After a series of underwhelming and almost aggressively dark entries into the DC movie universe, Wonder Woman had a lot to prove. Fortunately, Wonder Woman‘s greatest strength is the titular hero herself, as played by Gal Gadot and allows the franchise to reconnect with the superhero genre.
Though Gadot was considered one of the best parts of Batman v Superman, her own movie plays to her strengths much more than before. Gadot’s Diana is charming both in her childish innocence about the world of men and in her drive to be a hero. Importantly, this is a movie that remembers that characters like Wonder Woman are meant to be heroes, not just ciphers for action sequences. Diana feels like a hero in all the right ways, from how she acts to the way that she inspires those around her. This is something that has been sorely missing in the DCEU films so far.
The supporting cast turn in some solid performances, including Robin Wright as Diana’s mentor, Antiope or David Thewlis’ advocate for peace, Sir Patrick. Diana’s romance with Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) feels pretty natural as far as superhero romances go and the actors share some particularly strong chemistry that makes their relationship all the more believable. The rest of Diana’s eventual allies are charmingly entertaining, becoming surprisingly three-dimensional for supporting characters.
The majority of the movie looks pretty fantastic and stands out from the mostly dull palette found in Diana’s last appearance. The greens, blues and golds of Themyscira pop right off the screen but also serve an effective story purpose, contrasting harshly against the dull greys and browns of World War I. I’m personally a little sick of slow motion fight scenes, but Wonder Woman‘s action sequences still pack a hell of a punch and are generally a thrill to watch.
One battle in particular, during the film’s second act, is not only the best moment of the film and one of Wonder Woman’s most defining heroic moments, but one of the best in recent superhero films. The second act of the movie is certainly the film at its best, contrasting Diana’s light innocence against the darkness of the Great War and forcing her to confront what she knows about men and war and their relationship to each other.
Unfortunately the bookending acts aren’t quite as strong, with the film’s opening scenes feeling particularly clunky, weighed down by a little too much exposition-based dialogue. And although remaining overall consistently entertaining, the film’s climax feels a little disjointed to the rest of the movie and becomes an unfortunate visual mess. Reminiscent of Batman v Superman, the final battle is visually too dark and features far too much obvious CGI, feeling like something out of a video game cut-scene. For a movie that felt so different to those that preceded it, it’s a little disappointing to see it regress at the end, especially an end that goes on just a little too long.
This is unquestionably Wonder Woman’s story and as a result the villains of the piece are mostly quite forgettable. Dr Poison has an interesting design, but she and General Ludendorff are not particularly layered characters, with weak motivations and goals. There are a few particular moments later on that do stand out for the movies’ antagonists, but ultimately they are only there to serve Diana’s story and give her a reason to leave the island.
And that’s fine for now. Wonder Woman needed to prove that there was a real future in the DCEU, after considerable negative response to both of 2016’s entries, and response so far seems to indicate that it succeeded. It’s the first movie in its universe to really remember what being a superhero can look like and that these movies are allowed to be fun. She’s a great character to watch and easily carries the parts of the film that don’t work as well.
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