The following contains spoilers for Wonder Woman. You have been warned.
Ben: Well, let’s begin this discussion by saying something I think we all wanted to say for a long time: this was a critically successful DCEU film.
Austin: Miracles do happen.
Rick: This was a well-deserved film from the DC Universe, one that paid respect to the franchise and gave us a compelling story and a film that we can be proud to call awesome.
Austin: It has been a while since I had a genuine good time at a DC movie, arguably since 2008.
Ben: Come on, The Dark Knight Rises is still good. Plus we had The LEGO Batman Movie earlier this year.
Austin: You got me at LEGO Batman; just a good year for them at the movies in general so far. Though, the last act of LEGO Batman did kinda lose me to a degree. Not sure why. Maybe the fast pace finally caught up to me and started to tire me out. Still fun regardless. The opening was amazing.
Emily: I really enjoyed the experience of seeing Wonder Woman. I think it was especially important to me because as a twenty year old woman, I really haven’t seen a superhero film like this. And I know that a lot of other girls my age and younger took something special away from having that experience.
Ben: It’s true, Hollywood has had a bad track record in the past when it comes to female-driven superhero films (i.e. Catwoman and Elektra-ugh) and, despite being one of the DC Trinity members, Wonder Woman has not had enough spotlight put upon her. Aside from the Lynda Carter TV show, we’ve had very little aside from Susan Eisenberg voicing her in Justice League/Unlimited, as well as the 2009 animated movie starring Keri Russell. The latter of which I admit was the standard I was holding this film to going into the theater.
Austin: I appreciated how the new movie took a lot of motives from the previous incarnations and worked them into her first proper big screen outing. The part where she is amazed by how great ice cream tastes was taken directly from one of the animated JL films and that 2009 feature had a very similar story set up.
Emily: I also appreciated being able to finally see a Wonder Woman movie, because as you guys mentioned before, I grew up on a lot of superhero cartoon shows (like Justice League/Unlimited and Teen Titans). So I really noticed when we weren’t getting any female superheroes headlining films, even though there really are so many characters to choose from, all of whom would offer storylines that would definitely translate to film. I hope that the success of this film is going to allow their storylines to be considered more marketable.
Rick: Gal Gadot is a great choice to play the title character and the chemistry between her and Chris Pine really leads the film in a great way. Patty Jenkins who made the film Monster back in 2003, which dealt with a powerful female lead (Charlize Theron was an Oscar for her performance) returns to do the same with Wonder Woman. I really admired her direction and the way she approached the story as the young girl growing up in a world that is completely outside the rest and trying to understand it once this new world enters her life.
Ben: I think what makes Gadot’s performance work so well is that she embodies Wonder Woman as a symbol of hope in a time where the world felt such was lost. There’s definitely a sense of naïveté to her, as she believes that simply killing Ares will end WWI, effective immediately. But she is also strong, good-natured and willing to fight for good simply because it is the right thing to do. You can tell how much Patty Jenkins and Gadot were influenced by the hopeful tone shown in the first two Richard Donner Superman films, even paying homage to it with scenes like the ally fight and Diana comically trying to go through the revolving door.
Austin: I think that the strongest element of the film was Gadot’s performance and how her Diana was written. Like Ben said, she had a naïveté (which was charming) and she wanted to be a hero for the sake of saving the world and doing good. Although it may seem simple, it is refreshing to see that kind of desire in a superhero again, like in Donner’s Superman. Most heroes today, from Ant-Man or the Hulk, are more so portrayed to have fallen into their role of hero due to the plot’s goal of making them a hero. You believe that this is what Diana wants to do. It reminds me of this anime that is currently running called My Hero Academia, which centers on a high school of superheroes where each student has different desires to be a hero and the main character has the same pure drive to do good as Diana.
Emily: I think the strongest moment of the film was the moment where the penny drops, and Diana realizes that no matter what she does, mankind will continue to have people who make the wrong choice, but she does not allow herself to give up or become complacent. In every scene, she continues to choose to make the right choice, even if she cannot save mankind, even though she was raised by a culture that believed it was her sacred duty. It’s something essential, to make that decision in a superhero film, especially because it’s a choice that people currently outside the theater could benefit from upholding.
Ben: Speaking of Diana’s culture, let’s talk a bit about the Amazons and how their presence shapes Diana’s outlook of the world and why she feels the need to be a hero. I mean not only are the scenes on Themyscira absolutely gorgeous, but it’s a vibrant world full of strong female warriors who aren’t afraid to go into battle. Maybe I’m just psyched seeing Robin Wright act like a badass in combat, but it definitely set a tone that contrasted with the harshness of Man’s world. Even a little bit of color desaturation that contrasts with Wonder Woman’s outfit on the battlefield.
Rick: Seeing all the females kick ass and being so well-trained in the area of combat was very cool to watch. I could see that Diana was curious about the world and where she came from. I really enjoyed how the backstory of man was represented. It was a little sad to me to see Diana being refused to train like the others, sort of being hidden away or sheltered if you will, but her persistence led to discovering her potential and what she could offer. Seeing Chris Pine’s character crash land in her world and her seeing him for the first time was a great scene – it was something new for her to discover. Seeing the women on the island coming to her rescue ready to fight the Germans, to be fair they were the bad guys, was cool. To me, I was a little disappointed that all we saw of the women was fighting on the island, i would have liked more development of what they did in their spare time, what defined them as people instead of being defined as warriors. But once Diana enters the world outside her home and experiences all the new things she has never seen before were the most exciting scenes for me. She was like a child, curious and always asking questions.
Emily: That’s a really interesting point–I think we learn a fair bit about her culture once she’s outside of it.
Ben: That fish out of water/childlike curiosity did make for some good moments of comedy once they got to London, with Trevor essentially serving as the straight man to Diana’s antics. But it also showed how Diana’s perspective of the mission was different from that of the men in charge. Not only did she have to deal with sexism of the time, but she also couldn’t understand the general’s refusal to send help to the Front in the boardroom scene.
Rick: That boardroom scene was really good, she started to question orders and wonder why Trevor was just accepting his boss. To the people who are meeting Diana for the first time, she would be seen as an outsider and someone who doesn’t seem to understand what she is talking about. I like that she was outspoken and said what was on her mind, take into mind, the scene where she is trying to figure what clothes should be appropriate for her to wear and not draw too much attention to herself. It was great and something that I haven’t experienced before in a superhero film. Her lack of understanding again shows us that she is young and is why her mother kept her in the dark about a lot of things, she is growing up in a world that is not so nice. It comes as a shock to her seeing people without food, shelter, or any sense of happiness and wonders why someone won’t do something. As Trevor said, “We can’t save them all.” Her expression to what he said is very important but she has that will to fight but lacks the overall bigger picture in terms of the conflict and impending doom that lies ahead.
Emily: Additionally, I think we should mention that the confusion between society, beliefs, and social structure goes both ways. There’s a disconnect here, between Trevor and Diana due to their cultural relativity. So when Trevor lands on the island, he does experience a sort of culture shock (besides the obvious, that the island is populated by women), while also feeling great awe at their medical technology. Maybe Diana isn’t really naive but just reconciling with and learning from a culture that she’s only heard about, especially in more idealistic terms.
Ben: You do have a point Emily. That scene on the boat where Diana and Steve are discussing the societal acceptance of sleeping with one another non-wedlock and those texts on sexuality did show a non-naive outlook on Diana’s behalf, but it also did an amazing job on building their character’s respective chemistry. This is definitely another positive about Wonder Woman: it isn’t all a bunch of action sequences. There are moments of simple interaction between characters that allow them to develop into proper individuals. Not just Diana and Steve, but the Amazons and Steve’s war buddies as well.
Austin: I think the only real negative point I would give to the movie is with how it kind betrays its own ending message. Now, the message I really like. There are problems in this world that can’t be blamed on a single evil entity and that people aren’t as easily swayed to a specific moral code. That is a very bold message that is truly unique to the kind of film Wonder Woman is, but where the message kind of loses its weight is with the reaffirmation of Ares presence in the story and that a big generic (pertaining to genre) final battle must take place. And once it is over, the film communicates a sigh of relief that the evil is now slain. It subconsciously enforces that the problems in the world were because of one entity. I would have wanted the finale to be a more downbeat one, but still uplifting, like there is still battles to be fought and humanity can do it together.
Rick: I can see your point there Austin. The only issue I had with the film is the final battle between Ares and Diana, it seemed completely over the top and highly unrealistic, at least in my opinion. What amazed me about that sequence is no one in the German army is paying any attention to them battling whatsoever. Even Steve and his buddies seem clueless that it is happening. I can understand your point that because she took out evil, then evil is just gone. Seems a little strange and honestly makes no sense since she appeared in Batman vs Superman and returns in Justice League. I suppose that one person can’t control all the evil. So, is this to say that the legend that was told to Diana was just a legend, a story that every girl was told on the island? What is the exact truth? I didn’t get that from the Amazon women, and that too was a little disappointing for me.
Ben: It’s true that the film does end with a “stop the bad guy in an overly-CGI’d final battle” fight that sticks out like a sore thumb. Maybe we could imply that after witnessing the horrors of WWII, a conflict even worse than WWI and devoid of Ares’ influence, that Diana lost hope for a bit, but regained it after the events of Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman (ironically). Alongside that, it’s sad to say that Wonder Woman still follows the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s habit of having underdeveloped villains at the expense of further developing the protagonist. At best, General Ludendorff and Dr. Maru were just there to further the plot and give Diana a means to go out and save the world. At worst, you kind of look back on their plan in hindsight and wonder why they a threat in the first place.
Austin: They didn’t really explain, at least to my recollection, the drug Ludendorff was taking that made him glow. I know it was to further use him as a red herring for who really was Ares, but it was still kind of strange. Also, I’m grateful that the finale wasn’t yet another giant beam of light in the sky.
Emily: There were a lot of moving parts in the finale, which sometimes did make it hard to follow. There’s something to be said about a concise narrative, and while I kind of liked being surprised as to who Ares really was, I think the heart of the finale was emotional, not physical. So it would have been nice to excise some of the parts that didn’t allow it to shine as much.
Ben: I think we can all agree, however, that the good in this movie definitely outweighs the bad. For me, everything that makes this movie a great superhero film, and a great film in general, takes place during the “No Man’s Land” sequence. On one hand, it showcases some awesome action sequences in which Wonder Woman kicks ass with her bracelets, lasso and super strength. But on the other hand, it represents her desire to do good no matter what the costs or risks might be, to the point that she willingly journeys headfirst into a war zone in order to protect innocents. I was honestly expecting her to give an “I am no man” response, but what we got was easily the best moment in the entire film.
Austin: You hit the nail on the head with the “I am no man” line. I am so glad there weren’t any obligatory and obvious lines like that. “So that’s it, huh? We’re some kind of Suicide Squad.”
Rick: I totally agree. The writing in this film was tight and didn’t as if some of the lines were trying to be macho, or somehow “self-indulgently memorable.” The scenes with Trevor and Diana dancing together is one scene in particular that I will remember best. Sure, the action scenes were awesome – especially the charging of the enemy – but at times, the slow motion scenes got to be too much for me. The action was good but with the slow motion happening every now and then, the action seemed to lose it flow. Like John Wick slow motion wasn’t used and it was concise and awesome. The best scenes for me are between Trevor and Diana. It’s two people who met by sheer chance and come to love each other during the times that they have together. It’s nice that the film didn’t attempt to force a love story on us, it was something that felt real and something relatable.
Emily: I believe that the film connected with so many people because of how well the personal relationships were written. They felt organic and realistic, with a discernible emotional center. And I think that people tend to want that in a film–to find something to anchor them to human experiences.
Rick: You are right Emily. The writing felt real organic. Very well put.
Ben: Even though calling this the best movie in the DCEU isn’t really much of a competition, I still think the success of this film has given DC a framework to base their franchise off of from now on. It’s not going to the extremes that were criticized in past DC films by being dark to the point of bleakness, but it definitely carries a tone that is unique and not simply copying the Marvel film formula.
Rick: One of my friends said that this film is DC’s answer to Captain America. It has the story, great casting, and phenomenal direction. Wonder Woman may not be the best DC adaptation in my view, but it’s one of the best of the 2000s. For the future, I can only hope that directors and writers for DC that take cues here. Wonder Woman was a surprise and is a well made film that focused more on character development and less on bloated mindless action. Wonder Woman is a real winner for me.
Austin: It is easily the best of the DCEU. Its greatest attribute is its deceptive simplicity and nostalgic approach at being a superhero. It isn’t muddled by the cinematic universe building clutter that has plagued nearly every franchise nowadays.
Emily: I definitely agree with all three of you here. The narrative is well-constructed and works in service of itself and the audience. This film was a great experience through its visuals, acting, writing, and directing, which is extremely hard to do, and after the negative reception of other DCEU films, it was crucial to showing just what the universe has to offer.
Ben: Guess all that’s left to do now is hold out hope that Justice League ends up being a good or decent film. I don’t think any of us know what might happen next for the DC franchise, but all we can do is speculate until its arrival. Who knows: considering Gadot and Ben Affleck are have earned their newfound roles as Wonder Woman and Batman, maybe DC can get it right a second time.
Rick: I hope that we have great scenes of dialogue, action, and memorable moments with the characters. The trailers do show a lot of action, so hopefully there will be a compelling story and a sense of fun all wrapped up into one package.
Ben: That’s what it looked like from the behind the scenes footage. Fingers crossed that the audience feels the same way. And I do want to offer my condolences to Zack Snyder’s family and hope that they recover soon.
Emily: Agreed. They deserve nothing but support right now.