The DCEU is in a bad place. The films are critically maligned and they underperform at the box office. There’s not much in the way of consistent world-building, but more damning is that they’re superhero movies that don’t feel particularly heroic. No one walks out of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice feeling good about the world or wanting to emulate its titular heroes. For a studio that’s trying to build a cinematic universe around superheroes, Warner Bros. is struggling to create a connection between fans and characters.
While hope always seems to surface with the next feature, Wonder Woman could truly turn the page and be the first good DCEU movie. Granted, we’re still a ways off from seeing the finished product, and I hesitate to make grand pronouncements based off cherry-picked footage. And yet last week when I visited the edit bay for Wonder Woman, we were shown a scene that’s undeniably better than anything glimpsed in the DCEU thus far. Yes, that’s a low bar to clear, so I’ll put it this way: it’s a scene that’s better than what you’ve seen in most Marvel movies too.
For those who need a brief refresher on the plot, the film is an origin story for Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), and follows her and Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) as they make their way across Europe during World War I. Trevor is trying to stop a nefarious plot by a rogue German officer (Danny Huston), but Wonder Woman believes that the larger threat is the emergence of Ares, the God of War. As they work together, Wonder Woman learns about the human world and her abilities to help those in it.
You’ve seen glimpses of the scene already: it was in the first trailer where Wonder Woman climbs out into no man’s land and starts deflecting bullets and mortar fire. We got to see the full scene, and while it wasn’t completely finished (they were still using a temp track and polishing up the VFX) it played beautifully.
The scene begins with Wonder Woman, Trevor, and their crew going through the trenches, trying to figure out how to get around the fighting. Wonder Woman is confused about why they’re trying to avoid battle, and learns from a scared civilian woman than other civilians have been forced into slavery by the German troops. While Trevor tries to make the case that they need to stay on mission, that’s not good enough for Wonder Woman. She climbs out of the trench and starts charging at the enemy line. The German troops fire on her, but she deflects bullets with her bracelets and then deflects mortars with her shield. Trevor realizes that Wonder Woman is drawing the enemy fire, so he and his fellow soldiers climb out of the trench and follow Wonder Woman into battle.
It’s a glorious moment for Wonder Woman. She’s not motivated by some deep-seated trauma and she’s not conflicted about her place in the world. Instead, she’s a character with a deeply held moral code, and that code compels her to go out into the middle of a battlefield. In this scene, it’s not about taking on some massive, otherworldly CGI threat. She’s a warrior in the middle of a war, and a leader who’s helping ordinary men defeat evil. She’s doing good because it’s good, and she’s kicking ass because she’s trained her whole life to be a warrior.
The scene ends with Wonder Woman, Trevor, and the troops breaching the German line and taking down a bunch of German soldiers. No, it’s not Superman punching Zod through a bunch of buildings. It’s not the Batmobile blowing up city streets. It’s so much better. It’s a character-driven moment where the action on screen follows the best version of the hero. How good was this scene? I’ll put it this way: I saw it with a bunch of fellow superhero movie nerds, and we’re a pretty jaded bunch. We’ve seen all the superhero films, and while we always want them to succeed, we’re also skeptical. After seeing this scene, we were absolutely giddy.
I don’t know if Wonder Woman will work as a whole movie. There are some areas that I know about (but won’t spoil here) that could end up being a problem. But from what I’ve seen so far, and especially this scene, tells me that when it comes to seeing this beloved hero at her best, fans need not worry. Wonder Woman has come to save the DCEU.
Click on the respective links for more of our Wonder Woman set visit coverage:
- ‘Wonder Woman’: Over 50 Things to Know about the Iconic Superhero’s New Movie
- ‘Wonder Woman’: Gal Gadot on Creating a Superhero That Young Girls Can Admire
- ‘Wonder Woman’ Director Patty Jenkins on Being Inspired by Richard Donner’s ‘Superman’
- ‘Wonder Woman’ Scene Introduces New Concepts to DC Movies: Warmth and Humor
Wonder Woman opens June 2nd.