'Wonder Woman' Review: The Best Movie to Come Out of the DC Extended Universe Thus Far
By John Boone
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
If Suicide Squad was a step in the right direction for the DC Extended Universe -- despite its flaws, it is fundamentally more watchable than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice -- then Wonder Woman is the DCEU's first good movie. While those movies have been criticized as contrived or disjointed, this is a pure origin story that avoids making many of those same mistakes. Wonder Woman is not a perfect movie, mind you, but a good one.
The narrative begins in the present day, tying Wonder Woman into the Batman v Superman chronology, but promptly ventures back to the early 1900s, where young Diana (Gal Gadot), princess of Themyscira, is being raised on an island of warrior women. There is heaps of backstory set up in this section -- about how the Amazonians came to be and the fall of the god of war, Ares -- but it is balanced with crisp, well-shot action sequences that got rousing applause in my theater and feature standout supporting work by Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta and Robin Wright as General Antiope.
Notably, with director Patty Jenkins (Monster) at the helm, large swaths of Wonder Woman also feature color for the first time in the DCEU. Unlike the gray and gritty mush that has been the general aesthetic choice thus far, Themyscira contains saturation and life and beauty, like something out of Lord of the Rings, had it been set in a beachside paradise. This world, shot by Jenkins working from a screenplay by Shondaland staple Allan Heinberg, is immersive and actually a bit of fun. The movie then moves to London, which Diana herself says is "hideous" -- and it's...fine. She has yet to see Gotham or Metropolis.
Diana is brought to England by Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), a World War I spy who also happens to be the first man Diana's ever met, and the change of locale provides for fun fish-out-of-water comedy. Both have aims to end the "War to End All Wars," though Steve's involve passing on stolen plans for weapons of mass destruction to the Allies, while Diana sets out to find Ares and use her "God Killer" sword to cut short his reign.
Gadot, who ran away with Batman v Superman, really is great as Wonder Woman. Here, she is tasked with saying and doing things that are insane, as all comic book movie stars do, but she does so with conviction and earnestness. This is a superhero movie and a war movie. It is made by women, and it is innately feminist and not shy about that. The female characters are all kickass, and also vulnerable, feminine, intelligent and sexual. (Lucy Davis is an added delight as Steve Trevor's secretary, Etta Candy.) Plus, as every other white guy named Chris books a superhero franchise of his own, Pine happily plays second fiddle to Gadot, adding charisma and silliness and a nice dollop of nudity.
There is a moment in the first half of Wonder Woman where Queen Hippolyta warns Diana, "Be careful in the world of men. They do not deserve you." I thought back to this as the film took a needlessly convoluted twist that led into an ugly superhero soup climax of flashing lights and indistinguishable smashing. (See also: the endings of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and, I'll bet, Justice League.) Diana, as well as Gadot as an actress and Jenkins as a director, is made to fit into the boys’ club of DC, and perhaps those men don't deserve them. The tagline on the Wonder Woman poster declares that "the future of Justice begins with her," and if that's true, it sounds promising. But I mostly just want to go back to Themyscira.