There was so much pressure being placed on Wonder Woman to succeed, perhaps slightly unfairly. This is mainly due to the overall poor reception of to the previous two DCEU films, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad (although both still did good box office numbers). It may not be fair to put the baggage of the studio’s previous films on Wonder Woman, but many people have.
Wonder Woman mainly takes place long before we meet her in Batman v Superman going back to World War I and the first that Diana encounters the world of man. The entire first act takes place in Themyscira, the home of the Amazons. This portion of the film really draws heavily from the DC version of the Greek Mythology. This was something that the grittier version of the DC world could easily have dialed back on, but Patty Jenkins and the screenwriter Allan Heinberg committed to and made work. The rest of the film sees Diana joining Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor as he returns to the war in an attempt to find Ares, the god of war.
One of the most important aspects of the film is Gal Gadot’s performance as Diana, and she is utterly brilliant. She completely nails the naive, hopeful, innocence of this younger Diana so well. But on top of this she is able to go to the darker places of the film. Most importantly Gadot has the gravitas to pull off the more inspirational moments of the film, there is one speech she gives to the Imperial War Cabinet that will give you chills. Gadot carries this film, and does such a wonderful job bringing a character as iconic to life.
It’s not just Gadot though. Her chemistry with Chris Pine is fantastic. This is one of the best romances done in comic book films for a long time, because their chemistry just makes this relationship feel so natural. Outside of this Pine as Trevor is so charming and likeable, but also capable to being incredibly funny. Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, and Eugene Brave Rock all deserve credit as well for their appearances as Sameer, Charlie, and Chief, allies of Diana and Steve. They all succeed in making these characters so well fleshed out and three dimensional, without huge amounts of screen time. Jenkins does brilliantly in giving them little moments that makes them so much more than they appear on the surface. David Thewlis as Sir Patrick Morgan is excellent because Thewlis just has so much presence to him. The only real disappointment is Danny Houston as General Erich Ludendorff who is far too moustache twirling as a villain, and never feels real.
Patty Jenkins clearly has a very strong vision for Wonder Woman, imbuing the film with a powerful anti war message; hell they are literally fighting the god of war. She doesn’t shy away from showing the horrors of war, and the first time that Diana experiences death in battle is so brilliant and powerful. Jenkins’ perfect capturing of the time period really helps drawing this out. It creates some incredibly emotional moments that Gadot is so good in. She is such a figure of hope and inspiration in Wonder Woman. In fact Jenkins has succeeded in making this character what many people wanted from Superman in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman.
The film is a little more of a mixed bag when it comes to the action. A lot of it, particularly the hand-to-hand fighting, is excellent. It’s well shot, clear, and brilliant choreographed. The problem comes from some of the CGI when Diana is leaping around. It looks a little too fake and didn’t work that well. But when they fully embrace the completely out there aspect with Ares the CGI worked a lot better. Although it is far closer to a fantastical comic book film than the gritty war film that Wonder Woman had been ever since they left Themyscira.
Wonder Woman will certainly prove to be many people’s favourite of he DCEU so far, and rightly so. Wonder Woman doesn’t get bogged down in an over convoluted story, and instead focuses on its brilliant characters and powerful, emotional moments. Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins both absolutely deliver, and to many this will be the DCEU back on track.