HOLY CRAP! THEY DID IT! THEY ACTUALLY DID IT! DC finally pulled out a good movie! It only took them four tries! And it was the one we all thought they were gonna mess up!
I’ve made my thoughts on the DCEU and Warner Bros.’s handling of DC characters very clear over the past year or so, i.e. they suck at it. At least in the live action films. While their animation (with the exception of Teen Titans Go) and television departments have done either very well or simply decent, their live action films since at least the start of the 2010s have been consistently bad. (I’m giving Dark Knight Rises some leeway as it was a different series) Interestingly, it’s also when DC started to go downhill in the comics as well as around that time was also the start of the New 52, but that’s a story for another time. However, around the time this film was getting made, DC was laying the groundwork of DC Rebirth which has brought their comics back to both prosperity and popularity. Coincidence? Ha! The universe is rarely so lazy.
While Wonder Woman is one of the Big Three of DC Comics, she’s never gotten much attention compared to Batman and Superman outside of cartoons and her live action show from the 70s (which got a comic that’s currently running and did a crossover with 60s Batman). Oh, she’s well known in popular culture as the most prominent (and one of the oldest) female superhero, but she’s never gotten her own film. Why? …Sexism.
WAIT!!! I can see you either reaching for your mouse or keyboard to leave or write in the comments about how I’m not original or I’m a feminazi! Before you do, answer me this. Name one female superhero film that was good and I mean in terms of structure, making sense, acting, and writing. …Yeah. Not. A. One. Why? Because people don’t have faith in female superhero movies so they don’t put effort into them so they suck and other filmmakers are discouraged from making more because they blame the low box office sales on the fact that the lead is a woman instead of the actual problem: The Crappy Writing. Hell, remember that in name only Catwoman film from over a decade ago? That was supposed to come out years earlier with Tim Burton directing, Michelle Phiffer, and be a spin off of Batman Returns, but it kept getting delayed and delayed and rewritten and recast until we got the Haley Barry movie. It sucked.
I haven’t even talked about my feelings on Wonder Woman yet. I think she’s awesome. Above being one of the best superheroes out there, she’s also an amazing role model, not just for little girls, but kids everywhere. She’s a warrior princess who stand for truth, compassion, and honour. She’s a friend to all and will solve problems with diplomacy just as often as she will with fighting. Some writers have a hard time conveying this, but I can recommend three: George Perez (who defined her lore post-Crisis on Infinite Earths), Gail Simmon, and Greg Rucka. Between the three of them you should be able to get a good grasp of her character to search out her stories on your own. Rucka actually wrote her book for Rebirth, though he’s left the book at the time of this post.
Over a hundred years prior to Man of Steel (which means we can just pretend the other films don’t exist like I did), Diana grows up on the island of Themyscira, made up entirely of warrior women tasked by Zeus with guarding a weapon meant to kill the God of War, Ares, in case he ever returns. Diana is the only child on the island and longs to learn how to fight like the others. After convincing from her Aunt, her mother agrees and Diana grows into one of the island’s best fighters. One day, an American soldier named Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine, is saved from drowning by Diana after his plane crashes near the island. He tells the Amazons about World War 1 and how the Germans plan to use toxic gas to win the war. Diana, convinced that Ares must be behind it, leaves for the world outside the island with Steve against her mother’s wishes. Together with a ragtag group assembled by Steve, Diana sets out to kill Ares and restore peace to the world.
Sorry, I have to do this again. HOLY CRAP!!! THEY ACTUALLY DID IT!!! Okay, now I’m done.
Despite the fact that the story is partly by Zack Snyder, Allan Heinberg, who’s written for Wonder Woman in the past, clearly gets her in ways that others, like Geoff Johns for example, have trouble with. The fish out of water and sexism stuff is brief and doesn’t make up the bulk of her character like it would in the hands of a less talented writer or director. Patty Jenkins’s only other feature length film was also about a woman facing dangerous situations (Monster was about a real life serial killer and won its star Charlize Theron (Furiosa) an Academy Award) and has directed short films and television episodes with similar tones so she knows how to write women well and make them compelling. She admits to being a fan as a child and, in my opinion, has done well to her childhood hero.
The basic plot of this basically a period piece about comradery and saving people mixed with magic and Greek mythology with some fish out of water stuff briefly. In other words, finally! A hero just being a hero! The main goal is to just save the day. There’s no big philosophical stuff (until the end) and no one being stupid to serve the plot. Diana has to learn that not everything is black and white, but that’s just her needing to expand her world view beyond the stories she had been told as a child. The switch from the tradition World War 2 setting to World War 1 reflects this. World War 2 has a very clear cut bad guy, ie the Nazis, while World War 1 is a lot more gray comparatively. Also, it meant the film wouldn’t be compared too much with The First Avenger. Again, there is some period typical sexism, but it’s brief and as soon as the characters learn what Diana can do, they get over it and let her handle the heavy lifting. For once, we get to see a DC hero save the day.
And you can actually see her save the day because there is no shaky cam. WOOO!!!! The fight scenes in this film are incredible: sword work, shield work, some funky stuff with the Lasso of Truth, even the not Diana characters get some good scenes in. The exception is the dragged out Third Act fight, but at this point I kind of expect good superhero films to not have a very strong third act. Other than that, you will be cheering the whole time.
The electric guitar riff from Batman V Superman (the best music in that movie) returns along with new music that gets you pumped in the actions scenes. Honestly, all the music I remember are in my favourite scenes and my limited knowledge of music prevents me from commenting much on the rest, but I remember liking it.
Wonder Woman’s character is pitch perfect here. She’s compassionate towards others, has a great sense of honour, finds beauty and good in others, and inspires others to fight for what’s right. Her motivations for wanting to kill Ares aren’t revenge or glory or whatever. There’s no personal connection. She just genuinely wants to save people because she cares about everyone. That’s just who she it. She’s a little different from the Wonder Woman of the comics, but only because she’s still young and is fresh off the island. As the best part of Batman V Superman, we’ve seen that she grows into the version we love from the comics. Oh, and her origin. I get why they did it. It’s just easier for a mainstream audience to understand than the classic version. Do I like it? No, but I get why they did it.
Chris Pine works well as Steve Trevor. He’s an action hero, Pine knows how to do this. He’s Captain Freaking Kirk for crying out loud! He’s heroic, but not arrogant and is open minded to new situations. He’s willing to take help where he can get it and doesn’t put himself in harms way to pointlessly try to ‘save’ Diana when he knows she can handle herself. He knows how to do his job, but is willing to bend the rules to get the job done when the situation calls for it. He’s not a damsel in distress. He and Diana work together with their team to save people. And ladies (and some men), there’s manservice. Enjoy!
The two villains, Dr. Poison and General Ludendorff, have different motivations, but similar goals. One delights in causing pains, but is living in a world that tries to undermine her efforts and the war makes her skills and efforts useful and one sees war as just the natural state of humanity. As such, both want the war to continue (what ended WW1 was an armistice which meant all agreed to stop fighting) and will do whatever it takes to keep it going. Doctor Poison (and her granddaughter) is actually a long running Wonder Woman villain since her first solo series in 1942 while Ludendorff was a real person though with little resemblance to real life. Ares’s actual reveal is kinda disappointing, but like I said, third act disappointment is common.
The supporting cast have amazing chemistry. Diana, Steve, and their group work off each other well, both in fight scenes and in quiet talking moments where we learn more about their histories despite the fact that we most likely won’t see them again. I think they honestly get more character than the Howling Commandos in First Avenger. Diana’s aunts and mother are loving, but firm and make strict teachers. They want what’s best for Diana, but also want her to be ready for anything. This isn’t the New 52 where the Amazons were made out to be monsters. They’re warriors, yes, but also humans. You can see how much they all love and care about each other. The Themyscira stuff in general is great and I wish there was more of it. Though she’s not in the film for long, Etta Candy is the sweetest cinnamon role, sassy as all hell, and I hope we see more of her in another film.
Like I said at the start, you can pretty easily watch this as a stand alone film and not see any of the other films at all. The only thing you’d know about them from watching this film is that Diana knows Bruce Wayne and, since they appear to be friends, most likely knows he’s Batman. That’s it. You could easily just pretend the Batman she knows is Conroy or Keaton. Nothing really ties it to the rest of the DCEU outside of actors.
This is the DCEU film we’ve been waiting for. People have made excuses in the past for not making a Wonder Woman film in the past that usually boils down to, superhero period piece, God royalty in real world, or female hero while everyone with a brain just points to Captain America, Thor, and Black Widow’s prominent role in the MCU. With Warner Bros trying to catch up to Marvel, they decided to just introduce the Big Three (And Suicide Squad for some reason) before the big crossover and then introduce the other members, Batman V Superman being a kinda pre-Justice League because of Batman still being fresh in people’s minds due to the Dark Knight Trilogy. This, I believe is the only reason we got a Wonder Woman film after so many years. It was worth it. It’s well written, well acted, well directed, has likeable characters, a compelling story, and good stakes. It’s good looking, good sounding, it’s a good film. Yeah, the third act has some trouble, but that’s minor in comparison to how well done everything else is. This is the film that should have been the first in this series nominated for an Oscar. Not Suicide Squad. If you haven’t already seen this film, I highly recommend it. You will not be disappointed.
Oh, and there’s no end credit sequences…what do think this is? Marvel?
…No, I will not be watching Justice League. No amount of Whedon is going to save that train wreck. WHO THE HELL THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD IDEA TO BRING BACK JESSE EISENBERG!!?