So here we are at the first Wonder Woman film, the last DCEU film to be released before the theatrical cut of Justice League. And a film that went back in time before the franchise stumbled to move forward. As mentioned in my review for WW84, I was not the biggest fan of this film when it first came out. I felt that the first two acts were fairly strong, but that the battle with Ares let the whole film down. I decided to re-watch this in preparation for it’s sequel and then again for this review. And although I may still enjoy the second film just slightly more, this first film is most certainly the better made of the two.
I can understand the studio making the decision to use the wrap-around story that bookends this film, but in all honesty, it’s not really necessary. Perhaps you could keep the end scene to show that Diana has in fact learned to help humanity in the years since the main events in the film, but the opening scene is simply a tie in to BvS that is nice, but not needed.
Once we do start the main story, we get a nice (and honestly refreshing) color palette change. At the time when this came out, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad had all come out and they all had very similar color palettes. Desaturated was the name of the game. And that’s fine. That color scheme worked for those films. But here, especially in Themyscira, we get gorgeous blues, rich greens, and golden browns. The sandy beaches look so inviting and the grass looks incredibly soft. Diana is a wonderfully warm and inviting character. She exhibits a wide-eyed innocence both as a child and as an adult. Gal Gadot is one of the best casting decisions the DCEU ever made. She is commanding, tough, beautiful, warm, and caring: all the traits Wonder Woman has come to be known for.
Chris Pine is also very fun as Steve Trevor, adding a sense of humor and quirkiness that might have been lost in another actor. But he also is not glib about the state of the world today. We the audience (and Diana) are completely sold by his dire warnings. World War I was a horrifying war and Chris’ fear comes across beautifully. His entrance scene and the following assault on the beach are well handled, and give us a great look at the Amazons in battle. It’s just a shame they’ve never had to deal with guns before! Chris and Gal have solid chemistry and are able to make the awkward moments work. The scene in the boat is particularly fun. The performances of all of the side characters are solid as well. I actually thought that several of the “Wonder Men” stole the show in a few scenes. And Danny Huston and Elena Anaya are wonderfully delicious as the villains.
But once Diana and Steve arrive in England, the film does become desaturated again. I can see many people comparing this look to Snyder’s style in his Superman films. They aren’t wrong, but I think that the colorless landscape and grey skies fit the story much better here in this tale of war. It feels more realistic and gritty, and less of a simple style choice. The screenplay also uses Diana herself to lighten this otherwise drab affair. Her acclimation to the world of man is wonderful and one of the highlights of the film. She completely sells it in every way. And once she arrives in the trenches, she lets the heartbreak flow.
The scene at the trenches is a fantastic action set piece. Director Patty Jenkins is able to handle the large groups of soldiers rather well. Keeping Diana’s heart at the center of her decisions helps the action feel much more earned and less hollow. However, I do think the action sequence in the warehouse and church courtyard feel a little too much like a Snyder clone. I wonder if Zack directed this scene. If he didn’t, Patty definitely took a cue from the warehouse fight scene with Batman in Batman v Superman. It doesn’t make this sequence bad (it is actually quite exciting) but I still can’t help but notice the similarities. Snyder is great at crafting action and I really like most of his films. But this isn’t Snyder’s film. I think the action in this film is best when it’s not copying his style.
This leads me to what I believe to be the weakest part of the film: the climax, as mentioned in my WW84 review. I like David Thewlis as Ares. And upon re-watch, I don’t think his reveal ruins Diana’s arc like I had once thought. He makes it very clear that mankind is the one that makes the decisions, he simply gives them options. That’s fine. Maybe not the most dramatic choice, but it’s not bad. Steve’s sacrifice also does make more sense to me now. But what gets me is the Snyder of it all. Ares pretty much does the exact same thing Zod does with Clark, by showing Diana a vision of what the world would be like if she joined him. And when Diana refuses, like Clark did, Ares resolves to kill her. We are then treated to a CGI-filled slug match that does feel more at home in a Snyder film. There is a lot of green screen, but I think it would be a lot easier to stomach if Ares armor wasn’t also CGI. Why couldn’t they make him a real suit? So the CG on CG is a bit much. And Diana’s quick movements when she witnesses Steve’s death and unlocks her true god-like powers have not aged too well. This doesn’t ruin the film; the action in Act 3 is certainly exciting and ends the film on quite the bang. I just wish it had less CG and felt less Snyder-y.
So overall, I have grown to really like Wonder Woman. The good bits of the film have improved with age, while the weaker bits have dulled. Gal Gadot is perfect as the titular character and embodies Diana’s grace, kindness, and strength to a ’T’. All of the other actors involved also give solid performances. Everyone here is really trying and their efforts have not gone in vain. If only the film had just slightly less input from Snyder.