Thanks to a solid cast, thoughtful screenplay, and purposeful action, Wonder Woman is an emotionally stirring and well executed blockbuster despite its derivative origins story, delivering a sorely needed fun superhero movie in the DCEU roster.
Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on a sheltered island paradise, when an American pilot crashes on their shores and tells of a massive conflict raging in the outside world, Diana leaves her home, convinced she can stop the threat. Fighting alongside man in a war to end all wars, Diana will discover her full powers…and her true destiny.
When it was announced that Wonder Woman was going to made some people, including me, had their fingers crossed because of DCEU’s track record. Worse, there’s so much pressure placed on the success of Wonder Woman that its failure might as well be the death knell for female directed and female led superhero movies.
Well, everyone can now finally breathe a sigh of relief.
Devoid of cameos, franchise-building tactics and half-baked ideas, a coherent and engaging narrative emerges. You can happily seat back and enjoy the movie without your brain getting lulled or rattled to numbness. Thanks to the script, there is an emotional depth to the story because the plot is rooted in Diana’s character development from warrior to innocent waif to superhero. Wonder Woman clocks in at 2 1/2 hours but it’s unnoticeable.
It’s clear that Patty Jenkins cares for the character. There are well portrayed themes in the core of this story that matches its war torn setting – there is no “one” enemy and human nature is flawed but not unredeemable. Diana’s main intention is to protect lives not to show that men are useless.
You can also see it in the way Wonder Woman is captured by the camera. It does not leer or linger through her body. So when she braves the frontlines in “no man’s land”, she looks and feels as a powerful being not an object to sell another franchise.
And still, Gal Gadot sells this movie because there is no doubt that she is Wonder Woman. She’s backed by an equally well-cast supporting characters. Chris Pine is charming and while others aren’t given as much screen time as him, they make their roles count. There are light, funny, and endearing character dynamics that MCU excelled at but DCEU can’t seem to achieve until now.
Another noteworthy achievement is giving proportionate attention to production design and visual effects. Themiscyra is an ancient Greece inspired island paradise that makes a nice contrast with the the bleak crowded London. The action is well staged and grounded, with a variety of fight sequences instead of just getting assaulted by CGI showdowns. The combat has a graceful physicality that is fun to watch and Gadot does it believably well. So fear not parents, your sons can watch it too.
The result is the best superhero addition in DCEU by far. Wonder Woman saves the franchise from its downward spiral starting with a generic reboot in Man of Steel, the incoherent mess that is Batman v Superman, and the overhyped ensemble of Suicide Squad.
True, Wonder Woman isn’t reinventing the superhero franchise. It marches to the familiar beats of an origins story with one-note villains and a gang of misfits to save the day. The main villain is also sorely miscast.
Still, Wonder Woman is a tale that we have all heard before and a superhero movie that we haven’t seen before. Patty Jenkins and the writers’ belief in storytelling instead of loud flashy entertainment turn a sequel into something to look forward to, not another abomination to dread.
Most importantly Wonder Woman has a powerful message that cynical superheroes want to teach us but get lost in the doom and gloom – heroes can save us from monsters but ultimately, our decision to take the high road and capacity to love is the only thing that can save us from our own.
My Rating: 8/10