Nearly 76 years after her debut in the pages of All Star Comics, Wonder Woman finally stars in her own live-action feature, a milestone weighted with enormous significance for the character and her fans, Warner Bros.' DC Extended Universe, and female superheroes. The trailers and TV spots, packed with action and tinged with both humor and majesty, have helped to fuel anticipation for director Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman -- but can the film possibly measure up to expectations?
With the embargo on reviews lifting at midnight, an answer has begun to take shape: Yes, it can.
CBR's Kristy Puchko praised Wonder Woman as "far and away" the best film to date in the DC Extended Universe, an umbrella that encompasses Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (in which Gal Gadot debuted as Diana) and Suicide Squad. It's a sentiment echoed by many of the other early reviews, resulting in a 96 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
That's not to say the initial response is all positive, mind you: So far, two of the 48 reviews registered on that website are classified as "rotten," and even some of the otherwise-glowing assessments acknowledge the film stumbles when it falls back on traditional superhero tropes. However, most laud the performances of Gadot and Chris Pine, who plays Steve Trevor, as well as Wonder Woman's action scenes and overall tone.
Here's a selection of what critics are saying about Wonder Woman:
Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press: "[Gal Gadot] the perfect Wonder Woman — a true blue hero who’s as believable in her bafflement of women’s fashions and social mores as she is dead-lifting a tank and swatting away machine gun fire with only her arm cuff. I never cared about Wonder Woman before. Now I do."
Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly: "Wonder Woman is smart, slick, and satisfying in all of the ways superhero films ought to be. How deliciously ironic that in a genre where the boys seem to have all the fun, a female hero and a female director are the ones to show the fellas how it’s done."
Kelly Lawler, USA Today: "It's only when the film feels the need to check off the boxes of the modern superhero movie that it loses its momentum. Wonder Woman succeeds when it shows us something truly original for the genre, whether it’s examining the bond between mother and daughter or battles where the enemies are human soldiers rather than faceless monsters or even a delightful aside of Diana trying ice cream for the very first time. (It’s wonderful, she tells the vendor. He should be proud.)"
Andrew Barker, Variety: "It says quite a lot about the general tenor of the DC cinematic universe that a film set in the trenches of WWI, with a plot revolving around the development of chemical warfare, is nonetheless its most cheerful and kid-friendly entry. But while Wonder Woman may dabble in moments of horror, it never revels in the vicissitudes of human depravity quite like its predecessors. A huge factor in its ability to convey a note of inherent goodness lies in Gadot, whose visage radiates dewy-eyed empathy and determination — and whose response to the iniquity of human nature isn’t withdrawn cynicism but rather outrage."
Molly Freeman, Screen Rant: "Beyond the action, it’s Diana’s personal journey throughout Wonder Woman that forms the core of the film, and is where Jenkins’ DCEU entry succeeds best. Gadot brings the many sides of Diana to life beautifully, though it’s perhaps her fish-out-of-water humor that stands out most. Raised on Themyscira and traveling to the human world for the first time, there’s plenty about London and the modern ways of life that Diana has never experienced. Gadot plays each of these moments with equal amounts of innocence and curiosity. But what’s most fascinating about these scenes is that Diana’s curiosity for the world is portrayed with a positive sense of humor. Rather than making Diana’s innocence or ignorance the butt of the joke, these moments shine a new light on certain aspects of humanity – those which are rarely questioned but absolutely silly from an outsider’s perspective, effectively encouraging the audience to laugh at themselves through Diana."
Steve Rose, The Guardian: "Yes, yes, I know: 'It’s only a comic-book movie.' And on the level of big-budget trash, Wonder Woman is great fun. But there were hopes for something more. Perhaps there were too many rewrites and personnel changes (director Patty Jenkins was drafted in after the first choice left; while all five credited writers and eight of the 10 producers are male). Perhaps DC struggled to find territory arch-rivals Marvel hadn’t already claimed. They covered the mythical-deity-out-of-water angle with Thor, and the superhero-joins-the-war-effort with Captain America. In Wonder Woman, they had something none of their rivals had – a bona-fide brand-name female superhero – but in trying to work out what to do with her, they seem to have lost their way."
Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter: "Had it really broken the mold and come in below the two-hour mark, Wonder Woman could have been a thoroughly transporting film. As it stands, it’s intermittently spot-on, particularly in the pops of humor and romance between the exotically kick-ass yet approachable Gadot and the supremely charismatic Chris Pine as an American working for British intelligence, the first man the Amazon princess has ever met. With eager fans unlikely to bemoan the film’s length or its lapses in narrative energy, Wonder Woman will conquer their hearts as it makes its way around the globe."
Germain Lussier, i09.com: "Gal Gadot’s Diana is her best performance to date, blending the kindness, power, and innocence needed for the iconic character. Her story is very clean and very aggressively paced, peppered with lots of action, just the right amount of mythology, and—for the first time in a DCEU film — a lot of humor. Gadot’s Diana and Pine’s Steve are as comfortable and fun together on screen as you could hope. The banter is smart and playful. Diana’s fish-out-of-water situation is executed beautifully, but Gadot never lets her fierce subtext slip away."
Joshua Yehl, IGN.com: "Despite being every bit a superhero origin movie, Wonder Woman’s tale is so different from the street vigilantes and super soldiers we’re used to seeing that it never feels like retreading old ground. Even Thor traveling from his space palace to a small town in the middle of nowhere feels completely different from Diana (Gal Gadot) leaving her gorgeous island paradise to enter a world consumed by hardship and death."
Arriving June 2 nationwide, director Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman stars Gal Gadot as Diana, Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Robin Wright as General Antiope, Danny Huston as General Erich Ludendorff, David Thewlis as Ares, Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta, Elena Anaya as Doctor Poison and Lucy Davis as Etta Candy.