It’s finally here. Seventy-six years after her creation by William Moulton Marston, there’s finally a Wonder Woman movie. By comparison, it took Kick-Ass only two years to get a movie. That’s more – so much more – than a little absurd, when you stop to ponder it. The long-overdue film is the fourth chapter in the DC Extended Universe (following Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad), as Warner Brothers continues to do their best to bring their popular library of characters to the big screen in glorious live-action. Now, some parts of the DCEU have admittedly been more glorious than other parts. But Wonder Woman was supposed to be the one to finally give the DCEU a critical feather in its cap, in addition to a financial one.
I’ve personally been looking forward to this one for a long time. I don’t necessarily mean a Wonder Woman film, in general, but this specific film. Gal Gadot’s dramatic debut in full Wonder Woman gear in last year’s Batman v Superman might have been my favorite film moment of 2017. It gives me chills every time I watch it. Every single time. Then, the San Diego Comic Con trailer dropped last July and set the world on fire. I was cautiously optimistic with each promising new morsel of footage, reminding myself that Suicide Squad looked good in all of the promotional materials, as well, yet turned out to be a creative disaster. But this Wonder Woman footage felt different. It felt sophisticated and mature. And director Patty Jenkins (who was originally slated to direct Thor: The Dark World for Marvel) clearly demonstrated a poise, respect, and sense of responsibility towards the character, understanding that Wonder Woman is an important and iconic figure. I kept the faith.
It paid off. Boy, did it pay off.
Despite the fact that I really liked two of the first three DCEU films, there was something missing from all of them. I didn’t even realize it until I was watching Wonder Woman, but when it hit me, I immediately knew it to be true. So what does this film have that those others didn’t? Charm.
It would be easy for me to sit here and say that Gal Gadot is entirely responsible for said charm, because she is overwhelmingly charming. As Diana of Themyscira (as she is known in the film, sensibly enough), Gadot exudes what many will likely label an endearing naiveté, but that would be a misnomer. In order for her to be naïve, she would also necessarily possess a certain amount of ignorance. And while Diana is certainly perplexed by the ways of the world outside of the home she grew up in, her moral center comes not from ignorance but from heart. The world outside of her home bends over backwards to excuse and justify hate, murder, and general wrongdoing. Diana has no time or patience for such inanity. That idea isn’t entirely new in the world of genre filmmaking, but seeing the way that Diana handles her objections, and Gadot’s embodiment of all that the character stands for, is immensely satisfying as a viewer.
Gadot, in general, is simply spectacular. I’m a huge advocate for Henry Cavill’s Superman (sorry, haters; he’s perfect in the role), but Gadot carries over the momentum from her show-stealing appearance in Batman v Superman and shows the world that it wasn’t a fluke. Gadot is Wonder Woman and she’s also my favorite performer/character combination in the DCEU. Her first appearance in costume in this film is every bit as momentous and impactful as her arrival in Batman v Superman, but carries additional weight, buoyed by the development of the character that led up to the seminal moment. Seeing her become – truly become – the character that has long deserved this film is chill-inducing, on multiple occasions. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is now the DCEU’s MVP.
Chris Pine is also spot-on as Steve Trevor. Diana is not solely responsible for the film’s charm, because Pine is right there alongside her, ready to serve up his own heaping helping. Steve is irresistibly likable as the guy that all guys should strive to be, since Superman, Spider-Man, and Captain America aren’t realistically attainable. He’s grounded and entirely believable, regularly reacting to Diana in the embarrassingly American way that we would all have been trained to react, while also striving for more than what he has been told he should be. Steve and Diana have both been indoctrinated by their environments and blinded to certain truths of the world around them. As a result, neither would know how to handle the unexpected without the other. They are perfect complements and Pine is remarkable, turning in the best genre performance (so, that doesn’t count Hell or High Water) of his career.
But that’s not all the charm. No, no, not by a long shot. Allan Heinberg’s screenplay dovetails perfectly with director Jenkins’s sensibilities and, together, they work hard to provide a fluid narrative that unfolds organically but doesn’t forget that life is made of the small moments. This entire story – not just the climax – is a journey for both Diana and Steve. Diana, in particular, is learning about the world outside of Themyscira for the first time in her life, and she’s doing it against the backdrop of World War I. But life isn’t only made up of death and suffering – not even in wartime. There’s so much more, and every moment provides something new for Diana. My favorite scene is a quiet one of dialogue in a boat. No punching, no shooting, no Lasso of Truth . . . just talking.
And, despite the quantity of humor being low, the quality is high. Just a couple of minutes of humor made Wonder Woman a funnier film than the entirety of Suicide Squad. Unlike that film, Heinberg’s Wonder Woman script understands that character-derived reality is what’s funny – not forced and unoriginal “jokes” and one-liners. It adds a sincerity to the film that has also been somewhat – though not quite entirely – absent from the DCEU, up to this point.
The whole film reeks of that sincerity. Jenkins never attempts to sell the audience anything or to try to convince the viewer of something that they aren’t going to be able to easily believe. The characters play honestly. The story unfolds naturally. No tricks. No gimmicks. Just great storytelling by great filmmakers. It’s confident. And, therefore . . . it’s charming. And, for that, the whole film is lovable. I love it. I love it unabashedly. I love the film, I love Gadot, I love Pine, I love Jenkins, I love Diana, I love Steve, I just love the whole freakin’ thing. I hated that I hated Suicide Squad. I grew up on Marvel, but I still love DC, too. I want them to succeed. I root for them, every time out. And, this time, they succeeded. And I’m thrilled.
So, we have a job, everyone. We need to reward them for it. We need to show them that this is what we’ve been waiting for from them (it is) and we need to show them that female characters and filmmakers are just as viable as male characters and filmmakers (they are). We need a huge opening weekend. So go. Go see it. Maybe more than once. Because you’re going to love Diana. And then, we can all love her again in November, when Justice League drops. Because I think she’ll bring in more people than anybody else in that film. Step aside, Batman. It’s Diana’s world, now.
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