I went into Wonder Woman with a sense of hopeful skepticism. Unfortunately there’s been a plethora of recreational outrage articles and think pieces trying to divide us along lines of race, gender, and fandom. Women-only showings, movie’s not feminist enough, Gail is or isn’t a person of color, you name it and the chimps will type it out. The movie already had a ton of baggage before it even released to the general public. And then there’s DC. Unfortunately DC has done a good job of putting people in the seats with some pretty awful movies. Of course they’ve been making money on them, but that’s what worried me. That they’d rely on fan devotion to the characters until we got tired of it. I likened superhero movies to days of the week. Avengers flicks are like Wednesday through Friday. Week’s almost over, you have to be a little serious but almost time to have fun. Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool are like the weekend; a chance to have fun and carry on with your friends. DC was like Monday. You feel obligated to go in, but you wish you’d called in sick once you got there.
Despite the overwhelming high marks from critics (which always make me nervous) and the negative baggage, we went in with as open a mind as we could. This was definitely a big movie for my wife and I both. We both liked the TV show, and while I don’t much care for DC Comics she’s been one of my favorite DC characters. I remember watching Lynda Carter when I was a kid, and the show was always up there with those classics like Battlestar Galactica, The Incredible Hulk, and The A-Team. There’s a lot of nostalgia, and with that goes a hope that the studios don’t frak it up, and a fear that they will.
The biggest plus with this movie is it was fun. Finally, for a change, a DC movie was fun without seeming forced like Suicide Squad. There was an element of hope, and real heroics. A feeling that the characters are making a real difference rather than catering to their egos. With Johns at the helm now the DCEU seems to be learning that you can’t just strap a cape on a good looking actor and expect people to keep coming back. Just like you don’t need to destroy half a metropolitan area to show just how powerful your heroes are. The movie was like a mix between a spy thriller and action flick, which helped ground it in the real world. Unlike the last couple of movies that felt like they were on sets, and all the concern was on these titans fighting each other, we see Diana engaged in a real human tragedy. Her motivation is to save innocents and stop the horror of war, and while there’s the requisite big bad to fight, her motivation isn’t to stop him for her own ego. There were stakes, and because they were acknowledged by the hero, they felt more real. It’s been by far the most relatable story we’ve had from DC recently.
Character development was probably what made this movie stand above previous offerings from DC. Diana quickly established herself as a strong character with firm principles. We see a bit of her early life, and her desire to be like the other amazons. When the outside world invades I was happy to see Diana assert herself without diminishing others. Too often we see strong female characters presented as someone who has to insult the men around her, or the men around are written as all being jerks and idiots. Neither of those were the case here and it made the interaction more believable and interesting. Steve was also written well and played well by Chris Pine. Together Chris and Gal had a great chemistry that came through on screen and made their budding relationship endearing. Their interaction was funny at times, but not so funny that it became silly. A bit of humor is good, but this wasn’t the type of movie that needed a laugh in every scene. Unlike the three previous installments of the DCEU I actually cared about the characters, and felt something in the final scene back in London. I don’t want to give anything away, you’ll know what I mean when you see it.
Pacing would be one of my few complaints. For the most part the movie did well with balancing fast action and slower story development, but there were a couple of moments that seemed to drag on. A couple scenes could have been pared down without really losing anything. The other thing I noticed, and maybe it’s because I write fiction myself, but the villain’s identity was way too obvious. The bait and switch too expected. I won’t spoil much but I will say, go with your gut. When it feels off, something just doesn’t feel right about someone, you’re probably right on the nose. At the end it just makes it a little weird seeing who the bad guy is.
At the end, I don’t think Wonder Woman quite lives up to the stellar numbers we’re seeing from the critics. The negative think pieces are completely off the mark too. The movie is good. I think it’s the best DC has given us since Nolan’s Batman series, and probably better than at least one of those. Wonder Woman is a great character, and lives up to her long-running example of strong, intelligent, and heroic female comic characters. She doesn’t have to put anyone down to prove herself, or treat anyone like they’re less than her to raise herself up. She’s obviously appealing to young girls and women, but also a hero that boys and men can appreciate. The story of honor, sacrifice, and courage is gender neutral and we can all use more of that sort of hope that comic books, the best example of modern American mythology, are known for. I think anyone who likes superhero movies, and a lot of people that might not, will like this movie. It’s well worth seeing, and unlike previous films I’ll probably watch it again. This might just be the movie that saves the DCEU.