With Justice League coming out later this week, it’s pertinent to revisit arguably one of the best films of the year so far.
Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins, is the latest entry into the DC Extended Universe and follows the origin of Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), aka Wonder Woman, whose first appearance was in 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Set in World War I, it follows Diana as she encounters the first man she has ever met, Steve Trevor (Christopher Pine), after his plane crashes in Themyscira and German soldiers follow him to it. She then accompanies him to “man’s world” in order to help bring an end to World War I.
I was beyond excited going into this film simply because I am a massive comic book fan and Wonder Woman is one of my favorite characters. Being her first solo film is also a special thing and that made me more excited than I already was, especially because her appearance in the aforementioned Batman v. Superman was one of the best parts of that film. I am also a fan of Patty Jenkins’ work, particularly the episodes that she directed on the show The Killing.
That being said, the DCEU so far has been divisive at best. I loved Man of Steel and the director’s cut of Batman v. Superman, but I hated Suicide Squad, and there are plenty of people who dislike all of them. Thankfully, Wonder Woman is pretty great.
The thing that this film probably did best was getting the character of Diana right. At this time before and right after she leaves Themyscira, Diana is a warrior, but she is also naïve, innocent, and ignorant of the terrible things that are in this world. Once she realizes how the world is, she doesn’t give into despair or cynicism. Those traits are essential to the character of Wonder Woman. Jenkins, through her directing, and Gadot, through her performance, bring the exact characterization that Wonder Woman needs.
No, this isn’t an Oscar-winning performance, but it doesn’t need to be. Gadot owns the physicality of the role and she pulls her own share of emotional weight when it’s needed. There isn’t much, but what is there is really solid. I’m excited to see her continue on in Justice League and beyond.
Speaking of Jenkins, her directing of this film is fantastic. She doesn’t shy away from plenty of darker moments, and there are plenty, but there is a hopefulness and optimism spread throughout the film. The first half of the film is pretty humorous with Diana’s fish out of water circumstances.
Jenkins also adds plenty of little character moments throughout the film in order to build on Diana and Steve’s relationship and these moments add the perfect amount of heart that this film needed. Her action scenes are nothing to be laughed at, either. Some may rely on a little too much slow motion, but for the most part, they are engaging, intense and entertaining to watch.
The performances from the entire cast are solid, too. Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright are great as Queen Hippolyta and Antiope, respectively, and David Thewlis is solid as well. Chris Pine nearly steals the show though, with this being one his best performances. This is not quite to the level of his performance in Hell or High Water, but he has really come into his own as a quality actor. He adds the right amount of charm and urgency needed for the character, and his comedic timing was also great.
This film isn’t perfect though, with my main issues being the third act and the villains. The first two-thirds of the film are a really great character drama with one character happening to have superpowers, but the third act devolves into a pretty generic endgame set-piece that plenty of superheroes have done before it. It’s not terrible, being that you actually care about the characters because of the fact that it was a character drama, but it adds nothing new to the table.
The villains are also heavily underutilized and underdeveloped in this film. This is a common Marvel problem and I guess DC took one of the pages out of Marvel’s handbook where it’s better to focus on the hero, but when Ares is criminally underused and wasted, then it’s a hard problem to forgive.
Overall, Wonder Woman is a great character drama/origin film for Diana Prince that is well-directed and well-acted, albeit with a slightly lackluster third act and villains, but is the best DC film to be released since The Dark Knight.
Wonder Woman is available on Blu-Ray, DVD, iTunes, and Amazon Video.