Looking back at BvS I think I was a little too harsh. It was still a miserable experience seeing a film franchise cut its own throat with a hacksaw. That being said, I take solace in knowing Zack Snyder cared about what he was doing. Unlike Brian Singer he is not embarrassed by his fandom and WB gave him the money to realize his ambition. Even Ben Affleck loved playing Batman, dull performance aside.
However, that is a fraction of merit out of a whole lot of garbage. No one else cared to make BvS great and I do not blame them. When you have a hack like David S. Goyer writing your screenplay, I would not try either. Even if WB was accelerating its plans to establish a cinematic universe, it could have been done with finesse. BvS failed on the page before it reached the screen.
Wonder Woman is in a position to subvert any apprehension one may have. It does not take place in the current timeline of the DCEU, but before. There is a lot that can be done and Goyer is nowhere to be seen. Furthermore, I have faith in Gal Gadot’s ability as an actor. She did not have nearly enough to do in BvS and now she has a chance to prove herself. I still think she is not physically built for the part. Seriously, Chun Li from Street Fighter has more muscle in her thighs than Gadot in her entire body. Does Wonder Woman’s origin make up for last year’s misery or does the DCEU need to die?
When a pilot named Steve, played by Chris Pine, crash lands on the island of Themyscira, Diana discovers that the world is in the midst of WWI. Thinking it is the work of Ares, she goes with Steve to help end the war.
WB finally did the smart thing and just copied Marvel. WW is straight up First Avenger with a little bit of Thor in the beginning. From the overall look and set-up, to the fish-out-of-water humor with Bronze Age Diana in 1918 England, it is everything a Marvel fan would expect. There is even a small team of Howling Commandos made up of token characters. It was as if WB hired people who knew what they were doing and cared about the material.
Turns out, copying the competition actually worked because WW is great. Of course, because the last DCEU movies were so bad (I don’t even remember Suicide Squad), there was nowhere it could go but up. If you can ignore the parallels, the film stands its ground as a separate entity. There is character development, theme, a clear story that has decent pacing, and humor to balance it all out. It is confounding that something so simplistic and easy is liken to masterpiece.
If you have seen First Avenger, WW is the same movie. Where Rogers was an idyllic wimp that wanted to do good, Diana is a naive warrior that wants to do good whose thinking is grounded in the Classical. Her perception of right and wrong and the concept of sides in a conflict are one-dimensional. When trying to end the war, she cannot grasp the idea of people killing people because they are all the same. To her, a Brit and a German is the same thing because they are Man. Taking place during WWI is clever because that war was so morally gray and unlike anything we had scene in human history.
Though thankfully apolitical, WW does not really do much with this idea. Beyond “war is bad,” the film, like its character’s ideals is one-dimensional and does not get into the nature of Man. It makes it clear that our need to kill each other comes from one guy and Diana needs to kill him to bring peace. That is all well and good, but there was a point toward the end that would have been a gut punch to the soul if taken in another direction. It would have been tragic, but also compelling. A lot of potential was lost trying to be heartfelt and positive.
However, WW is not trying to make you think and that is not a bad thing. If the Captain America movies explored Rogers’ need for a war to fight, you know how depressing they would have been? He would have flashbacks and fits of rage and the Avengers would get him a service dog to try and help him through his anxiety. It would be very dark and WW did not want to go down that route. What we got instead was a fun action adventure about bringing peace to the world. That is the most anyone can ask for.
Like Atlas and the Globe, Gadot carries the whole film. In between BvS and now she decided what she wanted to do with the character and pulled it off flawlessly. She plays Diana with such innocence and naiveté that the idyllic and humorous moments feel genuine. She comes from a world where myth is reality and she does not know what do in Man’s domain. Pine plays his usual “charming action man” character. He has great chemistry with Gadot and they play off each other very well. Everyone else was pretty good and it was nice to see Danny Huston and Ewen Bremner working again.
My only real gripe with WW is the action. I could tell director Patty Jenkins had no eye for it because all of the sequences were awkward. They were trying way too hard to look “cool” with a lot of slow motion and the actors doing flips because they could. Each action sequence is full of disparate “cool” moves that do not connect in a cohesive manner. Usually in an action scene, every move leads into the next naturally. Even the uncoordinated fights in Force Awakens were appealing and made sense. In WW it looks like 10 year-old me ripping off the sword fights in Mummy Returns in slow motion.
If you were dissatisfied with BvS and long for WB to get its head out of its ass, Wonder Woman is what you are looking for. It has heart and humor, something Marvel has been doing right for almost a decade. A part of me wishes it was 300 with women, but the DCEU was flawed at its inception, now everyone is playing catch-up. This was a step in the right direction and we can only hope WB puts this much effort into their next installment.
Also, my condolences to Zach Snyder and his family.