The INSIDER Summary:
- “Wonder Woman” is one of the most critically acclaimed superhero films ever.
- While the movie is good, it hardly compares to much better hero films from the past.
“Wonder Woman” is good. It really is a good movie. But despite much of the hype, it isn’t better than that.
At one point “Wonder Woman” was the highest ranked superhero movie on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s now at #3 a with 93% certified fresh score. And while it’s a fine film, there’s a lot of room for improvement. The movie hardly compares to much stronger hero films from this year (“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Logan“) or movies from years past (“The Avengers,” “The Dark Knight”).
Certainly “Wonder Woman” surpasses any of the other DC Extended Universe projects (“Batman v Superman,” “Suicide Squad“) with ease.
Gal Gadot as our heroine is by far the most compelling in the universe, something we learned last year when she stepped in to offer the single ray of hope in the disaster that was “Batman v Superman.”
And “Wonder Woman” is grounded in an origin story significantly less stale than, say, the overdone recreations of baby Superman being hurtled to earth in a rocket, or Bruce Wayne’s parents being murdered in front of his eyes, or — to throw Marvel into the mix — Peter Parker losing his Uncle Ben.
The film has genuine humor rooted in Diana’s discomfort having gone from being the princess of the all-female Amazonian island of Themiscyra, to being a second-class citizen in 1910s London. Equally as important as her strength is her empathy, something that gives Diana a relatable naïveté as she encounters this new world without ever making her feel weak or clueless.
It’s also an inspiring movie to watch given our current political climate, and the fact that this movie is a long time coming. When Diana walks through a field on the front lines of World War I — the sole soldier willing and able to take down a German stronghold, not to mention the only woman in sight — it stirs up a longing for justice.
But while there’s a lot to love about the film, there’s also a lot that’s run-of-the-mill.
Structurally, most of the plot is conventional. The bare bones of the story is pulled from the comics, but “Wonder Woman” feels a whole lot like the first “Captain America” movie: Very little, up until the end, is surprising.
Additionally, the film seems to actively aim for a level of corniness not reached since George Clooney’s turn at playing Batman in 1997. Seriously, when Diana proclaims in the middle of a battle, “I believe in love!” it really is too much.
But back to Themiscyra, the all-female island of warriors hidden from view of the rest of the world. The first third of the film takes place here. It’s a world steeped in folklore, and tales from Greek mythology. There is so much to learn about these women, like how they live or where they come from. Not to mention that some of the coolest and most visually stunning combat scenes happen here. It’s compelling stuff.
So it’s disappointing to leave the island with Diana when she ventures into the world of men for the remainder of the movie. The journey across the ocean from this mystical island to a world more familiar to us is less interesting than anything that happens on Themiscyra. And within this more familiar world comes more familiar film tropes.
It’s at this point the movie begins to feel like Zack Snyder (“Batman v Superman” and “Man of Steel” director) — or perhaps Warner Bros. — had more influence in the filmmaking than the movie’s actual director, Patty Jenkins. Snyder served as a producer on “Wonder Woman,” and the film shows some of the same pitfalls of his previous work in the DCEU. It becomes burdened by visual clunkiness. The fights feel heavy, for lack of a better word — superhumans hurtle into buildings, crashing and destroying everything in site.
When every movement of a character in action requires CGI, perhaps you’re doing too much.
But again, despite my qualms with the film, my main point is that “Wonder Woman” is a good movie.
It’s about more than Diana leaving Themiscyra for the front lines of World War I. The story is really about Diana’s internal journey. Are the stories she was told as a child true? Is her destiny really to defeat Ares, the god of war? By asking these questions, she discovers more than she bargained for and begins to understand the nature of man, which is much more interesting than the “I believe in love” nonsense.
At first, Diana thinks if she can kill Ares, then she can release mankind from his power, which has caused them to hate and fight each other. The death of Ares would mean a return to perfection for the human race. But she’s confronted with a harsher reality that makes her question everything she knows to be true. Perhaps people are more complicated. Perhaps they have an intrinsic darkness within themselves. And perhaps, beyond the control or prompting of any supernatural force, mankind is already filled with the capacity for immense hate and self-destruction.
This point of view strikes me as something incredibly true and honest. And it’s here when the film really shines — hopefully future “Wonder Woman” films will take that to heart.
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