Before Wonder Woman premiered in cinemas, it was clear that some critics were sharpening their pitchforks and lighting their torches in anticipation. After Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice failed to justify Warner Bros.’ growing DC Extended Universe, Suicide Squad seemingly hammered the final nail in the coffin. The studio’s decision to follow up with Wonder Woman was risky. Diana of Themyscira’s silver screen debut was helmed by Patty Jenkins, whose most notable work is Monster, a 2003 movie about serial killer Aileen Wuornos. While Gal Gadot’s portrayal of the icon was well received by critics in BvS, she was criticized by fans for being too ‘model-like’ to portray the Amazonian princess. Most recently, the character was inaugurated as an honorary United Nations ambassador, only to be dropped immediately because of a 44,000-signature petition against Diana for being too ‘scantily-clad.’
Nevertheless, Wonder Woman persisted.
What makes Wonder Woman a good film is its authenticity. While many Marvel Cinematic Universe-lovers criticized the project for its similarities to Captain America: The First Avenger, the movie distinguishes itself from the pile of hero flicks by integrating emotion, action, humor, and grace. Its vibrancy is a big departure from the melancholy tone of Man of Steel, BvS, and Suicide Squad. Diana’s story, though, is consistent with a recurring theme of the DC film family. The audience is introduced to a young Diana raised by her mother, Queen Hippolyta, and her aunt, General Antiope - who instructs her in the art of Amazonian combat against the queen’s orders. From a young age, Diana forges her own path, defying laws imposed on her by society. While her role in BvS may have seemed two-dimensional, Wonder Woman explores Diana’s compassion; her choice to leave Themyscira, her family, and her people to save humanity from Ares, who seeks mankind's self-destruction through World War I.
Gal Gadot’s portrayal of the protagonist is stellar. Throughout the movie, Diana comes to understand how society works, and how women fit into the world outside her home. The best parts of the movie involve the hero defying orders and expectations: most notably, when Wonder Woman crosses No Man’s Land amidst a hail of mortars and bullets. Wonder Woman is not a good 'female superhero movie' - it is a good superhero movie, period. Her thighs jiggle when she nails a superhero landing. She lifts a tank. She comes to terms with the dicey experience of love. She topples a tower. Beyond all that, Wonder Woman proves that a woman can star in a movie directed by a woman and break box-office records in an industry and genre historically dominated by men - not because she is a woman, but because she is a hero.