DC Entertainment has not had the easiest time in establishing a critically acclaimed universe for their iconic comic book characters. When it comes to the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) the films in this universe have been very hit-or-miss. While I enjoyed Batman v Superman for what it was, Man of Steel did not live up to what it could’ve been and Suicide Squad was just a mess. That said, since Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Diana Prince was one of the strongest elements of Batman v Superman I went into Wonder Woman with an open mind. Now after getting the chance to watch an early fan screening, I am happy to say to say that Wonder Woman is not only the best DCEU movie but also one of the best modern day superhero origin story films.
One of the biggest critiques against the DCEU films is that they have lacked a sense of fun. With Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins is able to succeed where others have failed by immediately addressing this as the film is filled with color and energy. With a screenplay from Allen Heinberg, who has his own experience writing the character in the comics, to work with Jenkins direction feels clear as Wonder Woman’s upbringing helps inform the story and injects comedy in the appropriate moments.
By opening Wonder Woman with a look at Diana’s early childhood we get introduced to a world that is full of wonder. That wonder extends to how Diana is portrayed by Gal Gadot, and early on by Emily Carey. The entire movie hinges on how Diana in her earliest form sees the world and how that vision evolves over time. Gal does such a great job being able to take a step back with the character to make her feel like a younger, less mature version of the character that we saw in Batman v Superman. That youth makes the connection the viewer feels to Wonder Woman even stronger.
Something I wasn’t expecting is how much I was going to be able to relate to Wonder Woman. I fully understand what Wonder Woman stands for many people, especially as the most well known female superhero. Early on Wonder Woman focuses on how Diana is her own person and stands for how as an individual she is defined by her decisions and actions rather than appearance and upbringing. The decision to leave her home of Themyscira is something that’s very relatable as we have all gone through a point in our lives where we leave our home and family behind to explore what else the world has to offer. That decision helps ground Wonder Woman’s story even when Jenkins delves into the more fantastical elements of the character’s mythos.
The decision to leave her home added to how Gal Gadot portrayed Wonder Woman as a fearless hero without the safety net to fall on. Even though many of her decisions are seen as naive to those around her, when the time comes Wonder Woman is able to provide the inspiration needed to help drive not only the plot but the people around her forward. That inspirational aspect of Wonder Woman is the film’s greatest strength as each of Diana’s decisions and actions are made even more meaningful by the hope she instills in those around her.
Though he is a supporting cast member, Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is truly the second star of this movie. Whereas Diana grows into her role as Wonder Woman over the course of the movie, at that same time Pine’s Steve Trevor’s growth comes from how we come to learn more about him as he opens up to Diana. At first he certainly comes off as the typical good looking male lead. But as the movie progress we get to learn more about how the war has hardened Steve and how it informs his decisions that seem too risky to take in his position in the military.
Steve’s development was a great compliment to Diana, making their growing relationship that much stronger. It made it so when we did get some payoff to their relationship that it was well earned by that point. Their relationship made the big final fight have much greater consequence as certain decisions push both characters to be the heroes we know.
The rest of the cast further strengthens the movie as no character felt out of place and the ones we are introduced to play a role that make the audience care about them. Though they don’t play a big role after the opening, the Amazons mythology is well established. Their role in helping Zeus defeating Ares does bring up a lot of questions as to where the rest of the Greek Gods and related characters are in the present. Given how Hippolyta and the other Amazons left out some information from Wonder Woman’s knowledge there is plenty of room for exploration in the sequel.
On the other side of the supporting cast, the team that Pine’s Steve Trevor assembles to help him and Wonder Woman faced a similar development. Eugene Brave Rock and Saïd Taghmaoui as Chief and Sameer, respectively, stood out as they both got some strong scenes that helped Wonder Woman in her growth as she became more involved in the war. Saïd especially gets several scenes where he is able to add some light hearted dialogue into the serious things that Diana and Steve are trying to accomplish later on in the film.
As strong as the heroes are David Thewlis turn as Ares was also well handled, especially in the third act where Thewlis was able to go all in on developing the villain. Ares comes off as a true challenge and the distraction Danny Huston’s Erich Ludendorff provides is well handled as a payoff to the real reveal of who Ares was. Though it was a good way to trick the audience as to who Ares was, there is a slight incomplete plot as to who Ludendorff really was with the supernatural elements added to the character’s arc.
With that said, there were a few things that kept Wonder Woman from being a perfect origin story. One place I will knock the movie for because as much as this is an origin story there is a big lack of closure into Wonder Woman’s position after leaving Themyscira. Ending the movie without ever revisiting Themyscira did leave us with a big hole in the story. Similarly, Ewen Bremner’s Charlie was given a specific character sub-plot that did not go anywhere, making the character feel wasted rather than a strong supporting character.
While these small plot holes keep Wonder Woman from being perfect, Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Diana Prince more than makes up for where the film falls short. Gal’s strong presence as Wonder Woman and Chris Pine’s cool, but hardened, Steve Trevor help drive the film to deliver a fun experience. The well choreographed action sequence add to how Wonder Woman develops her powers alongside the personal growth she attains.
With how divisive Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad are, Wonder Woman is exactly the movie the DCEU needed to establish itself as a universe worth seeing develop further. Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot and company deliver on every level. Wonder Woman is definitely a movie that will leave a smile on long-time fans face and make new fans out of people who are unfamiliar with the iconic DC Comics character.
Movie Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10