“I used to want to save the world, this beautiful place. But the closer you get, the more you see the great darkness within. I learnt this the hard way, a long, long time ago.”
Audiences will be forgiven for approaching DC’s Extended Universe’s (DCEU) latest film with caution. Bearing on its shoulders the stability and success of a franchise that has consistently disappointed critics and audiences alike, Wonder Woman is also the first time a female character has taken the lead in a new age live action superhero movie. Rewardingly, director Patty Jenkins has been seemingly unfazed by the pressure of these expectations; presenting a film that effortlessly defines a new realm of success and prospect for a genre that risks overexposure and staleness with each new release.
“You have been my greatest love Diana, but tonight you are my greatest sorrow”
The success of Wonder Woman is driven first and foremost by an impenetrable sense of virtue and ‘goodness’ that surrounds its titular character. The trend of making our heroes more relatable by drawing focus to their ‘flaws’ and moral shortcomings has notoriously been both a point of great reward (Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy) and great contention (Man of Steel). Furthermore, having ‘loss’ inspire an individual’s journey into heroism has overtime contributed to a growing predictability in superhero ‘origin’ stories – something that Wonder Woman interestingly inverts having the primary narrative of film motivated by our hero’s sacrifice rather than loss. This sacrifice being leaving both her family and her people because of her own inability to ignore injustice. Throughout the film, the narrative consistently revisits the importance Diana places on individual human life, setting her apart from the characters in power that accept a certain collateral – tying into the context of the first world war and interestingly heroes and decisions made in previous DCEU films.
“What I do is not up to you.”
Visually the film excels on a platform that notably transcends the offers of the franchise’s previous three films. The colour pallet of Zack Snyder’s portfolio thus far has been a topic of great contention, and although I have stood by its place in Dawn of Justice; a film that dealt primarily with the political obscurity of Superman’s existence, it simply would have been inappropriate in a film that is based on the pillars of power, wonder and courage. However, Jenkins’ victory with Wonder Woman is due to far more than simply her ability to dress the film with pretty colours. Through all aspects of the films construction, from its invigorating action sequences, audience pleasing comedic pallet and even the narrative’s own pace – Wonder Woman attends to the flaws that have restricted previous DC Films from critic success.
“We are a bridge to a greater understanding”
In an effort to contain levels of unadulterated gush: actor Gal Gadot captures every aspect of her character with such effortless class and strength that it is almost impossible to imagine anyone else in the role. Physically, emotionally and ideologically; Gadot is the super heroine audiences have craved and deserved since the dawn of live action comic book films. At her side, Chris Pine is impeccably cast to portray the quick witted, charming and inherently noble Steve Trevor who in his own right exhibits the best mankind has to offer, while simultaneously being challenged and inspired by Diana’s determination and belief.
For very good reason, little has been publically revealed about the film’s main antagonist – and I would urge movie goers to read as little into the plot’s developments as possible to savour as much of an organic experience as possible. What I will reveal is that Wonder Woman’s unorthodox approach to its main villain, and furthermore its ability to source its sense of threat and consequence from the films setting rather than a single being, is both bold and refreshingly original.
“It is not about what we deserve; it is about what we believe in”
No matter how it was handled, Wonder Woman was always going to be a political film. This is informed by the movie’s own context, in setting the first female led superhero film in a period where women didn’t even have the right to vote let alone fight on the front line. Consequentially, a lot of the challenges that Diana faces in her establishing narrative have very meta translations to our world, subtly addressing critics that question both the film’s potential and importance. However, sexism isn’t the only topic touched upon – with both racism and PTSD being mentioned at different moments throughout the film. The running ideology that “we all have our own battles to fight” marks both an entry point for audiences and a learning curve that allows Diana the opportunity to understand and value the heroism in the every day. Wonder Woman is not just the story of a hero who saves mankind, but the story of a hero understanding it. As such, it offers a striking exploration of humanity’s moral flippancy; and stresses the importance of having figures like Diana to guide and inspire in a conclusion that is as much of a thematic victory as it a visual one.
“I will fight, for those who cannot fight for themselves”
At its core, Wonder Woman is a story of strength, love and heroism. Channelling the motifs of justice and valour far more effectively than the vast majority of superhero hero movies both DC and Marvel alike, Patty Jenkins produces a film that is both inspiring and wholehearted without sacrificing the confidence and adrenalin that is so integral to its wider audience appeal. Justified by a standalone narrative and not the superficial factors that usually plague franchises; Wonder Woman not only sets a new bar for DC Films, but for the entire genre of superhero and comic book films.
You can read Connor’s Radio Monash Reviews of Man of Steel, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad at the linked addresses. Please be advised that time, a new ranking criteria and the addition of Wonder Woman to the DCEU has allowed for current Radio Monash rankings to be revised – which have been updated below.