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Wonder Woman by Rupert Gregson-Williams (Review)

posted Jun 8, 2017, 4:39 PM by Kaya Savas

It’s an interesting time in Hollywood. Superhero and comic book films are still dominating the box office, and the issue of gender and racial representation in mainstream films is a major topic of discussion. So all eyes were glued on Wonder Woman, a film about a female superhero who fights for good, and where her sexual appeal isn’t the forefront of the film. And while Wonder Woman’s costume embraces her feminine figure, just Google the posters for Catwoman or Elektra to see the difference in how those movies were marketed.

Now let’s move to behind the scenes. Patty Jenkins directed the film, with her only other real notable film being Monster. There’s a huge push in the industry right now to feature more females and more minorities in creative roles. So while it was celebrated that Patty Jenkins was hired to direct Wonder Woman, many people were hoping a female composer would be behind the music. And while it would have been cool to see a female composer take the reigns for Wonder Woman, I think in the end it came down to who was perfect for the job, man or woman. And in the end Rupert Gregson-Williams took the reigns and it couldn't have been a better fit.

In a world where we’ve heard superhero scores left and right, it’s always interesting to see what a veteran composer like Rupert can bring to the table. Wonder Woman’s score overall is a great full-bodied and riveting adventure that brings on the heroism and gravitas the character and story deserve. The music does a great job of introducing us to the Amazons as a race of people, these women who were born from Zeus’ image and live on an isolated island. You feel Diana’s theme born from how Rupert introduces us to Themyscira. Her theme comes into full bloom and it becomes a great anchor to the entire narrative. The score itself can lean a bit too heavily on tried and true approaches for what I call “generic heroism”, but there’s enough uniqueness to make it stick. You might feel that the score feels a bit like Steve Jablonsky’s Transformers or even touches of Harry Gregson-Williams’ Narnia, but that’s okay. Rupert manages to take those tried and true approaches to give Wonder Woman a great presence.

The action scenes are handled quite well, and Rupert has no issues supporting a massive sequence such as “No Man’s Land” which sees Diana storming the trenches in WW1. This is also where we get one of the drawbacks of the score. It’s where Hans Zimmer’s Wonder Woman theme is utilized. Now, Hans’ Wonder Woman theme might have been the only good thing to come out of Batman v Superman, it truly resonated with people. Hell, if you see Hans Zimmer Live, people go crazy when Tina Guo takes the stage to perform it. Then WB decided to put that theme in the marketing, and well, they paved a road that needed to be finished. I have a feeling this could have been a studio decision, because I don’t really see Rupert nor Patty Jenkins ever going “Oh! We should use that theme that doesn't fit with the film!”. And the truth of it, no matter how awesome the theme is, it doesn't fit. It becomes kind of like the the James Bond theme, and it pops up here and there when Wonder Woman is kicking ass. Except if the James Bond theme was played on an electric guitar. The only place where it truly worked was in “Wonder Woman’s Wrath”. The way Rupert broke down the piece and found a way to channel into this raging part of her was super exciting, and it works in the film for that scene because it branches into her actual theme that Rupert wrote.

In the end, Wonder Woman as a whole is quite an accomplished effort from Rupert Gregson-Williams. The score navigates familiar territory with giving us an origin story filled with some great heroic action, but it does so in a way that stands out. The forced use of Hans Zimmer’s Wonder Woman theme is a tad out of place, but it doesn't overstay its welcome so it doesn't bring down the whole experience. There was also lots of female talent in this score that helped give Diana her voice, including Caroline Dale on the cello, Tina Guo on electric cello and Tori Letzler for vocals. So while there may have been a desire to see a female composer here, Rupert was the perfect choice in the end and he did it with the help of many talented women. Wonder Woman is a great solid effort that could have used a little more uniqueness to standout, but it’s a great experience nonetheless.