewlis as an actor, always have done always will do, but he just wasn’t right for the role and especially not sporting at moustache in ancient days of Greece. For WWI the moustache is spot on, for ancient Greece maybe a beard would’ve been better. They should have turned the digital armpit hair erasing technique they allegedly used on Diana on to Sir Patrick’s top lip for the flashback scene, at least. Also he just didn’t seem ‘big’ enough of a presence when compared to red herring bad guy Danny Huston. Perhaps a simple solution would’ve been for the two actors to swap parts. As it was he seemed a bit lame.
The balancing act that didn’t quite work was between humour and drama. The Avengers films seem to have this very well-tuned and DC need to up their game. They tried but couldn’t help but go all dark and serious like DC films tend to do. I would’ve been happy if they just stuck to dark and serious and dispensed with the humour, but as it was we got snippets of funny stuff shoe-horned in to an otherwise quite bleak tale. Lucy Davis (who I last saw yonks ago in the BBC’s The Office) was brilliantly funny as Trevor’s secretary and Ewen Bremner (Spud in Trainspotting) made a few amusing faces as the not very well developed troubled sniper character (bit of a cliche now methinks).
And finally, the end. The end, as ever, consisted of a boss-fight. We’ve seen umpteen boss fights in DC and Marvel films recently and all that happens is the action gets more and more fantastical, the explosions get bigger and the level of destruction is increased. But at the end of the day/film its just watching a big fight in which you know that the ultimate victor will be the good guy. So despite all the nice thematic elements about love, war, gods, humans and the battle of the sexes it’s just a big punch up between two people in the end. I found myself looking at my watch and trying to remember the runtime of the film and when it started.
All that said, it’s a good DC film. Maybe the best DC film for quite some time. And I’m preferring DC’s dark and moody to Marvel’s more child-friendly slapstick and quippery. Gadot in particular does brilliantly in filling the boots of this iconic character, bringing a fundamental sense of do-goodery and initial naivety to the character, and looks good in all the stylised slo-mo fight sequences.
Wonder Woman is a film I have been waiting years to see on the big screen since I predicted that the ‘next comic book film’ after Hulk would be Wonder Woman (I was just thinking about popular shows on TV and what hadn’t been done yet). In some ways, I think it’s a good thing that they left it so long to make it – imagine how bad it would’ve been if they’d tried doing it last century. Wonder Woman needs wonderful special effects, which we got and it needed to be recontextualised in a modern mindset with a female director.