Coming off a rather controversial year for the DCEU, with films that garnered low critical praise such as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, the first film for the esteemed franchise of 2017, Wonder Woman, was met with both excitement and cautiousness. But when the film actually hit theaters that mix turned into one single flavor of excitement. The film was met with high critical praise and financial returns as it became the highest grossing film in the entire franchise domestically, even topping the long-anticipated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. As a result, I found myself nervous to re-watch the film for the purposes of this review. It seemed like after the excitement boiled off that the film may lose some of its charm that the first viewing had. However, my fears were fortunately in vain. Wonder Woman, even after over a year since its initial theatrical release, is a compelling and original superhero origins story that takes leaps and bounds ahead of other films in its genre and accomplishes wonders despite a bloated third act and a rather weak lead performance.
When it comes to the screenplay of Patty Jenkins’ interpretation of Wonder Woman, it is surprisingly the strongest aspect of the entire film, creating a refreshing change in pace in regards to other recent summer blockbusters like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Ant-Man and the Wasp. The dialogue found on display is often witty and charming to boot. It retains a sense of fun that many critics found missing from previous DC films but is also serious in its own right, creating a careful balance that screenwriters Allan Heinberg and Geoff Johns developed with such a deep attention to detail. In addition to the dialogue, the film is actually well-paced throughout. From the very first act, there is a sense of urgency to every scene that compels the audience to remain invested in both the story and its characters. It’s an impressive feat and one that was sorely missing from 2016’s Suicide Squad. As for the actual story itself, it’s unfortunately the weakest aspect of the entire screenplay. The first two acts of the film blend complex imagery and setting with some memorable storytelling to create some of the most unique experiences that I have had in recent memory with a comic book film. However, it is ultimately the final act of the film where the storytelling falls apart in a spectacular way. Bloated with CGI-heavy sequences to the rim, there is no denying just how repetitive and clichéd this final act is. It brings together predictable plot twists and a repetitive nature of storytelling to create an act that ultimately compromises what the film so expertly set up in the first two acts. It almost seemed like director Patty Jenkins insisted on having a more traditional comic book third act than continuing with the originality that she had to begin with. The flaw may not entirely destroy the film, but it is a critical error on the screenwriters’ part and does weaken the emotional resonance of the film to a noticeable degree.
As for the performances, they are all mostly great for the roles that they are handed. Chris Pine is excellent as Steve Trevor, soaking humor, charm and emotion to create the strongest performance of the entire film. In fact, often times, he outshines Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and becomes a true scene-stealer. In addition, Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta was also a stand-out even if her performance is somewhat muted and limited due to the structure of the actual story. When it comes to the villain of the film, portrayed by Danny Huston and Elena Anaya, the two certainly try to do the best they can with the material they are offered. But the screenplay treats them as such disposable characters that it quickly becomes obvious that any attempt that these two actors and actresses may make will ultimately still be in vain.
Finally, there is Gal Gadot as the lead protagonist Wonder Woman. While many critics and fans were cheering for how excellent she is in her role, I frankly have to disagree. She may be an excellent actress when it comes to her action sequences, one of which on No Man’s Land being my favorite scene in any DCEU film, but her actual performance itself is somewhat lacking. Whenever she attempts to show any emotion, it comes off as weak and unnatural as in any of Shakespeare’s plays, particularly A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It doesn’t matter how great the dialogue is for the character because the performer is what the audience sees and hears. If the performer fails, then the screenplay fails as a result. That is unfortunately what occurs with most of Gadot’s emotional sequences throughout the entirety of the film, especially the final act.
When it comes to the technicalities of Wonder Woman, they are all mostly excellent, a trait similar to how the cast of the film fares. The costume and production design are faithful reconstructions of the era in WWI, creating an atmosphere that feels both ambitious and unique. Every sequence, outside of the final act, is drenched with the color that audiences would expect to see for the time, heightening the immersion. As for the actual CGI however, it is mostly white noise in relation to the rest of the film. In the first two acts, the feature is used sparingly. But in the final act, Jenkins throws every CGI blockbuster trope onto the screen, dazing what could have been an amazing, whole-hearted experience.
In the end, there is no denying just how big of an impact this 2017 film has had on mainstream audiences. Most of which is due to just how clever and witty the screenplay is. Backed by some enjoyable performances from Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, there is no denying just how revolutionary the film is, especially for female moviegoers. But it still has critical flaws beneath the bravado such as Gal Gadot’s lacking performance and the perplexing clichéd third act. It never destroys the film entirely, but it causes the experience to feel less than satisfactory for what its brilliant first two acts set up.
Score: 7.0 out of 10