Despite my strong affection for Batman v Superman, the general track record for this newly launched DC Cinematic Universe has not shown its potential to audiences who seem sceptical at Warner Bros.’ grand intentions. It was evident that in previous films, much of its elements are fast-tracked in order to release a much anticipated Justice League assembly, in order to put the studio on the map as a worthy competitor to the titan franchise that Marvel/Disney has slowly and firmly established in the last decade. Such haste would not be seen as a crux for the studio had it managed to create powerful and resonant films that would immediately capture the respect and affection from its audience, they are so eager to create that notable and expansive appeal that Marvel has been selling to its audience that it feels unearned when it attempts to grasp it. I am only thankful that rather than completely mirror the template of Marvel’s construction for their universe, DC/Warner Bros. are persistent in emulating the appeal that Christopher Nolan had established with The Dark Knight trilogy previously for the studio; films that were gritty to the bone, unafraid to take on ambitious ideas that truly captures the wonder and intellect behind a franchise’s mythology, creating an atmosphere that is unafraid to explore darker avenues, challenging its characters, challenging its audience, reverberating more than just the costumes that they don.
Man of Steel and Batman v Superman were films that attempted to deconstruct the mythology behind its characters in a manner that translates their findings into genuine weight that we, as an audience, could emotionally invest in. Although certain storytelling aspects contradicted and dampened the intention behind these ideas, the fact that they were there was much appreciated and would certainly be highly beneficial if the studio managed to capitalise on the manner efficiently. Suicide Squad was, unfortunately, the largest blunder that the studio has since released, and the evidence behind such criticisms are so clear-cut that it almost toppled the confidence behind its established fans completely of the direction that the studio had invested in. From that point, many felt nervous with the release of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, whom despite from a formidable filmmaker who drew one of the most compelling female performance from an actress, Charlize Theron in Monster (2003), could easily end in disaster, as evidenced by the efforts from David Ayer with Suicide Squad. However, I allowed myself to remain hopeful with the project and holding onto the beautiful experience that was introduced in BvS with Wonder Woman entering into the scene with full-force, a first incarnation of the beloved character on the cinematic screen that translates the imagination of an adoring fan into motion.
Many can rest easy as Jenkins’ Wonder Woman is a work of art, the first from the franchise to emerge from the line-up as a cornerstone for future projects. This is a film that wonderfully embraces the lack of female characters within the genre and acts upon it by amplifying the symbolic gesture and intentions behind Wonder Woman’s plight, a woman who enters into the world of men, hoping to stop the tyranny of Ares, the God of War, against the human race, believing in the moral purity behind each human individual and deserves to live a life full of love and peace. Set against the frantic and destructive backdrop of World War 1, Jenkins and screenwriter, Allan Heinberg, tackles its thematic points head on with a character who views the world through innocent eyes, unfazed by the moral ambiguity that has then defined the 20th century, allowing her personal experiences and actions to gain emotional traction that establishes her relationship with the world around her, while also reinforcing our connection with the titular character.
Jenkins and Heinberg’s efforts were graceful and effective, finding myself immersed in the emotional waters that it swims, standing alongside Diana (Gal Gadot) in her journey, witnessing the emerging complexity that her emotions are beginning to take form in. Through her actions, we see the inspirations and impact she leaves on those that have witnessed her, we see the needed strength of a woman in a world dominantly by ignorant and selfish men, who live by a code of half-hearted truths and greedy agendas, demonstrating how her mindset and putting her intentions into action could have ended the war sooner. It is in the commitment and efficiency that Wonder Woman has brought to the table since its introductory period that allowed the film to flourish and compel its audience, allowing its ideas to remain relevant despite the trademark chaos that fills its third act, where it could have crumbled into an outcome of mediocrity, it manages to fight through it until the very end, remaining relevant and emotionally captivating until its final frame. This would mark the first from a superhero film to leave me tearful of the experiences that these characters would go through, and I pray for the studio that it won’t be the last.
Much like Man of Steel, Wonder Woman is a very centralised experience as despite the presence of a notable cast, stretching from Robin Wright to Chris Pine, it never distracts itself from the intention of constructing the titular character, rarely does the film provide a moment that felt irrelevant to her journey, both physically and emotionally, and though the antagonist that we are given does not yield any inspiring results, it does manage to utilise itself effectively through ensuring that it doesn’t take our attention away from Diana and the performance from Gadot that accompanied it. As emphasised before, this is the reference point that many superhero films should aim for when it comes to emotional and compelling storytelling, one that actually invites personal investment from its audience and managing to reward them for doing so. Wonder Woman is the first entry into the DC Universe cinematic franchise that actually shows the potential that it has against its competition, I deeply this isn’t only an isolated success, but rather a start of a new wave that would allow this cinematic gloriously flourish.