Wonder Woman — wondrous enough?

JUNE 3 — I’ve never been much of a hardcore comic book fan, even when I was a little kid. 

Yes, I did read my fair share of superhero comic books back then, but not nearly enough to know about a particular superhero’s many strands of differing storylines by different comic book artists.

So I definitely won’t be getting into the whole Marvel vs. DC debate that’s been dominating conversations when it comes to superhero movies because, to be frank, I haven’t really got a clue how they’re different from each other and how much that difference actually came from the source comic books. 

What I can gather from the debate (and from my experience watching the superhero flicks from both camps) is that the DC movies are supposedly “darker” than Marvel’s more lighthearted entertainment juggernauts.

I used “supposedly” because, aside from Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, I’ve so far failed to see how that “darkness” that DC fans have been referring to can be construed as a good thing. 

If anything it has managed to really bog down all the DC Universe movies so far, from the overly sombre Man Of Steel to the frustratingly inconsistent Batman vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice to the downright awful Suicide Squad

One can see the intention, but the execution has so far failed to hit the sweet spot the way Nolan’s first two Batman movies did.

If anything, I don’t think the DC movies have been dark enough, which leaves them stuck somewhere between darkness and PG-friendly commercialism, which is no place to be when you aim to have your movies be taken seriously. 

The only way that “dark” can be good, in my humble opinion, is when you fearlessly go all the way with it. 

If it means that your movie needs an R-rating (therefore foregoing the bigger audience that a PG rating can give) to properly achieve that darkness, then you should be bold enough to go for that R-rating.

Just look at Marvel’s success with Deadpool. The only way a Deadpool movie can work is without a PG rating, and they took a chance with it and got rewarded with a hit movie that both fans and critics found irresistible. 

It was a perfect case of knowing what kind of tone and approach a movie and character requires, and sticking to it, even if it risks missing out on reaching as wide an audience as it possibly could because of its rating.

After so many missteps, the DC Extended Universe finally produces a film that seemingly everyone can agree on — Wonder Woman

Although I suspect that Gal Gadot is a huge reason why so many people have been saying good things about the movie, I also think that another big reason why it’s so appealing is that it knows what it wants to be and sticks to it throughout the film.

Except for the climactic fight between Wonder Woman and the supervillain of the piece, which felt like something that had to be tacked on to end the film because this is, after all, a big budget superhero movie and superhero movies must end with, or at least attempt something that approaches, a mighty spectacle.

The pretty underwhelming climactic battle aside, this being another superhero origin story, one simply can’t help but think of Captain America: The First Avenger when watching Wonder Woman, not just because of its similar World War 2 setting, but also because both the protagonists’ old fashioned innocence, purity and big hearted love for humanity are more or less cut from the same cloth. 

Captain Steve Rogers is basically the male version of Diana Prince, and vice versa. Despite a lot of people complaining about what a goody two shoes Rogers is, it’s his pure innocence and righteousness that made the character and the film’s dramatic crutch hard to resist. 

He’s just a good guy. And Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman is a good woman.

In a world where it’s uncool to be square and where cynicism is the new norm, rooting for a good guy (and girl) like Steve Rogers and Diana Prince feels like a breath of fresh air, which is why Captain America: The First Avenger remains my favourite superhero movie of all time, and why Wonder Woman also felt like a refreshing blast of cool breeze when I saw it in the cinema.

Managing the mythic parts of Wonder Woman’s origins really well, director Patty Jenkins (famed for her Oscar nominated and critically acclaimed debut film Monster) smoothly balances the film’s tone and chooses the right acting style by telling a story about Greek gods, Amazon women and man’s heart of darkness without once succumbing to the very real and dangerous trap of campiness that can sometimes plague material of this kind.

She plays the whole thing earnestly, with a slight touch of lighthearted humour, and the result keeps us emotionally invested with the movie, at least until the bombastic ending which may threaten to derail the whole movie but ultimately fails to do so because the goodwill generated by the earlier parts of the film remained so strong and firm. 

Is Wonder Woman, like Captain America for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the surprise superhero who somehow ties together the whole DC Extended Universe? 

We’ll have to wait and see, I guess.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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