Wonder Woman is the fourth movie in the DC Extended Universe and its second film following a single hero. Given the quality of the movies that preceded it and Wonder Woman’s anemic presence in last year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I really didn’t have high hopes for this one. I figured I’d give it a shot, though, and to my surprise, it wasn’t awful; in fact, I mostly enjoyed it.
Diana (Gal Gadot) is an Amazon from the island of Themyscira, a land occupied and governed entirely by women. When American fighter pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash-lands off their coast, Diana rescues him and leaves her home to try to put an end to the First World War, which she believes to be the work of Ares, the god of war. Matters aren’t as simple as she planned, though, and she ends up learning uncomfortable truths about humanity, as well as secrets of her own identity.
For the most part, Wonder Woman is a relief from the dour, clunky DC films that have preceded it. First off – this one is in color! Gone are the days of gray-and-orange sludge; this movie has green grass and a blue sky. More importantly, Wonder Woman’s costume has taken on some classic red and blue. The requisite sexist and fish-out-of-water scenes are mostly given their appropriate time on screen without becoming tedious, and a good deal of the intended humor actually lands. There’s an improvised scene early on featuring the two leads on a boat at sea, and they play off of each other wonderfully.
Unfortunately, the film still suffers from a lot of the issues that the previous DC films have: awkward pacing, on-the-nose dialog, weak villains, and an overwhelming score that beats you over the head with what you’re supposed to feel at every step of the way. The movie is also incredibly cheesy, and while there is an appropriate, or even desired amount of cheese in a comic book movie, I found myself groaning a bit too much from it all. The battle scenes also manage to out-Snyder Zack Snyder in terms of their overuse of slow motion and “awesome”, impractical fighting. When Wonder Woman herself isn’t involved in scenes, I tend to lose interest, and the reveal toward the end of the film hit me like a handful of Triscuits.
Far and away the best aspect of the movie is Wonder Woman herself. Gal Gadot’s performance as a naive hero with an overpowering sense of duty is impeccable, and I loved watching her work. This character saves people because she wants to save them, and it is truly compelling to watch such a pure expression of a superhero. We have seen enough movies about heroes begrudgingly doing their work; in BvS, Superman looks pained to help, and Batman doesn’t even try to save anyone.
Wonder Woman in this film just might be my favorite superhero in the current cinematic universes, across both Marvel’s and DC’s movies. We see a hero who fights for those who can’t fight for themselves. Marvel has produced quippy dialog and some fun fight scenes, but its heroism has faltered lately. For their deity superhero, they gave us a pile of cardboard with a hammer and a sexy accent. I haven’t been this excited for comic book movies since the first Avengers film, and I really wasn’t expecting that from DC at this point.
I recommend this movie, not for its intrinsic qualities as a film but for the direction it is potentially taking the DCEU and for its main character. I still don’t have high hopes for Justice League, but if they keep this hero doing what she does best, I’ll probably be just fine with it.