Beware, spoilers for DCEU films below!

WONDER WOMAN has brought a much-needed breath of fresh air into the DC Extended Universe. Now, audiences have a little more faith in the future of the franchise, faith that was certainly not present following the disappointments of BATMAN V SUPERMAN and SUICIDE SQUAD.

Some defenders of the latter two films believe that audiences did not understand the films’ dark tone. This is not the issue. The films do embody a dark tone, but they do so without the realism and grittiness necessary to justify it. Following the formula of previous films in the franchise, WONDER WOMAN embodies this tone as well.

However, the film utilizes it to characterize the villain and the harsh reality the titular hero has never seen before. Ultimately, WONDER WOMAN succeeds in the areas BATMAN V SUPERMAN and SUICIDE SQUAD failed. So, for the DCEU’s future to succeed, filmmakers must look back on the franchise’s missteps and improve on them.

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Courtesy of DC Entertainment

Doomsday Is Here

BATMAN V SUPERMAN has a multitude of issues. Firstly, the pacing is off, contributing to a convoluted narrative. The film ultimately needed a more self-contained story that focused on fewer characters and storylines. With this, the film executes the explorations of the film’s themes more explicitly than they should be. There is a sequence in which newscasters discuss the role of Superman in the modern world and his association with humankind. These observations should be left to the audience’s discretion.

Of course, for this to happen, Superman needs more characterization. Both MAN OF STEEL and BATMAN V SUPERMAN depict Superman one-dimensionally. So, it is hard for there to be a discussion about him when there is so little context about his character. I am still willing to give Henry Cavill a chance to embody the charisma and fortitude of the Superman character, but I do not believe he has been given enough to work with to showcase his range.

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Regarding the villain, there is no poignancy to Doomsday. Firstly, he should have never been revealed in the trailers because that would have been an incredible surprise for fans. With this, it would have been more satisfying to see Superman battle the notorious villain solo. One factor that makes his death in the 1992 story “The Death of Superman” so compelling is that Superman takes it upon himself to take Doomsday down.

He invests all of himself into the fight. Though he dies, as a result, he still succeeds and employs every inch of power he has. So, when the film depicts Superman fighting alongside Batman and Wonder Woman, one cannot help but think about all the other ways the team can defeat Doomsday without having Superman sacrifice himself. Also, why include Batman in this battle when he barely contributes?

Men Are Still Good

Within this fight scene, we have some excessive CGI, an aspect that is also present in Wonder Woman’s battle against Ares. Characters at times appear rubbery and obviously unauthentic. So, future DCEU films may want to tone this element down so that the films can stay a little more grounded. The distinction in WONDER WOMAN that does not make the CGI-laden final battle sequence so terrible is that, as a whole, the film does a better job of fleshing out the villain.

I love how Ares is not the sole puppeteer. Rather, he merely influences those who already have corruption engraved in their human nature. With this, WONDER WOMAN explores the complexity of human nature that BATMAN V SUPERMAN only attempts to explore.

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With this, one aspect that makes SUICIDE SQUAD such a disappointment is the film’s failure to characterize its villains. Characters such as Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and Joker have such engaging back stories that deserve more than a brief introduction narrated by Amanda Waller.

BATMAN V SUPERMAN illustrates this flaw as well through Doomsday, who is merely presented as a physical match for Superman. Ares, on the other hand, challenges Wonder Woman’s physical and mental fortitude. Sure, he may not be an utterly enthralling villain, but he gives Wonder Woman a worthy challenge, and his motives provide more depth to the film as a whole.

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The cover of THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS by Frank Miller and a shot from BATMAN V SUPERMAN

Is She With You?

Sure, BATMAN V SUPERMAN has a plethora of flaws. Despite this, even the film’s harshest critic must admit the film maintains beautiful imagery. The opening scene features the murders of Martha and Thomas Wayne. It makes an allusion to a panel in Frank Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, where the murderer’s gun gets caught in Martha’s pearls. The film executes this allusion beautifully, making a subtle detail powerful. I also love the allusion to the cover of THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, seen briefly during the battle against Doomsday.

This positive aspect of BATMAN V SUPERMAN continues to be present in WONDER WOMAN. The “No Man’s Land” sequence may go down in history as one of the most iconic scenes in a superhero film. The tone is grim, but the fortitude of Wonder Woman as she walks into the battlefield gives the scene a sense of wonder and awe. Yes, a dark tone fits for certain superheroes, but this does not mean that those films should lose their fantastical nature.

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The mythology of WONDER WOMAN suspends the film from reality. It is established through an engaging narrative that leaves audiences compelled by the history of the Amazons. MAN OF STEEL attempts to depict the Kryptonians similarly. However, after completing MAN OF STEEL, there is still a lot of ambiguity regarding the Kryptonians.

We understand the stylistic aspects of the race but not the characterization. In WONDER WOMAN, we understand the Amazons. We understand their perspectives on warfare and kinship. So, even though the Amazons exist in an entirely different world from ours, we can relate to their way of thinking while admiring them for their strength and abilities.

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Only a god can kill another god…

Looking Forward

In my personal opinion, WONDER WOMAN has been the best superhero film of 2017 so far. It maintains a compelling narrative with admirable performances and beautiful cinematography. Most importantly though, it is a film that has a heart. For the first time in the DCEU, audiences can feel a connection with the titular hero.

She is hopeful, despite witnessing the horrific capabilities of humankind. She is confident, despite being thrust into a gritty world that differs so significantly from her homeland. Wonder Woman is ultimately the hero the DC Extended Universe, and audiences deserve.

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