- Engaging plot – simple enough for newcomers, interesting enough for hardcore fans
- Fantastic action set-pieces with thrilling fight scenes
- Engaging, lovable characters
- Kick ass women that makes feminism cool again
- Finally some comedy in a DC film!
- Slight generic villain with typical end of the world evil plan
- It’s just awesome
So, DC… let’s be honest, their last three films haven’t been great; they’ve actually been flat out bad. Fun at times perhaps, but bad nonetheless. So I can’t have been the only one nervous to see Wonder Woman. Like many, I had high hopes – very high hopes. Walking into the screen I had mixed feelings; I was very excited for this film, I had been waiting a long time to see it and was totally on board with all the hype… but then again the recent DC films in their current cinematic universe have disappointed me before – three times out of three films to be specific. So to say I was prepared to be disappointed again is an understatement. However any doubts I had were immediately quashed, and not only did I walk out of the screen satisfied, but I was happy. I can say, hand on heart, that for the first time the DCEU has made an amazing movie. That’s right, Wonder Woman is a wonder.
Growing up on the secluded island of Themyscira inhabited entirely by Amazonian women, Diana (Gal Gadot) starts to be trained to fight by Antiope (Robin Wright), despite her mother Hippolyta’s (Connie Nielson) wishes. Coincidentally around the same time she realises how powerful she is during a training session, she sees a plane crash into the sea, leading her to rescue American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). However his plane leads enemy German soldiers to Themyscira, starting a battle that leaves many dead. Upon Diana learning from Steve about the First World War that has been hidden from their island, Diana decides to leave with Steve to kill Ares, the God of War, which she’s convinced will end the war. After a brief stint in London to round up some friends to help them – secretary Etta (Lucy Davis), actor Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui), stereotypical drunk Scot Charlie (Ewen Bremner) and stoic Native American The Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) – they set off to war-ridden France with the intention of ending the war, Diana becoming Wonder Woman and set on killing Ares to end it all.
It’s tempting and very easy for a comic book series that’s been going on since 1941 to make a film with a convoluted, complex plot, trying to incorporate as much of its lore as possible to appease the fans. Fortunately this is something Wonder Woman absolutely does not do. The plot is simple, interesting and engaging – thank god for that! This is a film that’s been marketed to and is of interest to a wide audience, not just comic book enthusiasts. DC have totally taken this on board and have given us a Wonder Woman film with a plot simple enough to be engaging to newcomers and interesting enough to captivate everyone. You don’t need to know the comic book history; anything you need to know (such as the history around Ares) is laid out in a beautifully-done sequence partially inspired by Greek sculpture. Not only does this drag you into Diana’s world that on the surface can seem slightly ridiculous, but it gives you all the information you need to fully understand the basics. From then on it’s a simple ‘find the bad guy and kill him’ plot, with focus on action and characters, very little being just a generic CGI fest we’re used to with DC movies (aside from the end, admittedly). And honestly, the simpler the plot the better; this allows more time for ass-kicking, first-pumping action and for us to know and fall in love with the characters.
DC films so far have been concerned with serious, boring stories that take a tedious two hours to come to an underwhelming CGI-infested action-packed finale. Wonder Woman doesn’t rush to its finale; it takes its time and has so much fun doing it. We don’t want it to end! This never feels like a slow, predictable origin story where you’re just waiting for them to get their powers, don a suit and go fight some bad guys. She gets her stuff towards the beginning and gets down to it; everything feels natural and organic, never rushed or dragged out.
On top of this, there’s a perfect blend of action, story and comedy. Gone is the overly-serious tone we’re used to from Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Here we have comedy! Yes, comedy in a DC film – lines that actually make you laugh, gags that hit! It’s definitely the funniest, lightest of the DC films and it really adds to its strength, giving the film more personality that shines through from beginning to end. This allows us to be more open and willing to love the characters; and it really is the characters that make this film the joy it is as opposed to the action (something that really sets it apart from any of the previous films with Superman). While they may not have had the success of becoming a cultural icon like Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, each and every character in Wonder Woman is likeable – especially the secondary characters and even the bad guys are more fun to watch than usual.
The roster of characters are the best, most delightful we’ve seen in the DCEU so far. Wonder Woman makes us laugh, kicks ass and is a joy to watch as she carries the film; Steve Trevor, although the generic love interest as many predicted, really is so much more – charming, funny and charismatic, his relationship with Diana grows so perfectly and with such warmth it’s quickly become one of the best superhero film couples; the secondary characters too we can’t help but love more that any of the members of Suicide Squad. They didn’t need numerous introductions, hipster marketing or to try too hard – just good acting, pace and writing. The only downside to the characters would be when the main villain emerges, becoming the often-seen “aha I’m the real bad guy, mwahaha” generic villain whose plan is to predictably wipe out the human race. Yet, as with many movies like this, the final plot isn’t as central as the journey to get there, the journey being one heck of a fun ride.
Obviously you can’t write about a superhero movie without mentioning the action. Yes, there’s a lot of emphasis on story and characters, but there’s plenty of action to be had – and each and every action scene is sublime. Exciting with expert choreography, it’s never dull. This is because Wonder Woman herself is so much more interesting than other superheroes. Most are one-trick ponies; firing arrows, firing lasers, running fast, throwing a shield… I love them, but there’s not always a lot of variety. Wonder Woman has her lasso, sword, shield, bracelets and hand-to-hand combat. All of these are blended perfectly into her fight scenes to create varied, thrilling action set pieces unlike anything we’ve quite seen before. Put simply, Wonder Woman kicks ass and it’s so much fun to watch. Personally I’ve always had an issue with slow-mo – I think it’s silly and tacky and can make a potentially impressive action scene cheap and cheesy; it’s overdone in The Matrix (though I know it’s very famous for it) and Zack Snyder does it way too much. Due to the latter it’s not surprising that there’s still use of slow-mo in Wonder Woman so as to make sure the aesthetic stays faithful to the rest of the DCEU; yet it’s certainly not overused and actually the action is so good I didn’t mind the slow-mo – on the contrary, I actually enjoyed it!
Wonder Woman as a character is important for a number of reasons, but one big thing about this character is that she’s a feminist icon. A strong, independent woman who can kick ass and stand on her own in a man’s world, she even enjoyed a brief stint as an honorary ambassador for the UN to be the face for an empowerment campaign to fight for gender equality. Obviously this can’t be forgotten in this film and they include the feminism agenda wonderfully; never forced, never in-your-face – just ever present, natural and empowering. From a utopian Themiscyra which has sexy, strong and powerful women of all sorts of ages and colours to Diana’s criticism of men’s use in the “pleasures of the flesh” and comparing female secretaries to slaves. It’s also worthy to mention that so far Wonder Woman‘s director, Patty Jenkins, is the only woman so far to have directed a film in the DCEU. This is no coincidence; she’s saved the DC series of films and proven to all that women are more than capable of directing a big blockbuster.
Yes, there may be slightly generic aspects of the film; the villain and his typical ‘destroy-humans’ plan, the CGI bang-thwack-wallop finale, the inevitable Hollywood romance that needs to be included in all films – but these are hardly criticisms because they never feel old or boring. Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot have teamed up to create the female-superhero movie we absolutely needed; one that’s empowering, kicks ass, is fun to watch, is funny to watch, exciting to watch and has breathed some life not only into the DC superhero films, but the whole superhero movie genre. Wonder Woman saves the day again!