There’s no questioning that the DC Expanded Universe (DCEU) has been rather difficult for mainstream audiences to swallow. I, and my colleagues here at Article Asylum have found the DCEU, on the whole, is a dish that is not only delicious, but reheats great. Like baked spaghetti, some things are even better the second time and, apart from Suicide Squad (Squash? …if we go with the food analogy), the DCEU has been just like that. The trouble is that most people are not keen to come back a second time if they did not like it the first. Wonder Woman had the daunting task of being spectacular on the surface while still being rewarding in depth. Party Jenkins’ film succeeds in that endeavor.
Chris Pine, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, and Lucy Davis turn out good performances that invest the audience in what’s going on around them. Much must be said for the absolute scene stealer that is Gal Gadot. Gal does a great job portraying the hopeful yet naive Diana. She is a warrior and doesn’t take “no” for an answer, and I’m saying that about Gal. The Israeli actress brings her all to every scene and rather than overshadowing her castmates she accents them. Gal is capable of shifting between charm, humor, and power with convincing realism and honest characterization. This is her film and it shows. That being said, I must commend Chris Pine for his solid job as her supporting castmate and doing a bang-up job at making us like him. Lucy Davis produces a laugh nearly ever frame she’s on screen as Etta Candy. And… well, there are some performances I can’t detail without spoiling so just trust me in this: they are largely satisfactory. The only concern I had is with Danny Huston as General Ludendorff, who just comes across as a real mustache twirler.
The story is straightforward and easy to digest in one sitting but is also filled with just enough depth to reward multiple viewings. We follow the naive, hopeful, strong, and morally steadfast Diana as she grows up on the Amazonian Island, Themyscira. Her idyllic life is interrupted when Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor’s plane crashes in the waters of Themyscira and he is pursued by his German foes. Trevor explains to the Amazonian the urgency of his mission and Diana enters into the world of men (against her mother’s wishes) as the First World War is raging. Thinking that mankind is only the way it is because it is suffering under the yolk of Ares, the God of War, Diana embarks on a mission to find and destroy this celestial foe. The result is a gleeful blend of Greek Mythology and history. Diana struggles to understand the world of men and it’s masculine dominance but she does not struggle at leaping in to contradict and challenge it. The themes of war, duty, feminism, standing up for righteousness, and the nature of mankind are strong throughout the film and it does a great job of exploring these themes with sufficient depth to justify all of them. It never quite reaches the philosophical heaviness of Batman v Superman or Man of Steel, but it also avoids being quite as shallow as Suicide Squad.
Action, set pieces, and cinematography are in fine form for this first major Super Heroine Film (Society is not counting Catwoman or Elektra and we all know it). There are some truly iconic moments and slow-mo flair that is reminiscent of Zack Snyder’s style. Few films have to juggle the feel of a war film AND a comic book movie (Captain America: The First Avenger being a notable exception), but even fewer do it so well. I will note that the action takes a dip in quality by the third act, which is a shame but not enough to derail what the film had done before it.
In summary, Wonder Woman is a delightfully solid comic book film and is absolutely sane. I want to make a note on my scoring system. The “Overall” Score simply tallies the passing marks for the overall areas and so a perfect score does not indicate a perfect film, but rather one that passes in every graded area. Please, go watch the film and enjoy it. I can give no higher praise to a film than to encourage others to see it.