Is “Wonder Woman” really the film that will save the DC Expanded Universe?
Critics have hammered director Zack Snyder’s 2013 “Man of Steel” and 2016 “Batman v. Superman” for their gritty tone and semi-sociopathic heroes. There is no denying that “Wonder Woman’s” director, Patty Jenkins, adds some much needed vivacity to Snyder’s noir-like palate.
Jenkins solves the grim protagonist issue in Gal Gadot, whose hopeful, idealistic performance is the high point of the film. Gadot’s Wonder Woman cares about human suffering and leaves you feeling inspired when Batman and Superman left behind angry grunts and a pile of bruised stuntmen.
The film’s major weakness lies in its script, as too many moments in the dialogue fall between cringe-worthy and smarmy.
For a film set during World War I, there is an odd contrast between the dark historical background and the dew-eyed, silly supporting characters. Even Wonder Woman, for all her gravitas, occasionally falls victim to the film’s weak script.
If the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a problem with one-dimensional villains, “Wonder Woman’s” Aires gives little reason to believe that the DCEU can avoid the same outcome. The big bad of the film is essentially a Greek god version of Magneto. He slings scrap metal, shouts a lot and sports an inexplicable mustache. Further character development is nowhere to be found.
Setting these shortcomings aside, is there a difference between DC Entertainment’s “Wonder Woman” and Marvel Studios’ 2011 “Thor” or “Captain America: The First Avenger”? The answer is yes. There is something that causes Jenkins’ comic book film debut to sparkle in a sea of superhero origin stories. The film does show moments of genuine social commentary that pay great tribute to Wonder Woman’s own roots, and these represent the character at her best.
When William Marston created Wonder Woman in 1941, he drew inspiration from turn-of-the-century feminist protests. The film appears to reference this in one scene when Wonder Woman ideologically clashes with a roomful of politicians. She barges into their closed-door meeting and berates them for using soldiers as cannon fodder while hiding themselves from battle. The Silent Sentinels, an all-female group of anti-war protesters, similarly criticized President Woodrow Wilson during the height of The Great War in 1917.
Should you watch it?: Yes
Not just a female lead, but a female superhero who upends entrenched gender roles in a thought-provoking way is something audiences have not seen on the big screen before. Too many scenes like this would result in an overly preachy comic book film, which nobody wants. However, Jenkins’ judicious use of subtle allegory gives “Wonder Woman” enough heart to outshine its flaws and offers some much-needed hope for Warner-DC’s struggling cinematic universe.