Wonder Woman had a lot riding on it. After three colossal misfires, the DC cinematic universe needed a solid hit to keep fans interested. That this is also the first big budget woman-led superhero feature adds extra pressure since this has been a milestone almost forty years in the making.
Thankfully, much like Diana of Themyscira herself, the film rises to meet the obstacles before it, using its settings and characters to tell a story both complex and simple that is so far the high watermark for the DC cinematic universe.
The Amazons of Themyscira are an all woman warrior tribe magically isolated from the world to prepare for the return of their sworn nemesis, Ares. When Steve Trevor, an Allied spy (Chris Pine) stumbles into their sanctuary he brings tales of the "war to end all wars". Sensing the hand of Ares, their princess Diana (Gal Gadot) gears up and returns with Steve, intent on finding and destroying Ares and ending the war.
I have to admit, I was on the fence when they cast Gadot. I felt a whole lot better after seeing BvS though (wow, never thought I’d type THAT sentence). She owned every second on screen and completely felt like what I imagined a cinematic Wonder Woman would. Gadot could fill those boots, but could she walk in them for an entire film? You bet your ass she can. The plot is a relatively solid if not boilerplate action/adventure fare, but along the way we get to see Diana gain a better understanding of her powers, but also her place in the outside world and what it means to use them to defend others.
That they chose WWI as the setting works since a large part of the theme centers around the complexity and moral ambiguity on all sides in such a large scale conflict. WWII while by some technical standpoints is the bloodier war, it had a much clearer moral imperative whereas the original war to end all wars had a lot more moving parts and at the time, was more shockingly unprecedented in scale and scope.
While not quite as nuanced as Winter Soldier or Logan, Wonder Woman still manages to succeed in ways no super-hero film has. Instead of personal loss, vengeance, or guilt, Diana fights out of compassion and love for those who can’t defend themselves. It’s kind of refreshing to see a superhero not wracked with guilt of any sort. Even Cap can’t make that claim (his guilt over what happened to Bucky was his primary motivation in his last film). There’s no telling how this will bode exactly for Justice League, but at least for now, we can celebrate this achievement.