If there is one big question that needs to be answered about Wonder Woman, it’s whether this movie will be fun or not.
Surely, you might think, this is a question that needs to be asked about every single movie in existence, but it’s worth bearing in mind that, based on Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, DC movies aren’t necessarily designed to be fun.
Artistic? Sure. Gritty and filled with complex if somewhat nihilistic exploration of the nature of humanity? Sure, Zack Snyder loves making us feel bad about ourselves by showing our heroes as amoral murderers! That’s pretty much his sole focus as a director!
But the DCEU is not inherently fun. It’s meant to be uncomfortable, and the only genuine levity we’ve seen in any of these movies thus far came from the tonally confused and heavily reshot Suicide Squad, so it’s hard to tell whether any of the actual comedy in the movie was an accident that got out of hand.
While Warner Bros executives have been promising a lighter tone for future movies, it’s difficult to know how much these claims can actually be trusted – especially for movies that were already in development when the grimdark tone of Batman v Superman went over with critics like a lead balloon.
Wonder Woman is the movie that’s most likely to suffer at the hands of tonal awkwardness – whether it involves being yet another dark, joyless affair, or whether kneejerk studio interference has left this film just as confused and broken as Suicide Squad.
The new trailer for Wonder Woman does little to address these concerns, if only because we’re all getting pretty wise to the DC approach to promotional footage.
This new trailer is probably the most fun of any that we’ve seen for Wonder Woman. It’s filled with adorable little character moments, it gives us plenty of insight into Diana’s backstory, and it benefits from being primarily set in the bright, sunny paradise of Themyscira.
Based on this trailer alone, without any prior knowledge of the operation of the DCEU, Wonder Woman looks incredible. It appears to be lighthearted, yet capable of serious action. Its lead character appears to be strong, three-dimensional, and compelling. To all intents and purposes, this movie looks fantastic.
So what’s the problem?
While this trailer, taken by itself, makes Wonder Woman look like a potentially very enjoyable movie, it does not exist in a vacuum. Everything else that we’ve seen, not just from this movie, but from the DCEU as a whole, invites caution when approaching this movie.
Batman v Superman had powerful trailers, as did Suicide Squad, but neither of these films resonated with critics and fans in the way that DC had hoped for.
(Obviously, there are exceptions to this, but there’s no denying that DC would have loved a slightly more enthusiastic response from moviegoers.)
Filling a Wonder Woman trailer with levity only makes things more complicated when the DC legacy of tonally confused movies is taken into account. Will this film’s moments of cheeky humor feel incongruous with its World War I setting?
This is actually something that director Patty Jenkins has spoken about. In a press event where journalists were invited into the Wonder Woman editing bay, Jenkins spoke about how crucial it is that her movie hits the right tone, considering not only the setting, but the characters at the heart of the story.
“That was my obsession, was tone. Coming in I was like, ‘OK, we have to be careful it doesn’t look like a BBC documentary so it looks silly when someone in a superhero costume comes on’—we have to hit exactly that pocket. You’ve got to hit that little pocket of comic superhero, and then you bring it into a comic version of that period of time, and then they start culminating right here.”
It’s absolutely wonderful to hear Jenkins asking these questions. It suggests that she has the right grasp on the character, and the challenges of taking an icon of feminist hope and dropping her into one of the most depressing conflicts of the twentieth century.
This movie’s tone is going to be difficult. Any World War I movie will naturally lean towards grit and darkness by virtue of the nature of trench warfare, and throwing a costumed superhero into the fray risks making everything look silly.
Captain America: The First Avenger didn’t entirely manage to avoid its cheesy moments, and it can be argued that World War I is a far more disturbing war than that movie’s setting, which makes things all the more potentially confusing.
This new trailer makes it seem as if Wonder Woman will be a fun romp, but that’s probably not the whole story. Things are going to be depressing and bleak for a large chunk of this movie, regardless of whether DC’s trademark grumpiness has been cast aside by executives who are eager to distance themselves from the drudgery of BvS.
In terms of a review score, let’s give this new Wonder Woman trailer an 8/10. It’s a lot of fun, but there’s a danger that it’ll prove to be more enjoyable than the movie itself, and if that’s the case, then this trailer fails to communicated what Wonder Woman is actually about, which is its entire purpose for existing.
As for whether Wonder Woman the movie will be enjoyable? There’s no way of knowing how successful Patty Jenkins has been at keeping the movie’s tone focused and uniform, especially considering the slew of studio notes that she likely had to deal with throughout production.
Let’s all cross our fingers and hope that this movie turns out to be as good as it looks from the trailers, and that it doesn’t fall into the standard DCEU trap of being too dark, grim, and unpleasant to watch.