There are so many ways Wonder Woman could have gone badly. We watched the new movie today in one of Austin Alamo Drafthouse’s theaters and before the show they played clips of the terrible TV shows that attempted to capture this character in the 60’s and 70’s. Heck, even Joss Whedon’s recent script sounded pretty horrible as well. Then, of course, there’s the general awfulness of the recent DC movies. Happily, though, Wonder Woman succeeds despite the odds. Here are four reasons why:
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
Gal Gadot was definitely the best thing about last year’s awful Batman v. Superman. She’s tough, graceful, and surprisingly funny. She does a great job making the physicality believeable and she has pretty strong chemistry with the rest of the cast. She makes Wonder Woman appear both sophisticated and hopelessly naive throughout the movie. Her accent is so affecting that apparently every other actress portraying a Amazon attempts to mimic it to varying success. As good as Ben Affleck was as Batman last year, she’s easily the most compelling hero DC has produced in years.
The World War Setting
Wonder Woman’s initial adventures took place during World War II, so it may not have been such a stretch to set this movie in the first World War. Still, it’s a very smart move. Rather than rely on cheap fish-out-of-water jokes of watching Diana try to understand modern society, the movie instead drops her right into one of the darkest periods in the world’s history. Rather than seeing her mystified by modern technology, she’s overwhelmed by the horrors of war. Skipping jokes about Twitter and Iphones in favor of focusing on loftier ideas about free will and evil elevates the whole movie.
The Lighter Tone
Okay, yes, it’s a movie about war, but it also is considerably lighter and more fun to watch than either Suicide Squad or Batman v Superman were last year. Part of that lightness is due to the great casting (between Lucy Davis, Ewen Bremner, and David Thewlis, the Brits make a strong showing in this movie!) and a big part is due to the great chemistry between Chris Pine and Gal Gadot. Heck, the movie’s best parts are probably between the early slower portions on Diana’s homeworld and the final CGI-filled battles. Keeping the tone a bit lighter than the unending ponderousness of Batman v Superman or the nihilism of Suicide Squad make this easily the best DC movie in years.
Chris Pine as Steve Trevor
Chris Pine gets a lot of work. He’s in Oscar nominated movies, hilarious but underrated TV shows, musicals, and other random stuff. He’s been Captain Kirk and Jack Ryan. He’s been a leading man quite a bit in his career, so it’s interesting to see him play a supporting role so well. Here he’s great being second fiddle. He’s both awed by Diana’s prowess and stunned by her naivete. He can never quite calibrate how smart she is. But don’t get me wrong, he gets plenty of hero moments here, too. Watching him battling Germans to steal magical artifacts makes me think maybe he’s the Indy heir we’ve been looking for. Whatever he decides to do next, he does a great job keeping this movie funny, grounded, and fun.