(Picture from http://www.screenrant.com)
Let’s be honest, the self-proclaimed DCEU (DC extended universe for those unfamiliar with comic book movies and their fancy acronyms) was on a downward spiral. When Man of Steel, the first and critically divisive first entry, is the highpoint of the franchise, you’re in trouble. But does Wonder Woman buck this trend of bad to middling movies? Short answer, yes.
Don’t leave yet though as it’s not so cut and dry. First let’s get through the bad parts of the movie. Bad news first and all that. Wonder Woman, like so many other superhero films, is victim to a seriously underwhelming final third of its run time. I know starting at the end is an odd way of reviewing a movie but it’s because Wonder Woman deserved better. Without spoiling the twist, (which in its self wasn’t bad, it just leads to disappointment) Wonder Woman, Diana Princess of Themyscira or Diana Prince, jeez mythological characters like to have lots of names, has a certain belief about human nature and war. Gal Gadot plays a character that is both naïve and endearing, that all the bad things that humans do is down to the corruption of a certain Greek God. Watching Wonder Woman slowly realise that humans are just a-holes in general is quite frankly brilliant. Now comes the thing that undo’s all this good work. After sitting through another uninspired CGI villain beat down, the audience is left with a rosy picture of opposing forces hugging and smiling, like that’s the end of the war then. This wipes away the horrors of war that Wonder Woman experiences. It wipes away the actual realisation that humans aren’t just toys that the gods play with, they can get in to trouble by their own free wills. The fact that the German soldiers that Wonder Woman was happily fly-kicking to death earlier, were just all victims of brainwashing, doesn’t put the heroine in a great light. WWI was a war where the global elite gladly sent the poor to fight for their interests and ultimately to their deaths. Adding Greek Gods and super heroines can’t and shouldn’t try to make the audience forget that.
Now for the great parts, and trust me there are loads of them. Themyscira and the Amazons that reside there are a highlight straight off the bat. All of them strong and impressive in their own right, but never sexualised through a male gaze. The same goes for Wonder Woman herself. In fact there are more sexualised moments focusing on Chris Pines’ portrayal of Steve Trevor, the swashbuckling American spy that strands himself on the Amazonian island. There is sexual tension between Wonder Woman and Steve though, but it never becomes a one sided seduction.
One comparison that has been thrown around has been between Wonder Woman and Captain America: The First Avenger. Now to be honest there are similarities, but on the whole Wonder Woman is the superior movie. Other than the aforementioned last third, the movie handles the horrors of war a lot better than Captain America: The First Avenger. Wonder Woman does not shy away from showing the damage War does to the civilian populace. Gas, artillery and starvation are all portrayed as the despicable fallout of the Great War. Whereas Captain America gave us Nazis that shoot lasers. For an authentic and mature take on the dark and sometimes uncomfortable subject of war (a hard thing to go for in a super hero flick, but it can be done) Wonder Woman wins by a mile.
Wonder Woman, while a film that stumbles over itself at the finish, the feelings of genuine empathy and positivity, not just for the main heroine, but the entire production, gives us a race that turns out to be one hell of a spectacle.