All it took for the DC Extended Universe to get on track was pairing a director who hasn’t made a film in 14 years with a female character who has never had her own movie.
“Wonder Woman” is the fourth installment of the DCEU, and follows Amazonian goddess Diana Prince as she accompanies an American pilot in World War I Europe on a mission to stop the launch of a deadly German biochemical weapon. Gal Gadot stars as the titular character with Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston and David Thewlis in supporting roles. Patty Jenkins directs.
The DCEU desperately needed this film to be critical success. Following mixed responses to “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman,” “Suicide Squad,” the film many thought would save the series, turned out to be the biggest dumpster fire of them all. So if “Wonder Woman” turned out to be bad like its predecessors, all hope for the franchise would be lost and no one would care about “Justice League” in November. Well thankfully for Warner Bros. and audiences, “Wonder Woman” is far from a failure, thanks to some fun action and performances, even if its climax is a letdown.
Whether you liked “Batman v Superman” or not, everyone agreed Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot each stole the show. And Gadot again shines here, giving us a character with heart who views the world with the innocent eyes of that of a child. Not only because she is a fish out of water, going from her secluded exotic homeland to 1915 London, but because she insists on seeing the good in humanity, despite the fact that they are killing themselves by the millions. She is beautiful yet fierce, kind yet physical; it’s an overall great performance and places Gadot as the building block for the DCEU.
Chris Pine is also great as Steve Trevor, a pilot who crash lands on Wonder Woman’s previously uncharted island. Pine has some great comedic moments and his natural charm that has been shown in non-Star Trek films like “Horrible Bosses 2” and “Hell or High Water” bleeds through.
The action is nicely shot, with Jenkins and cinematographer Matthew Jensen not cutting too often and making sure the audience can actually tell what is happening on screen. Numerous times I had a smile creep onto my face when Wonder Woman kicks a bad guy through a wall or spin kicks a German, and the sequences are accompanied by a great musical score by Rupert Gregson-Williams.
Everything was going great. I was having a blast and even the slower character-building scenes were engaging because of the incredible period piece set design and fun performances. Then the climax happened. Not since “The Wolverine” has a film betrayed everything it stood for so much.
Most of “Wonder Woman” is a boots-on-the-ground, relatively “realistic” superhero film, in the sense that it is her in trench warfare with her shield or punching guys in a room. However the climax of this film goes from that to CGI destruction at such a breakneck pace that it left my jaw on the floor, and not in a good way. Suddenly it was god against god, with lightning bolts and fireballs being hurled in a desolated wasteland, and it gets boring real quick. It is the same problem that plagued literally all three other DC films, and if “Justice League” follows suit (which its trailer implies it will), then I will just give up on this franchise ever knowing how to properly conclude their films.
I feel ambivalent right now because I truly loved the first two hours of “Wonder Woman.” I was legitimately sitting in my chair thinking that it was one of the better superhero films we’ve gotten in recent years; but the finale really did leave a bad taste in my mouth. Instead of being excited to run out and tell people to see this, I have to attach a big asterisk next to my recommendation that reads “but the finale hurts it a lot.” And I know my score will seem high given the tone I’ve ended my review with, but what’s a score but a subjective summarization of a review you already read?
Here is the bottom line: you should see “Wonder Woman,” because Gadot and Pine are great, the action is fun and it makes me excited for the future of the DCEU, but try your hardest not to fall in love with the film because the ending with break your heart.
Critics Rating: 8/10