Wonder Woman saves the season
The DC Universe gets the blast of fun it’s sorely needed with Wonder Woman, a film that gets it right on almost every front, and features a performance from Gal Gadot that makes it seem the role was her birthright. Gadot lights up the screen and commands the camera on a level with Christopher Reeve and Robert Downey, Jr. in their turns as super- heros. She owns the role. Game over.
There’s always that faction of fans who whine about superhero origin stories, wanting these films to jump straight to the hardcore action, but I love an origin story done well, and this is one of them. The movie starts with young Amazonian princess Diana running around in her island paradise, practicing her fight moves and yearning to be trained as a warrior. After butting heads with her sister Antiope (Robin Wright, rightfully cast as an Amazonian badass), Diana’s mother, Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen—more great casting), relents and allows Antiope to train Diana, as long as she doesn’t tell her about the true powers she possesses.
For those who don’t know the Wonder Woman backstory (I was a little rusty on it myself), it’s a sweet little piece of mythology and mystery, and director Patty Jenkins (Monster) perfectly paces all the revelations.
Diana eventually winds up in Europe during WWI along with Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), a wartime spy who crash lands on her island. Diana is convinced that the German military leader (Danny Huston) Steve is fighting is the war god Aries, and she intends to take him out. This all leads to miraculously cool scenes of Wonder Woman leading soldiers on the battlefield against the Germans, and it’s nothing short of exhilarating every time she springs into action.
Gadot has the best superhero smile since Reeve flashed his pearly whites in the original Superman (1978). When Reeve smiled, he just drove home the fact that he was Superman, the sweetest, best darned guy running around on planet Earth saving people. (You know, back when Superman was generally happy rather than moping about.) Gadot has that same kind of smile superpower.
It says a lot that Gadot and Jenkins make you feel good in a movie that has its share of violence and villainy in it. Huston is a super creep, and he and his evil sidekick Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) comprise the film’s main bad guys. Dr. Maru likes making poisonous gas and there are moments involving her evildoings that qualify as terrifying. Yet, no matter how dark the film gets, it remains an overall upbeat experience.
I will cite it for some occasionally terrible CGI special gaffes, although there are enough stellar effects to balance things out. Still, maybe this movie needed a few more months to bake in post-production because the shoddy moments are glaringly obvious. They don’t come close to spoiling the movie, but they make it fall short of excellent.
In addition to Gadot, Pine is a total charmer as the confused spy who winds up romancing a goddess, a love story handled in a way that qualifies as surprisingly convincing and adorable. Gadot and Pine make for one of the year’s winningest screen couples.
Perhaps some of the joy in this movie will make it into November’s Justice League, or future Superman movies. (Hey, Batman can mope. That’s his lot in life.) Wonder Woman gives the DC superhero crew a new lease on life, and gives the summer movie season the adrenaline boost it needed after the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie stunk up the place.