Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Vague Review of WONDER WOMAN (No Spoilers)

I was lucky enough to attend the Wonder Woman fan screening on May 24th (here's me showing off my free poster), and now that the review embargo has lifted (critical reception seems positive), I wanted to briefly share my reactions. I am not going to give much detail at all in this post because I plan to have a spoilerfree conversation about the movie with Jason Book on June 3rd (here's us getting ready for Wonder Woman), and then the @JLUPodcast team will begin our detailed analysis by June 5th (here are our preliminary thoughts). So all I want to do right now is share in vague terms some of my reactions to my first viewing of the film.

First of all, the screening that I attended was a full house and the audience ranged in age from 4 to 84, and we appeared to be very racially diverse as well. Most of the audience was Wonder Woman fans who jumped on the opportunity for tickets like I did --- there were cosplayers and several sets of father/daughters, which was great to see. But there was also a substantial portion of the audience who were local members of the theater's mailing list who come to lots of free screenings, so they were there for a free move, not necessarily because it was a Wonder Woman movie. Even with this large amount of diversity, the film seemed to be received really well. Act 1 seemed to have everyone engrossed in the beautiful visuals and the introductions to the characters. There was a lot of laughter to accompany the humorous elements of Act 1, and there was still some solid humor in Act 2 as well. The filmmakers found great ways to weave the humor into the story -- it did not seem forced and it always fit the situation (e.g., not taking away from tension or action), and it actually came from a few different sources -- not only Etta Candy, but Steve Trevor and his crew, and even Diana in certain moments. The audience settled in more for the action of Act 3, which ratcheted up really well from the action of Act 2 -- there was good pacing, throughout. After the movie, my read of the room was that the Wonder Woman fans were basically over the moon with the experience while some of the general fans were pleased but perhaps not blown away. I talked to a few people and they all said they liked it, but it wasn't always effusive praise.

As for myself, I am currently giving the film an 8 out of 10 and I immediately had a strong desire to see it again (which I will do this weekend!). It does many, many things very effectively:
  • Strong development of characters, especially Diana and Steve, with good performances from the actors;
  • Compelling and memorable settings that are not just locations for action but also connect in to the messages of the movie;
  • Good pacing of the actions scenes where they all have a purpose and meaning;
  • Good choreography and execution of the actions scenes (there were only 3-4 brief moments where the CGI distracted me, but overall they were visual delights);
  • Wonderful musical score that fits well with the action and the visual style of the movie (only one scene stuck out to me as having mismatched, distracting music);
  • Awesome costumes; and
  • Coherent themes and some very well written connections across the movie, such as between elements and characters in Act 1 and then some contrasting counterparts in later parts of the movie.
The fact that the movie has coherent themes, which are developed across characters, plot, and visual elements, is very exciting for me and I can't wait to analyze them further. The only drawback here is that in a couple spots the writing became a bit too explicit for my taste, and I think the themes, though coherent, are perhaps not as multi-layered as certain masterpieces. But the upside to this is that the story and the messages are quite straigthforward, thus very palatable to a general audience. And the character of Diana / Wonder Woman was handled with remarkable care and there are a couple truly amazing scenes (interestingly, the two scenes that emotionally affected me the most were in Act 2 rather than Act 3, but I can't say anything more about that yet).

Overall, there is a lot to love about this movie. My wife and I, on the 90-minute drive home, talked about Wonder Woman the whole way, and we only spent about 5 minutes talking about negative aspects. There is much more to be positive about than negative, and I think we will see that in the general reaction this weekend. I can't wait to talk about this film with others, and I think the word-of-mouth will be strong.

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