Wonder Woman is the first blockbuster out of the gate this season, and breathes fresh air into the testosterone-infused atmosphere of superhero movies. I had the opportunity to screen Wonder Woman in one of the nine “4DX” movie theaters in U.S. (Closest to me is in Gurnee, Illinois, about 40 miles north of Chicago.)
Wonder Woman tells the origin story of DC Comics’ venerable super-heroine, the Amazon Princess Diana (known in our human world as Diana Prince, AKA Wonder Woman). Although the DC comic did not premiere until the first years of WWII, the new movie is set in the closing days of WWI.
Princess Diana is pulled into the fight against the Axis powers when American Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), serving in British Intelligence, crashes his plane in the waters off a strange island where Diana (a fabulous Gal Gadot) is training to be the warrior she was always meant to be. When Diana learns of the war from Trevor, she is determined to destroy Ares, the Greek God of War, the last of the gods not destroyed in ancient battle. If she is successful, she will destroy war itself, and the War to End all Wars will truly be just that.
Gadot and Pine have wonderful chemistry, and Gadot makes for a fantastic hero–driven by altruism and goodness, she aims to rid the world of war. But she carries with her the badass necessary to be a true superhero. With a stellar cast of supporting players, including Danny Huston (Clash of the Titans), David Thewlis (Fargo, season three, The Theory of Everything, Harry Potter), Connie Neilsen (Gladiator), and Elena Anaya, Wonder Woman underpins the action with good storytelling and the promise of something more. There are nice bits of social commentary (a hallmark of any good science fiction story), not only on war (which might be expected), but also on strength through diversity, the banal nature of evil, and even women’s rights (within the context of the setting).
The one quibble I have is that I felt it was unnecessary to fiddle with historical facts. The villain of the WWI story is real-life bad guy Erich Ludendorff, and without giving out any spoilers, I do believe they might have kept his story within the terrible realm of the horror he wrought without changing historical fact. (Or they might have, instead, created a fictional character). It’s a small quibble that bothered my history buff husband more than me, but I thought it worth mentioning.
Viewing a movie in a 4DX theater takes a bit of getting accustomed, but it’s a fun ride (literally). Sitting in a comfortable theater seat, you are, as the advertising goes, right in the action. Jostled about, a subtle misting when splashing into the water, puffs of fog emitted on either side of the screen at appropriate moments (though the fog never quite made it back to our seats mid-screening room), lightning flashes, and even the sensation of gravel and dirt on the feet as the hero gets dragged through the sand. And this is all atop screening the film itself in a fantastic 3D rendering.
I’m not a roller coaster fan, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the experience, but after the first couple of unexpected jolts during an early fight scene, I did become accustomed to the rhythm of it and enjoyed most of the effects. The best use of the technology, to me, was when they were employed from a specific point of view (POV): in the pilot’s seat, the heroine’s head. In scenes of soaring high above the ground or leaping from high distances into one chasm or another. There was a genuine sense of flight, of diving, jumping, etc. The fight scenes also were pretty immersive as the seat not only jostled, but bucked and punched (not painfully, but enough to let me know I was in the fight alongside the heroes).
Less effective (again, in my opinion) was when the effects were used outside a particular point of view. It was most obvious during the several scenes when horses were galloping, approaching the action. The seats jostled and moved as if we were riding, but none of the POV characters were actually on the horses. To me, that seemed apart from the action, and unnecessary. It added nothing to the experience of the movie. On the other hand, I liked the effect of riding along with the characters, whether on a motorbike, in a plane–or on horseback.
So, for the bottom line. First, see Wonder Woman. It’s a great opening salvo to summer superhero movie season! As to format, see it in 3D, with or without the 4DX effects thrown in. Even if 3D has, in the past, given you headaches and made you dizzy. Seriously, the technology is so vastly improved over the past few years, the 3D effects are seamless, natural and not the least bit kitschy. They are the movie, and the experience of 3D is an incredibly immersive, and a decidedly not-dizzying experience!
As to whether to see it in 4DX, it’s worth the experience, and if you have the opportunity (as I said, only nine theaters in the U.S., and three are in California! There’s also one in Toronto and nine more scattered about the U.K.), buckle up and go for it, and prepare for a bumpy, but not too-jarring, ride. Learn more about 4DX effects and where to find a 4DX theater at the official 4DX site