While the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) continues to dominate the comic book world, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) installment of “Wonder Woman” offers one of the DCEU’s finest films. It’s refreshingly standalone, offers genuine twists, and strong feminist overtones.
“Wonder Woman” opens in present day with Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) currently serving as curator for the Lourve’s antiquities department. She’s sent a World War I photograph plateof her by Wayne Enterprises, causing her to reminisce about her past. Jump back to Diana’s past on the secret island of Themyscira, home of the Amazon race of women. It’s an island with on men created by the gods of Mount Olympus.
But while Diana is reared among the Amazons, she gets her first taste of the outside world when Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American Edpeditionary Forces pilot crach lands on Themyscira. A German cruiser following Trevor arrives at the island and though the Amazons ultimately defeat the invading German troops, Diana’s aunt Antiope (Robin Wright), is killed in battle. This prompts Diana to leave the island despite the protestations of her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen).
Unlike many comic book films, “Wonder Woman” arrives as a period piece. It’s rather similar to “Captain America: The First Avenger” in this regard. I enjoyed “The First Avenger” better, and it’s still my favorite MCU entry. Nevertheless, the WWI setting suits “Wonder Woman” and infuses the fourth installment in the DCEU with a unique look and feel.
Acting is on point. Gadot lends a simultaneous regality and naivete to Diana. As Trevor, Pine is the quintessential sidekick and love interest. Because he’s a supporting member first and romantic partner second, the love subplot largely doesn’t detract from the overall film. Like “Captain America: The First Avenger,” Diana and Steve feature a relationship similar to that of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Coreography is fantastic. Fight scenes are truly riveting with genreally excellent use of CGI and slow-mo sequences.
Moreover, “Wonder Woman” is wholly a feminist film. This is most notably with Diana Prince as Wonder Woman. There’s a strong female lead who constantly saves the male fighters. One particular scene depicts Diana crossing no man’s land despite warnings from the soldiers in the trenches. It lends a new meaning to no man’s land, as the men in the film are unable to cross it without Diana’s help.
But this feminist theme permeates the entire movie. I really enjoyed the subtle though intentional foil of Isbel Maru aka Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya). Just as Trevor can’t survive without Diana, so too is German Army officer Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) powerless without Maru. It’s a pleasant touch having both the heroine and villan in “Wonder Woman” as powerful female characters. Even Trevor’s assistant Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) lends her talents as a competent assistant who Trevor would be lost without.
Yet “Wonder Woman” does falter occasionally. Notably, its attempts to foster connectivity with the DCEU feel extremely forced. The Wayne Enterprises courier at the beginning of the film is fine. However, the email Diana composes to Bruce Wayne is pitifully corny. Sure, it’s a fantasy film and email subject lines don’t necessarily adhere to real-worle email ettiquite. Nevertheless, it’s so shoddily written that this segment is a distraction. Additionally, there’s some heavy-handed CG. Although the effects usually appear realistic, it’s admittedly cartoonish in places. Similarly, some of the slow-mo is pretty cheesy.
While the love story is downplayed well, the finale could have used one less romantic scene between Teresa and Trevor and one more epic fight for Wonder Woman. Furthermore, “Wonder Woman” bears a ton of similarities to “The First Avenger.” This isn’t really a con. Since “Captain America” remains my favorite MCU flick as well as one of my top comic book movie adaptations, I rather appreciated the parallels. These comparisons are unavoidable. There’s the Diana-Trevor relationship mimicking that of Rogers and Carter. Trevor compiles a ragtag team of Sameer (Said Taghmaoui), Charlie (Ewen Bremner), and Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) which really feels like the Howling Commandos.
Still, “Wonder Woman” shines as a comic book adaptation and WWI period piece. It’s magnificently acted, and a technical masterpiece from effects to setting. Plus, the feminist vibe is clear though pleasingly subtle. It’s not “Avatar” level apparent. Ultimately “Wonder Woman” mimics the titular character in remaining a strong, mostly standalone film. It’s definitely the DCEU’s best entry thus far.