“Hey Look it’s Wonderful Woman!”
After a string of pretty bad movies from the DC cinematic universe, fan and critics expectations for future films have tanked, for myself as well. It is such a relief for me to say that Wonder Woman is by far the best DC movie we have gotten in recent years which is not saying much with the last film being Suicide Squad. However, it is not only one of the best DC movies since the The Dark Knight Rises, it is one of the best superhero movies ever. All though it features yet another origin story and the first half of the movie can be a bit slow, a strong female lead and supporting cast performances, excellent character drama, and amazing action sequences make this movie one to be remembered,
Before becoming the Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) we know in the present, she was Diana a princess of the Amazon warriors. As she is raised on a sheltered island, she unexpectedly meets an American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) who informs her of a war that threatens her outside world. Believing she can put a stop to the threat, Diana leaves her home and teams up with Steve to fight alongside him in a war that can end all wars.
Gal Gadot is the definitive Wonder Woman. Her portrayal of the character is top notch from the small dramatic moments to the big epic action set pieces. She is an individual who was raised under certain morals and stands up for what she believes is right and Gadot mines that to full potential. She also handles some of the more emotional moments incredibly which is key as there a lot of good drama that unfolds. Gadot imbues a great sense of wonderment in seeing our world and experiencing humanity’s customs beautifully and humorously. The way she treats some of our values plays for some great humor especially when paired with Chris Pine’s character.
The way Chris Pine operates in this movie is played to full extent. He explains certain things to Diana that are played for humor and work effectively and better than the humor in previous DC movies. There is great chemistry between these characters that feels earned and organic but never forced. The way they bounce ideologies off of each other and try to understand one another is interesting and forms a good chunk for the emotional core of the movie.
Those ideologies are what primarily drive this movie and allows it to succeed so well. On one end, you have Diana who has a pretty plain definition of good and evil and what makes a person do bad things. On the other, Steve has been through war and has seen a lot of tragedy and understands the selfishness that humanity has within themselves. This may make Diana seem naive as she struggles to understand man’s concept of war but that is the point early on in the movie as she grow to understand humanity for all of their strengths and lot of their weaknesses. Her ideologies come into conflict with who she is and what kind of person she wants to be. She must overcome the disillusionment of what she sees the world as and eventually uses that to become the warrior of peace we know her to be in the present day.
The action sequences in this movie are glorious and are epic in the right sense. Usually some movies make certain situations seem too epic but in Wonder Woman these moments are staged with the proper amount of excitement. There is one scene where I had gotten serious chills that I haven’t felt since seeing the Avengers first team up in 2012. Even though she is a Goddess, she does not have the same invulnerability as Superman so it is refreshing to see her change up her tactics from her lasso to her sword and then again with her shield. It is very gritty and the World War 1 setting fits perfectly with it allowing for some great set pieces.
We finally have a solo female led superhero film and I am glad that female director Patty Jenkins handles it so well. There are moments in the film where it could have been in your face with female empowerment, but Jenkins strikes the right balance with the commentary to make Diana be the strong female character this movie deserves. At the end of the day, Diana is a character who sticks to her morals and fights for what she believes in despite what anyone else may tell her. Diana gets a better treatment than most superhero movies of being a well developed three-dimensional character.
The movie also has a great sense of vibrancy and optimism to it despite the war setting. The opening scenes of Diana’s home world look gorgeous and has a lot of bright colors that has not been present in previous DC films. It surprising how much of a difference color can make in a movie. The way Diana treats going to war is full of hope and joy which contrasts well with the weariness of the other human characters in their time of war. However, that also provides a great emotional fallout as Diana learns more about humanity.
No movie is perfect, and Wonder Woman is not without its flaws. This is an origin story which means some of the classic tropes are present that can make the viewer seem weary. However, they only stick around for the first 30 minutes of the movie and move along briskly. There is not much action and excitement for the first half of the movie I would say. This is not entirely bothersome as that time is filled with great character drama and excellent humor, but it did feel a little slow (I may feel differently upon a second viewing however).
The villains, as tradition with almost all superhero movies these days, are seriously underdeveloped and do not evolve past anything other than walking around, being menacing, and providing a final confrontation with the hero. Thankfully, this is more of a story about Diana and how she becomes Wonder Woman through her emotional struggles, not through her struggles with villains. Also, and this is a small thing, there are a lot of slow motion shots in this movie…but hey I already said the action was great so I can’t complain too much on that front.
Wonder Woman is not only a win for DC movies, it is a win for the comic book movie franchise. The movie is based around core emotional drama and developing the hero into a fully realized warrior of peace. Her struggles and ideologies make her a compelling character that makes you feel the stakes when the action comes and allows you to care for her and all the other characters. Despite some flaws that are common in all superhero movies, Patty Jenkins has succeeded and bringing a fantastic live action adaptation for a female superhero that has set a standard for future films to come. Now let’s just hope DC can maintain this level of film with Justice League in November…
Essentially, go see Wonder Woman for Gal Gadot. It’s definitely a well-built superhero movie. But, as you point out, Wonder Woman does end up a bit short changed.
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