‘Wonder Woman’ whips DC Comics franchise into shape
Sometimes it takes a woman to do a man’s job, or rather a superhero’s job.
That definitely seems to be the case for DC Comics, which critically struck out with its recent re-boots “Man of Steel,” “Batman v. Superman,” and “Suicide Squad.”
“Wonder Woman” is more fun and entertaining than all three of those movies combined. It’s so good, in fact, you’d swear it was a Marvel film.
Because this is an origin story, we learn that Diana — never called Wonder Woman in the movie — has lived her entire life with her mother Hippolyta and a band of Amazonian women on an island uninhabited by men.
She is trained to be a great warrior but her mother has a warning:
“Be careful of mankind, Diana … They do not deserve you.”
When an American pilot in World War 1 crashes into the seas off the coast of this mysterious island, Diana rescues him and is suddenly plunged into the world of men and mankind and its awful history, specifically World War 1 history.
The key to the film’s success, not surprisingly, is Wonder Woman herself. It may go too far to say this comic book character is complex, but she’s pleasingly many-sided. Diana is alternately strong and naive, noble and foolish, fearless and clueless, sexy and chaste. Because Wonder Woman is all these things, that allows the movie itself to be simultaneously stirring and funny and visceral and thought-provoking.
Few action heroes can match the inspirational heroics of Diana leading a charge from the frontline trenches through the appropriately named No Man’s Land to raid a German stronghold, or Diana launching herself up to a village bell tower to overwhelm a German sniper.
As we cheer her bravery, we are also charmed by her lack of worldliness. She’s absolutely delighted by her first-time experiences with commonplace things such as ice cream and snow, thoroughly perplexed by women’s fashion, and downright fascinated by these strange creatures called men.
“Have you never met a man before? What about your father?”
“I have no father. I was brought to life by Zeus.”
The brilliant casting of newcomer Gal Gadot ensures that the varied hues of Diana are on full display. This 5’10” Israeli actress simply owns the screen. She’s a charismatic knock-out, whether decked out in skimpy warrior armor, a full-length woolen Edwardian outfit, or a bright-blue fancy ball gown.
Crucially, Gadot is equally convincing as a kick-ass heroine and a charming innocent. Both fisticuffs and screwball comedy seem to become her.
Chris Pine, as the American pilot, is a nice complement to Gadot’s Wonder Woman. He’s a little full of himself in the beginning but he quickly realizes Diana is no damsel in distress. It turns out their relationship is at the heart of the movie thematically.
The film is not without its flaws. The climactic feels overly familiar and the end is a little too insistently hokey. But the overall tone is witty enough and cheery enough to make us forget the dreariness of its DC predecessors and give us hope for the upcoming Justice League movie, which will be the next time we get to see Gadot’s Wonder Woman in action.