SummaryWonder Woman proves you can make a good DC movie without Superman or Batman with one of the top comic book movies Hollywood has to offer.
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It took four tries from Warner Brothers and DC, but they finally put together an absolutely stunning superhero movie. Wonder Woman is not just the best DC Extended Universe film to date, but it rivals the best Marvel has had to offer and will hold its own in any comparison you throw at it.
Unlike many who have been staying up to date on their superhero movies, I was not as critical of Batman v. Superman as some. It was not without its flaws, but I thought there were some good elements to draw from as the DC Extended Universe continues to plant seeds to grow. In the end, Batman v. Superman suffered from trying to cram too much into the plot that the movie collapsed on itself once it was released. The film was hyped as the first time Batman and Superman shared the big screen in the same film, but it also served to lay the groundwork for the Justice League with the introduction of Wonder Woman and glimpses of Flash and Cyborg and a nod to Aquaman. Of the additional Justice League members, only Wonder Woman had what I would call a moderately significant role played by Gal Gadot. In essence, Wonder Woman’s introduction to the DC Extended Universe is comparable to how Marvel has recently introduced Spider-Man into its Marvel Cinematic Universe. Both DC and Marvel took a film built on a clash between two iconic super heroes (Batman v. Superman, Captain America: Civil War) and introduced a new character that would later star in a feature film (Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming). Low and behold, no matter what you thought about Batman v. Superman and Captain America: Civil War, one of the undisputed bright spots in each was Wonder Woman and Spider-Man even in relatively brief roles.
Wonder Woman has a long-standing history in the world of DC Comics but has never before been in a feature film (that wasn’t animated in LEGO form). Gadot seemed to be the perfect actor to portray Wonder Woman and was stunning in her debut in Batman v. Superman. But could she carry a film as the main protagonist? The results are in and heck yeah she can. Gadot was excellent in bringing a sense of wonderment, tenacity, fearlessness and charisma to a character the DC Extended Universe needed in a big way; one that is strong, inspiring, charming and easy to like. It is somewhat symbolic that Wonder Woman is the character and film to breathe new life into the DC Extended Universe after a polarizing reaction to Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman, and Suicide Squad. When you look to see how Wonder Woman stacks up against its DC Extended Universe predecessors, you cannot help but wonder if maybe Warner Brothers and DC should have started with Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman is everything Man of Steel should have been. Instead of an emo Superman conflicted with what to do with his powers, Wonder Woman doesn’t hesitate to do what she knows is the right thing to do for the sake of humanity. The key difference here is Henry Cavill’s Superman was raised to hide his powers until truly needed, and Wonder Woman was literally born and raised with the purpose to defeat evil. To date, I have not been thrilled with how Superman has been portrayed in this cinematic universe (whereas the Superman appearing on TV in the Arrowverse in Supergirl has been refreshing), and I wish he was more like Gadot’s Wonder Woman.
But I don’t want to spend too much time nitpicking previous films in the DC Extended Universe because that would be unfair to Wonder Woman and all it did well. And it does a lot of things really well.
I was always aware of Wonder Woman for as long as I can remember, but not being a big comic reader and never spending much time doing the research on various characters means I was in need of some background information with an origin story. Wonder Woman gives you everything you need to know about Diana’s story from life among the Amazons. This was an origin story that needed to be told, as opposed to yet another introduction to Bruce Wayne or Peter Parker, each who have appeared in multiple sagas on the big screen to date. Wonder Woman may be one of the least familiar yet familiar characters in comics for the casual viewers such as myself, so getting a look back in time was worth the time invested in the film. It pays off as the film plays out because you get an appreciation for the character and all that goes into making Wonder Woman who she is. She is inquisitive, charming, fearless, and inspiring. She establishes a personal connection with those around her, and it becomes clear how vital these relationships are to her.
Enter Chris Pine as Steven Trevor, who is excellent as a guide to Wonder Woman in the real world trapped in the midst of World War I. Gadot is the star of the film and has proven she can carry the load in the leading role, but having Pine along to help mold her character was excellent. The two had what seemed to be a good chemistry from the moment they meet and throughout the film as the two help each other learn about the worlds from which they come. Pine brings some good humor to the film as well in a subtle way that never feels forced. It is natural when Pine or Gadot make you smile and laugh, and that is a testament both to them but the entire production. Wonder Woman realizes it is OK to smile and have some laughs in a superhero movie.
The casting of the main characters was solid. The visuals were stunning.The music was spot on, and it was good to once again hear that Wonder Woman theme music introduced in Batman v. Superman. Did Wonder Woman get everything right? No, not quite. There were some superhero movie tropes that could not be avoided in the film, which means the ending of the movie may become a bit predictable for some. But it’s a darn fun movie that will likely send you home smiling.
Did Wonder Woman save the DC Extended Universe?
That is the easy reaction to have after seeing Wonder Woman. Truth be told, it is way too early to make that assessment until after seeing what Justice League does. The DC movies have been doing just fine making money, so the cinematic efforts were not about to go away. So I can’t say the DC Extended Universe has been saved by Wonder Woman, although I am much more confident in suggesting this is the film that could start to turn things around. This is everything a DC movie should be, with the exception of a film focused on Batman. Wonder Woman as a character is about empowering people, and not just women (although she certainly does that quite well).
Wonder Woman is doing some heavy lifting in the DC Extended Universe… pic.twitter.com/f6UJhuXU41
— Kevin McGuire (@krmcguire) June 5, 2017
Bring on Justice League
Later this year we will get Justice League in theaters. For the first time, DC’s top heroes join forces on the big screen, which everything since Man of Steel has been building toward in a short period of time. DC is taking an accelerated path to get where the Marvel Cinematic Universe did with The Avengers, and they have struggled on that path until now. Wonder Woman was the last film in the lineup before the team-up film, meaning there was some pressure on Wonder Woman to change the narrative ahead of Justice League. It may have just done that, but now it is up to Justice League to find a way to keep the momentum moving forward instead of falling back into some bad habits previous DC films have so far. The potential problem here is there is not much time to course correct much if needed. Zack Snyder is back in charge of the direction too for the third time in the DC Extended Universe. The encouraging news is Snyder was an executive producer and a story writer for Wonder Woman, so he is already more than well enough aware of what Wonder Woman got right.
I was already looking forward to Justice League prior to seeing Wonder Woman, but DC’s latest chapter on the big screen has me looking forward to it even more.