So many people have been wondering if this women-centric film was going to do well; would it save or kill the DC Extended Universe? Well, a nail in the coffin it is not. In fact, it might be the one redeeming film in the cinematic universe that continued to fall short. Wonder Woman succeeds because of its content and source material, rather than in spite of it.
Wonder Woman is an origins story for the most part, told in flashback form. Things begin with the early days of Diana’s time on Themyscira, a hidden island run by an Amazonian tribe called the Amazons (shocking I know!). Diana is the daughter of Queen Hippolyta, who is the typical doting over-protective mother who does not want Diana to train in the warrior ways of the Amazonian. Hippolyta explains the Amazon’s past about how they were enslaved by man, who had been corrupted by the God of War: Aries. Once freed, the Amazons were given powerful weapons to combat Aries should he ever return.
Diana’s curiosity is peaked when a plane crashes off the coast of Themyscira, where Diana rescues an Allied pilot by the name of Steve Trevors. The Germans, who had been attacking Trevor, find the island and attack; leading to the death of Antiope. Steve reveals that he is an Allied spy in World War I and has stolen information from a weapons facility in the Ottoman Empire run by German general Erich Ludendorff, whose scientist Doctor Maru is producing a new, deadlier form of mustard gas. Certain that Aries must be responsible for the “war to end all wars,” Diana defies her mother’s orders, and takes with her the sword, shield, Lasso of Truth, and costume that will turn her into Wonder Woman. She then leaves Themyscira with Steve in order to find and destroy Aries and end the Great War. But of course, it’s not quite so simple.
I had my serious doubts about Gal Gadot carrying Wonder Woman basically on her own, but boy was I wrong. Gadget has proven herself to be an action star in every way, with a defined grace and elegance in the midst of battle that few have ever achieved. More than that, her expressions and comedic timing are just so dead-on that it takes Wonder Woman from a good movie to a great one.
Chris Pine is also a gem as Steve Trevor — he manages to work as sort of the sassy sidekick, the viewer’s point of view, and the mostly inconsequential love interest. He also gets some great jokes, and his ending is the kind of heroics and selflessness we should have gotten in the Man of Steel. The rest of the cast is honestly not much to write home about — the supporting good guys are sufficiently convincing and endearing but never enough to really know “theming” the bad guys are bad enough to make a point. Not to give anything away, but I don’t think the actor who played Aries was sufficiently threatening enough. Still Gadot and Pine are enough to carry the movie.
Wonder Woman also has some of the most gorgeous fighting style, with lots of slow-motion acrobatics and intense spins and kicks. It feels like it’s a little bit of a rip off of The matrix but honestly, this never gets boring or turns into a self-parody. In fact, it just makes you appreciate the choreography even more. The costuming is excellent, it’s lots of fun details and having all of Diana’s outfits feel fun and functional, and not like they were just playing dress-up. The action is well directed and shot, the pacing is pretty solid for the majority of the film, and the overall look still has that signature Snyder grit and grime but it feels fresher, brighter, and more defined.
The writing in Wonder Woman is also excellent. The conversations feel like something people who actually say, and Diana’s naivety comes off as thoughtful rather than trite and annoying. To me, that’s already several points in its favor. The story itself is of a pretty solid formula – woman longs to see the world, confronts the dark side, comes out stronger. Still, the reason why Wonder Woman manages to be better than the majority of other films with this premise is all in the character of Diana, who tries so hard and whose belief is so pure, that it’s hard not to want her to succeed.
Still, that’s not to say that Wonder Woman is perfect. There are some faults to be found in this gem. For example, the pacing in Act 2 starts to get a little frantic with the big battlefield scene lead and then slows to a grinding halt. The big twist, if you watch these kinds of movies a lot, was easy to spot. The whole “I fight for love” and “love will save the world” is a little cheesy, and it doesn’t help the whole “lets not make the first female superhero a walking cliche.” Still, the majority of these are minor nitpicks in an otherwise solidly built and thoughtfully composed movie.
One reviewer opined that Wonder Woman is like a cross between the first Captain America and Thor, and I have to say that’s a pretty solid analogy. It takes some excellent mythos, real genuine heart, and well thought-out dialogue and story-telling techniques. Wonder Woman is a movie that is not only worth watching, but worth studying by the movie execs who said it couldn’t be done or the ones still struggling to find their voice for the female-led movie (Marvel, I’m looking at you). Wonder Woman is going to be remembered as one of the better superhero films and hopefully proof positive that yes, action movies starring women can be excellent and can make money and even save failing franchises.
DC Finally gets one right!
Wonder Woman outclasses her DCEU teammates big time!
Wonder Woman is a treat from a universe that has given us little to look forward too. Whether it’s a one off, or a sign that things are going back in the right direction, the narrative is compelling and Gal Gadot has turned out to be an engaging action star.