*NOTE: Before I start this review, I would like to thank Novo Cinemas for inviting me to the premiere of this film.*
I’ll get the obvious question out of the way. Yes, Wonder Woman is the best film that the current DCEU (DC Extended Universe i.e. all the DC films post-The Dark Knight Trilogy) has put out yet.
However, I should also point out that that’s not saying much especially when considering that their fare from 2013’s Man of Steel till now has been nothing but major disappointment after major disappointment. Fortunately, Wonder Woman does enough to be considered a good film by itself, regardless of the overall DCEU. However, it is also a film not without its fair share of flaws, but I’ll get to that later.
Set during WWI, the film features the Amazonian Princess Diana (aka Wonder Woman played by Gal Gadot) from the isolated island of Themyscira, as she ventures onto the frontlines of the Great War accompanied by Steve Trevor, an American Spy, in search of an evil she believes to be behind the war that has claimed many innocent lives. That’s pretty much all I’m going to say at this point given my reviews’ strict spoiler-free policy and as far as I’m concerned, any plot details count as a spoiler.
The first thing that struck me about Wonder Woman was the film’s tone. This film didn’t just talk about hope like Man of Steel before it did and fail to deliver on it, rather it stressed upon the idea and the protagonist Princess Diana actually acts upon this ideal, thus making her transition to a full-fledged superhero far more believable that either Superman or Batman in this universe. I must say that I was one of those sceptical about the casting of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman given her acting experience (or lack thereof) and her performance in 2016’s horrid Batman v Superman did nothing to quench my fears. However, her much more nuanced, charming and truly likeable performance here proved to me that perhaps the right direction was all that was needed; something Zack Snyder hadn’t been able to achieve in BvS and something that director Patty Jenkins most definitely achieved in this film. One can only hope that she gets to direct the Man of Steel sequel as well, and do to Superman what she’s achieved with Wonder Woman (a bit of bias here on my part, as Superman is my favourite superhero and I’ve hated what DC has done with him recently)
Surprisingly, The film also had it’s fair share of lightheartedness and humour which provide a much-needed reprieve between all the action and the grim nature of the World War I setting. In a lot of ways, this film, or rather it’s main protagonist, encompasses the kind-hearted and charismatic superhero that reminded me a lot of the Richard Donner Superman films and less of the overtly serious/grimdark nature of the character in the current DCEU. A particular scene in fact was such a beautiful homage to the first Superman film that I almost squealed.
Chris Pine as Steve Trevor is excellent as well, providing the film with ample heart and a straight foil to the naivety of Diana in the modern world (atleast as modern as the early 20th century was, in any case). The action sequences in itself were well-shot and choreographed with a particular standout warehouse sequence showcasing perfectly that Wonder Woman is a legitimate force to be reckoned with. I sure could’ve used with much less slow-motion however.
However, as I’d stated earlier, this film is not without it’s flaws.
I know I said this is the best DCEU film till date, and while that is still very much the case; The fact is that, judging Wonder Woman as a superhero film alone, leaving aside the overall franchise that it’s a part of, the story and structure is quite by-the-numbers. I’m still not sure that’s a complete negative though, as perhaps a decent, by-the-numbers superhero film is probably just what the doctor ordered for the DCEU to get back on track. In any case, i still couldn’t help but feel a bit ‘been there, done that’ during certain sequences. At the risk of hardcore DC fans calling me biased, It definitely doesn’t help just how much of the film’s overall story structure and plot elements almost completely mirror that of Marvel’s 2011 film – Captain America: The First Avenger. Different wars, sure, (First Avenger takes place in WWII) but the parallels still remain. In fact Wonder Woman‘s plot could be perfectly described as a blend of the first Thor and the first Captain America film. I can’t go into much detail without divulging spoilers, but if you’ve seen both the aforementioned films and then see Wonder Woman, I’m certain you will understand what I’m referring to. Once again though, I don’t want to chalk this up to be a complete negative because for all I know, the similarities could just be a coincidence. The point I’m trying to make however is that, in this age of superhero cinema, it could’ve only helped this film to have done something different and unique with its setting rather than follow the same beats as prior films in the genre have done.
The third act of the film was the biggest offender of this, with a thoroughly disposable fight that was nothing but your standard superhero film beat-’em up which seemed very similar to the third acts of both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. Easily the worst part of the film, this entire sequence is only slightly saved by the truly surprising and welcome moments of emotion that were sprinkled throughout.
Overall, even with the aforementioned flaws, Wonder Woman is still an entertaining watch and one that celebrates what it means to be a hero rather than seem embarrassed about it like past DCEU films (Hell, Batman v Superman even had Superman say “Superman was never real”).
Wonder Woman embraces the ideals of hope and kindness with a heroine that everyone, young or old, male or female, could do well to look upto, especially in these uncertain times. Furthermore, this film has also re-instilled my hope for better DC films in the future.
Fingers crossed for Justice League!