It’s safe to say that the DCEU was not in the most well received places. Each respective entry to be released was hated more than the last, with never ending complaints (justified or not) about how faithful the movies are towards the characters. The future was not very bright. Hope came in the form of Wonder Woman. Every trailer to come out was better than the last, selling something that was very different than the movies to come before it. Bright, hopeful and fun.
The world awaited with bated breath leading up to its release. The entire DCEU hinged upon the success of this one movie. Otherwise the whole enterprise would come tumbling down. Yet we can now safely say that not only do we live in a world where Wonder Woman has her own live action movie, but that it’s great.
Not only is it great, but it’s the best thing DC has done in 9 years (arguably since 1978) and has set a path for their future movies going forward. Below are 7 of the biggest reasons why Wonder Woman has become DC’s most successful movie and the beacon of hope everyone needed in the midst of DC’s Frank Miller inspired midlife crisis.
7. The Humor
There has been a severe lack of humor in the DCEU thus far, and it has made the whole endeavor a little rough to get through. While the Zack Snyder helmed films have their fans (no grown up likes Suicide Squad though), the majority of movie going audiences have one idea for what a superhero movie should be. So in one of many changes from the prior tonal executions, director Patty Jenkins and company have added a great deal of levity to the movie.
From Diana’s intro the world by way of early 1900’s England where she has to “do battle” with a revolving door to Steve Trevor’s stoic befuddlement to the new reality he has found himself in, this movie does not take itself too seriously while never kneecapping the overall stakes of the story. It makes the movie a more well rounded affair, becoming a perfect blockbuster with stakes and levity in equal measure.
6. The Heart
This movie is just chock full to the brim with heart. Yet another change from the prior entries, this is not a subversive and deconstructive look at super heroics. It is a straight forward tale with Diana’s good natured heroism never wavering. She’s always acting from a place of kindness and warmth. If she’s not in the midst of battle, she’s always got a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye.
When she sees a baby, the crowd melts because she is so god damned adorable at her joy at a child. The first taste of ice cream? Killer stuff. It’s a true change from the more dour entries DC has put out, or the attempts at lightness from the next level misguided Suicide Squad. For the first time in this entire DCEU endeavor, there is no argument that we are all watching a hero on screen.
An entire land of woman as beautiful and fierce as Gal Gadot is such an enticing idea for men (and ladies) worldwide, they even make a joke about it in the movie. But aside from such lascivious possibilities an island like that has to offer, its cinematic possibilities are much more interesting.
Women so above the petty foibles of man and their never ending thirst for power is fascinating. Especially since these aren’t women that shun violence. On the contrary. They are the most fierce fighters in the world, with no qualms about killing. But their compassion knows no bounds.
It’s cinematic as hell, taking us away from the boys club feel of other superhero films. But it gives us an even greater insight into Diana and why she stands apart from other heroes. There’s no story telling issues or plot holes or what have you with Diana’s almost contradictory nature of hers. A big heart that brooks no mercy towards her enemies.
It’s almost refreshing to see a hero that understands the need to vanquish an enemy completely for the greater good without ever succumbing to some moral quandary. All of this stems from our time in Themyscira. Without it, the movie loses a big chunk of what makes it special. Badass warriors Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright ain’t too bad themselves, with their addition to Justice League making people very excited.
4. Chris Pine
It may seem a little misguided to make a list about what makes this movie work and single out a man, but there’s a reason. A movie that features a spy finding out that there’s more to the world than he’s aware of and that a woman is better than him at almost everything is could lead to some annoying storytelling issues.
Making his journey in the movie one about coming to terms with womens rights until he can finally accept Diana. But they wisely don’t do that and do something so much smarter. They make him very accepting very quickly. Pine plays the role very stoically befuddled, but always taking all the new wrinkles in stride.
An island of superheroic goddesses? Sure, why not? But Ares definitely isn’t real. Except he is, so let’s roll with it. He knows immediately that he has to let Diana step to the forefront and take charge, giving her advice on how to navigate this complex new world she has entered. His only real doubt in regards to her is with her feelings about the nature of man, and how man is good.
Pine knows better though. Man is broken. Capable of such wonders but just as equally capable of immense horrors, with no need for a God to brainwash them. Making his arc one that culminates with him sacrificing himself to prove to Diana that while man may not be perfect, there will always be good men around to help.
Allowing Diana to keep her kind heart is the greatest gift he could possibly give her, even if it means losing out on a life with the one he loves. Pine brings the heat with this performance, making his relationship with Diana one of the best in comic book cinema. Like everything else in the movie, it’s something that can be enjoyed on the surface but can also be enjoyed on a deeper level. Taking something that could have been problematic and turning it into a victory is genius.
3. There’s No Easy Answers
One of the things that has always held superhero movies back a bit has been the lack of moral ambiguity. Sure, there’s been the attempts to do so on the surface. The Captain America movies have certainly tried their hands at such games but have always held back, never going full bore and allowing Cap an out to his pretty much self serving interests.
Aside from The Dark Knight, there’s always a black and white style to the world in these movies. So when the end of this movie dropped the hammer on Diana by revealing that Ares didn’t affect humanity at all, that WWI was all on them, it’s a stunner. The world of man is broken. Man, when given the opportunity to kill with greater ease, will take it. Man will fight in a war that was utterly pointless, slaughtering millions of soldiers and civilians for reasons that still aren’t clear today.
For a woman who believed with her heart that man was good and that Ares is the only reason for a “war to end all wars” to learn that is heartbreaking. Enough so that we understand why she goes berserker when Steve dies.
But by looking upon the broken visage of Doctor Poison, she is able to reconcile the world within herself. Because if someone like her can exist and someone like Steve can exist, maybe the world is worth fighting for. It won’t be easy. 100 years on, there will still be issues between alpha males that only she can help solve (coughBvScough). By taking away an easy out, the movie transcends the genre to become a little more honest in its narrative.
2. No Man’s Land
In the current superhero movie bonanza we are currently living in, there may be no better example of heroism than this masterful and goosebump inducing scene. Seriously, there may be no better scene in one of these movies, at least in the last 10 years. Diana, in her absolute befuddlement at mans simultaneous horror and acceptance of war, will brook no casualties for the cold hearted pragmatism of war strategy.
There’s a village in danger of being wiped out, and she’s gonna save them. And in the ultimate moment of subtextual symbolism becoming textual, a woman is the only one with the strength to cross No Mans Land and suffer no damage.
A battle that’s been waged by man for years with no change in status is ended almost immediately by a woman. Powerful. But that message could be absolutely worthless in the context of the movie if the scene itself was shot like crap and not thrilling to behold. But oh boy, is this the absolute pinnacle of the stunning work that Patty Jenkins and co delivered. The music is heart pumping. The visuals are gorgeous. The action is wonderfully staged, highlighting the grace and beauty of Diana’s powers.
Culminating in the men she has teamed up with to navigate the confusing world she’s entered utilizing an Amazonian battle technique (literally using themselves to elevate a woman) to stop a sniper, this is a world class sequence. It’s a scene we will be talking about for decades, and it’s the moment when any doubts about the viability of Wonder Woman, the DCEU, and female superheroes/directors was put to rest.
1. Gal Gadot
Almost everything else in the movie would be good enough to make the movie work. But it wouldn’t truly soar without its lead actress anchoring the whole thing and Gal Gadot truly makes it soar.
A massive question mark when she was cast a few years back for her supporting role in BvS thanks to her limited acting backlog, a prior career as a model, and her not comic book caricatured figure, no one really expected her to really work. But she was a big notch in the win column in that movie, yet still with caveats.
The role was a smaller part designed to hint at bigger things to come. But from the very first moment on screen in her titular role, she’s a star. This is a casting coup on par with Christopher Reeve as Superman. A performance so perfect, charismatic and charming that any flaws of the movie can be brushed aside by how winning a performance she gives. And this isn’t some surface level performance either. She has to sell an arc in this movie, and she does.
Going from pure hearted naïveté to a more realistic but still noble heroism, it is a tough arc to sell. It could easily veer into accidental smugness, a problem the Captain America movies have faced. But Gadot kills it. Watching the internal struggle within her as she has to reconcile the reality she has been hidden away from.
Seeing her finally see the horrors of war after years of war being nothing more than a symbolic construct to her is heartbreaking. The futility she faces could be crushing, yet Gal makes it a strength. She overcomes it and becomes stronger for it.
Another strength she brings to the role is the physicality that is necessary to play Wonder Woman. While all the neckbeard cry baby crap about her being too “frail” looking to play her was nonsensical already on its face, it’s even more nonsensical when the reality of Gal being an ex soldier is brought to play.
Adding in her past as a model means she is very capable of physical acting. The power and grace inherent to Wonder Woman is on full display. Her fighting style is much different than that of Batman’s lightning fast kung fu brutality and Superman’s brute strength haymaker style. She’s a true warrior and it’s invigorating to see a woman on screen kick so much ass without any single moral quandary about doing so.
Gal is an absolute wonder (sorry) in the role and is absolutely the most vital element to the success of this movie and the future of the DCEU going forward. If they can harness the same levels of power, humor and weight to the roles, it’ll be a nice upswing for the company.
Author Bio: Tom Lorenzo is Long Island, NY’s most preeminent pop culture fanatic. If it’s a western or a horror movie, he wants to see it. No argument is too minuscule or flawed for him to go full force with.