The summer of superheroes continues with Wonder Woman! Despite DC Entertainment’s abysmal track record with last year’s Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman has released to a fanfare of praise. People seem particularly pleased with our main heroine, a warrior who is as strong as she is compassionate.
And though it’s far from perfect, I will concede that the movie is good.
Wonder Woman pulls us onto the hidden island of Themyscira, where Diana (Gal Gadot) and the mythological Amazons live in peace. But when an Allied spy, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), crashes his plane off the coast of the island, he warns Diana of the horrors of World War I. Convinced by the Greek myths from her youth, Diana sets off to end the war by defeating Ares.
Frankly, I have been a detractor of DC superhero films since Man of Steel. But compared to earlier entries in the franchise, Wonder Woman stands head and shoulders above the other films in the DC Extended Universe. I am happy to say that there’s a lot to appreciate about this movie.
For one, Wonder Woman is positively optimistic. Diana is a traditional superhero with wholesome values you can teach to girl scouts. I like this cheery tone better than the usual DC doom-and-gloom, and I like it a whole lot better than the studio-mandated last minute wackiness of Suicide Squad.
Two, Wonder Woman has some powerful iconography! Like all good Greek heroes, Diana brings three items with her on her journey: a sword, a magic lasso and a pair of bracelets. She’s a strong fighter first and a beautiful woman second. If anything, Diana is a testament to sharp character design; when’s the last time you thought about Black Widow as a character?
And three, Wonder Woman offers a terrific message on man’s affinity for war, and Diana’s choice to fight for mankind in spite of our cruelty. We may not deserve her, but she believes in something greater. Or in her words, “It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love. Only love will truly save the world.”
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though; Wonder Woman is wrapped in major story issues. The romance plot between Diana and Steve, while somewhat humorous, is completely unconvincing. Fans have grossly exaggerated the quality of the romance; the two characters have almost no chemistry. And outside of Diana herself, the movie’s other characters are hardly worth remembering.
Worse still, the pacing feels oddly disconnected. Some scenes trudge along too slowly, while other scenes pass by too quickly. Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers mentioned in his review, “The film, however, takes forever to unleash her ass-kicking goddess within – and suffers for it.” Funnily enough, I had the opposite problem as most reviewers, where I thought the first and third act were captivating enough, but was bored to tears during the mindless action of the second act.
And I’m not even going to get into the ways the story butchers Greek mythology.
If I’m being brutally honest, I was reluctant to review this movie. While I didn’t hate the film, I wasn’t exactly wowed by it either. It was decent at best. Yet audiences and critics alike seem convinced that the Wonder Woman is destined to be a modern classic. Where is all this adoration coming from?
I believe people are too concerned with Wonder Woman as an icon. Most of us look at the movie through rose-colored glasses, projecting our cultural understanding of Wonder Woman onto Gadot’s Diana. Take for instance Richard Roeper’s review for the Chicago Sun-Times, where he writes: “Gal Gadot is easily the most inspirational and the most heroic and the most ‘real’ Wonder Woman in movie (and television) history.”
This is also why there has been so much irrelevant discussion on the film’s ideological beliefs. Is Wonder Woman feminist? How does Diana’s sex appeal promote misogyny? Why isn’t Diana an American like Wonder Woman should be? Click this link to read how Wonder Woman is an attack against men’s rights groups!
Meanwhile, the biggest question is overlooked: does this movie even work?
The biggest tragedy of Wonder Woman is how a passable film became the center of all this excitement. But there is hope for DC, as they have finally dropped the ill-fitting cynicism that loomed over their films since Nolan’s Batman trilogy. It’s about damn time DC gave us a superhero flick that unabashedly promotes virtues like courage and compassion, something that I haven’t seen since Smallville.
The best part about Wonder Woman is its wholehearted sincerity. And among the leagues of self-aware superhero movies too snarky for their own good, Wonder Woman is a welcome return back to good old-fashioned heroism.