TL; DR(eview) – Wonder Woman is a solid and fun movie. It’s got some flaws but it is anchored by a couple of great, likeable performances in Gal Gadot and Chris Pine and the good definitely outweighs the bad. A solid origin story for one of DC’s legendary Trinity has finally made it’s triumphant debut on the big screen.
I had the great pleasure to see Wonder Woman surrounded by a couple hundred friends from the Kinda Funny community last night in San Francisco.
Overall, I had a fun time with Wonder Woman. I’d probably have to go back and watch Man of Steel to be sure, but it’s probably my favorite of the DCEU movies. Gal Godot makes for a formidable Diana, and plays her competence beautifully (that was the first time I had to stop myself from writing wonderfully as an adjective). Diana is never a dumb fish out of water, which I appreciated greatly, but she is often naïve as a result of the Amazons keeping themselves sheltered from the world of man. But her courage, intelligence, and skill in battle make her a compelling character throughout the film.
Chris Pine’s Captain Steve Trevor is another standout (and not just for his surname). Pine does a wonderful job showing the audience just enough to let us realize how haunted he is by some of his previous actions in the war and that he’s trying to redeem himself. He also has a lot of the standout comedic moments in the film, from confusingly trying to fight the Lasso of Truth to the romantic humor with Diana, and had our audience laughing quite a bit.
I think the second act of the film drastically outshines the first and third acts, with a sequence of Diana and her crew fighting across No Man’s Land to save a town under siege a clear highlight. It serves as the first real show of what Diana is capable of and how her compassion and insistence on helping the helpless is one of her greatest strengths.
The first act takes far too long to get going and is filled with exposition that really turned my “show, don’t tell” pet peeve into overdrive. The first few minutes of the movie tell of battles among the Amazons and the Gods. But rather than show us this back story through an intricately choreographed fight sequence, they show it over a series of slowly movie paintings that admittedly look kind of cool, but are little more than a digital pop-up book.
Additionally upon reflection, I found myself annoyed by how much the act of Captain Trevor stumbling upon Themyscira served as a catalyst for the film. Hippolyta and the Amazons were so content to keep themselves isolated from the outside world that they were oblivious to the four years Ares has been fueling the Great War. And Ares was getting everything he wanted so he had no reason to bother seeking out Themyscira. If the plane doesn’t crash, Ares’ war keeps killing while the Amazons live in ignorant bliss. And even when it does, the Amazons (save Diana) choose to hide rather than fight. I certainly don’t have an immediate fix her (why I’m not I screenwriter) but I found this keeping me up last night and think the inciting incident could have been more of an action for Diana, rather than a reaction.
Meanwhile, the third act feels too much like so many other superhero third acts: a digital effects driven fight at night with lots of stuff flying through the air while somebody ran around alone on a green screen set. The “villain” doesn’t really reveal himself until the end so it’s basically a monologue and then straight into a fight with no real build in the feud. There’s a subplot involving a sacrifice for the greater good and Diana suddenly finds the ability to perfectly understand a message she couldn’t hear earlier because her ears ringing from an explosion because this magic memory power is apparently the key to unlocking her true potential.
Ultimately, though, it was a fun movie and did a really good job of establishing the character. We don’t get to see the turn that leads from her fighting for mankind here to having abandoned it a century later by the events of Batman v Superman but I imagine they’ve left room to explore that, potentially in a World War II era sequel.
The movie will of course be endlessly compared to Captain America: The First Avenger given their similar “historical tie-in origin stories” as well as parallel narrative beats (Wonder Woman even has her own version of the Howling Commandos we saw in Captain America). And I think they’re probably movies of a very similar quality that will be remembered by history very differently based on what preceded them.
In my estimation, the first Captain America is generally looked on with a general feeling of “meh” based on how surprisingly delightful Iron Man was and how great The Avengers ended up tying everything together. While we won’t see how the Justice League forms until later this year, the general critical perception of the DC Universe to this point has been highly disappointing so even a good movie like Wonder Woman can be seen as amazing in comparison to what came before it. If Batman v Superman had been incredible, Wonder Woman may have ended up feeling like a bit of a let down.
But it didn’t. Critical buzz has been largely positive and audiences seem to be reacting well to it. I’m glad I went to support a strong female character. I’m incredibly happy for all of the strong females who I look up to in my life who feel like they’ve finally been rewarded with an inspiring hero on the big screen. And - for the first time in a long time – I’m excited about the DCEU.