Release Date: June 2, 2017
Runtime: 141 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros.
Director: Patty Jenkins
Cast: Gal Gadot; Chris Pine; Connie Nielsen; Robin Wright; Danny Huston; David Thewlis; Saïd Taghmaoui; Ewen Bremner
All hail Wonder Woman!! After decades of development hell, the grand dame of DC Comics finally gets her own standalone movie…and what a movie it is! Easily taking her rightful place alongside (and surpassing, some would argue) the big screen treatments of her Justice League comrades, “Wonder Woman” is a knockout of an action movie, an origin story, and plain, old big budget popcorn entertainment.
A lengthy prologue introduces us to young Diana (Lilly Aspell), princess of the Amazons, a spunky youth raised in isolation on Themyscira, a secluded island somewhere in the Mediterranean inhabited exclusively by Amazon women. You see, Themyscira was created by Zeus (you remember him) after a cataclysmic war with Ares (god of war) in order to shield the Amazons from Ares’ inevitable return. On Themyscira, the women train as warriors in order to kick Ares’ ass when he returns. Diana is the daughter of Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), Queen of the Amazons, and is forbidden by her mother to train in combat. Nevertheless, Diana secretly trains with Antiope (Robin Wright, kicking ass!!) and in the ensuing years, grows up to become the incandescent Gal Gadot.
Skulking by the beach one day, Diana spies a rogue fighter plane that ends up crash-landing in the sea off the coast of Themyscira. (Never mind that Themyscira is shielded from the rest of the world in a bubble and it’s questionable how this one plane would somehow break the shield to crash-land in the island’s waters, but don’t lose sleep over details.) The pilot is one Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) whom Diana rescues from certain drowning. Having never seen a man before, Diana is intrigued – as are the rest of the Amazons, who question Steve using their good ol’ lasso of truth. Steve, it turns out, is an American spy working for the British during World War 1. After a cute getting-to-know-you scene where Diana encounters a naked Steve emerging from a bath, he explains the war to her and Diana, having been sheltered since birth and unaware of the outside world, is certain that the war is a result of Ares’ return and is convinced it is her destiny to defeat him and return the world to peace.
I won’t bother in this review joining the discussion about how this movie destroys preconceived notions regarding gender stereotypes or how the emergence of a (financially successful) female superhero movie shatters the glass ceiling of superhero movies…all of those topics have been discussed elsewhere by some excellent authors (do a Google search). What I will impart about “Wonder Woman” is that it is simply an enormously entertaining summer blockbuster. Director Patty Jenkins and screenwriter Allan Heinberg have crafted a rousing picture with more heart and soul than you typically see in a lot of movies of this type. The audience is truly drawn into the story and into the characters and their fates. This is one of those movies where you can tell that the entire cast had a great time working together: Gadot and Pine exhibit fantastic chemistry.
Speaking of Gal Gadot, it’s always a pleasure to watch a star-making role as it’s happening. A real life Amazonian goddess (she’s of Israeli descent), Gadot lends Diana pathos and hits all the right notes, especially when wandering around Victorian London with that wide-eyed look on her face reminiscent of your first trip to Manhattan. Chris Pine moves up a whole lotta notches in my book with his portrayal of Steve Trevor. More than ably embodying his role as the cocky wartime spy/love interest, Pine nonetheless seems to realize that this is Gadot’s movie and admirably steps aside and allows Wonder Woman to do her thing. It’s a joy to watch these two together.
While my only gripe is that the film tends to rely a little too much on the FX towards the end, it is a minor complaint for a film that gets so much right. This is a landmark film in the history of Hollywood movie making and one that deserves all of the kudos it receives. I can’t wait to see the franchise that follows.