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“Wonder” Adaption Stays True to Inspiring Message

Best selling novel continues to pull heart strings in movie adaption

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Poster for “Wonder.”

Poster for “Wonder.”

Photo by Lionsgate

Photo by Lionsgate

Poster for “Wonder.”

Nathan Fletcher, Staff Reporter

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“Wonder” is a heartwarming, cheesy, shallow, feel-good film about a little boy who makes some friends despite being horribly ugly. Or at least, that’s what I expected walking into the theatre. What I got was a touching tale about a community peeling off their masks and discovering what it is to be truly seen (and yes, a heartwarming tale about a little boy making friends).

The story revolves around Auggie Pullman, a fifth grader left with severe facial disfigurements following life-saving surgeries as an infant. He is heading into his first year at a real school after years of homeschool and struggles to find his place. This, however, is not the main focus. As Via, Auggie’s sister, put it: the family “revolves around the son.” The focus is always on those revolutions- the way the family interacts, connects, and grows.

The focus on the interactions of the main characters leads to an improved focus on the characters themselves. While some characters were a little flat, all the main characters were well fleshed-out, with relatable motivations and realistic development. This isn’t to say that the characterization was perfect: multiple drab dialogues were given as voiceovers, adding a layer of cheese to what were beautiful visual explanations of motivation with astounding cinematography.

There were a few times where the film undercut itself, such as when a powerful scene of Auggie comforting his crying father was immediately followed by a scene taking place primarily within the game of Minecraft. The aforementioned voiceovers also tended to ruin what would otherwise be excellent scenes.

The best thing about “Wonder” was it’s stunning use of visual metaphor. Not only were the color pallets breathtaking, their use as amplifiers of emotion speaks wonders (no pun intended) about their scenic design team. Each shot felt like a painting, and a single still could tell a story as deep and rich as the movie itself.

Auggie’s childhood fantasies are perhaps the greatest use of metaphor in the movie. The film at multiple points shows Chewbacca in the school, an odd-looking friend to provide the audience with a view of Auggie as he wants to be seen. Another visual motif is an astronaut. When Auggie “finds his happy place,” we see him jumping through the halls in a spacesuit. In the opening of the film, we see Auggie jumping on his bed with stars painted on the wall behind him, in his happy place. The closing shot completes this metaphor: a real spacesuit, real stars, an astronaut floating through space- symbolizing the joy that can be found only in living genuinely.

The theme of the movie, being seen, can be found in both these metaphorical shots and more explicitly within character motivations. Auggie wants the other students to stop looking at him, and not until they do do they begin to see him. Via wants her family to see her, feeling neglected with all the attention Auggie gets. Jack Will, Auggie’s first friend at school, goes to extreme lengths to be seen as “cool.” Miranda, Via’s ex-best friend, makes up a whole identity to be seen as “interesting.” All of these differing motivations work together, with some help from Auggie and Via’s parents and Via’s new boyfriend, to resolve themselves in such a way that the characters are now free to be true to themselves. As it turns out, the movie isn’t so much about Auggie’s face as it is his mask.

There were sections of the movie where the plot felt dry and predictable. Every couple of scenes, a moment occurred where the plot went from being character-driven to story-driven, and stories driving characters always feels off. Parts of the film felt like too much of a coincidence, and the climax resolved in- dare I say it- almost too much of a happy ending. Yes, Auggie is a good person, but he and everyone around him got- for better or for worse- much more than they deserved.

Overall, “Wonder” is an excellent, well-made film. Beautiful cinematography, complex characters, and a solid theme make the film a piece of art, but the cheese, albeit minimal, undercuts too many dramatic moments for the viewer to become fully engrossed. Whether you are looking for a heartwarming tale or just a well-made movie, I recommend “Wonder.”

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Nathan Fletcher - Staff Reporter

Nathan became a member of The Flightline in August of 2017. He is a junior this year involved in cross country, track, and drama, and can be found watching movies outside of school. You can email him at [email protected]

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