I haven’t been the biggest fan of the DC’s attempts to create a Justice League franchise so far. Man of Steel was so forgettable that I could barely tell you what happened, the plot of Batman VS Superman was boring and confused, and Suicide Squad was just a really good music video. I’ve wanted to like them – they are grittier, less predictable than their Marvel counterparts and that should make me like them better – but instead I have just been endlessly frustrated by the failed potential. And so, going into Wonder Woman on Saturday, I had a number of reservations that thankfully I was happily surprised.
Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins, is the introductory film to the bad ass female member of the Justice League. Diana is introduced as the only child on the island of Themyscira, where the all-female Amazons live and train to protect themselves from the evil Ares. A human male, Steve Trevor, is rescued by Diana when his plane crashes into the ocean near the island and she learns about the “war to end all wars” taking place. Believing it to be the Amazon responsibility to save humans from the corrupting influence of Ares, she steals a sword that she thinks will defeat him and persuades Steve to take her to the war. With a rag-tag team at their side, Diana and Steve travel through the worst of the war to destroy the deadly weapons that the Germans hold and defeat Ares.
The biggest problem with DC’s previous films in this series have largely been structural. There’s no clear arc to follow, it comes off as fragmented, and they just struggle to get the balance right between action and story. Even the other big Warner Brother’s franchise, Fantastic Beasts, struggled with keeping a clear narrative so it felt like this was going to be a likely issue with Wonder Woman. Thankfully, they seem to have gone back to plot 101 with this film and it is SO much better for it. Yes, it is a bit of a paint-by-numbers Hero’s Journey, particularly in the latter half of the film, but it is pacey and clear so I’m really not complaining. I didn’t have to struggle to understand what was going on or why different characters were acting a certain way. It wasn’t any sort of ground-shaking narrative but it was perfectly enjoyable to watch.
I’m going to put it out there now that I am most definitely a little in love with Wonder Woman‘s Diana Prince. Gal Gadot plays her so well as being simultaneously quite innocent but well-read, driven but open to letting her emotions lead her. Chris Pine’s Steve Taylor was an enjoyable companion, helping her learn how to navigate the world and providing a more realistic edge to her super hero persona and, most importantly, his character gave her the perfect motivations for her continued involvement with the mortal world. While these two do lead the film, I feel that Wonder Woman was a very well cast film all around. The interplay between all the characters felt very genuine and, even though some had very little screen time, you were always able to get a clear understanding of their personality and motivations.
All of the DC films have a murky quality to the cinematography, which I do enjoy but have found that it goes too far in some scenes. Wonder Woman also makes use of this moody colour pallet but it seems to be softened somewhat in this film. It may be the use of brighter colours in the costumes or perhaps it could be to give a more mythical edge to go with the Greek-influenced lore but, either way, I appreciated it. It meant I got to see more detail and enjoy the attention they paid to their settings.
I do have two little niggles with Wonder Woman unfortunately. Would I be me if I didn’t? I have an obsession with showing rather than telling and I notice when a film tries to cheat. Wonder Woman cheats in the first act. There are two occasions very close together that they use voice overs to dump information on the audience and the action on screen merely interpreted the words, rather than adding an extra layer. I may as well have closed my eyes in these sections because I wouldn’t have lost any information and that is not what a film is supposed to be. While I get that this information was necessary – and I do anticipate some info dumping in a beginning film – but it was incredibly lazy of them. They could have done it so much better.
My other niggle is very minor and is pretty much just me nitpicking. There is only one excessively romance-y scene in Wonder Woman, which normally I would enjoy, but in this film it just through off the pacing a bit. It had been built up in the plot, you knew it was going to happen, and it wasn’t necessarily unneeded but… It was just long and slow. If it had just been the long lingering looks and then him closing the door, I think the audience would have known exactly what happened and would have been filled with the happy tension of knowing but not seeing. Taking another couple of minutes did nothing to the plot and just felt a bit… male gaze-y? Like, was the director trying to placate the menenists who were already going to be up in arms about the strong female lead by giving them something to wank over? It just frustrated me a little.
Overall, I really enjoyed Wonder Woman. It’s the first of the new DC films that I would happily buy on DVD. She is a well-acted, connectible protagonist going through a nice clean plot without any of the trying-too-hard confusion that the other films have suffered with.