It’s no secret that up until this point, the DCEU has had a mixed reception. “Man of Steel” faired the best, getting a divided response from critics and fans. And while fans were divided with “Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad”, those movies got a far more negative response from critics. But they all made a profit, and thereby considered successes in that regard. But this movie, the first of two DC movies to come out in 2017, is the first one to be considered a success BOTH financially and critically. The majority of fans, general audiences, and even critics enjoyed this movie.
One of the reasons for this movie’s success is Gal Gadot as the title character. Her character goes through an arc that fits with the context of the story. She starts off seeing the world as black and white, clear cut right and wrong. But it is through her first experience in the world of man that she realizes there is a lot of gray that makes it difficult to see things clearly. And it is really genius to set it during World War One because that war wasn’t a clear good versus evil battle (as opposed to say World War Two). It is a story that makes the title character go through a realization while also help growing and evolving her views and morales. But don’t take that to mean she compromises her integrity. That stays intact throughout the entire movie.
The chemistry between her and Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine) is great. I will admit, this movie didn’t NEED a love story. But it did help enrich the story, seeing how it is connected with the theme of love and optimism that this movie is ultimately about. And there are several other great performances in this movie as well among the majority of the cast.
Having said all of that, this movie isn’t flawless. One critique that gets brought up is the movie’s quality of CGI. I’ll admit, unless it is REALLY bad, I usually don’t notice that when I watch a movie the first time through. But when I eventually do, I can end up ignoring it if I find myself enjoying the movie, which I certainly was with this. Another important critique to bring up is that the third act isn’t quite as good as the rest of the movie. Tends to fall back on similar tropes seen in previous DC films. Again, I do kind of agree. But a small part of what happens in the third act does connect to the hero’s journey/arc, as well as try to connect to the main themes of the movie. But I do believe some things from that third act could certainly be improved on. And while Patty Jenkins did admit the studio hired her as a “token female” director, I can tell that she still had a fair amount of influence and control that definitely shines through in this film.
And one last thing I want to draw attention to is the “No Man’s Land” scene. The reason why it has gotten so much attention and praise ultimately comes down to how superheroes have usually been depicted on the big screen. When you see Batman fight, you can tell that sure he is doing it because it is right, but he is also doing it for more personal reasons. Such as avenging the death of his parents, trying to exert some control over the city by trying to get rid of all crime. Or when you see Spider-Man fighting, part of his motivation is personal because he is - again - avenging the death of a family member. Or the conflict he is fighting is partly caused by him and some decisions he made in the past that paved the way for the enemy. BUT with Wonder Woman in that scene and moment, she is fighting simply because she believes it is the right thing to do. She isn’t avenging the death of her teacher, she doesn’t have a personal vendetta beyond trying to stop Ares. It is a hero doing something good simply because it is right. And this kind of connects to how heroes have changed over the years. They were originally presented as role models, sort of parental figures to establish a sense of right and wrong. But over the years, people wanted to see their heroes as people they can relate with. That’s partly why we have gotten so many new dark and brooding anti heroes, or why heroes that are usually bright and cheery are suddenly forced to be in situations that challenge them on a moral battlefield. I am not knocking against this kind of story telling, it can be done very well and is still important. But it is a rare treat to see the original depiction of a comic superhero on the big screen. But I don’t know, maybe I am reading too much into that. Tell me what you think.