A little over a year ago we got our first glimpse of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in the abysmal Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. At that time I wrote that it takes two long hours to get to the meat of the movie and that it “takes even longer for Wonder Woman to arrive, but at least her glorified cameo is actually worth it.”
Gadot was indeed that film’s sole redeeming quality, which gave me hope that her own feature film could possibly live up to the hype.
And it does. And then some.
Director Patty Jenkins’ take on the Amazing Amazon is a testament to female empowerment, not only of Gadot as the star and Jenkins as director but Wonder Woman/Diana Prince as a character and icon. Gadot throws her everything into the part and proves she can carry a film like few have been able to in recent memory.
Set in 1918, as World War I is drawing to a close, things actually get started on the cloaked island of Themyscira, the home of a band of fierce Amazon warriors. Young Diana is being trained by her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright), who is preparing for the day when the god Ares inevitably returns hell-bent on revenge for being beaten down by Zeus. Diana’s mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), however, is against the training, convinced Ares is dead and that there’s no need to risk Diana’s safety.
When Allied pilot and spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes nearby, Diana rescues him, only to find that a flotilla of German sailors have been chasing him. A battle ensues on the shores of Themyscira, and afterward the Amazons become convinced that Trevor’s stories of the horrors of the war are proof that Ares is in fact still alive. Diana decides to head to the “real world” with Trevor in hopes of killing Ares once and for all, while Trevor nods politely and realizes they’re essentially on the same mission—his being to thwart the Germans’ chemical weapons program, led by the evil General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and even evil-er Dr. Poison, Isabel Maru (Elena Anaya).
Once Diana and Trevor arrive in London, the movie picks up considerably, giving the soon-to-be Wonder Woman ample opportunity to scoff at society’s norms, particularly regarding the subservient standing of women. Trevor’s comical secretary Etta (Lucy Davis) takes a shine to Diana immediately and provides some much needed comic relief.
It’s not until Diana and Trevor reach the Western Front, however, that the movie really kicks into high gear. In an exquisitely shot sequence, Diana (appearing in her snazzy Wonder Woman costume for the first time) single-handedly takes on the balance of the German army, leading the Allies to victory in the battle.
The script by TV vet Allan Heinberg (Grey’s Anatomy, The O.C.) does drag in spots, and heaven knows it takes a while to get going, but the razor-sharp skewering of the testosterone-filled world is enough to fill the time until the good ol’ comic book action ramps up.
Director Patty Jenkins, whose lone feature film to date was 2003’s Monster with Charlize Theron, instantly proves her worth—not as a female director but as a director, period. From tightly choreographed fight scenes to a deft balance of comedy and social commentary, Wonder Woman easily bests anything to come out of the DC Universe so far.
That’s not saying much, admittedly, in the wake of the abject failures of not only Batman v. Superman but also 2016’s Suicide Squad and 2013’s Man of Steel, so I’ll instead say that Wonder Woman is a solid win. And with Gadot and Jenkins already on board for a sequel, DC may (may!) finally be on the right track.
Worth the 3D glasses?
There’s no shortage of bullets and arrows and swords flying at your head, but the real payoff comes on the Western Front, as Wonder Woman makes mincemeat of the German army. Drop the extra cash and don those specs.