After over 75 years of comic books, animated appearances and a live action television series (and its made-for-TV movie), Wonder Woman has finally gotten her own full-length feature film…and thank the Gods it was good! Given the film currently holds a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, critics and fans alike seem to agree that director Patty Jenkins’ vision for Wonder Woman was the shot in the arm that the DCEU needed. The grim, dark tone that’s defined the studio’s more recent superhero offerings is instead replaced by a film that is, at its best, a bright, bombastic and even inspiring superhero story.
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While the film does an overwhelming amount right in bringing the world’s most notable female superhero to the big screen, there are a few things Wonder Woman fumbles with along the way. Despite Warner Bros. finally delivering us a proper treatment of the Princess of the Amazons, Wonder Woman‘s weak villain, sloppy third act and a series of other minor issues keep the movie from maintaining the fantastic momentum it establishes early on. Now that the dust has settled and the War has ended, we thought it was the perfect time to take a look back at 8 Things Wonder Woman got right (and 7 it didn’t).
*It should go without saying, but there be spoilers ahead!*
15. RIGHT: WONDER WOMAN’S ORIGINS
One of the biggest concerns many fans had about the DCEU’s take on Wonder Woman was how her origin would be handled in the more grounded world the studio seems to want to create. For those who don’t know, Wonder Woman has two popularized origin stories. The first, is that her mother, Queen Hippolyta, wanted a daughter so badly that she molded her from clay and begged the Gods to give her life and her prayers were answered.
The second, which has become more popular in recent years, is that she is the daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus (or another God). Much like Wonder Woman: Earth One by writer Grant Morrison and artists Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn, the Wonder Woman film effectively honored both of these origins by making the original origin a fairy tale her mother tells her to shield her from her true identity as a demigod.
14. WRONG: WONDER WOMAN’S POWERS
Despite doing a great job establishing Wonder Woman’s origins and character, the film does a poor job of giving us as viewers an understanding of exactly what Diana is capable of. While going toe to toe with German soldiers on Themyscira and the front lines, we’re certainly given the impression that being shot would kill, or at least seriously wound Wonder Woman.
However, very shortly after that we see she’s able to crash through a stone building and walk away completely unscathed. During her battle with Ares, Diana endures attacks that would surely deal a lot more damage than a simple gunshot. Is Diana getting more powerful? Is she realizing her limits are just far more than she ever thought? Regardless of the answer, the film leaves it open to interpretation in a way that leaves viewers with questions that go unanswered.
13. RIGHT: THE SETTING
Deciding to set Wonder Woman during WWI was a creative decision that made comparisons to the first Captain America inevitable, but the movie is much better off for it. While the DCEU surely has its fans, the vast majority of movie-goers seem to agree that Man of Steel, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad all left something to be desired.
Making Wonder Woman a period piece allowed the movie to tell a self-contained story that didn’t have to cater to the larger DCEU, if for no other reason than the other heroes simply don’t exist yet. Beyond that, the WWI setting works in the movie’s favor by setting up Wonder Woman against an ideological challenge vs. a purely physical one (which we’ll touch more on later).
12. WRONG: CONNECTIONS TO THE LARGER DCEU
Despite the WWI setting working for the sake of the film itself, what we know about Diana from Batman V. Superman leads to some inconsistencies in her character. In Batman V. Superman, we’re given the impression that Diana is disillusioned with mankind and has stopped acting as Wonder Woman for some time.
Considering the films take place about 100 years apart, that character development isn’t inherently a problem. However, the way the film frames the flashback through the context of the future and us seeing an active duty Wonder Woman in contact with Batman, leaves us with some questions that may never be answered. Why did Diana stop acting as Wonder Woman? If Steve’s sacrifice was so moving, what caused her to lose faith in people again?
11. RIGHT: THE ACTION
Audiences seemed to agree that the vast majority of Wonder Woman‘s action sequences were an unquestionable high point for the film. Each set piece manages to feel unique and memorable because no two scenes are exactly the same in style or execution. Excluding the by the books final battle with Ares (which we’ll touch on in our next entry), Wonder Woman‘s fight scenes feel much more fluid and elegant than your standard superhero brawl.
Whether it was the acrobatic display made by the Amazons in the film’s opening or the first time we see Diana use her Lasso of Truth in combat, watching Wonder Woman fight is consistently stylish and well executed. Though there’s something praiseworthy done in almost every action sequence, the film’s most memorable moment is undoubtedly when Diana crosses “No Man’s Land.” The scene is surprisingly inspiring, and perfectly captures the heroic spirit the DCEU has been missing.
10. WRONG: ARES
As we teased in our last entry, arguably one the film’s most glaring flaws is its handling of Ares as the film’s primary antagonist. Those familiar with Wonder Woman’s rogues gallery will be the first to admit that many of her villains simply don’t stack up to characters like Lex Luthor or The Joker in terms of name recognition. That being said, the film had a great opportunity for a character that could go toe to toe with Diana in Ares.
However, the decision to keep Ares hidden in the background pulling strings until the very end of the film leaves him feeling tacked on and impotent. He felt reminiscent of almost every non-Loki MCU villain, in that he served as little more than a punching bag for Wonder Woman to overcome in the film’s final moments because apparently there is no other way to end a superhero movie.
9. RIGHT: THE SUPPORTING CAST
Though they weren’t all equally served, the motley crew that supported Diana and Steve throughout their would-be suicide mission were more likable and relatable than you’d expect. Both Lucy Davis as Etta Candy and Saïd Taghmaoui as Sameer are effortlessly charming comic relief, and set up several great character moments for Diana.
The weak point of the gang is easily Eugene Brave Rock’s Chief, who save for one or two lines, spends the majority of the film as a silent tag-along. On the flip side, Ewen Bremner’s portrayal of the heavy-drinking, PTSD-stricken Charlie is one of the least-talked about successes of Wonder Woman. While your average Hollywood fair would likely see Charlie overcome his demons and succeed in taking the shot, Wonder Woman takes the opportunity to present his pain in a far more realistic light, lamenting that you don’t always get to be the person you want to be.
8. WRONG: KILLING OFF WONDER WOMAN’S BEST SUPPORTING CHARACTERS
One of the film’s biggest mistakes in regard to the future of the Wonder Woman series was stranding Diana’s two most important companions, Steve Trevor and Etta Candy, in the past. While not quite as damning as the decision to unceremoniously kill Jimmy Olsen in Batman v. Superman, limiting these character’s appearances to one film seems like a missed opportunity.
There’s always the possibility that the film could borrow a tactic from the Wonder Woman TV series to bring Etta back. While the original season of the show was also set during WWI, the show’s second and third seasons took place in the ’70s. As a way to keep Lyle Waggoner’s Steve Trevor as the male lead, the writers made Diana’s new partner Steve’s son. So, it doesn’t seem out of the question that Etta has a great granddaughter out there waiting to step up to the plate.
7. RIGHT: PATTY JENKINS’ DIRECTION
It can’t be overstated how deserving of praise Patty Jenkins is for her work on Wonder Woman. As we’ve already discussed, the character has multiple complex origin stories, a forgettable rogues gallery and despite being an icon, audiences lack the same level of familiarity with her as her trinity counterparts Batman and Superman.
Beyond those basic challenges, the deck was totally stacked against this film. The DCEU has been struggling for a long time and whether deserved or not, audiences were understandably cautious going into Wonder Woman. Jenkins was able to break away from the established style of the DCEU to create something unique in both its visuals and subject matter. It should also come as no surprise that having a female director helming a female-led superhero movie saved Wonder Woman from falling into unfortunate gender stereotypes or the sexualization of Diana.
6. WRONG: DR. POISON
It’s unfortunate the film pushed Ares as the film’s primary antagonist when they had a far more interesting villain set up in Isabel Maru, aka Dr. Poison. While Ares is merely talked about as this imposing force Diana will eventually have to overcome, the film actually laid interesting plot threads for Dr. Poison that unfortunately go unexplored.
The film goes out of its way to show us a picture of Isabel before the accident that left her disfigured, so there’s clearly a story there we simply won’t ever get to see. We never really learn about her motivations, why she as a Spanish scientist was motivated to work for the German army or what she hopes to gain out of her work on these chemical weapons. Instead, the film is content to allow her and General Ludendorff to act as red herrings for a far less developed villain.
5. RIGHT: THE ROMANCE
Another element of the film that could have easily been a detriment was the romance between Diana and Steve Trevor. Romantic subplots in superhero films are rarely something to write home about, with romantic interests usually feeling like little more than a plot device for the hero. This couldn’t be farther from the truth in Wonder Woman.
The relationship between Diana and Steve feels natural, well-paced and, as a result, its emotional payoff feels earned. While Diana’s love for Steve ends up playing a major role in the film’s plot, it never ventures into territory that makes Diana feel like a love-struck girl. Gal Gadot and Chris Pine have great chemistry together, and the few times they’re allowed to explore their feelings feel like a breath of fresh air amid all the war and conflict.
4. WRONG: THE THIRD ACT
We’ve already touched on Ares’ failings as a villain, but his effect on the film’s quality reaches far beyond that. While Wonder Woman absolutely suffers as a result of the anticlimactic final battle with Ares feeling tacked on to the story we were actually being told, that’s nothing a superhero movie hasn’t been able to overcome before.
However, the fact that the twist reveal of Ares’ true identity comes so late in the film’s massive, almost two and a half hour run time, we’re left with a third act that feels underdeveloped. This would be far more forgivable if it didn’t kill the otherwise excellent momentum the Wonder Woman has moving into its final act. On top of that, the actual battle with Ares truly pales in comparison to the film’s other fight scenes, so it doesn’t even land as a battle of the Gods should.
3. RIGHT: STEVE TREVOR AS DIANA’S #2
Despite being an integral part of the Wonder Woman mythos, it isn’t hard to imagine how a traditionally “Hollywood” portrayal of Steve Trevor could get in the way of what a Wonder Woman movie should be trying to accomplish. Thankfully, Steve is handled just about as well as he could be, thanks in no small part to Pine’s stellar performance.
Steve metaphorically gets to have his cake and eat it too. In many ways, he’s portrayed as a traditional leading man in that he’s strong, competent and decent; however, the film avoids the pitfall of letting his character get in Diana’s way. On the flip side, because Steve has his own character arc that runs alongside Diana’s, he doesn’t feel like a thinly veiled plot device either. Because his mission predates his meeting Diana, they feel far more like partners, despite him being portrayed as being (understandably) in awe of Diana.
2. WRONG: GETTING IN THE WAY OF ITS OWN MESSAGE
By far, the film’s greatest mistake is allowing the final battle to undermine the message the film tries to drive home. When Diana kills General Ludendorff and sees that his death hasn’t magically ended the war, her entire value system is shaken. During a conversation with Steve, he laments that people aren’t all inherently good and expressly says he wishes it was all as simple as there being one bad guy behind it all.
This perfectly sets up the film to make a poignant and subversive commentary on the nature of superhero stories in general. However, the film totally undercuts this message by immediately having Diana face off against an enemy representative of the whole conflict. We’re told that Ares never forced mankind’s hand, but the fact that Steve’s sacrifice comes before the defeat of Ares, the actual signal of the end of the conflict, that assertion rings hollow.
1. RIGHT: GAL GADOT AS WONDER WOMAN
In retrospect, the fact that anyone doubted the choice of casting Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman seems laughable now. While we think few movie-goers would disagree that Gadot was one of the few saving graces of Batman v. Superman, she gives a star-turning performance as Diana in Wonder Woman.
Like Christopher Reeve as Superman and Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man before her, Gadot’s Wonder Woman is character-defining. She perfectly captures the spirit of Wonder Woman, effortlessly showcasing both sides of Diana: the fierce warrior and the peaceful protector. With the movie showing no signs of slowing down at the box office, it seems like a lock that for generations to come, Gadot will be the face countless children think of when you say Wonder Woman.
What did you think of the Wonder Woman movie? Let us know in the comments below!