In the latest Substandard, JVL, Vic, and I discuss Wonder Woman. JVL thinks Chav King Arthur is better. We should get this out of the way, because it's important:
JVL is very, very wrong when he suggests that Chav King Arthur is a better movie than Wonder Woman.
But JVL's more or less right, I think, when he suggests that Wonder Woman has been overpraised for reasons that have very little to do with the quality of the work on the screen. Rotten Tomatoes is an imperfect metric for this sort of thing—given that it judges simply whether or not a movie is good or bad, not how good or bad—but the 93 percent fresh rating does seem a tad high, especially in relation to the way similar such movies have been treated. Please note: I say this as someone who likes the movie, as someone who likes basically all the DCEU movies. But as someone who likes all the DCEU movies, it's glaringly obvious exactly which weaknesses have been glossed over and which virtues oversold. This is done in part to reward an "important" movie, but also, in part because critics always have preconceptions and the name Zack Snyder triggers something quite unfortunate in many of them.
So, after the podcast embedded below (to which you can subscribe here!) allow me to offer what the average review might have looked like if the same exact movie had been released with the name "Zack Snyder" under the directed-by credit. (Spoiler: very, very different.) (Also, actual spoiler warning: There are spoilers in the podcast and spoilers below for Wonder Woman. So, you know. Spoilers!)
‘Wonder Woman' Review
When will Warners get a clue?
By [Paid Off Marvel Hack]
A slo-mo-infused braindead action flick from the brilliant mind behind Man of Brooding, Petulant Steel and Batman v Superman v Mark Zuckerberg, Wonder Woman shows that Warner Brothers and DC just don't get why they're losing the comic book wars to Marvel and Disney.
We open with a brief prologue during which Diana (Gal Gadot)—who works at the Louvre, I guess?—receives (from a Wayne Industries armored car, natch) the original copy of the WWI-era photo seen in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice: We Really Need This Universe to Work. You remember, the one showing her with a team of dudes at the front. Diana closes her eyes and smiles, thinking back to better times.
From there, what unfolds is a relatively straightforward superhero origin story, one that basically plagiarizes the major beats of Captain America: The First Avenger but thinks it can get away with this because the action has shifted from World War II to World War I.
Raised on the island of Themiscyra, Diana learns the ways of war from elder Amazons. Her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) is nervous; her aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright), less so. Antiope knows Diana must be trained in the ways of war, for men are wicked. And, of course, war does come: Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American spy, crash lands just off the coast, bringing a ship of the Kaiser's men along with him.
What follows is typical Snyderesque action: rampant speed ramping assaults your senses, the action sped up and slowed down so as better to show off the "awesome" fight scenes. Do you like it when people shoot arrows in battle? Well, Snyder assumes you'll love it when a woman jumps in slow motion and shoots THREE arrows at someone. It's a throwback to the action of 300 and Watchmen, a played-out, hyper-stylized form of fighting that appeals best to 14-year-old boys.
After a few awkward attempts at humor—the biggest laugh in the earlygoing involves the Amazons torturing Trevor for information, lest we forget for a moment that Snyder is a renowned sadist*—Diana and Trevor depart Paradise Island for foggy old London. For a moment I was confused because the screen looked slightly different, and then I realized what had happened: Snyder shoots every scene outside of Themiscyra with a filter, a dark tinge, a coloration reminiscent of BvS and Watchmen and Man of Steel and every other movie he's ever made. Take away the man's color filters and he'd probably die of (over)exposure.
Wonder Woman‘s a bit of a mess from this point on, story-wise. For instance: Diana and Trevor decide to travel to the front in order to join the battle (Diana believes Ares, the God of War, is manipulating man; Steve just wants to destroy the factory manufacturing the poison he discovered during his espionage). Before the two leave, they gather up a team of ethnic stereotypes—a Scot, a Native American, an Arab—and hit the road. But this trio is totally extraneous, adding nothing to the plot besides annoyingly sexist "jokes" (one of the men actually says he's sexually aroused while watching her fight; as we know, men's boners are the most important thing and the male gaze has fewer delights more profound than Gadot).
You could have trimmed everything involving this squad and lost nothing. Of course, Snyder has never been one to worry about pacing, as evidenced by the 140-minute Wonder Woman—just a few minutes shorter than the theatrical cut of the interminable Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice: Dear God the Director's Cut Is Over Three Hours.
Needless to say, everything culminates in a giant, incomprehensible CGI battle—one that's almost unintentionally comic, given the way Ares is portrayed. I don't want to spoil it fully, but imagine a dowdy Brit in full imperial mustache wearing a costume-shop Viking helmet yelling about war and love while farting CGI lightning and you get the drift.
For a superhero origin story, Wonder Woman is strangely incompetent in very fundamental ways: What are Diana's powers, exactly? Perhaps more importantly, what are her vulnerabilities? She seems to just heal quickly early in the movie before becoming more or less totally invulnerable later on? I have no idea how her bracelets work or what powers they possess. Who has time for this when you're leering at ladies in leather skirts, though.
Like everything else Snyder has ever made, Wonder Woman is strikingly fascist. The hero comes from a monarchy; the villain is a politician suing for peace; and the pure and physically perfect Amazonians are contrasted with the disfigured (and therefore evil) female scientist, Dr. Poison.
It seems that DC and Warner Brothers haven't learned a thing over the last four years. And this is why they lose to Marvel.
*This is the same guy, after all, who thinks that it was "funny" to randomly kill off beloved Daily Planet photographer Jimmy Olsen in a throwaway scene in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice: Martha Martha Martha.