After a string of disappointments, a lot of pressure was on Wonder Woman to not only impress but to redeem the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Needless to say, the cinematic debut of DC’s lasso-wielding heroine did not fail to impress.
Set against the backdrop of World War I, Wonder Woman shows how Princess Diana (Gal Gadot) became the Amazonian warrior who saved the world. After Capt. Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash-lands into the Amazonian homeland of Themyscira, Diana follows him back to the outside world to bring an end to the war to end all wars by hunting down the god of war himself, Ares.
When compared to a neon-colored ode to schlock and a two Superman movies that were so far up their own asses that the dialogue unsurprisingly sounded like bullshit, it’s easy to call Diana’s origin movie a cinematic masterpiece, but that would be unfair to its individual merits.
Old-School Super Heroics
Wonder Woman has everything a good superhero movie should have: a compelling lead, a good roster of supporting characters, kick-ass action scenes, a balanced tone, and most importantly, a great cinematic origin story. This may seem like a tall order, but Wonder Woman does a fine job of balancing everything. Each element compliments the other, making a simple yet engaging origin story.
It’s hard to not like Gal Gadot as Diana, since she effortlessly turns the Amazonian warrior into someone who’s easy to relate to. As Diana learns more about the world, the audience sees what lies beneath the badass motherfucker she is today. She may go through some predictable character arcs, but Diana’s transformation from naive newcomer to experienced heroine earns the right to show these moments. If given to another director, Diana’s banter and eventual romance with Steve may have come out as cheesy or corny, but in the hands of director Patty Jenkins, it comes out as heartfelt and emotional in Wonder Woman.
Technically speaking, the worst that could be said about Wonder Woman is that the middle act needed trimming, the supporting cast needed more time to shine, and the movie follows an all too familiar formula. It’s hard for Wonder Woman to stand out among other superhero origin stories, but what sets it apart is how enjoyable yet dramatic it is. Where other superhero origin movies lazily follow a checklist before calling it a day, Wonder Woman shakes things up by doing everything the DCEU wanted to do but failed miserably at.
The Right Shade of Dark
Wonder Woman doesn’t feel like a DCEU movie, and that’s what makes it worth watching. Gone is the needless cynicism of Man of Steel, the juvenile angst of Batman V Superman, and the chaotic clusterfuck of Suicide Squad. In place of these crippling flaws is a well-structured origin story about a heroine who struggles to make sense of the new world she finds herself in.
The DCEU was proudly heralded as the adult-oriented counterpart to the family-friendly Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but this shared universe was as “adult” as what a teenage edgelord lurking in the comments sections might say. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, has no such pretense and embraces the fact that it’s based on a comic book, not a simplistic, college-grade understanding of Nietzsche’s philosophy. Combining its comic book origins with a good understanding of how to tackle heavy themes regarding mankind’s evils – which is amplified by the general senselessness of World War I: a historical conflict rarely seen in film due to its amorality – Wonder Woman speaks a timely message that hasn’t been heard in most superhero movies and gives the movie an unexpected emotional weight.
Even if said theme is debated by Diana and the movie’s overall antagonist through a super-powered fistfight with cliché-ridden dialogue that would feel at home in a Saturday Morning Cartoon featuring talking cartoon animals, Wonder Woman comes out as sincere instead of preachy or stupidly bleak. This is due to how Wonder Woman was written as an even-handed approach and stab at the various issues it tackles, resulting in a fair and balanced movie that will leave viewers thinking about some seriously heavy shit by the time the end credits roll.
A New DCEU
The biggest fault of the previous DCEU movies was that they failed to entertain and inspire people, despite each entry having its own dedicated set of fans. Wonder Woman achieves both of these goals and creates a great superhero origin story that just fell short of achieving perfection. Diana’s story of self-discovery is a fun, colorful and hopeful movie that shows the best and worst of humanity in all of the ways a good superhero movie should.
For those like myself who were burned out by the DCEU and were close to giving up on any future DC movie that wasn’t animated, Wonder Woman will rekindle that confidence and excitement first felt when the teaser trailer for Batman V Superman deceived people into thinking that DC’s first major cinematic crossover would be anything but a pretentious piece of shit. Simply put, Wonder Woman is fucking awesome.
Hopefully, Wonder Woman won’t just earn a profit but will pave the path for more equally well-made DCEU movies that can inspire their respective target audiences to do more than fanatically defend some of the worst superhero movies of recent memory.
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