‘Wonder Woman’ exceeds expectations, falls short of wonderful

'Wonder Woman'
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
'Wonder Woman'
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

By Zach Landau | A&E Editor

I guess a qualifying statement is as good of a place to start as any: Wonder Woman is good, probably great. The DC Extended Universe (or whatever they’re calling this fresh hell) has finally produced its first above-average, competent film, and without a doubt, Wonder Woman stands heads and shoulders above its maligned brethren — especially Batman v. Superman.

That does not mean it is perfect, though. Actually, Wonder Woman has so many basic mistakes I am shocked that this is the final cut. However, for whatever faults there are, they are not terrible, just baffling.

To clarify, one hard look at the plot, and it falls apart immediately. Despite employing one of the most basic story structures out there, Wonder Woman still falls into the pitfall of adding and dropping ideas in a matter of moments. The storytelling has no cohesion beyond a vague notion of fighting for ideals. I say vague because the framing of these ideals changes thrice before the credits roll, with Diana attempting to fulfill her duty as an Amazon at the start fading into fighting to help the innocent to being motivated by the heroics of man (this isn’t a spoiler, so don’t cry over it).

That may not sound bad, but it leaves a bad taste in the mouth, watching a self-motivated woman seemingly forget the entire reason she leaves her home just because she sees some guys doing some selfless stuff. It is sloppy at best, condescending at worst, and the depreciation of Wonder Woman curbed any goodwill I had for the film. She just felt like any other hero.

That problem comes up again and again in this film. Any time Wonder Woman is being the hero that we know her as, it’s great. Watching Gal Gadot play her is a joy, and she fits into the roll quite nicely. There’s a sort of excitement watching Wonder Woman beating the snot out of bad guys that makes the film worth watching on its own, and the scenes of Diana trying to dissect the discrepancies between her beliefs and the world outside of Themyscira are often interesting and, surprisingly, funny.

Everything else is… well, it’s not bad. However, a lot of it is either tedious or ultimately unnecessary. For example, early on Diana faces a huge tragedy unlike anything she has ever dealt with before, and literally within a minute it is dropped and never heard from again. Her mother and Themyscira, and all of the Amazons might as well have not existed after Diana leaves her home as they have no bearing on the plot whatsoever.

In fact, if you stripped anything that was strictly about Wonder Woman from the plot, it would probably function exactly the same. Again, the story is your typical hero’s journey, which makes the flaws of the film — all of the inconsistencies and lost motivations — so painfully obvious. Wonder Woman barely does enough to feel like a true adaptation of the source material, but barely is disappointing.

In truth, the film feels more like a superhero film that Wonder Woman stars in rather than a Wonder Woman film, but even then, that description feels woefully inadequate. Rather, it feels like a WWI film with fantasy elements, those elements just happen to be attached to comics’ most iconic female superhero.

Fortunately, the majority of the film focuses on that hero, but the parts that don’t — and there are a lot of them — bog down the whole experience. I don’t regret watching Wonder Woman, but I regret that it has to share the same spotlight as other superhero films. It simply just can’t compare, which is a shame because it will never get to stand on its own as just a really solid movie.