Since its announcement, “Wonder Woman” has had a continuous uphill battle ahead of its release. Some viewers see little hope in Warner Brothers’ DC film universe. Viewers of those films are asking themselves, “If “Batman V Superman” and “Suicide Squad” were so bad, why should we give “Wonder Woman” a chance?” Some international audiences hold a grudge against the film’s lead. Lebanon recently banned the film, due to Gal Gadot’s Israeli background and contribution as a fitness instructor to the Israeli Defense Forces. And, of course, many idiots hold the ridiculous notion that female-led superhero films cannot be successful. I was also worried before seeing the film, knowing if it failed, it would not only kill Warner Brothers’ attempt at their own shared superhero universe, but would deeply hurt the possibility of seeing more female-led superhero films in the future.
Luckily, the film has broken through the wall of criticism. Directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine, “Wonder Woman” has completely turned around the critical response of Warner Brothers’ DC superhero franchise. It may not be revolutionary storytelling, but “Wonder Woman” successfully gives audiences one of the most admirable big-screen superheroes since 1978’s “Superman.” This unabashedly hopeful film is so refreshing in the current landscape of blockbuster films. Unlike the current tendency big budget movies have to go as dark as possible, “Wonder Woman” embraces its inherent tone of hope and light. Newsflash: not everything needs to be dark and gritty.
Jenkins’ direction is solid, borrowing from inspirations of old yet still with a sense of modernity. The film feels so fresh and new– juxtaposing two very different set pieces in Themyscira and WWI. Themyscira, Diana/Wonder Woman’s homeland, is bright, vivid, and yet obviously full of history. Themyscira feels so real and dynamic, giving Diana a fascinating ancient background. Her and her home feel like anything but artificial. But the tonal shift to a gritty war-torn Europe balances the emotional energy, allowing Jenkins to really push the horrors and reality of war (as much as one can in a film about Greek Gods). At times, the war torn setting can drag, not offering as much visual or narrative excitement as the first half of the film. That being said, the strengths of Jenkins’ work makes the pacing shortcomings forgivable. The color palette of the film is saturated and beautiful, yet not overwhelming. “Wonder Woman’s” aesthetic, though drastically different, still feels part of the same universe as the past three DC films. But the major connective tissue, and another major highlight of the film, is Gadot as Diana/Wonder Woman.
The performances are phenomenal. Gadot plays Diana perfectly, kicking ass and offering what will become iconic superhero moments for all to remember. Though Gadot offers thrilling action, she does so while also serving as a compassionate and hopeful figure. She has given us a magnificent new hero and giving life to the most iconic female superheroes of all time. Her fish-out-of-water moments are hilarious, and well supported by her fellow lead, Chris Pine. Their relationship in the film is solid, offering both humor and heart. Another noteworthy performance in the film is Robin Wright as Antiope. Wright holds such power on the screen and has arguably the best action scene in the film. While our heroes are performed to a superb degree, the villains leave much to be desired. The villains serve little purpose but to move the plot along, offering little for audiences to chew on performance wise.
While the film does have thrilling action, heartfelt performances, and a potent emotional energy, it is of course imperfect. Clocking in at two hours and twenty-one minutes, certain scenes trip up in terms of pacing. While the films humor overall succeeds, many gags are allowed to go on for far too long. At times the movie feels as if it deserves a second run through the editing process. The third act especially grueling and does not pick up again until the finale. The finale, though exciting, feels somewhat separated from the rest of the film, supplementing the grittier war or acrobatic beach battles for a Zack Snyder-esque CGI mess. It’s jarring, to say the least. The villains as well serve little purpose but to move the plot along, offering little for audiences to chew on performance wise.
Though “Wonder Woman” might limp towards its ending, it gives audiences a solid, exciting, and emotionally driven movie. It is not just a solid superhero movie, but a great movie in its own right. Is it as prolific as, say, “The Dark Knight” or “Logan”? No, probably not. But why should it have to be? “Wonder Woman” gives us what “Superman” gave to its movie-going audience: an unapologetically hopeful hero who fights for a more loving world. In a movie environment where heroes are constantly brooding, “Wonder Woman” does something different. It owns its positivity. Diana becomes our twenty-first century Superman. Finally we have a hero and mentor that shows that anyone can be a force for positive change, and I would say that change is absolutely wonderful.