DC Comics, home of Batman, Superman, Justice League, and others, has had a lackluster track record with its (live-action) films. Compared with Marvel, which has produced mostly hits, the typical DC superhero movie is just average at best…until now! I haven’t seen every DC film, but I think I can safely say that the new Wonder Woman is the best DC Comics film of all time, with the possible exception of The Dark Knight.
My rating: 5 out of 5.
The new Wonder Woman makes a few changes to the title character’s history, which were already hinted at in Batman v Superman. For starters, instead of entering the world of men during World War II, Princess Diana’s exodus is pushed back to World War I. In 1918, just before the Armistice, Diana joins American spy Steve Trevor on a self-appointed mission from the Themyscira, the Isle of the Amazons, to the Western Front to kill Ares, the god of war. On the way, she goes through everything from hilarious hijinks as a female warrior trying to get by in 1918 London to an insane charge across No Man’s Land to liberate a Belgian village, all in top superhero form.
In some ways, Wonder Woman is quite dark for a superhero film—not dark like the Dark Knight trilogy was dark—but in that it doesn’t shy away from the horrors of war, and it shows starkly how Diana can’t save everyone, even people she’s already saved once. This realism is one of the things that really sets the film apart from the pack and makes it better than most superhero films for both DC and Marvel.
Now, I can’t review Wonder Woman without mentioning its feminist message. This message has been controversial to some and praised by others, but my opinion was that it’s pretty solid. Keep in mind, as a writer myself, I try first to write a good story filled with characters who are both compelling and human (or suitably alien when appropriate), rather than a particular archetype, and I’ve been known to flip a coin before to decide a character’s gender. However, I can say with confidence that Diana is both compelling and human as a character: proactive, self-confident, strong in a way that takes real work to achieve, and yet not without flaws. You can’t say much better than that about a character, male or female, and that’s what makes her a strong female lead in my opinion. (And I could say a lot of the same things about Steve, too.)
One more thing I want to point out: I thought one of the most brilliant moments of the movie was when Steve finally talks Diana around into realizing that her mission to kill Ares was misguided, saying, “You don’t think I wish I could tell you it’s one bad guy to blame? …We’re all to blame,” but that she should keep fighting anyway for the people she cares about. It’s an incredibly powerful statement about war and human nature that you too rarely hear from movies, especially superhero movies. The film then goes on to undermine this message when it turns out there really is one bad guy Diana needs to kill, even if she does understand it won’t solve all the world’s problems, but it mostly still works.
It’s a mix of all of these factors that makes this movie a truly great one, and I hope that DC can continue to reach this standard in the future.