I’ve found the last few years of superhero films to be enough of a slog that I was starting to resent not just them, but myself for continually falling for the positive reviews. Marvel’s films have suffered from increasingly conservative storytelling, DC’s efforts have been visually splashy but in all other aspects terrible, and the X-Men series was effectively ended in my mind with the one-two punch of a bland and overstuffed X-Men: Apocalypse, and Logan, which was excellent but also practically sequel-proof. Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, on the other hand, reminded me why I love the genre as much as I do, and why I keep coming back for more.
Not to oversell things; the film is not without problems. The cinematography tends toward the washed out, blue-grey end of the spectrum, and is presumably a compulsory part of the DC house style. The screenplay occasionally feels choppy; Diana’s unique origins were only glancingly referenced, and a plot point around the sniper Charlie being unable to shoot was never really resolved. I’m sure Lucy Davis’ Etta Candy once had a more substantial role than the handful of lines she gets in the final cut, and the film’s climax, where two super-powered CGI people throw things at each other until one of them can’t, is the most forgettable part of the film.
But this is nit-picking, the few weak elements standing out for me only because of how strong everything else is. The stunning bright blues and greens of the Themyscira scenes, the exhilarating beachfront battle between the Amazonians and a surprise German force, and the entire No Man’s Land sequence that’s both viscerally satisfying and emotionally rending. That ending may have felt rote at times, but it also had some exceptional moments from Chris Pine. Worth mentioning as well is Rupert Gregson-Williams’s outstanding score, incorporating Tina Guo’s heavy metal cello to give Diana a sharp, rousing theme.
If the film just had action that gave me the shivers, Wonder Woman would have felt like a success, but there’s also Gal Gadot. Gadot’s Diana is the sort of superhero we rarely see on screen, a magnetic, inspiring presence who stands above the messy politics and shady morals of humanity and never stops yearning to save us. An instantly iconic interpretation of the character, standing comfortably alongside Christopher Reeve’s Superman and Chris Evans’ Captain America in that small group of heroes driven by their love of humanity, and their belief that humanity can, simply, be better. As one of life’s natural cowards and a perpetual misanthrope, after Wonder Woman I would follow Diana willingly, enthusiastically even, into battle. Albeit it briefly.