Much has been made about the films that DC Comics has put out thus far, in their attempt to create a connected universe, and unfortunately for them, much of it has been bad. The films certainly vary in quality, which is why there was a ton of pressure on their newest outing, Wonder Woman, to succeed. Thankfully, the final member of the DC trinity, gets a film deserving of her status in the pantheon of DC heroes, and starts what many hope will be an upward trend for the DCEU.
Following her debut in last year’s Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Gal Gadot once again dawns the classic red, blue, and yellow armor of DC’s resident Amazon, Diana Prince, but this time as an origin story, rather than a continuation of her role in that film. This film takes a similar approach to Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger, in that it sets the film in the past, against the backdrop of a World War. What worked about that film, works here as well, as the setting allows for the story to focus more Diana, without any temptation to involve the greater universe they are trying to build. Much like First Avenger, the story is also bookended by scenes from the present, and while they are not as impactful to the overall story, they do work nicely to connect this film to the recent modern-day appearance, as Diana receive the original photo that was seen in BVS. From the introduction, the story flashes back to Diana as a child on the island Themyscira,, and does a really good job of giving the audience all of the necessary exposition they need, as to who the Amazons are, and the type of people they are. The opening of the film also features a few training montages, both for Diana and other Amazonians, which are the perfect amount to set up the type of warrior Diana will become. These moments on Themyscira are an enjoyable way to open the film, and establish all of the backstory needed, in a way that doesn’t feel boring, and makes sense within the context of the film.
Once the film introduces long time Wonder Woman character Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine, the story begins in earnest. As mentioned, the film is set amongst the first World War, and the overarching plot, is that Steve and Diana must stop a new type of chemical weapon being created and used, thus turning the tide of the war. The focus is fairly straightforward, and at no point is that part of the story all that compelling, but thankfully the smaller moments within help make it enjoyable. Once Diana and Steve leave Themyscira, they travel to London, which help set up the rest of the film, but the standout amongst these scenes is the humor, focused almost entirely on Diana’s naivete to the customs of the modern world. The humor in this film is not overly abundant, but the instance of seeing Steve try to explain modern concepts, are quite funny, and help to differentiate the early parts of the film, with the more action oriented latter half. That isn’t to say that the action is missing from the first half, as there a few action sequences sprinkled throughout the exposition heavy first act.
The action throughout the film is hit and miss in terms of execution, with some set pieces really popping, while others fall flat. All of the action scenes are very stylistic, and borrow heavily from the type of action scenes present in the previous DCEU films. Director Patty Jenkins chooses to feature a heavy use of slow motion moments in every action scene, and while some enhance the fights, and showcase how powerful Diana is, others take away from the flow of the fight, and wind up being a bit jarring. This extends as well the use of CGI in the film, which is used heavily to depict the amazing acrobatic maneuvers that Diana and other Amazons pull off during battle. While some of the CG moves look crisp, and cool, others feel very out of place, especially some of the earlier training scenes. Overall though the film does look good, from the picturesque Themyscira, to the gritty London streets, to the battlefields of WWI. The mix of styles contrasts nicely, as the bright, and optimistic Diana on Themyscira, gives way to horrors of war in Europe.
The best part of Wonder Woman is the main cast, as Gadot and Pine are both wonderful in their roles. Gadot is able to capture the naive personality of a Diana that has seen nothing of the outside world, as well as the battle ready warrior that she has sought to become since childhood. She carries herself with incredibly well in all parts of the film, and should hopefully put to rest any lingering naysayers that think she makes for a bad Wonder Woman. Her scenes with Pine show a remarkable chemistry, and while the film does force in a romantic subplot, the moments of the two of them together are good enough where the love angle ruins anything. Pine is quite good as well, and while the film naturally focuses on Diana, he is still given enough to do, and his typical bravado shines through. His performance is very similar to his role as Captain Kirk, in the most recent Star Trek films, but not as brash, or overbearing, so he is able to complement Gadot, without taking over the film. The rest of the Diana and Steve’s crew is serviceable, and do provide a good amount of comic relief, especially Saïd Taghmaoui’s Sameer, and Ewen Bremner’s Charlie. The villains however are a real let down, as both Danny Huston’s General Ludendorff, and Elena Anaya’s Dr. Poison are almost entirely absent from the film, except for a few scenes to show how dangerous the new weapon can be. Neither of them feel like true threats, so they end up being lackluster adversaries, and war, serves as the larger antagonist, which while it makes, leaves the film without a true villain to root against throughout.
While DC has struggled to find consistency in its new connected universe, Wonder Woman serves as an example that they still know how to make a good movie. It is not perfect, nor does it wow in a way that will leave a lasting impression, it still serves as a good origin film for a character that needs to be as big on the big screen, as Batman and Superman. There are elements that do not work, such as weak villains, and a third act battle that was both predictable, and disjointed from the rest of the film. And while the film is very reminiscent of Marvel’s World War hero’s first film outing, it is still a fun, funny, and features enough action, and character moments to make this a step in the right direction for DC.