No major spoilers here— if you’ve seen a trailer or two, you’ll be fine!
Wonderful, indeed. Finally, a DCEU film that is actually, truly great.
My dive into the DCEU recently has completely exhausted me and put me in an all-around bad mood, but after seeing Wonder Woman, I am so hopeful for the future.
This film is straightforward, but so incredibly moving and powerful. Some might call it cheesy, and I can understand that, but any cliché dialogue or story beats only added to my enjoyment. This is a proper superhero story about love, courage, and fighting for good— and that simplicity is so utterly refreshing. As the first superhero film starring a female character, one of the most important female superheroes in history, Wonder Woman is not only an excellent movie, but its success is an achievement for the DCEU and for relatively unknown and super-talented director Patty Jenkins.
Despite her relative popularity, Wonder Woman’s origin story needed to be told and it was told very concisely. From the get-go, Jenkins effectively establishes Diana’s personality. Her motivations and beliefs are made very clear, and the sheer sincerity of her moral integrity is infectious. Thematically, this film is what Man of Steel should have been. Diana Prince is headstrong, adventurous, caring, and so incredibly dug into her moral convictions that it will no doubt be inspiring to the audience— especially to the young girls who deserve such a powerful icon in entertainment that truly stands for good. The movie may not be perfect, as I have a handful of complaints, but my thoughts (and feelings after leaving the theater) are overwhelmingly positive.
Visually, it is a vast improvement over the past DCEU films. It manages to keep the house-style of the darker, high-contrast aesthetic (especially during the London and battlefield sequences), but it introduces a far more vibrant and diverse color palette. Early on in the film, they do a great job of making Paradise Island look like paradise— beautifully bright architecture, lush green hills, flowery fields, and gorgeous vistas of cliffs, beaches, and the ocean. Rarely do DCEU films feature scenes outdoors in the daytime, but one of the biggest action set-pieces in the film takes place on a beach in broad daylight and it looks every bit as beautiful as it does in the trailers. Even Gal Gadot’s costume is much brighter and saturated in color, a welcome change from the bronze-ish look of the Batman v Superman outfit (I don’t even think they’re different costumes, it might just be a difference in color grading. Either way, it looks awesome).
The movie doesn’t just look great but it sounds pretty great too. Her theme song from BvS makes a return, and as much as I hate it, it was worked into longer musical pieces and used appropriately. It was even played by other instruments, so if you’re like me and hate the high-pitched, jarring sting of her theme music than you’ll probably enjoy it a bit more. The rest of the score is actually really great. I heard snippets of it before I had actually seen the movie and I already enjoyed it, and while I think the songs didn’t “stick out” as much as I hoped, it all sounds very appropriate to the character.
Gal Gadot is excellent. I’ll be honest, I doubted her at first. She was relatively unknown when she was first cast in the franchise and didn’t get the chance to do much acting in BvS. In her titular film not only can she carry a movie but she possesses the endearing charm and enthusiasm of the hero she is portraying. She is a great choice for Wonder Woman, and I imagine she won’t be shaking this role off of her career for years to come. She is Wonder Woman.
As for the rest of the cast, the film is full of all-around solid performances and chemistry, notably between Gadot, and the always excellent Chris Pine as Captain Steve Trevor. The villans might be a little underwhelming, but their actors aren’t exactly intimidating either. This really only applies to one of the villains, but you might understand that more after having seen the film. The movie is also more humorous than previous DC endeavors, though not to the point of the MCU films. Jokes feel natural and land well, which only further illustrates the cast’s chemistry.
While there seemed to be an unhealthy reliance on slow-motion, all of the action sequences are tense and engaging. The chaotic old-world setting of WWI is a great contrast for the ancient warrior action Wonder Woman fans are accustomed to. How fun is it to see warrior-women on horseback with swords and arrows fight an army of rifle-toting Germans? I had no idea how much I wanted to see that until this movie gave it to me. So seriously, thank you for that.
Zack Snyder’s influences as producer become pretty apparent in the third act, if the slow motion hadn’t given it away earlier, but even then the action scenes don’t fall flat. The best scene in the film— the “no man’s land” sequence from the trailer— is one of the best action scenes I’ve seen all year and one of the most powerful moments in any superhero movie I’ve ever seen. The horrors of war contrasted with her bravery and heroics makes for a truly awe-inspiring sequence, and it is one that I believe little girls all over the world need to see.
The best part of all of this, is that it sends a very powerful and important feminist message. That word has developed an bad connotation for whatever reason, but the message isn’t obnoxious. It doesn’t constantly repeat that she is a woman in a man’s world. She isn’t constantly trying to out-do the boys, like you’d find in other superhero media like Agent Carter. When it comes down to Diana’s truly courageous and heroic acts, it doesn’t force an agenda so much as it drives home a point: it doesn’t matter who or what she is, but what she does— what she believes. Not that she’s an amazonian, a princess, or even a woman: what matters is that she is brave, she is strong, she stands up for what she believes is right and you can too. That message is essential to the superhero genre, and it has been so long since that message has been properly distilled and conveyed without any angst, parody, or social commentary complicating it.
Director Patty Jenkins has spoken about her desire to portray true emotional sincerity, and said to the Times “I wanted to tell a story about a hero who believes in love, who is filled with love, who believes in change and the betterment of mankind. I believe in it.” And if that doesn’t tell you what kind of director she is, what kind of movie this is, I don’t know what will. Wonder Woman is so sincerely good, both as a film and in the moral sense. It is hopeful and impactful in all the right ways.
In a media landscape where the superhero genre is supposedly dying out like the Western, I present to you exhibit A: this film, which is testament to the tried and true mythos of the superhero genre. It’s all about people fighting for good for good’s own sake. That message hasn’t gotten old yet, and this movie is prime evidence of its longevity. I cannot wait to see more superhero films and certainly more Wonder Woman.