“Wonder Woman” is being called the best DC film in a nearly a decade, since 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” inspiring such headline hosannas as “Finally, a DC Comics movie that works” (Chicago Tribune) and the “Smart, satisfying DC movie you’ve been waiting for” (Entertainment Weekly).
On Metacritic.com, “Wonder Woman” (opening Friday) has literally the best score for a DC superhero film since “The Dark Knight,” with an average of “79” (“Dark Knight” sits at 82). Jenkins’s first feature film since 2003’s “Monster” also scores a 96 percent “fresh” on RottenTomatoes.com.
That points to a potentially massive turnaround for DC’s cinematic superhero film universe. Last year, DC’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (44 on Metacritic) and “Suicide Squad” (40) both received a critical drubbing. (The only DC superhero film to score highly since Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy ended in 2012 wasn’t even live-action, in fact, but rather this year’s “Lego Batman Movie.”)
If the reviews for “Wonder Woman” stay true to form, the path toward November’s superhero team-up “Justice League” looks much brighter.
“Until now only the Christopher Nolan-directed ‘Batman’ pictures (and, really, only ‘The Dark Knight’ back in 2008) have felt like real movies, worth debating or exploring or more than a shrug,” the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips writes. “ ‘Wonder Woman’ is less distinctive visually, and the performances are more solid than remarkable … but Jenkins’ picture is serious fun guided by a sincere belief in the superheroine created in 1941 by William Moulton Marston.”
WB/DC’s “Wonder Woman” is the first big-budget superhero feature film to be directed by a woman, and some critics single out Jenkins for particular praise.
“How deliciously ironic that in a genre where the boys seem to have all the fun, a female hero and a female director are the ones to show the fellas how it’s done,” writes Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty, adding that the film “never bludgeons you with its gender politics. It’s far too assured and sly for that.”
Calling the film a “profound experience” in these divisive times, USA Today’s Kelly Lawler embraces the shift in tone: “Unlike the recent parade of bleak superhero tales from both studios, it makes you feel good while you watch it.”
Variety’s Andrew Barker strikes a similar chord, writing that the movie “provides a welcome respite from DC’s house style of grim darkness” because it’s “boisterous, earnest, sometimes sloppy, yet consistently entertaining.”
The film’s stars, Gal Gadot and Chris Pine, come in for praise as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince and pilot/love interest Steve Trevor.
The Tribune’s Phillips writes that Gadot “can hold a goddess-like warrior gaze like nobody’s business.” Variety’s Barker calls Gadot “an inspired choice for this avatar of truth, justice and the Amazonian way.” And ScreenCrush’s Matt Singer says that the two well-cast stars are “oozing charisma.”
One of the few critics so far to see serious flaws in the film is the Guardian’s Steve Rose, who likens the sanitized co-opting of trench warfare to a Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad. He writes archly: “What promised to be a glass-ceiling-smashing blockbuster actually looks more like a future camp classic. … By the time this ragtag league of nations reaches the trenches, poor Diana has been reduced to a weaponized Smurfette.”
And multiple critics noted that the film “falters” a bit in the third act.
Writes Forbes reviewer Scott Mendelson: “If ‘Wonder Woman’s’ second half [were] as strong as its first half, we’d be talking all-time classic status.”