by Sean Nelson
Wonder Woman is the forth movie in the DC comics cinematic universe and the first one that feels like a proper superhero movie.
It’s been a long road for Warner Bros and DC, where as they tried to take shortcuts to catch up with Marvel in cinema, they instead found themselves climbing an uphill battle. While financially their movies have been hits, critically their first three have been given a real smack-down of sorts with most the criticisms coming from Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman and Suicide Squad being messy, dark and most of all not fun.
Does Wonder Woman change the pattern this series has found itself in? Short answer, yes. This is a fun movie, it’s colourful when it needs to be, dark when it’s appropriate and has a wonderful cast. This is a fish out of water story at its core, and the start of something bigger later on. We start with Themyscira, the place where Wonder Woman/Diana (Gal Gadot) is brought up, and daughter of the Queen. While her mother insists she not learn how to fight like many of the other woman in the lands, she feels the need to train and does so under the guidance of General Antiope (Robin Wright). Without the need to elaborate further, and to ensure I don’t spoil the intricacies and smaller moments, eventually Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes a plane into the ocean, is saved by Diana and they embark on a journey into the “real world” during World War 1. Here Diana learns the hard truths about the world, the costs of being a hero and her unique powers. To go on will do the movie a disservice, it’s better seen than read.
It’s not all praise though, the scenes on Themyscira at the start are colourful but we begin with a young Diana running away from her nanny, only to mimic soldiers training. It’s not a great scene, it feels cliché and lame and could have been done a lot better and being it’s so close to the start I felt my eyes rolling a bit expecting more of the same, luckily it’s isolated.
We also have enough slow motion to put 300 to shame, and while a lot of it looked interesting and I’m sure when they were piecing it together everyone involved felt the same, but when you have what felt like entire sequences move in and move out of slow-motion it becomes jarring and less special. Save it for the big stuff for a better impact.
There is however some great stuff here, most of which involves the actors. Everyone involved was cast perfectly, and the energy between Chris Pine and Gal Gadot makes them seem like old friends acting together because they complement each other perfectly. You really see and feel their connection growing stronger as they spend screen time together. There’s also Pine’s crew during WW1, it’s an ensemble and they work great as a unit, and similar to Pine and Gadot, they feel like people who have known each other forever and no doubt have had some real adventures without explicitly saying it.
Once we leave Themyscira and head into WW1 era Europe the film gets darker, not just tonally but visually. There’s a lot of great scenes showing how brutal the war was, and how in the trenches we see how hopeless it is for all the soldiers on the battlefield. It’s depressing, miserable and feels like everyone there is pointless cannon fodder to their superiors which is better than anything glorifying war and made it feel realistic and grounded while we’re in a fantasy setting where Superman can exist.
With the success of Wonder Woman, you’ll no doubt see Gal Gadot have a more prominent role in subsequent DC films and I’m sure they would have been writing for material for her in Justice League. If Man of Steel or the Batman fail to make as big an impact, expect her to be the Tony Stark of the DCU.
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