The greatest female superhero has finally made it to the big screen for her first solo movie, but Wonder Woman has a giant task ahead of it. It not only has to do right by a feminist icon but it also has to break the DC Extended Universe negative critical response streak. Wonder Woman proves to be an emotional film that, overall, won me over with its fresh take on the superhero formula.
The style of its story is different from its DC predecessors; where Superman’s Man of Steel poses the question “What if Superman existed in the real world?”, Wonder Woman sets aside trying to explain how gods like Zeus and Ares could be real and instead, for better or worse, embraces the mythology.
The origin story is told as a flashback, starting with young Diana and the women who raised her. Her Mother/Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and General Antiope (Robin Wright) both care about Diana and want to raise her right, but they disagree on how to best go about this. These scenes play an important role in establishing Diana as someone who doesn’t take no for an answer in her quest to become a strong fighter. Robin Wright does a lot with her few scenes, conveying that she is the most fearsome lady in the land whose heart can easily be warmed by Diana. It’s their scenes however, full of heated dialogue that show how Gadot isn’t as experienced an actor as her more seasoned castmates. Gadot’s strongest moments aren’t during dramatic debates or when performing awkward humor but when showing compassion and kicking ass in battle as Wonder Woman.
Problems arise when American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) on the island. The ensuing battle has some crazy stunts but there’s something lacking. Maybe a sense of scope to the action that makes it somewhat hard to follow. That said, the emotions of the scene are clear, convincing Diana of her mission for the rest of the film.
Wonder Woman’s best moments come less from the fairly obvious plot twists and effects-heavy fights and more from Diana seeing the outside world mired in World War, expressing her views on injustices, and setting out to right them. Her concept of good and evil makes her incredibly naive about the moral ambiguity society is faced with every day. It’s that internal journey and contrast of worldviews that creates the true plot of the movie and shows how the Wonder Woman we know and love from the comics came to be. Also, she and Pine’s love story hits home and is the emotional core of the film in my opinion.
Pine delivers one terrific performance, thanks to his balance of charm and the weariness of a man who has seen too much war. His reactions to Diana’s ‘fish out of water’ oddities offer the right amount of curiosity and confusion that provide genuine laughs throughout the film.
The most chill-inducing scene comes when Diana decides to climb out of the trenches, dressed in full superhero costume, and walk straight into German gunfire. That moment forms the crux of the movie, in which she chooses to ignore her doubters and instead use her actions to do the talking. It’s a galvanizing point and the film’s most exciting stretch as she fights for the sake of the values and ideals which she stands for. Though not as technically masterful as Batman v Superman, Wonder Woman does get by on its style. I’m sure having Zack Snyder as a close consultant and producer on the film helped in this respect.
The film’s villains have limited screen time and do little more than incite conflict for Diana and company to deal with. They do their job well enough to set the stage of the final battle. But really, the true antagonist of the film is war, and how it corrupts. That the film aims to make a statement about the inherent evil side of humankind, is another example of how the DCEU (sans Suicide Squad) excels at telling a more poignant kind of superhero story.
While Wonder Woman doesn’t match Man of Steel or BvS in terms of story depth or visual mastery, it delivers on a more generalized scale, a feeling of optimism and hope –albeit to an audience who may over-desire this too quickly– without suffering the usual genre tropes. The dramatic setting, some killer action scenes, and a strong supporting cast all working together to tell an inspirational hero’s tale, more than offsets some occasional clunky acting from Gadot and some less than stellar technical aspects. Overall, Wonder Woman is fantastic because it successfully tells the story of a woman facing a broken, war-riddled world with love and compassion. What could we need more than that these days?
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