In the world of DC Comics three superheroes are usually treated as the standards, known as the Trilogy. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are some of the earliest superheroes for then National Comics to have survived to this day. And yet, while Superman and Batman have had numerous live-action and animated TV series and movies, Wonder Woman has been relegated to one TV series, one animated movie, and a bunch of failed pilots, only one of which was good on its own merits. Cathy Lee Crosby is no Linda Carter but the movie itself is good.
Meanwhile you have the DC Extended Universe, Warner Brothers’ attempt to create their own version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but by ignoring the comic roots while Marvel Studios embraced them. It ended up that the Marvel movies felt more like the DC Universe than the actual DC movies did, and that’s still holding true in most DC media today, including the comics as Dan DiDio tries to return the comics to the New 52 style of storytelling, the opposite of what made the DC Universe last so long…but I’m getting off track. The DCEU movies have done so badly that Warner Brothers seems to be about to scrap the idea and just complete the movies in production, although Wonder Woman was successful enough that it’s getting a sequel.
We can go over the failings of the DCEU some other time. What made Wonder Woman stand out? Was it the fact that the director was a woman, like we’re being told, did they just make a good movie that people actually praised, and how did it fare as an adaptation versus Spider-Man: Homecoming? Let’s find out.
RELEASE DATE: 2017
RELEASED BY: Warner Brothers
RUNTIME: 2 hours, 21 minutes
STARRING: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Danny Hutson, David Thewlis, Elana Anaya, and Lucy Davis
DIRECTOR: Patty Jenkins
GROSS INCOME: $821,763,408 out of an estimated budget of $149,000,000
The Plot: Diana (Gadot) grew up on Themyscira, an island inhabited by the Amazons ruled by her mother, Queen Hypolita (Connie Nielsen). While she wanted to learn to fight her mother was hoping that she wouldn’t have to live up to her destiny, to protect her from the god of war, Ares (Thewlis). Then one day spy Steve Trevor (Pine) crashed on her island, escaping from the Germans. He tells her of the “war to end all wars”, which Diana believes signals the return of Ares. Against her mother’s wishes Diana journeys to man’s world to fight in what was hoped to be the last World War. However, she may learn that war isn’t what she thinks it is. Can she stop the German general (Hutson) seeking to continue the war and the insane “Doctor Poison” (Anaya) from truly making this a war without end?
Why did I want to see it?: At first I actually didn’t. The DC Movieverse has been a huge disappointment. Man Of Steel was a good superhero movie but a terrible Superman movie. Batman Vs. Superman: Lack Of Justice was a mess from what I hear and yes, it’s also the Finally Watched list. I didn’t even like The Dark Knight as a Batman adaptation, and that’s not even a DCEU movie. Then I started hearing about the movie and it was all positive. While people slam critics of the gender-swapped Ghostbusters by claiming they didn’t want girl heroes in lead roles they need to see the response to this movie. I honestly wanted to see if it was as good as folks say.
What did I think?: Let me get the adaptation question out of the way. It borrows way too much from the New 52 version of Wonder Woman. (By the way, the name is never used in the movie, or if it was I missed it.) She’s ready to kill, carries a sword, and yet her compassion for others does shine through on occasion. I think the movie was trying to transition between the New 52 and classic/Rebirth ideas of who Wonder Woman is supposed to be in the final scene but I would rather have had the proper Diana right out of the box. Call it a preference, and you could still have the butt-kicking scenes. Wonder Woman is supposed to be a good fighter, killing only as a last resort, which only makes her more violent that the others by averages rather than New 52’s Kratos-meets-Xena hybrid. They also kept the New 52 origin, and I wonder if they maybe shouldn’t have dropped the original clay baby angle from the start if they were just going to toss it aside as well. Etta Candy (Davis) will never be the girl she was but I think this is my favorite incarnation. I also understand using World War I to try to not look like they were ripping off Captain America: The First Avenger for those who aren’t aware of Wonder Woman’s comic history and haven’t been fortunate enough to see the first season of the TV show. (Speaking of which, I didn’t notice an homage to that unfortunately.) So as an adaptation it fares better than most DCEU movies, but just barely.
As a story however, it really is that good. Gal Gadot really makes the character her own, and brings a lot of personality to the role. See folks, sometimes the untested actor or actress IS a good choice. It’s been done before. Look at the cast of Superman: The Movie. Not having prior expectations of Gadot I think benefits her working into the role of Diana. Likewise, Chris Pine makes for a good Steve Trevor and the two had some really good chemistry together. The awkward romance subplot between the two is cute and very believable.
Steve’s cohorts in getting Diana to the Front are also good but while they have a personality and backstory and you really like them (or at least I do), they don’t really get a character arc. They contribute to the plan and to showing Diana the other side of people, but not much else. The shining moment comes when one of them is singing in a bar. Diana does bring out the best in people at least.
The villains are excellent foils. From the general who wants to keep the war going because he practically worships Ares to the mad scientist (woman mad scientists are surprisingly rare in fiction) to Ares himself, they are excellent to watch and you can’t wait to see them lose. The Ares reveal did surprise me. I did expect a twist but not the one they gave. I could have sworn I saw it coming given my years as a story fan and storyteller, but I was surprised and when you see what his actual contribution is to the war it does make a form of sense. I also give all the credit to showing not only the evils humans can achieve but the good they can do and how they can also just be innocents trying to live their lives. Humans are capable of great good and great evil, and some stories forget this, just going on about their failings, but here you see their strengths as well. It doesn’t have to be spelled out but a part of me wishes it had for clarification because I see it so seldom.
Was it worth the wait?: I have to say yes. Too much New 52 in there for my tastes but I see potential for a more accurate Wonder Woman in the next movie if they go that route. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend doing so. It’s the promise we wanted from the DCEU; too bad it’s a bit too late to save the continuity.
Note that I have one more of these pre-written Finally Watched installments left to go, and it’s another superhero movie. Find out what it is next time.