It feels easy, almost cheap, to say that Wonder Woman is the first truly good movie of the DC Extended Universe. But not only is that statement true, it also undersells just how great a superhero movie Wonder Woman is in its own right.
Remember that brief, 2-minute spark of excitement you felt when Wonder Woman sprang into action in the otherwise moribund Batman v Superman? This movie takes that spark, fans it into a flame, and lets it roar for 2 hours. Wonder Woman understands how incredibly gratifying it is to finally see a sorely needed female superhero like Diana step onto the big screen.
Much of the credit for this goes to director Patty Jenkins. A huge factor in Wonder Woman‘s success is not just having a woman as the lead, but also having a female director lending her vision and giving this movie an authentic, unique voice. It’s primarily that voice that makes a largely straightforward superhero origin story feel like a such breath of fresh air.
Beyond that, Jenkins also delivers truly memorable action scenes with impeccable skill. Most notable is a big action centrepiece halfway through the movie that gave me goosebumps and stands among the best the genre has to offer. Jenkins revels in the sight of Wonder Woman and the Amazons going into battle just as much as the audience does.
The humour in this movie is another strength, and it’s here that Wonder Woman benefits from the great chemistry between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. They bounce off each other with comfortable ease and keep the energy going even as the action slows. It’s a welcome shift away from the humourless tone of the last few DC movies.
Comparisons with Wonder Woman‘s DC siblings are inevitable. Take, for example, the overbearing muted colour palette of the previous 3 DC films. Wonder Woman doesn’t abandon the bleak filter entirely, but it limits it to the war-torn “world of men”. Diana’s home of Themyscira, on the other hand, is the complete opposite, full of vibrant, eye-popping natural colours. This is not only a welcome change, but also one that creates a nice contrast between the bleak nature of World War I and the beauty of Paradise Island.
Similarly, there are slow motion shots a-plenty in Wonder Woman—admittedly a little too much for my taste. But where in the other DCEU films they felt self-indulgent and ostentatious, here they serve to highlight the action and the women at the center of it. It brings to life the the panel-to-panel feel of reading a comic book.
Wonder Woman loses just a little bit of its footing towards the third act. The rush to the climax gets a little messy, and the final boss fight is effects-heavy and somewhat chaotic. But it still works, and does nothing to diminish the whole.
Wonder Woman had a lot riding on it. On one hand, it’s the first major female-led superhero movie, helmed by a female director to boot. On the other, it carries the burden of a DC Extended Universe that desperately needed a win. And I’m happy to report that it is a success on both counts. It gives me hope for more representation in superhero movies, in front of and behind the camera. And it rights the DCEU ship, renewing excitement I had thought long extinguished.