Saw Wonder Woman. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much, considering DC’s recent track record; I’m an unapologetic Man of Steel fan, but Dawn of Justice felt more like a feature length teaser trailer than a coherent movie, and Suicide Squad was an utter waste of a great concept.
Thankfully, Wonder Woman absolutely blows its predecessors out of the water, delivering a rollicking adventure yarn that somehow manages to respectfully depict the horrors of war without being excessively dark and dreary. Marvel’s Thor series has already tackled the “fish out of water” narrative, but Patty Jenkins and her collaborators elevate the formula by emphasizing the protagonist’s emotional transformation, rather than humorous hijinks (though a few stock jokes slip in under the radar, including the tired, old “What are traffic laws?” gag). Diana’s isolated, sheltered upbringing has left her with a very black-and-white view of morality, and her experiences in “Man’s World”—at the height of the Great War, no less—challenge her preconceptions; watching our heroine come to terms with her own naiveté makes for a more fulfilling conflict than a brawl with yet another generic CGI monstrosity (which we still get, by the way, just in case Doomsday and Incubus didn’t sate your appetite). And while I do feel that a couple of the third act twists dampened the intended message, Gal Gadot’s performance (particularly her captivating chemistry with Chris Pine) ultimately saves the day.
Wonder Woman has proven that Warner Brothers’ post-Nolan comic book adaptations can meaningfully compete with Marvel’s; hopefully, the directors of the upcoming solo films will follow its example.
[Originally written June 6, 2017.]