I saw Wonder Woman in the exact same theater where I saw Batman vs Superman. I got a good seat for Wonder Woman though, so right off the bat, the experience was an improvement. Walking out of the theater after BvS, I was upset. Angry, even. I was tired of Zach Snyder’s bullshit, cynical take on superheroes. I was seething.
Walking out of that same theater earlier today was a completely different experience. I had a massive grin on my face. I was–and still am–so goddamn happy. That’s how you do a superhero movie! Does it have its share of problems? Yeah, and I’ll get to those. But, more importantly than anything else, it’s a wholehearted rejection of the three movies that already exist in this universe.
Unlike the Batman and Superman we were introduced to in BvS and Man of Steel, Wonder Woman isn’t feared or hated. Whereas those two were violent psychopaths who deserved the loathing of the people, Diana earns their love and respect. There’s a scene about halfway through this movie where ordinary people celebrate her and her accomplishments. It was such a beautiful moment that I cried. I couldn’t help it. It was the perfect embodiment of what superheroes should be.
Of course, some of the grittiness of the universe is present here. After all, the film takes place during the first World War, and never once is it afraid of touching on the very real suffering of the conflict. There are constant reminders of just how awful the war was, and they shake Diana to her core, but the moments of suffering give the moments of warmth so much more impact.
Despite the dour nature of the time period, Wonder Woman is also not afraid to have a little fun. It does so in small moments of humanity, when the viewer gets to see normal people ignoring the war for a little bit and celebrating small victories. These moments don’t have quips or banter, because they don’t need them. They show people at their best, and there’s no better way to lighten the tone.
Despite literally not being a human, Diana embodies humanity like no other character in the DC cinematic universe. That alone is demonstrative of how well director Patty Jenkins and writer Allan Heinberg understand the character. She’s the best of us, the one that believes in humanity more than anyone else. At times, this leads to some corny lines of dialogue, but the emotions these lines convey feel genuine. After all, despite dealing with serious themes, it’s a superhero movie. It shouldn’t take itself 100% seriously.
As for the performances, Gal Gadot is absolutely radiant in the role. She delivers a fantastic performance, perfectly embodying the character. While the rest of the cast delivers, she puts them all to shame. As well she should. It’s a movie about Wonder Woman–the other characters are tertiary at best, despite having their own arcs and struggles to overcome.
The film also has its own share of struggles. At the forefront of them is the first act. There are plenty of good scenes there, but it’s plagued by poor pacing and exposition dumps that ultimately lessen its impact. It also happens to be home to some of the film’s worst dialogue. And yes, I understand why some of it is awkward and stilted, but poor writing is poor writing regardless of its purpose.
I also absolutely hate her theme, especially in this context. It’s not quite enough to completely ruin the action sequences, but it certainly prevents them from being as excellent as they could be. In the context of a period piece, it’s especially abhorrent. The guitars just feel so out of place and simplistic in a movie set about a century in the past. The same can be said about some of the action scenes in general, honestly. It’s rad seeing Wonder Woman kick ass like she does here, but the slow-motion scenes feel poorly executed and unnecessary.
Fortunately, the film mostly gets it together and delivers for the climactic confrontation. Wonder Woman earns its final battle in a way most big blockbusters don’t. It’s so much more than cool set pieces with big explosions, though those are plentiful. There’s a sense that what’s happening on screen matters, and the atmosphere crackles with the emotional energy of the showdown.
Ultimately, Wonder Woman is a film designed to restore faith on a multitude of levels. It’s about the struggles, and ultimate triumph, of humanity. It’s about the power of superheroes as modern myths. It’s just… it’s a wholehearted rejection of what superheroes have become in mass media. And that resonates with me, and I imagine it will resonate with most people in a way that other superhero films fail to.
All I really want to do right now is go see Wonder Woman again. It gave me warm, fuzzy feelings that blockbusters consistently fail to do. And this is all accomplished while being socially conscious and having something to say about the state of superheroes and the world in general.
The experience is, quite simply, wonderful. More films like this, please.