Review: 'Wonder Woman' Sets an Action-Packed New Standard for DC Movies

Sunday, 04 June 2017 - 11:30AM
DC Comics
Wonder Woman
Sunday, 04 June 2017 - 11:30AM
Review: 'Wonder Woman' Sets an Action-Packed New Standard for DC Movies
Warner Bros.
Even though Wonder Woman is part of the DC Extended Universe, to the point where you get a "Wayne Enterprises" logo shoved in your face before she even finishes her introduction, Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman is easily a step above Batman and Superman's recent adventures, following the superhero as she leaves her island home of Themyscira in the hopes of saving a corrupt mankind from war. 

Jenkins' directing is colorful and easy to follow through action scenes, the pacing never feels too rushed or too slow, and the dialogue is witty and feels natural so long as nobody's mumbling under the lasso of truth. After the 70 odd years that Wonder Woman has existed, the first major franchise movie with a female superhero and female director is a worthy one for the character.

Most of the characters are developed enough, or at least interesting enough, that you care about what happens to them. Wonder Woman/Diana (played by Gal Gadot) does a great job of playing the fish-out-of-water act in World War I-era Europe without ever seeming defenseless, and the struggle between her classical warrior code and the brutal chaos of the Great War is engaging. Allied spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) does a great job filling the love interest role, something the movie intentionally plays with since the genders are reversed from the status quo - there's an inversion of the male gaze at one point involving the PG-13 equivalent of a full frontal Chris Pine shot. So heads up.

And importantly, the villains are interesting too, particularly Doctor Poison (who's developing a dangerous chemical weapon) and German General Ludendorff (who wants to conquer Europe with that chemical weapon). They're not too complicated, but despite a few moments where their explicitly evil scheming makes them seem like German versions of Boris and Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle, they're otherwise menacing threats. Beyond that, since Wonder Woman spends much of the film hunting down the Greek god Ares, the "Where is Ares" question floats over the movie the entire time, with an answer that pays off by the story's conclusion.



While the movie breaks new ground in some above respects, the actual plot mostly plays it safe. It's an origin story, and while it's a skillfully told origin story, it's all fairly predictable throughout the first half. A young Diana is told that she can never wield a sacred sword unless she's some sort of chosen one, and it would only be used in the completely unlikely event that their island is invaded. No points for guessing whether both of those things happen within twenty minutes of that conversation, or that the main character of Wonder Woman is in fact the chosen one.

The most egregious example is a certain death scene that happens early on, and anyone who's seen any superhero movie from Iron Man to Doctor Strange, or even just your average coming-of-age movie, will see that character's death coming from a mile away. It's a sad scene, but there was no chance that character would survive in a movie that sticks so closely to origin story clichés.

But again, the writing and directing are strong enough to make up for those issues. The movie's entire first act takes place on the Amazon-inhabited island of Themyscira, and the island looks amazing. It's bright - this is one of the most colorful DC movies in years - and the CGI is impressive. There's plenty of CGI throughout the film and it all looks great, and it's good to see how far DC has come since their awful CGI Green Lantern suits. The movie eventually shifts from the island to London, and the mostly brown and gray color scheme looks much more like your average DCEU movie. But it is World War I, so that's at least justified.



And there's a tradeoff when those murky colors return: once Wonder Woman dives into WWI, the story picks up and gradually grows less predictable. Even if the beginning plays it safe, there are some genuine twists toward the end of the movie which we won't spoil for you. And thankfully, after the opening scene with that "Wayne Enterprises" logo, the rest of DC stays out of Wonder Woman's corner so she can tell her own story. It's self-contained, and it doesn't feel like filler for DC's next film.

It also means there's no post-credits scene promoting her next appearance in Justice League, so don't feel like you need to wait around for one. If you don't normally go out and watch superhero movies, Wonder Woman is a great place to start, and if you've seen nearly every superhero movie, then this movie holds up against the best of them. 

Wonder Woman is currently in theaters.
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Wonder Woman
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