Less is more. Back to basics. Trim the fat. Whatever of these storytelling mantras you follow, they all applied to Wonder Woman as DC's latest installment into its much-maligned extended universe. Director Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot playing the iconic Wonder Woman combined to create DC's best film since Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy over five years ago.
On paper, literally, the movie is a traditional "overcoming the monster" basic plot built on the basic superhero origin story: Diana, Princess of the Amazons, leaves her idyllic island of Themyscira following the discovery of man's world brought about by Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashing into the Amazons' shores. A strong-headed but otherwise naive Diana dons her Wonder Woman costume and ventures forth to stop the war (World War I) brought about by her mortal enemy, Ares, the god of war.
It's predictable and uses the same tropes in both superhero and fantasy stories but it does it earnestly. And this is what matters most. Where DC's earlier films were muddled with too many protagonists, plots, and special effects, Wonder Woman stuck to simply telling the story. Its addition of humour makes it a more light-hearted affair and easier to swallow than the grim style of its DCEU predecessors but it still maintains plenty of the "dark" themes.
Gadot is a force and is the best casting choice DC has made since Heath Ledger played The Joker from The Dark Knight and like Ledger, Gadot's casting was met with plenty of pushback. "Too skinny", "too pretty", etc. the fan complaints were endless but Gadot didn't just play Wonder Woman authentically, she elevated her status. Gadot was mesmerizing not only because of how unbelievably photogenic she was but for her heartfelt performance. She embodied the values of being a superhero and reestablished the sense of idealism that earlier DCEU films trashed.
Whether it's social justice propaganda, feminism, or just being a plain ol' good superhero movie, Wonder Woman did wonders for both the box office and critics. It doesn't offer plenty of new ideas to the genre or any groundbreaking filmmaking but by virtue of being a well-made female-led superhero movie, it delivers.
As far as any feminist undertones, there isn't any that sticks beyond the source material. Elements of the film may come across as "misandrist" in its portrayal of men and women but there have been more savage depictions of Wonder Woman as a female crusader who condescendingly looked down upon men. The film centers more on Diana's godly nature: a woman of might and magic with a bit more sass than her male counterpart Superman.
Coming up with gripes is difficult. If anything, both Diana and Trevor and portrayed too idealistically bereft of any major character flaws. The film's antagonists are derivative and lack any depth or character and Diana is rarely ever challenged. There is also a scene that consummates Diana's motivation for saving the world, which comes across as a bit forced and cliche but still serves its purpose.
Even if the film won't age spectacularly and appear "average" in the long run (especially if it produces superior sequels or is followed by better female-led superhero films i.e. Marvel Studios' Captain Marvel), Wonder Woman has left its mark in the genre. It took so long for comic books' most iconic female superhero to finally get the movie she deserved but it was worth the wait. Wonder Woman sets a high standard for future female-led superhero films. Let the floodgates open! ★★★★