A couple of years ago before the Marvel Cinematic Universe existed superhero movies were very different. There was no grand unifying scheme or vision, no shared color palette between movies, no crossovers at all. Spider Man, Batman, The X-Men, and Superman all lived in their own little silos. Most of these did alright financially if not critically speaking(Raimi’s Spider Man series doing the best overall) but it’s the X-Men series that I want to focus on. The X-Men movies were not very good. The visual style of them were vastly different from the comic books or animated series, the tones of the movie were somewhere between cheesy and almost over compensating in seriousness and you could kinda just go see them out of loyalty to the characters but none of those first three X-Men movies (X-Men, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand) were anywhere near the level of being called “good movies”. There’s one thing about them that stood out though and that was Hugh Jackman. Jackman took the Wolverine character and made it his own, at first there were complains that he was too tall, that he was too handsome, that he wasn’t even Canadian but as soon as we saw him on screen all of that was forgiven because it was evident to the viewer that this guy was nailing the role. Hugh Jackman’s interpretation of Wolverine was so good that he got three standalone movies playing the character including what is arguably the best movie in the whole franchise. I mention all of this because what I’m getting at is that Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is the DCEU’s “Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine”.
Wonder Woman is good. In fact, If nothing else comes out of the Zack Snyderisation of the DCEU other than Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman it was all worth it. I say that in complete honesty. The movie is well paced, it’s a long movie but it doesn’t feel like it. Gal Gadot is great, she plays a young naive Diana very well. Her naivety is endearing, her strength is impressive, and it never feels like she’s “overacting” throughout the whole movie. Chris Pine is also very good and both of them have great chemistry on screen together. My major complaint about the movie is one that can be attributed to almost any movie and that is that the Villains in this movie are very weak. Both the human and non human villains in this movie are ridiculously designed they look so campy and cheesy that they wouldn’t look out of place in a 1960s Batman TV episode. Still as far as origin stories go this is good. As far as universe building goes, this is really good, and I don’t think an origin story for this character could have been done much better. The motivations for why Diana is the way she is are also explained in a very good way, even if half of the fluff with her “ragtag crew of soldiers” could have been cut.
The thing that’s been most discussed about this movie and one of the reasons why it has received such a large amount of positive attention is because it’s being considered a feminist movie both negatively(apparently that’s a thing) and positively. The highest compliment I can pay to this movie is that it is the first one in any of the two super hero universes where the female character is treated as one would treat a male lead character. There’s no over sexualization of her, there’s no “dangerous like a fox” play here, Wonder Woman is a goddess among mortals and it shows in every aspect. I’ve read online about how dumb it is that whenever Diana walked into a room the male characters would react to her beauty and how that is objectification. To that I say that it is the same way that her Super male counterparts are treated, at least she wasn’t shirtless like how Chris Evans was or Chris Hemsworth, or even Hugh Jackman. This should be considered progress right? I don’t want to get too much into this, because I don’t genuinely think that this was an especially “Feminist movie” it shows a woman being amazing, and that’s pretty cool. I hope this makes young women everywhere especially feel like they too can be badasses, but I don’t think watching this movie will change the minds and hearts of any non feminist out there. I also don’t think it should aim to. I think the fact that this movie exists as it does without trying to “prove a point” but simply telling the story of a formidable female hero as if it’s not a big deal is great. It’s not a big deal, because there’s strong formidable women in the world right now who are doing their thing. Seeing that on screen is definitely cool.
Wonder Woman is a good movie, it’s not a great movie. However it’s a successful movie and that’s great. A woman director and a female lead came together to tell a good story and despite any biases or expectations from the studios or the audience were able to tell a story that didn’t depend on any “girl” tropes to be compelling and audiences are responding. I can only hope more female heroes get their time in the spotlight and are treated with the earnestness and care that Wonder Woman was. But even if that doesn’t happen, the DCEU can take a page from Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine and use Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman to keep their universe afloat. In all the darkness and dreariness that is the DCEU, we found our bright spot in Themyscira.
PS. How great is that theme song?