For many women, Wonder Woman is an empowering symbol of freedom and hope. Growing up, little boys had their pick of superheroes–Batman, Superman, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Captain America, the list goes on–but Wonder Woman was it for us. Because of the scarcity of female superheroes, Wonder Woman had to do it all. She bore the brunt of carrying an entire gender for much of her history and because of that weight, much of her involvement in comic book lore is lacking in depth. Thankfully, her inclusion in the Justice League animated series, as well as the Justice League animated films, and a new origin story in New 52, Wonder Woman has made huge strides in becoming the hero all women can look up to.
Having now seen the live-action version of Diana’s tale, I can unequivocally state that Wonder Woman is the best entry in the DCEU. Since that’s not the highest bar these days, what with the boring Man of Steel, the bloated Batman v. Superman, and the messy Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman might be the best superhero movie since The Dark Knight, and it’s certainly my favorite entry because, well, I was that little girl who daydreamed endlessly about fighting bad guys with a sword and shield.
Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot as the titular hero and directed by Patty Jenkins, is yet another superhero origin story, chronicling her life from Amazonian child on the island of Themyscira to the birth of the hero Wonder Woman. There isn’t anything altogether new about Wonder Woman’s origin. If you’ve read her comics, you know all the beats of the film, the turns it takes, but the predictability doesn’t matter because the execution is flawless. Music swells at the right moments, characters are given their quiet moments and chances to develop, and the fight sequences, though maybe a bit too much at times,are still top-notch entertainment.
Setting Wonder Woman in World War I was a brilliant move, a stark contrast to the bright, “love is everything” Diana. It’s more than culture shock for Diana, it’s a shock to her core. She grapples with the darkness and wonders aloud if men are deserving of being saved, but her belief in humanity continuously moves her forward. While most of the fight sequences in the film are excellently choreographed, Diana’s “No Man’s Land” coming-of-age fight is one of the best “I’m a hero” moments in cinema.
Wonder Woman brings much-needed levity to an overly dark DCEU. The humor never overpowers the heart of the film and it certainly doesn’t intrude on the action the way it does in the MCU, but it’s enough to temper the bleak setting. In fact, I’d argue that Wonder Woman is a near perfect superhero movie, at least until its third act when the trademark DC final fight sequence rears its ugly head and takes far too long to come to an adequate resolution. However, it’s a necessary evil where Diana is concerned and even though the movie, at times, borders on too much “kumbaya” and “love always wins”, it fits the character we’ve fallen for over the course of two hours.
For Diana, much of her life is very much about being an outsider and it’s that trait that I think will resonate most will female viewers. Despite growing up on an island comprised entirely of women, Diana is their first child since Zeus created the island. Born from clay shaped by Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons, Diana is meant to lead a sheltered life, for she is precious and important to their people. The Amazons are a warrior people, but it’s up to Diana’s aunt, Antiope, to train her when the Queen forbids it. Diana is a woman who breaks the mold even in a world where women rule. She doesn’t fall into line for the sake of her gender but acts on her beliefs, and it’s that morality that propels her forward throughout the entire film.
Wonder Woman never tries to hide that Diana Prince (and Gal Gadot) is a stunning woman and for that, I’m grateful. In fact, the film downright owns it. Gal Gadot was born to wear that suit and director Patty Jenkins knows it. Diana doesn’t start her journey as a disheveled She’s All That “mess” and then blossom into beauty because she met a man. She, and her fellow Amazons, were always beautiful, stunning in every single way, and they didn’t need men to validate it for them.
Of course, no superhero ever saves the day alone, so we have to discuss Wonder Woman’s cast of characters: the Amazons are an empowering example of female strength and independence, Trevor’s ragtag crew brings a necessary amount of light-heartedness to the bleak World War I backdrop, and Steve Trevor, with all his heart and humor, is the perfect match for the strong-willed Diana. Chris Pine puts all his marbles on the table, proving once and for all, that he is the best Hollywood Chris. Pine’s chemistry with Gadot is electric and his vulnerability around Diana is downright charming.
If there’s one true complaint about the film, it’s that the villains weren’t all that exciting. The Germans came across as almost too maniacal, too much of the caricature we’ve already seen a thousand times. Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) is criminally underutilized in favor of the typical villain, General Ludendorff.
Wonder Woman may have its flaws and predictability, but for me and that little girl who leapt from swing sets, punching imaginary bad guys and saving the day, it is the perfect film. It’s sure to make viewers want to go out and buy a pair of gauntlets and a lasso, just in case