Wonder Woman ★½

"It's not about deserve. It's about what you believe."

Apart from being both the cringe-worthy centerpiece and poorly established turning point of the film's disastrous third-act, this line also serves as a reflection of the critical response to Wonder Woman. Does it really deserve all the praise it's getting? Probably not, but going in, we all wanted to believe that this film would be a game-changer, because that's the better narrative. Certainly a better narrative than "the first female directed superhero tent-pole film is just as flawed as the rest of them are."

But I don't want to belabor the point about audiences' inability to reconcile the massive gap between their expectations for this film and the actual product they were presented with. Because, truthfully, this film had plenty of flaws before critical response was brought into the equation.

Essentially, what we have here is a criminally underdeveloped protagonist who experiences almost no struggle throughout the course of the film, and thus displays zero growth. Her only perceivable flaw is believing that killing the God of War will end The Great War immediately. And, in the end, she's actually right, so we can scratch that one. At the beginning of the film, she is a nice, sweet, morally upstanding warrior princess who wants to save the world. At the end of the film, she is a nice, sweet, morally upstanding warrior princess that saved the world. If there was character progression, it happened on a microscopic scale, probably somewhere in the nauseatingly forced romance between Diana and Steve.

This is not to say that Gal Godot and Chris Pine don't try their damnedest to save an awful script from completely falling apart. And thanks to every ounce of charisma they can muster, they almost succeed. But there's only so much you can do to create an engaging story when it involves two impossibly attractive, gifted, and righteous people conveniently falling in love before the climax of the movie, without obstacle nor reason. It simply happens because the plot requires it to happen.

And while we're on the subject of characters without flaws, Steve Trevor has an above average penis. Yes, that's a great gag in the context of that scene, but it also serves as a humorous example of the even bigger gag, which is just how much this film struggles to ground these characters with any actual struggles of their own. And the one time it actually does provide an obstacle for a character, when the war's best sniper is so haunted by his past that he can't bring himself to pull the trigger again, the film flat-out refuses to follow up. What haunts this man so? Why can't he pull the trigger? Who cares, these two are going to have sex now!

I could compile volumes of nit-picking complaints about this film, like how the Germans in Germany speak English(with bad German accents), yet Diana and Sameer's conversations in other languages are subtitled. But I've forgiven choices such as these before in favor of the bigger picture, so let's stay in broad terms here. For a movie that frames the entire turning point of a final battle around Diana announcing that she believes in love, this film is surprisingly devoid of any real examples of love, platonic or romantic. Yes, Diana and Steve fall in love, or at least the script claims that they do. But do their interactions actually teach Diana anything about love, enough for her to proclaim her belief in love so strongly that it gives her the strength to defeat a god? What did she learn about love from Steve that she was not already practicing before, on the island? I'm trying really hard not to make a joke about the answer being sex and Steve's above-average penis, but in all seriousness, what else would it be?

In conclusion, I return, with a shudder, to the line I quoted to begin this review. "It's not about deserve. It's about what you believe." Do we deserve a better film than the one we got with "Wonder Woman?" Considering the low bar for storytelling that's been set with other tent-pole films before it, probably not. We never demanded better. But do I believe we should have been given a better product anyway, out of hope for a more inclusive future? Yes. I just wish it didn't require The Golden Lasso of Truth to make critics admit that "Wonder Woman" is just as flawed as the films they claim it turns a corner from.