Still from 2017's "Wonder Woman."

Wonder Woman June 21, 2017        

DIRECTED BY

Patty Jenkins

 

STARRING

Gal Gadot

Chris Pine

Connie Nielsen

Robin Wright

David Thewlis

Danny Huston

Elena Anaya

Ewen Bremner

Saïd Taghmaoui

Eugene Brave Rock

Lucy Davis

 

RATED

PG-13

 

RELEASED IN

2017

 

RUNNING TIME

2 Hrs., 21 Mins.

But as the last few weeks have reminded me time and time again, whether statements be made by mainstream publications or from superfans fueled by their satisfaction, Wonder Woman has decidedly not followed in the footsteps of its slogging DC predecessors. It has taken the road less traveled, deciding to characterize itself as a lark rather than as a moping, grit-infused “epic” trying its hardest to appear ambitious.

 

Because I like my superhero movies simplistic and lighthearted, Wonder Woman is a dream: it’s light on self-satisfying regality and heavy on wit and sprightly action. It’s refreshing partially because it isn’t concerned by the present-day goings-on faced by Superman and company, partially because it never takes itself too seriously and has a lot of fun showcasing the versatility of the revelatory Gal Gadot. Fans of the eponymous icon and/or the wider DC universe will be thrilled.

 

Wonder Woman is an origin story that brings new life to the generally tired term. In the film, Diana Prince (or, as we more easily recognize her, Wonder Woman) is prompted to reflect on her life after receiving a century-old photograph from Bruce Wayne in the mail.

 

We’re transported all the way back to her upbringing on the secret island of Themyscira, a region incepted by Zeus to home a superior race of Amazonian warrior women. For years, it has remained its own Shangri-La, secluded but idyllic. Prince is the first child ever raised there – she is the daughter of the isle’s queen, Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), and was, as she so proudly proclaims to anyone who doesn’t know her, sculpted out of clay and brought to life by Zeus.

 

Given her inadvertent preciousness, Hippolyta refuses to train her to become unified with the other warrior women in Themyscira. But Prince, brash from the moment she was brought to life, quietly convinces her powerful aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright), to prepare her for any battle that might come her way. The film then jumps ahead decades (or centuries – the Amazonians age too slowly for us to really know) and sees Prince become the powerhouse we currently know her as. That comes in handy, then, because her coming into her own coincides with an invasion of the island. Sort of: American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands in Themyscira’s choppy waters and is followed by enemy Germans.

 

This leads to a frantic battle between the Amazonians and the Germans, and also establishes the era in which the film’s set: WWI. Trevor is brought in for questioning. And after it’s revealed that the entire globe is under duress, Prince finds herself unwilling to stay put. She’s desperate to bring peace to her human counterparts.

 

And so begins a journey worth celebrating, namely because the adventure is so entertaining (think 1950s adventure movie until the finale reminds us how big an expensive spectacle can get) but also because it gets so many firsts out of the way without batting an eyelash. Wonder Woman is the first major superhero movie fronted by a female protagonist and is the first Hollywood blockbuster (and comic-book feature) directed by a woman (Patty Jenkins, the filmmaker behind 2003’s lauded Monster). That it took so long is dumbfounding. But Wonder Woman is certainly worth the wait and will undoubtedly become a hallmark for film historians to fondle. All is enhanced by the fact that the film’s plot allows for a female wunderkind to rewrite history. It has some problems with drawn-out exposition and with backstory sometimes a little more in-depth than it really has to be, and is slightly dampened by a high-action conclusion that drags with its lack of humor and lumbering pace.

 

But so much of Wonder Woman is exquisite: Gadot is magnificent, as adept of an action heroine as she is a comedienne (she embodies humorous earnestness beautifully), and Pine is surprisingly lovable in a role actresses have had to toy with for decades. He’s put in the usually thankless girlfriend role, but he brings ample charisma to it and has convincing chemistry with his leading lady. For now, I can’t be bothered to pretend to be interested in the lives of any of DC’s other heroes. Frequently housing them are bland, tiresomely bleak operas, and I couldn’t care less about what emotions Batman and Superman are dealing with. But I can be bothered to declare my admiration for Diana Prince and her superheroine alter ego. A sequel to Wonder Woman is all I can yearn for in the present. B+

A

fter witnessing the disaster that was Suicide Squad (2016) firsthand and hearing the less than so-so reception to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) secondhand, I didn’t feel much gnawing anticipation following the release of trailers for the new Wonder Woman (2017) movie. With DC’s track record rocky, I refrained from getting too excited as a precaution for disappointment.