The DCEU has made a ton of money, but the critical reviews have not been kind. While some of the criticisms struck me as illegitimate, as I noted in my BvS review, a lot of them were spot on. Suicide Squad was straight garbage, while Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman both had some great moments surrounded by lackluster writing and pacing. However, with Wonder Woman drawing rave reviews and outperforming box office expectations, it’s possible DC might be finding its footing in its future battles against Marvel.
And Wonder Woman deserves it. It’s an entertaining origins story with humor, grit, and likeable characters, and Gal Gadot hits it out of the park with her portrayal of the titular character. Gadot was the breakout star in BvS, and her own movie did nothing to take away from that.
A more innocent and naive Wonder Woman
One interesting decision was to make Wonder Woman more wide-eyed and innocent, which actually worked really well with Gadot. It was different because Wonder Woman is typically portrayed as the character more willing to dish out harsh justice (even killing people) and have a cynical outlook on mankind, quite unlike Superman and even Batman. The latter two are often the ones that calm her down and even her out. Other portrayals sometimes show her to be a singular minded soldier with very little respect for men. While it sometimes bordered on being too unbelievable, this portrayal gave Wonder Woman more of an optimistic, gentle approach and look. And again, it worked out pretty well, especially as an origins story.
It led to some very funny moments with Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), which was good for the movie. I also liked that while the movie had good humor, it still retained a much darker look and feel than Marvel movies do. I don’t think DC should just try to copy Marvel and should embrace that they’re typically darker; they just need to execute it better. Wonder Woman struck that balance pretty well.
Still, while Wonder Woman was portrayed as more innocent and optimistic, she was no pushover. She exhibited strength of will and character to go along with her obvious physical strengths, and Gadot pulled off being beautiful without being an objectified sex symbol in Wonder Woman’s rather silly outfit. She actually looked quite cool in it, which is a feat in itself. She looked like royalty strolling out in the middle of a death zone between the trenches.
The choreography for the fight scenes was mostly well done and showed a powerful, athletic, graceful, but not invincible Wonder Woman. She used her weapons pretty well and in somewhat believable ways, though they were not always consistent with how fast she was. In fairness, it seemed like she was just discovering the limits of her power in the movie, and it’s hard to portray good action with someone as powerful as her.
The beach fight between the Germans and Amazons wasn’t bad either, and it at least showed that the Germans had some advantages with guns. It actually would have been very bad news for the Amazons if it wasn’t during WW1 but instead in a much later war with better weapons.
I will say that that third act was a bit lackluster; Ares was neither compelling as a character or as a combatant, and the last fight wasn’t very interesting and was almost corny. I almost rolled my eyes at the lightning stuff at the end.
The plot was okay but mostly carried by the likability of the characters. The Ares “surprise” was fairly predictable, and his powers made no sense. I liked how they made sure not to just blame Ares for the war because that would have been lame, but he was still a rather dull antagonist. So was the German general and “Mrs. Poison” or whatever she was called. The whole gas subplot was not very interesting, though it gave Trevor a heroic moment. The thing had zero effect on Diana and was made by very cartoony bad guys.
Still, it wasn’t bad as superhero plots go, and get the job done. I can nitpick at some plot holes here and there, but while I do that a lot for superhero movies, I’ll pass those by for now.
Wonder Woman was a fun movie, and it makes me hopeful that the upcoming Justice League movie won’t be a mess. But we’ll see if it’s a lone bright spot or if it helps start a positive trend for DC.