Whilst the MCU launched to unequivocal success, DC have certainly struggled in finding their footing thus far, with their films proving very divisive or unpopular. However, with the arrival of Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman, will we finally have our first great DCEU movie?
This Summer brings us our 4th entry into the rather divisive DCEU canon thus far - after a competent Man of Steel, and on the back of the fairly disappointing Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad last year. However, this film perhaps comes with the most expectations; not only to put Warner Bros. back on track but also seeing as this is the first female-led superhero film of this scale and calibre ever. Thankfully (and it's with great relief I say this), Wonder Woman is the best DC film since Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy. This is the Wonder Woman that have fans have clamoured to see on the big-screen: inspiring, great and epic. It is such a damn entertaining and uplifting endeavour.
Princess of the Amazons, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) - or Diana Prince - spends her days training on the isolated, lone island of Themiscyra (inhabited by all women) to lead the inevitable battle against the God of War - Ares. However, when a plane crashes on the island, stranding a spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), Prince learns of a terrible war raging on in the outside world. Wanting to help, she travels to London alongside Trevor to join the fight in the First World War. But, with more darkness and danger lurking in the background than she first thought, our titular hero will find herself and her powers tested more than ever when she steps up to battle.
Where Wonder Woman stands out from its DCEU counterparts is in the grand sense of adventure and whimsicality that is infused into the proceedings. This is such a hopeful, colourful project; a nice change from the bleak atmosphere that haunted (and drained most of the joy out of) Dawn of Justice and even Man of Steel - less so Suicide Squad as it clearly tried to amend this but it got all too convoluted in doing so that it still fell apart anyway. Wonder Woman is its own beast entirely though, and this is made evident right from the offset as director Patty Jenkins captures the heart and fun of the beloved comic-book character; this is a film that is light on its feet, comedically charged and visually colourful with a bright, pulpy punch to it. There is such a playful tone here, one that makes watching the endeavours easygoing but one that never detracts from the weight and severity of the premise either, and it's so refreshing to see.
Another ingredient that Wonder Woman has, that Man of Steel, BVS and Suicide Squad were all lacking, is a genuine sense of humanity grounding the characters and adding levity to the proceedings. We get to witness a couple of different fish-out-of-water scenarios here - in the first act with Steve Trevor adjusting to this woman-only inhabited island full of warriors, and later for Diana as she is forced to interact with this outside world and life so different from her own - and it makes it for some great viewing. A lot of the film’s comedic beats come from these moments; there's a sense of naïvety to them, as an innocuous approach of everything isn't quite as it seems is quickly adopted - akin to the likes of Elf, Cesar Rapids, Legally Blonde.
What makes Wonder Woman herself so great is that she is a hero with flaws. She's learning. As is Steve. And it makes these characters feel real and genuine. They both need one another; they're both helping one another to become better versions of themselves and, compared to a lot of relationship subplots in comic-book films, this one feels necessary to the soul of the film as it is really what drives both these character’s development. Chris Pine and Gal Gadot have some tremendous chemistry on-screen together too; they bounce off of one another superbly and easily. And whilst Jenkins has carved a strong feminist film here, it never looks down upon the male sex and rather shows Diana as a strong and compassionate warrior, rather than the males weak and disposable in comparison (here's looking at you Ghostbusters). Gadot owns the role. She was unarguably one of the strongest aspects of Dawn of Justice and she stands out even more so in her own solo outing; the actress brings the badassery to Diana but balances it with equal charm and heart too. Pine matches her blow for blow, taking the belly share of the laughs and representing the viewer - the straight-man in this crazy situation and to such a super character.
However, it's director Patty Jenkins that is the real star of the show here. Wonder Woman is so brilliantly crafted and it's all down to her; her direction is stylish and slick. The visuals are astounding, not only does this film pop with its colour palette and energy but it's gorgeously shot too with some genuinely awe-inspired and breathtaking cinematography. The action is superb too, with Jenkins helming some intense and wholly enthralling set pieces that are both visceral and entertaining to watch; there is a genuine craftsmanship in the energetic camerawork and editing used to piece these sequences together. The World War action sequence we saw teased in the trailers is every bit as epic as you'd want it to be - easily trumping the airport scene in Civil War as the best action scene in perhaps any comic-book film ever.
Although, it's Jenkins' storytelling and orchestration of the small, quieter character beats and character tension that really make Wonder Woman shine; this never feels like a comic-book film or an action film but rather an intimate and personal character piece driven by personal stakes and action sequences as an afterthought - but sequences that are still truly epic, in every sense of the word. It's perfectly paced too, ever so slowly building and building on the characters and the drama and the emotional tension. Patty Jenkins has matched the top-tier superhero films blow for blow; this is a grand and epic spectacle but one that feels personal and intimate too. It's fair to say that, with the recent overabundance of these genre blockbusters, it's hard to stand out from the crowd. A lot of superhero films are good but, in recent years, very few have been great enough to stand out. Wonder Woman is definitely up there alongside the genuinely great superhero films.
Unfortunately, this film isn't flawless. DC have a habit of throwing their budget into grandiose, convoluted final acts and Wonder Woman suffers all the same. Whilst we're perhaps somewhat more invested in it, due to the superb character building during the rest of the film, the final fight still can't help but feel like familiar and tired comic-booky mess; there is an overabundance of CGI and just too much going on that it feels so unnecessarily convoluted. The antagonist is also very weak and underdeveloped - what seems to be a common, recurring issue with these superhero films. Nonetheless, though, these are minor gripes that cannot take away from the fact that Wonder Woman is a thing of beauty. Patty Jenkins crushes it. Gal Gadot crushes it. DC crush it. This is such an epic adventure that is hopeful, inspiring, colourful and, most importantly, just buckets of fun and badassery. It ticks all the boxes for what a good superhero film should do and it will leave you grinning from ear to ear. Oh, and that score is just something else. Hans Zimmer excels again. Let's hope this puts the DCEU back on track because now Justice League has some big shoes to fill after this. I'll say it now, Wonder Woman is a wonder. It's wonderful.
Wonder Woman is one of the few great comic-book films of the past few years; a triumph for Patty Jenkins and the DCEU.
About the Author
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.