The following review is spoiler-free.
“Wonder Woman” is not just a great DC movie. It’s a great movie in general.
The first statement is not a difficult one to make, especially given DC’s rocky cinematic history in the last few years (“Man of Steel”, “Batman v Superman”, and “Suicide Squad”).
“Wonder Woman” breaks free from the mediocre mold that was formed by the other DC Extended Universe movies. (In fact, the biggest thing holding “Wonder Woman” back is aspects from the DCEU that seeps into the movie, but more on that later.)
The second statement, that “Wonder Woman” is great, may surprise some moviegoers. Putting aside the low expectations and passionate hate surrounding any new DC superhero movie, “Wonder Woman” is a good movie, and not just for a superhero film. Its strengths easily outweigh its weaknesses, and I would certainly recommend it to those looking for a good summer blockbuster.
When it comes to strengths, I must start with Gal Gadot, who plays Wonder Woman (also known as Diana Prince). I was skeptical of her performance prior to the movie, especially given her fairly limited acting experience. Despite this, Gadot easily exceeded my expectations and proved to be a great leading woman. Whether the scene called for humor, charm, emotion, or badass action, she pulled it off very well. (Now I can add Gadot to my few reasons that I am excited for “Justice League”.)
Chris Pine should be praised as well. Playing a World War I spy named Steve Trevor, Pine provided the human dynamic to Gadot’s godliness, and I loved every second. Gadot and Pine’s chemistry is entirely believable, and much to my surprise, I was left wanting more scenes between the two characters after the movie ended.
These two characters are definitely the best part of “Wonder Woman”. The movie smartly chooses to focus on them over the plot, making the movie feel more grounded than many other superhero films.
Adding to this grounded feeling is the movie’s World War I setting. Similar to 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger”, the historical setting adds a breath of fresh air to the crowded superhero genre. It was nice to have a big superhero finale take place somewhere other than a modern city with a giant laser beam shooting towards the sky.
On the topic of its historical setting, I think “Wonder Woman” makes a better use of its time period than the previously mentioned Captain America movie. “Wonder Woman” explores some interesting themes involving the effects of war, and the movie handles them quite well. While they are certainly not the movie’s focus, serious issues like these are often ignored in big budget superhero movies, and it’s nice to see them addressed.
In addition to its wartime themes, the movie’s big message involves the nature of mankind. Specifically regarding the “good” and “bad” within all people, it’s nothing new, but it provides a nice thematic through-line for the movie. This message provides some character development for Gadot’s Diana Prince, but it could have been emphasized more.
On this note, one of my few complaints for “Wonder Woman” is its lack of character development. Diana Prince and Steve Trevor are good people, but they undergo little change throughout the film. Their big character decisions are predictable, and Prince’s stubborn nature never changes, despite it leading other characters into some bad situations.
Other small complaints involve the villain, Ares, and Diana’s origin. Ares is kept ambiguous for the sake of the plot, and this pays off in the end, but his powers are almost too ambiguous. His seemingly endless list of powers makes the final battle too confusing, especially because the explanation is probably “Uh… he’s a god, so he can do that.”
When it comes to Diana, her true origin is delivered in a quick line of dialogue at the end. It carries no weight, when it could have been a large reveal for Diana’s character. Fans of the comics will already know it, but people unaware of her origin may be confused.
My big gripe with “Wonder Woman” is its battle sequences. Their excessive use of slow motion, muted colors, quick character speed, and unattractive CGI are characteristic of the DCEU, and that’s what’s so upsetting. It’s almost like Zack Snyder came in and directed these scenes himself. They seem out of place in the bigger picture of “Wonder Woman”, and although the action scenes themselves are mostly good, their style is a mistake.
Ignoring the CGI-heavy battle sequences, the movie is visually stunning. Diana’s home, the World War I battlefields, and historical London are all breathtaking, and the digital effects actually work here. The costumes in “Wonder Woman” are great as well.
Other smaller details, like the movie’s orchestral score (not the awful guitar riff), make the movie even better. Its use of humor is not overdone, which cannot be said for some Marvel movies, and always feels appropriate. Some of this humor comes through Gadot and Pine’s fantastic dialogue or through the entertaining side characters.
The humor, in combination with the focus on a grounded romance, makes “Wonder Woman” seem like a much lighter movie than the other DCEU movies. Not only is this a great choice for the universe, but it cements “Wonder Woman” as a great film.
“Wonder Woman” is entirely deserving of a recommendation. Gal Gadot and Chris Pine are wonderful leads, and their chemistry is one of the best parts of the film. The movie is light on its feet, capable of being funny and serious when needed. Its World War I setting and wartime themes are welcome additions to the superhero genre. With the exception of some Zack Snyder-inspired battle sequences, the movie is visually stunning, and the colors used in Diana’s home and costume help break “Wonder Woman” away from the dull color palette of other DCEU movies. Above all else, Gal Gadot cements herself as a true action hero, and shuts up anyone who doubted her potential as a superhero badass.
Wonder Woman finally has a movie, and it’s the great one she deserves too. If this is the only good thing we get from the DCEU, then I’ll be okay, because “Wonder Woman” is wonderful.