In studio Warner Brothers’ haste to create their own linked comic-book superhero universe to rival Marvel, with iconic DC characters Superman, Batman, etc. in films like ‘Batman V. Superman’ and ‘Suicide Squad,’ they went for style over substance, visual excess over character build. With the arrival of director Patty Jenkins’ stellar origin film, ‘Wonder Woman,’ they finally have an end product to be proud of. Everything from the look, the tone, the writing, acting, and assured action pieces line up nicely to create one of the most thoughful, inspiring, and entertaining blockbusters yet in the ever expanding superhero genre.
While viewing the careful and unique backstory behind one of pop culture’s most enduring figures, it’s truly hard to beleive that this is the first big screen, big budget attempt at bringing Wonder Woman to life. The film is bookended by scenes of Gal Gadot as the titular heroine (nee Diana Prince) in a presumed alter ego as a curator at France’s Louvre. In the only nod to the larger comic-book universe, she receives a carefully delivered package from Bruce Wayne, an old picture of her in warrior garb alongside a motley crew of soldiers in WWI. The movie quickly flashes back to her childhood on the wondrous paradise island of Themyscira, a hidden world of perfection inhabited by the Amazon women, a seemingly immortal group directly descended from the Greek gods. Introduced here are her assured, protective mother Hippolyta (a regal Connie Nielsen) and esteemed warrior aunt Antiope (Robin Wright, a staid force of power and grace), who conflicts with her sister over raising young Diana in the ways of war.
As per the original backstory, the world of man comes crashing in via the persona of spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine in a fleshed out version of the superhero love interest). This is when the story catapults the innocent yet learned and powerful figure of Diana into a modern society in the throes of war, something she is prepared to deal with yet abhors to her core. It’s this dichotomy of the character that makes her so interesting – a hero that protects and inspires the very patriarchy subjugating the female sex as a whole.
At its’ essence, the film is a fish-out-of-water story, with echoes of ‘Captain America’ and ‘Thor’, but it takes on a greater power in the context of a 1910’s society where female empowerment might as well be an alien concept. Gal Gadot does wonders herself with the role, at times playful, assured, confused, and finally outraged at what she sees. That this outrage is balanced by unrequited love for righteousness is the core of the character, and it’s all there in Gadot’s expressive eyes and commanding stature. When Wonder Woman reveals herself, in full armor regalia, it’s truly a sight. It’s an extended action scene of power and inspiration as she does the impossible on the battlefield in the presence of weary soldiers in awe of what they are witnessing. Even in 2017, this display is not lost on an audience thrilled to finally see the hero needed up there on screen . . .
Directed By: Patty Jenkins
Written By: Allan Heinberg
Running Time: 141 min.
* * * 1/2 (out of 4 stars) -OR- A-