‘Wonder Woman’ proves its worth for female superhero films
The newest installment in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), “Wonder Woman,” is finally out and ready to show that women have a place in this world of masculine-dominated superhero movies. For the longest time, female-led superhero films, such as “Supergirl” (1984) and “Catwoman” (2004), have proven to be some of the very worst in superhero cinema. Add in the fact that the DCEU has had a pretty messy track record with their movies so far, and “Wonder Woman” had quite a lot to prove with its release.
Taking place during World War I, the film tells the story of Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) as she must leave her homeland after running into intelligence spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) to help stop a secret weapon created by the Germans. In order to do this, Diana must suit up and harness her years of training to become Wonder Woman and take on an even bigger threat that may be able to end the war if it is stopped.
So did the film end up being the turnaround the superhero genre needed? Yes. The DCEU has finally crafted a film that could go up against just about anything Marvel has up its sleeves. “Wonder Woman” comes with a wonderful list of qualities that make it worth such a title.
For starters, the collection of characters here are great. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman shines on screen in just about every moment. With her vulnerable, wide-eyed, yet determined spirit, she comes off as a character who is funny, likable and well-developed, arguably making her the DCEU’s most well-crafted protagonist. Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor also shared the same level of charisma, likability and energy while remaining more down-to-earth. The chemistry shared between the two proved to work very well. While minor characters aren’t given as much focus, characters like Trevor’s group of friends that accompany Wonder Woman and Trevor on their journey, Wonder Woman’s mother and trainer, and Trevor’s secretary still have their time to shine and make nice additions to the cast.
Patty Jenkins’ direction and handling of the story also prove to work very well. Giving the majority of the movie more of a war-film feeling, the direction is grounded. Rather than relying on big explosions or crazy worlds to hold most of the scenes, the action here is kept more realistic and as a result, makes things feel more intimate and intense. Jenkins also cleverly balances the heavy action with some well-executed character moments.
This balance was also reflected in the production design, where Jenkins plays around with the stark contrast between Diana’s vibrant homeland of Themyscira, the grungy and colorless look of Trevor’s home in London, and the gritty battlefields of war. This helps the film stand out as a well-crafted period piece along with being an action film.
It was relieving that Jenkins decided not to make this an overly-preachy film about girl-power, and instead allowed these characters to be themselves and make decisions based on what’s right.
“Wonder Woman” still comes with some problems that prevent it from being perfect. Most of these issues are rather minor, such as some storytelling cliches here and rushing other plot points that could have helped to setup character. The biggest issue for the film comes in the final act. Without getting into spoilers, a reveal is made that seemingly comes out of nowhere. Not only does it feel incredibly forced, it goes against the refreshing manipulation of the superhero genre and turns it into something tired and predictable.
However, “Wonder Woman” is still worth a watch with its top-notch cast, grounded action, subtle comedy, a great score and unique direction. This film is easily the best of both the DCEU and the female superhero sub-genre. Despite some questionable plot elements and the final act, the good outweighs the bad.