This was the first time we tasted nearly universal success critically and financially with a DC Extended Universe movie, and lo and behold it came from one that really didn’t have a lot of meddling involved from the powers that be.
No, director Patty Jenkins and actress Gal Gadot had a very clear vision for Wonder Woman and they were allowed to follow it to the letter. The result was one of the strongest comic book movies we have seen in recent years and a true cultural phenomenon on the big screen as we finally got to see the story of Diana of Themiscyra in live action cinema.
I saw this movie twice on opening weekend and I remember it wasn’t sold out either time, but there mostly women of all ages in the seats. Mothers, daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters alike all turned out for this one and it was a special moment to see this film impact them they way it clearly did.
As the only true prequel in the DCEU, Wonder Woman works very well as a period piece for a war that we have never known that much about collectively: World War I. It serves as a fantastic backdrop for the story of Diana’s quest to topple Ares with what she believes is the Godkiller sword that will ultimately allow the Amazons to defeat the god of war and restore peace to all of mankind.
Similar to both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, this movie is heavily allegorical amidst the backdrop of a brutal and vicious war, but also manages to balance humor and great chemistry among the cast to even the film out. Wonder Woman is arguably the darkest movie in the entire DCEU when you consider the plot and intentions, but no one even levies that complaint against it because of the lighthearted moments that mostly come from Diana’s naivete in Man’s World, and the lightning in a bottle chemistry shared by Gal Gadot and Chris Pine, who plays Steve Trevor. The heart of Wonder Woman as a movie comes from their relationship and also their friends in Steve’s group, Sameer played by Said Taghmaoui, Charlie played by Ewen Bremner and The Chief played by Eugene Brave Rock. You also get some solid comedic timing in moments from Lucy Hale’s Etta Candy, especially in her efforts to help Diana fit into Man’s World in the late 1910’s.
When it comes to Diana’s regality and her training though, that’s handled with prestige and strength from Connie Nielsen’s Queen Hippolyta and Robin Wright’s General Antiope. Both were only on screen for the first act of the movie on Themiscyra but made their presence felt and absolutely added to the strength of the movie as a whole.
You could argue that this movie is loaded with plot device villains between Danny Huston’s General Ludendorff, Elena Anaya’s Doctor Poison and even David Thewlis’ Ares who reveals himself before a final battle that while it is CGI heavy, has never really bothered me at all despite what others have said about it. The thing is, this movie isn’t about the villains or even the plot itself. It’s really about Diana and her introduction to the world so that we as the audience can better understand her position on it. As far as true origin movies go, it’s one of the strongest we have seen in terms of staying on task to the story of the hero and not letting others, even Steve Trevor, derail or deflect from that story.
Again, this movie is heavy on allegorical messages about the nature of mankind and its capacity for war and violence, but the acting performances from Gadot and Pine steal the show and the true heart and emotion of this film that comes from Jenkins direction and the efforts of the entire cast and crew really shine through here all the way. It doesn’t have the best VFX in the DCEU or comic book movies in general, but the movie is about so much more than that and has played an integral role not only in shaping the future of the DCEU franchise, but also the future of female-led comic book movies as a whole. The raw power and strength of Diana crossing No Man’s Land, the “We Are All To Blame” scene between Diana and Steve where she realizes the true folly of man’s violence, and the strength of Diana’s abilities as a whole as she powers her way with a compassionate heart throughout the whole film are all reasons why Wonder Woman is one of the most important triumphs for comic book movies as a genre.
It truly was what we hoped would be the turning point for the DCEU as a franchise, but unfortunately it was just one bright spot before arguably the darkest and maybe most controversial in the franchise’s short history.