Is Wonder Woman the DCEU’s saviour? The simple answer is yes. After stealing the show in Batman v Superman by having fun in a dour and dark film we now have Wonder Woman’s origin tale. But where does Wonder Woman rank in the DC Extended Universe?
Wonder Woman opens on the peaceful island of Themyscira where princess Diana (Gal Gadot) lives with her Amazon tribe but she is abruptly thrown into the murky conflict of World War 1 with American Spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine).
I am reluctant to highlight this as a female-led superhero film directed by a female, Patty Jenkins. Not because these aren’t truths. It’s the fact they shouldn’t be newsworthy but the truth is this is still such a rarity that it is worth highlighting. The critical and commercial success shows as Wonder Woman herself says: “I am the man who can”
This isn’t a perfect film, the CGI is awful in places, even the closing shot, which is unforgivable and brings you out of the film. The flawed theme of the DCEU is the boring, CGI-heavy 3rd act and this film is no different. The CGI removes any peril or tension as it plods to an inevitable conclusion.
Where this film shines is the interaction between Gadot and Pine, especially the 2nd act fish out of water approach leading to plenty of fun, humour and spark, startlingly lacking from the DCEU so far. Their partnership is a joy with chemistry in abundance. It is also nice to have a film set in the underseen World War One which challenges Wonder Woman’s understanding of good vs evil and the morality of humans. The films doesn’t shy away from the horror of war either. The best part, and surely to become an iconic scene, is Wonder Woman going over the top quickly followed by some fun action with the memorable electric cello theme.
So there is plenty to like in the formulaic and fun origin tale, but where does it rank in the expanding DCEU…?
4. Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016)
This is a film I gave two stars to on its initial release and after watching the ultimate edition as well I stand by my initial rating. The ultimate edition solves some of the plot and character development but the dour and humourless tone remains. This film had so much promise, the two most iconic superheroes meeting on the big screen for the first time. But Synder’s characterisation of Superman is so far removed from the big blue boy scout comic origins, he is portrayed as a grumpy emo teenager. Superman looks almost threatening and God-like in his only brief montage of rescues. Man of Steel was a bold, fresh take on the origin tale from the alien perspective and showed promise, but Batman was rushed into the sequel to boost the box office. Affleck does a fine job repenting for his Daredevil film, however this Batman is much more violent than previous and his motivations are confused at best. As with all the DCEU films, the third act showdown is a big problem. The best thing Batman v Superman did was introduce a long overdue Wonder Woman to the big screen.
3. Suicide Squad (2016)
With hindsight and rewatching I am willing to admit my initial review of this film was too kind, this is not a four star film. It was impossible to hide from the huge critical mauling that accompanied this film’s release so my initial high expectations from a great marketing campaign took a nosedive, which is perhaps why I enjoyed the film when I did see it. It’s not a good film but it is nowhere near as bad as the critical response suggested.
The main flaw as with all the DCEU films is the antagonists’ nondescript world-destroying plan leading to a boring CGI heavy finale, but the journey there is still fun. The film boasts a unique colour palate that echoes the comic book origins, I liked the forced jukebox soundtrack that irked many including the music video introductions and harsh editing approach. The plot is farcical but Margot Robbie, Will Smith and especially Jai Courtney are having bundles of fun, it just would have been nice if audiences had more fun with it. One of the biggest complaints was a lack of Jared Leto’s joker compared to how much he featured in the marketing and his gangster-Joker portrayal wasn’t popular either. However Affleck’s Batman slotted into this film’s aesthetic nicely and it would be great to see him take on Harley Quinn, Joker and Deadshot in future films. This is at best a highly flawed three-star film that just edges it above Batman V Superman. There have been a lot worse superhero films in recent memory, remember that Fantastic Four reboot??
2. Wonder Woman (2017)
This is a fun film, with a humorous edge lacking in the DCEU until now. As I have said above there is plenty to enjoy but the CGI is Age of Ultron levels of bad and the 3rd act finale as boring as Batman v Superman with some identical choreography. This film is basically the female version of Captain America: The First Avenger, a Marvel film I consider one of the weaker editions, so whilst this is the best DCEU film for many it would still rank near the bottom in the MCU. I enjoyed this film a lot, but have no desire to re-watch again quickly which is why it just misses the top spot for me.
1. Man Of Steel (2013)
I am always more likely to re-watch an ambitious failure than safe but enjoyable fare. Before the pressure of an extended universe and multiple character introductions, Zak Snyder was allowed a film to introduce one superhero. Wonder Woman is a more formulaic origin story, but this film dared to approach it from a fresh angle – Superman the alien. Despite being made four years earlier, the CGI is much better than Wonder Woman as well. I think this may be due to Zak Snyder’s unique visual aesthetic, which to a certain extent has intoxicated the DCEU now.
Any film that opens with Russell Crowe riding a dragon is worth a watch. The opening Krypton scene looks spectacular especially compared to the amateurish shot of Wonder Woman jumping into the sea. The timeline of the film is mixed around a floundering Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) looking to find his place in the world, moving on every time he uses his strength, with childhood flashbacks of a Jonathan Kent more concerned with his adopted son’s welfare than the world’s welfare that challenges Clark’s morality. The opening third is a slow, almost indie-style film with a simmering Hans Zimmer score as the Man of Steel finds his morality and purpose.
What I liked about this film was the title avoiding the use of Superman until the very end of the film. This film was about becoming Superman, finding his moral code on earth after a Kryptonian challenge and finding his line that he will not cross again. The film ends with him becoming Clark Kent, the reporter. With those famous glasses on he has become the Superman we know and love. This film’s setup made me excited for the sequel. Now we know how he became Superman, hopefully next we would see him being Superman. But unfortunately this film didn’t make enough money so Batman was parachuted into the sequel and the lighter Superman the finale promised was replaced by a darker and broody version in BvS.
However this is also the film that introduced DCEU’s biggest flaw, a CGI heavy, boring, overlong and bombastic finale. BvS did nicely address the huge amounts of destruction, but the final Man of Steel fight goes on so long and the audience is suddenly asked to care about intern Jenny! Also, I appreciate the complaints of a broody Superman, but he is far happier than in BvS which makes no sense after the arc of this film.
Do you agree with the list – where does Wonder Woman rank within the DCEU?