After all the big budget misfires, the DCEU really needed to score one and Wonder Woman has delivered a glorious goal. This is a coming-of-age tale, an origin story, a romantic comedy, a 1918 period movie and a superhero genre tentpole flick all rolled into one blistering motion picture. This is a winner! Batman, Superman, Suicide Squad who?
After a brief prologue set in modern day Paris, we are brought to the timeless mystical Island of Themyscira in an extended flashback sequence. We meet Diana, daughter of Amazon Queen, Hippolyta (Connie Nielssen). She longs to join the ranks as a fearsome Amazon warrior and her aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright) wants to train her. The story begins in earnest with the crash landing arrival of American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) who works for British Intelligence whom Diana rescues.
IMHO the brightest spot of Batman vs Superman is Wonder Woman. Here in her very own spotlight, she shines like a beacon of hope for the franchise. The casting of Gal Gadot is an inspired choice and her femininity and her strong character form a hypnotic aura around her. This is not femininity of the weak kind; she doesn’t look into Chris Pine’s blue eyes, disappear into them and forgets all her fighting skills. She is a woman with conviction and yet she is always inquisitive. She is athletic, strong, knows her purpose in life (even though it will take her a while to get there) and statuesque in her convictions. She has compassion and feels for the common folk. In short, she is a breath of fresh air. Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman (henceforth WW) is directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins, best known for Monster (2003) which won Charlize Theron the Best Actress Oscar. Her narrative voice is refreshingly distinctive and she blazes a new path for the overcrowded superhero genre. WW draws strength from Diana’s growth in character and learning her ultimate place in humanity. As much as it is about that, it is also about a world torn by war earning their right to have her. This wise narrative trajectory gives the story gravitas and emotional heft. Most movies of this sort tend to embed an action scene every 10 minutes, but WW takes a different path and IMHO the quiet moments are also its strongest moments. Even when the action scenes rolled in, there is a “never seen that before” awesome feeling. The scene of Diana running head-on into the German front is superbly shot and has so much emotional power that I won’t be forgetting that for a long time.
Chris Pine is definitely Gadot’s counterpart. Their chemistry feels genuine and I especially enjoy their double entendre dialogue. Pine’s Steve Trevor is a man of that begotten time period, he doesn’t react immediately after laying eyes on a beauty. He bides his time and treats her with respect; he earns the right to be with her by being who he is, a patriotic soldier and a chivalrous man. Tell me you don’t want to see that more in these present times.
Up to this point, I sound like I am describing a superhero genre masterpiece and if you scroll down and see my score, you will probably feel it doesn’t commiserate with what was written. As much as I think it is a very satisfying movie, it derailed for me in the final act in the typical bombastic manner with which all the emotional built-up is thrown out the door and in its place comes the Defcon One city-leveller noise. Thankfully, Jenkins does anchor one particular scene with an emotional heft seldom seen. At 141 minutes, WW does require some judicious snips and the villains do deserve better. But all these don’t take away the fact that it is the best movie in the DC extended universe to date. It is super fun, satisfying, dare I even say edifying, and in a genre populated by men, it takes a female hero and a female director to show in what new ways the game can be played.
3 / 5