Wonder Woman May Have Saved the DC Extended Universe

Wonder Woman is damn near a perfect superhero movie. Actually, in terms of direction, acting, design, story arc, score, and effects it’s pretty much a near perfect movie for any genre.

Director Patty Jenkins expertly conveyed a story which was the perfect blend of hero journey, love story, action flick, origin story, comedy, and period piece. The film took itself seriously without going too dark, and managed to stage exquisite PG-13 action sequences with stunning visuals, clever camera tricks, and some instantly iconic framing. Patty Jenkins did for Wonder Woman what fans of the DC universe had hoped Zack Snyder and company would do for Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman.

Although all commercial successes, it is no secret that Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman, and Suicide Squad have been met with criticism from fans and media. The stories were dark, the plots were confusing, and the suspension of disbelief was a bridge too far but, in the end, they were successful because everyone loves Batman and Superman. This is not the case with Wonder Woman, though. This film, being the first for the iconic character, had a huge mountain to climb and it managed to scale that mountain several times over. If this is the new direction for the DCEU, it is a welcome turn and if it is not, it should be.

Without giving away plot points or spoilers, suffice to say that Wonder Woman is focused on a simple plot that is woven around real-life events at the end of World War I. There was no point in the film, as has been the complaint for other DC movies, where audience members were questioning if they’d missed something or wondering where the plot was heading. The script does not try to tell more exposition than is absolutely necessary to this particular story and never talks down to the audience who may not be as familiar with Wonder Woman as the die-hard fans.

That said, the only aspect of the film that seems out of sorts is the animated telling of the story of the Gods. It may have made more sense to open with that sequence as a sort of prelude to the film (like Beauty and the Beast did with the stained glass montage) and then begin the movie proper but, instead, it is told to young Diana as a bedtime story which felt inorganic to the story. The sequence, though, is beautiful and this is a minor quibble.

Gal Gadot was perfect. There’s nothing else to say about that. If one were to think of actresses for the next 12 months, one would not come up with one better suited for this role. There wasn’t a single beat of this performance that wasn’t heartfelt and believable and she handled the incredible depth of the character with brilliance. At the same time, Wonder Woman is a warrior and a fish out of water, a woman and a god, and a genius with no understanding of the world she’s been thrust into. To convey all these aspects of the character with such charm and grit and to make it all feel real is the mark of a truly fantastic performance.

I attended a sold out screening on the Saturday of opening weekend. At the conclusion of the film, people applauded and cheered. This is the movie that the DCEU needed from the beginning but was too afraid to make. This is the movie that comic book fans and movie goers can all agree on. This film is the first of the DCEU to hold a candle to the Nolan Dark Knight trilogy in terms of balancing quality film making with comic book content. This film isn’t as heavy as Man of Steel or as silly as Guardians of the Galaxy and, being set during a world war, the destruction and violence feels real and believable.

Now nearing 700 words, this review could be summed up in one sentence. Wonder Woman is the first comic book film that I wanted to see a second time before the credits had finished since The Dark Knight. It’s good. It’s very good and if Justice League can follow in its wake with a story and execution of this quality, Wonder Woman may actually save the DC extended universe and for a DC nerd like me, that’s incredibly good news.