At last, a DC Comics movie that has it all: heart, thrills and humor
**** out of 5 | 141 min. | PG-13
Gal Gadot as Diana, AKA Wonder Woman
As the first female superhero and archetype of strong women, Wonder Woman crossed boundaries in 1941 when she debuted on the pages of a comic book. She’s still pushing forward in 2017 with Wonder Woman the first blockbuster-slated superhero movie helmed by a woman, director Patty Jenkins.
Wonder Woman serves as the origin story for a character in the DC universe we will almost certainly get to know better in the months and years to come. Her name is Diana (Gal Gadot) and we see her raised among the Amazon warriors on a magically secluded Greek island that serves as their training ground. Her protective mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), molded Diana from clay and Zeus breathed life into her—or so she says. Family secrets hover at the edges of Diana’s happy life as she learns combat skills. In the warm Mediterranean sunshine, Diana learns that brute strength is less important than mindful agility fortified by practice.
The Amazon’s isolation is broken when the plane of Capt. Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) plane crashes offshore. It’s World War I and he’s an American spy attached to British intelligence. He’s onto something big. Evil German Gen. Ludendorff (Danny Huston) has set up a lab-factory in Germany’s ally, Turkey, where a mad scientist with a prosthetic face, Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya), is developing a chemical weapon more terrible than anything yet deployed. A German warship pursues Steve to the island and the Amazons go to battle to repel the invaders. Bullets from the landing party fell some of the women, but their swordplay and archery win the day.
After hearing about the war, and against her mother’s wishes, the kind-hearted Diana leaves the isle with Steve, determined to end what her new friend naively calls “the war to end all wars.”
One can take Wonder Woman to task for plot holes, gross historical inaccuracies; seen-it-before special effects. But the characters elevate the movie. Gadot is marvelously expressive—not only in the acrobatics of combat but in the more intimate moments. Her eyes tell stories. Pulling the half-dead Steve from the sea, she scrutinizes him with tender curiosity. Later, anger flares at the prejudice she encounters in sooty London, and compassion fills her as she sees the results of mechanized warfare. Amidst the pyrotechnics are many sideways glances at the suffering and devastation. Although she sallies forth with sword and shield, and bracelets that deflect bullets, Diana is a naïve idealist who believes that Ares, god of war, is behind the mayhem. Slay him and the world turns into a garden—or so she imagines.
Wonder Woman is leavened by humor. Although grateful to Diana for saving his life, he thinks at first that he’s got one nutty dame on his hands, especially when she informs him that “men are essential for procreation but when it comes to pleasure, they are unnecessary.” She’s never seen a man or modern technology. Steve’s watch puzzles her. “You let that little thing tell you what to do?” she asks, reasonably enough. The scene at a London shop to find her suitable clothes is hilarious—the fashions for women were not made for sprinting, jumping or swordplay.
Naturally, romantic love stirs in their breasts. Defiantly determined to bring the war to a close before Dr. Maru’s poison can be dispensed on the battlefield, Diana leads Steve and a crew of mercenaries (a Scotsman, an Arab and a Native American) across No Man’s Land into German-occupied Belgium for the final battle of the gods. There are twists that shouldn’t be spoiled in a review. Suffice to say: Diana emerges wiser on the human condition and with plenty of plot strands for her next movie, Justice League, due in November.