Wonder Woman breathes life back into the DCEU, and even the greater superhero genre, to an extent, making a fun genre-blended movie.
Framed by the conclusion of Batman v Superman, Wonder Woman flashes back in time to tell her origin story. Diana wants to become a warrior, but her mother, the queen of the Amazons, will not allow her. She goes behind her mother’s back to train with her aunt. Her skills prove she can become the greatest warrior, but she does not know her full strength. One day, a soldier, Steve Trevor, somehow enters the island of Themyscira. After saving his life, Diana goes back with him to stop World War I.
Overall, Wonder Woman is still just another formulaic superhero movie. However, it feels fresh through exciting characters and an interesting combination of genres. Unlike some of the other DC Extended Universe characters, who are un-emotively shrouded in darkness, the characters in Wonder Woman are incredibly fun, especially Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor.
It is generally a challenge for superhero movies to adapt characters who have no flaws, as what is given time to explore in the comics does not always translate well to film. This initially seems like it could be the case for Wonder Woman. She seems to be nearly omnipotent, as she is basically a god. Her only character flaw is she could probably be described as headstrong, but Wonder Woman makes this an asset, not a problem.
Wonder Woman is largely about Diana’s personal growth. She learns more about her powers, and how they relate to her beliefs. She must also reassess how her beliefs are affected by her changing worldview. There definitely could be, and are, more complicated characters, but Wonder Woman aims to be more inspiring than thought provoking, and it succeeds. Many other modern superhero movies have characters fighting largely based on their own self-interest, so it is a much-needed change to see Wonder Woman fighting for goodness and love.
This is largely aided by the fact that Gadot is able to ground the godly Diana. She captures a full range for the character, from the confused fish-out-of-water to the deadly warrior. She gives every action and intention of Diana’s great conviction, enough to convince the audience to believe in her.
After Batman v Superman, it is a great relief that humor and spirit is present throughout Wonder Woman. Although the fish-out-of-water element is an over-used trope, it is still rather enjoyable. Much of the humor also comes from Diana and Steve’s early interactions, clearly and cleverly flipping conventions of male-led superhero movies.
This would not have worked if not for Gadot and Pine’s chemistry. They are both very present in the movie, and because of this they play off each other incredibly well. Steve Trevor seems like a character that would have developed in an entirely different direction if it were not for Diana. Pine plays this well, mostly in response to Gadot, visibly shifting perspective as he learns more from and about Diana.
Despite these fantastic leads, and many great supporting characters as well, the characters do not feel developed enough. While Diana and Steve are entertaining and likable enough to carry the story, they feel held at a distance. Throughout the emotional highs, and especially lows, of these and other characters, it is hard to feel invested enough in these characters to be affected by them.
Wonder Woman is not only a superhero film, but also a war movie and a romance. It juggles these three genres generally well, especially the former two, which fold into each other perfectly. The romance is necessary for the characters’ arcs, but feels sometimes shoved too much into the front, making it at times feel unnatural.
Patty Jenkins directs this film so well, that when some of the choices do not stick, they are noticeable. One of these choices is unfortunately noticeable in the many action scenes. In general, the action sequences are directed incredibly well to show the scope of the battles, while shifting between the key players. This is never too chaotic and gets the point across. The best example would be a scene in which Diana and Steve are confronted in an alley, which perfectly sets up the characters. However, all of the action scenes are ruined by completely unnecessary slow motion. This seems to be a choice to align Wonder Woman stylistically to the other DCEU movies, but is overused and distracting.
The music is similarly distracting. Rupert Gregson-Williams’s score fits nicely with the movie, infused with Hans Zimmer’s Wonder Woman theme, as it is distinct and lively. However, on multiple occasions, the music appears from out of nowhere, in a jarring transition. Additionally, if you have any basic knowledge of Greek mythology, it can be a little perturbing seeing this movie take great liberties with the myths, detailed through a necessary but uncomfortable exposition dump.
For an almost two and a half hour movie, Wonder Woman, thankfully, moves at a quick pace. It only begins to lag during the final battle, which at least indicates the movie is coming to a conclusion. In a related matter, try to stay away from any information about the key villain’s identity, as it ruins much of the drama of the villain’s reveal otherwise.
Overall, Wonder Woman is a fantastic step forward for the DCEU and for establishing female superhero movies. It feels different enough in genre and character to stand out from other superhero movies, yet structurally similar enough to still be familiar. Wonder Woman is not a perfect movie, but it is a much needed one. Also, Lucy Davis’s Etta Candy was criminally underused.
‘Wonder Woman’ opens in theaters June 2, 2017
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