Right off the bat let me make a couple very key, important points.
First, I personally feel that Wonder Woman was a good movie and if you haven’t already, you should go out and see it as quickly as possible. Despite any criticism that I spout throughout this review, I am, at the end of the day, a supporter of this movie and I think it is incredibly important that it does well financially. Wonder Woman, unfortunately, is looking to be the key to many film companies learning to have faith in female-led super hero flicks. Luckily, that uphill battle seems to be in extremely capable hands.
Second, while the movie itself was very enjoyable, it is pretty difficult to talk about it without at least bringing up the entourage of… less than stellar… movies that Wonder Woman associates itself with. So far the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) has been surviving more on the popularity of the characters involved than on the craftsmanship the movies themselves. While I personally have found all three films preceding Wonder Woman to be very enjoyable, I do feel that objectively they are mostly poorly constructed or just downright bad movies.
Suicide Squad has a novel idea, great characters and acting, but is butchered by poor editing and pacing. Batman v Superman’s theatrical cut is just an overdramatic mess that struggles to stay on point or adhere to any specific theme, though admittedly the director’s cut is somehow a drastic improvement. Man of Steel is honestly the only one of the three that I can even remotely say checks all the marks of a decently put together movie. My complaint is mostly that it’s… It’s just pretty okay.
Because of this, I cannot really tell if Wonder Woman is an amazing movie or just a good movie that feels amazing because the bar has been set so low. Regardless, it is streets ahead of anything the DCEU has done so far, and I am so thankful for this.
If I were to describe the movie, I would have to say that it’s a cross between Captain America: The First Avenger and the first Thor, which honestly doesn’t really sound all that appealing, but darn it works somehow. Basically, we have a movie that captures the structure of Captain America, the showing clearly in the beginning that the story is a retelling of events that took place in the past, the war filled time period, the slow build up to get to know the main character only for them to just go on a crazy fighting stuff montage in the later acts, the special military type love interest, hell even the star-spangled uniform… but with the main character having the fish out of water misunderstandings of Thor…
…and my gosh Gal Gadot is just perfect for it. Her innocent excitement and curiosity is adorable, which only further reinforces her badassness when she gets angered and shows her warrior side. The contrast between those two aspects of her personality and how seamlessly she jumps from one to the other, perfection.
The movie as a whole is mostly pretty average. It DOES stand out because it’s the first good female-led comic book movie AND the first DCEU movie that is getting positive reviews across the board, so I’ll give it that. But otherwise it doesn’t do anything majorly impressive. It’s not redefining the genre. It’s no Dark Knight. It’s no Logan. It’s no Avengers. Honestly, it plays it pretty safe. The film stays pretty true to your typical three act structure. It builds up its main characters well enough for you to understand their drive and motivations, and then gives you the right payoffs at the right times. It’s average, sure, but it’s still competently executed stuff, which I’m fine with.
The parts I personally thought it shined brightest were in its themes and its willingness to slow down to get to know the characters. Throughout the movie there are a couple big themes that it drives home. The first two are ones that you should probably come to expect from the character Wonder Woman; One being your usual coming of age story, showing Diana growing, shedding her naivety and understanding her place in the grand scheme of things, and the other being a repeated touch on sex/gender and questioning the norms and expectations of each within our culture. These are both nice and well done.
The one repeated message and theme that was particularly strong, that’s repeatedly dissected throughout the movie, was the its critical look at war and whether or not there is truly a good or evil side to it. The movie starts off very black and white on this, as you see things through Diana’s eyes, but as it progresses, you see more and more of the horror from both sides and well… it makes a pretty complicated statement on the subject, which I appreciate.
Now, let’s talk about the “slowing down for the characters” part. This movie starts in present day, then backtracks to Wonder Woman’s origins. As such, we, as an audience, already know that Wonder Woman herself will be okay. This type of move isn’t all that unusual, but it does have its drawbacks. In my opinion, knowing a character’s fate can hinder the audience’s investment in the movie because, well, they already know the ending. As such, I feel that these movies are smart to do a handful of things, with the best choices in my eyes being either 1. Have a damn good story that MAKES us care or 2. Have a damn likable character to make us care. Wonder Woman does a satisfactory job with 1, but damn it does 2 exceptionally well, and I blame their use of scenes.
I feel the biggest difference between Wonder Woman and the rest of the DCEU (with maybe Man of Steel as the exception) is that Wonder Woman takes its time to get to the big action pieces. It’s more than okay with sitting around at a bar, or on a boat, or in a German village, just hanging out with the characters and getting to know them. It doesn’t need to push the plot forward to every giant explosive moment you saw in the trailer. It allows the characters to get there on their own time, and you appreciate the characters more because of it.
Don’t get me wrong, this movie has its big epic badass moments too. For starters, they use her theme song pretty sparingly, and every time they do it is a badass chilling moment. Hell, they don’t even show her classic uniform for about half the movie. You know she is wearing it, but you don’t see it… and when the movie is finally ready to show it, it does it in a big AWESOME way.
And well, the rest you’ll have to see for yourself.
I do think the movie has SOME pacing issues. The dialogue at times is rough. There are one or two really bad cuts that were just comical. The ending has some weak moments and drags a teeny bit. Oh, and the CG is like… like up to par with movies from the early 2000’s at times. But most of these are really minor complaints.
At the end of the day, this is a great movie and I am very pleased with it. It’s not some perfect masterpiece, and it certainly isn’t the best comic book movie so far (or even in the top 5) but it is definitely a movie I believe everyone should go out and see!
Here’s hoping the rest of the DCEU takes notes.