Wonder Woman is a 2017 superhero, comic book film starring Gal Gadot as the titular character, as well as Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen and Elena Anaya. The fourth film in the DC Extended Universe, it was written by Allen Heinberg and directed by Patty Jenkins. The film marks the first time that Wonder Woman has had her own live-action theatrical film and the second time she has appeared in one (the first being Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice).
The film tells Wonder Woman’s origin story; moulded from clay by her mother Hippolyta and brought to life by Zeus, she spends all of her life on the island of Themyscira training alongside her fellow Amazons. When World War I pilot Steve Trevor crash lands on the island and tells the Amazons of the conflict, Diana leaves the island to find Ares and defeat him in an effort to end the war.
Gal Gadot fully and perfectly inhabits the role of Diana/Wonder Woman. If her performance in the aforementioned Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice didn’t silence the naysayers who protested her casting, then her performance here will. It’s clear that Gadot is having fun with the role during the lighter moments in the film. She effectively portrays the range of emotions that Diana experiences throughout and convincingly expresses her personality, giving her a depth that the film’s writing does not.
Diana is an easily relatable character whose naivety is endearing and compassion, in the DCEU, refreshing. She’s not a dark and brooding character like her compatriots, even with the horrors she witnesses during the war. If anything, said horrors only inspire her all the more to achieve her goal. There is a deep empathy to her and her strong desire to help people makes her exceedingly loveable, as does her profound sense of duty. She is a very noble character. She has a clear character arc in which the audience gets to see her mature as she learns more about the world and humanity and broadens her understanding of both.
Chris Pine also performs well as Steve Trevor, displaying his usual charm and astuteness for comedy. Yes, there is comedy in this film unlike most others in the DCEU and it’s much in the same vein as how the Marvel Cinematic Universe treats theirs. Gadot has comedic moments of her own as well and she exceeds in them, but much of the comedy flows from Pine.
He and Gadot have great chemistry and the two shine on screen. Steve Trevor serves as Diana’s teacher and guide in the world of men and near the end of the film gives her a powerful lesson about the nature of humanity that is one of the best moments in the film.
As for Sameer, Charlie and Chief (the rest of Diana and Steve’s crew), with the exception of the latter, they’re amusing and are full of personality, which makes you latch onto them instantly. But they’re ultimately useless and serve little purpose within the narrative aside from being Diana’s friends. Worst of all is Charlie, a sharpshooter, [mild spoiler; highlight to reveal] who never actually shoots anything. Granted, he has post-traumatic stress disorder. The film would hardly be any different without them. Diana does, however, have a moment with Charlie after one of the film’s action sequences which is perhaps its sweetest.
The villains, Ludendorff and Dr. Maru/Dr. Poison, are serviceable. They have a simple function and that is as a target for Diana to aim for. Elena Anaya, the actress who plays Poison, over does it in some scenes – as does Danny Huston, who plays Ludendorff – especially with her vocal performance, but that could be explained away by her facial injury. There is a twist involving Ludendorff that the observant viewer should be able to spot given that it it’s hinted at at least once, but the other part of said twist is quiet unexpected.
As glimpsed in the trailer, the action sequences were very good. They were well choreographed and showed off Diana’s prowess as a a warrior; she never looked like she didn’t know what she was doing. There is an overuse of slow motion in them though. At first it has the desired effect of looking cool and adding some style and flair to the sequence, but it gets used so much it quickly gets old.
The final action sequence is the typical CGI fest, with a mess of explosions and pretty lights; the kind one has come to expect from blockbuster films, especially comic book/superhero films. The “final boss”, Ares, has a set of undefined powers that allow the filmmakers to have him do essentially anything, particularly if it adds another layer of spectacle to the sequence. Diana here suffers from two tropes that go hand in hand; [mild spoiler; highlight to reveal] getting the crap kicked out of her for most of the fight, only to have her full power unlocked by a cliche emotional trigger.
Speaking of CGI, this film is a little more than inconsistent with it’s visual effects. The times at which it looks good are fewer than when it looks bad. The CGI used to create the scenery and environment of Themyscira is very good, close to impeccable. But that is likely because it is largely immobile.
When it comes to the CGI versions of Diana and others used in the action sequences, it’s very bad. It’s painfully obvious that it’s not a real person. It sticks out like a sore thumb. The green used for some shots is very obvious as well. The actors do not blend in with the environment and it looks wholly unnatural.
The film is a little slow. It never picks up the pace, not even with the stellar action sequences, but it never slows down either. It’s the same throughout and this hurts the film because it never truly hits a high point. Nor is it easy to distinguish when it moves from one act to the next, particularly from the first to the second.
For much of the film it feels like it’s still at the beginning when it has, in fact, gone through much of the middle already. The ending comes sooner than expected and the slow-ish pace makes it feel like it snuck up on you. The film is so long that even so, you spend so much time in the last act that it doesn’t feel like it ended abruptly but you do feel it’s close to two and a half hour run time.
The film spent the vast majority of it’s duration presenting the theme that morality is not black and white, that humanity is flawed and just as capable of good as it is evil and everything in between. It was well woven into the narrative and culminated in a singular moment that exemplified it perfectly. The film could have ended there and it would have been all the better for it.
But then the film introduces another theme that, upon reflection, does make sense with Diana’s character and her contrast with Ares, but nonetheless feels shoehorned in and at the end of the film completely destroys and contradicts the previous theme that it had established so much better. Not to mention, it’s horribly cliche and all the more cringey because of the female lead and in some ways it feels like it’s only in there because she’s female.
Wonder Woman is the best film in the DC Extended Universe so far, but that isn’t saying much when the bar is set so low. It does a lot of things right, especially it’s main character (Diana is the best of the big three in this universe), but it also does a lot of things wrong and unfortunately not much of the good things are good enough to outweigh or overshadow the bad. That being said, it’s a fairly competently made film that, despite all of the critical praise it’s received, this reviewer found it to be just okay.