Entertainment Weekly called the WWI-set superhero film “smart, slick and satisfying,” while USA Today dubbed it “the best movie ... DC Comics has put out in its own cinematic universe.” Meanwhile, Mashable writer Angie Han praised director Patty Jenkins’ handling of the complicated titular character, someone who “needs to be optimistic but not naive, fierce but not frightening, unquestionably good but not tragically boring, intriguingly alien but not totally inhuman,” ultimately deciding that Gadot and Jenkins get the balance “exactly right.”
As of press time, the film’s Rotten Tomatoes rating sat at an impressive 96 percent.
”Wonder Woman” isn’t without its detractors; in its review, The Guardian called Gadot’s character a “weaponised smurfette” in the tangles of a “silly plot.”
But all told, it’s a super-sized sigh of relief for superhero fans ― and Warner Bros. executives.
While Marvel titles have scored big with franchise hits ― most recently, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” ― DC titles have failed to reach the same critical acclaim in recent years. Using Rotten Tomatoes ratings as a benchmark, other films in the DC cinematic universe did not impress: “Batman v Superman” (2016) earned 26 percent, while “Suicide Squad” (2016) leveled off at 25 precent. “Man of Steel,” out in 2013, did slightly better at 55 percent.
As EW pointed out, the ratings also put “Wonder Woman” ahead of Marvel films like “Iron Man,” “The Avengers” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Early reviews of “Wonder Woman” are significant beyond the fact that it seems DC has avoided another flop. They’re a clear statement that female directors can successfully helm a major action film. (That shouldn’t really be a question, but it’s 2017 and Jenkins is the first woman to direct a Marvel or DC superhero film, so here we are.)
While male directors can generally weather a box office disaster and still continue their careers, the dearth of opportunities given to women behind the camera ― especially for big-budget projects ― means that all eyes inevitably fall on the rare female director who breaks through. And if she missteps, suddenly a whole gender, rather than an individual, becomes a risky choice.
“On the one hand I’m shocked that [female filmmakers are] such a rarity, [and] I’m super grateful that I’m the person who gets to do it, but on the other hand, I only got here by not thinking about that at all,” Jenkins said of her career in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “I got here by assuming that I could do what I wanted if I was willing to work hard enough to do it.”
After her last film, 2003’s “Monster,” Jenkins had said that she wanted to helm a Wonder Woman film for over a decade. She finally became involved with the project in 2015.
For Jenkins, showing respect for Wonder Woman’s deep resonance with audiences was paramount. The director even took steps to ensure that the film avoided an R rating, so that young girls would be able to see a character who represents strength to women around the world.
“Wonder Woman” is out June 2.