Where’s the Wonder?

ww12017.51: Wonder Woman (2017)

Its perhaps unfortunate for  Wonder Woman that it is the first film I have seen since watching Blade Runner 2049 (twice). Wonder Woman is a competent effort, and perhaps the best of the current DC stable, but it is, compared to 2049, woefully generic. It doesn’t surprise at all, rather excelling in the familiar, and while it does seem rather promising at moments, it falls into a terribly typical, noisy and overblown cgi fight-fest finale that  almost derails the entire film. That ending is terrible.

Is it just me, or is it getting increasingly tiresome watching cgi characters thrown into buildings and vehicles and leaping hundreds of feet and walking through fire and explosions without a scratch? Enough already. Its boring me to tears. Likewise the heroic shots of superhero action slowed down ad nauseum akin to almost pornographic comic-frame ecstasy? Get on with it, this is a film, not some motion-comic.

Gal Gadot is excellent as the title character and it’s down to her performance, rather than the annoying cgi character that doubles her in some of the ludicrously OTT action shots, that saves the film. She carries far more nobility and charm than Man of Steel‘s Henry Cavill, and compares well with Christopher Reeve’s Superman- she’s that good. Gadot has the physical presence the film requires and her absence during the cgi stuff is like a huge vacuum. It is uncanny how the cgi Wonder Woman looks so cartoony and fake. Indeed, there seems to be issues with most of the cgi work in this film- something just looks ‘off’, something rather painterly about much of it. Many of the scene extensions and digital mattes look a little sub-par too, but the digital representations of many of the characters don’t convince at all, either.  Maybe it’s the sheer amount of effects shots that brings the quality level down.

In a supporting role, Chris Pine is American spy Steve Trevor, but either he’s a surprisingly limited actor or he’s deliberately channeling his James Kirk personna here from his Star Trek movies, because he’s Kirk here through and through, to the point it rather unnerved me that he was a better Kirk here than he is in those Star Trek films. Really. If his Kirk was this good in those films I’d have cut them more slack.

But enough of my moaning. This film cruised to over $800 million worldwide box office so I seem to be in a minority. Sure, I thought it was pleasant enough but it’s not as if this is the first superhero blockbuster suddenly wowing audiences- it is treading a path well-trod by both Marvel and DC, and I’m wondering if audiences will ever tire of this familiar formula.  Perhaps it was the wrong franchise (I hate that word) to expect something radical or new but really, it is rather upsetting to me how generic and formulaic stuff like this gets lapped up while 2049 is utterly rejected. I guess it’s just the world we live in: people just want simple bubblegum movies right now.

But coming off the glorious 2049, this film was something akin to a culture shock.

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8 thoughts on “Where’s the Wonder?

  1. I think a huge part of the film’s positive reception was that it stars a female superhero, because I agree entirely that everything else about it is pretty generic. So, it’s as likeable as Marvel’s regular output, but equally as unexceptional. But it does that while also starring a woman, so in the current climate that’s something of a success. Shame it wasn’t an outright original great movie in its own right too, though.

    1. Hmm, the Justice League trailer was on before 2049 and it looked.. well, like pretty much any other superhero movie. There’s a blandness to all the cgi spectacle that’s disheartening, really. Wonder Woman hitting 800 million dollars would suggest the superhero bubble is far from bursting, but I have to wonder if DC is one too many studio franchises. At least from what I hear, Marvel seem prepared to end their current hero cycle with Avengers 4.

      1. Marvel have made noises about something ending with Avengers 4, but they certainly have plenty of stuff scheduled — more Spider-Man, more Guardians of the Galaxy, more Doctor Strange, etc, etc. When their films are such cash cows, I can’t imagine they’re changing too much.

        I wasn’t impressed by the latest Justice League trailer, but it seemed to be mostly clips from one action sequence (presumably the climax) so I still hold hope there’s something to the rest of the movie. Not a huge hope, mind — it might be fine, but talk about making it lighter (“more Marvel-like”, not that they’d say that) just worries me they’ve made it bland.

  2. Tom

    I think the fault lies in the assumption here that Wonder Woman is, was or ever will be anything like Blade Runner 2049. Apples to oranges man.

    1. Oh yeah, I agree it’s certainly not a fair comparison, but going from 2049 to something so calculated and formulaic can’t help but be disheartening. Back to reality, so to speak. Wonder Woman was just unlucky it was first in line.

      The Jumanji trailer that also preceded 2049 didn’t improve my feelings either. That thing will surpass 2049’s American box office largely in just it’s first weekend. It looks terrible – big, loud, dumb- just what audiences want.

      1. Tom

        God I hate the way that Jumanji thing looks. I won’t be seeing it.

        And yeah I will have to say that while I absolutely adored WW I absolutely recognize its formulaic lean. The CGI spectacle at the end was threatening to relegate the movie to average (again, for me) but there really was so much heart in that movie. So many things could have gone wrong with that thing (as so many things have so far gone wrong with DC’s cinematic endeavors). I can’t wait to catch up with the BladeRunner sequel man. I’m no doubt in for a treat there. Some high minded sci fi is the stuff I really truly love

  3. Matthew McKinnon

    SPOLIERS

    I went to see this in the cinema a few months ago, buoyed by the wave of hype.
    I couldn’t agree more. Its a completely pedestrian effort, supported entirely by Gal Gadot’s performance.*

    The action and effects were completely unimaginative and straight off the shelf, with that fakey ‘painterly’ feel that just looks artificial to me (see also ‘Star Trek Beyond’).

    The twist villain-reveal was obvious from the minute David Thelwis walked onscreen, (because David Thewlis).

    What was that business about Danny Huston sniffing super-dust all about? Was that really just so he had some powers to speak of so that WW isn’t simply murdering a much weaker human being with her sword later in the film?

    Why was the unmasking of Scarred-Face-Woman’s scarred face such a thing? The mask comes off: she has scars. And…?

    Why was Lucy Davis given such a horrible demeaning character? Did Gadot really need a bumbling unattractive sidekick to make her look better? Why was all the humour so feeble and childish?

    I felt like I’d watched a long TV movie. Average, competent, but completely unexceptional. It turned a trip to the Laser IMAX into something akin to a bored Sunday afternoon in front of the telly.

    *I’ll be curious to see what Gadot does with the role later: she played WW as a breathless, naive child-woman here, but surely she can’t do that when the character has moved on 100 years…? Interesting.
    Or not.

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