At long last: we can rank a DCEU superhero movie over some of the best the MCU has to offer… and actually mean it.
Somewhere in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France, a courier delivers a briefcase to the offices of Diana Prince (Gal Gadot). Inside is a photograph taken a century earlier — of herself and four compatriots — yet she hasn’t aged a single day. Prompted by a note attached to the gift, Diana recalls the events that occurred before and after the plate image was exposed: being raised as the only child on an island of warrior women, hearing of “the war to end all wars” beyond the safety of their sanctuary borders, and leaving paradise behind to do what’s right. One of the men left a more lasting impression than the others: Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), the lens through which Diana learned what was good and evil in the hearts of all men… and her purpose in their world.
Seventy-five years is how long it took from the first appearance of Wonder Woman in the funny pages until her big screen debut headlining her own feature film. Her too-few scene-stealing appearances in Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice was one of the more compelling yet sadly unexplored treats of that movie — until now. With Marvel still unleashing men’s club origin stories, Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel years away, and studios waiting with bated breath to see if another lady-led franchise can duplicate the success of The Hunger Games, is it fate or fortune that Wonder Woman is finally being unleashed in 2017?
Here’s all you need to know: Gal Gadot IS Wonder Woman. She has the look, the attitude, and the moves — it feels as if the entire production was built around what this actor was capable of. A naive fish out of water but in no way foolish, she isn’t made the target of the joke; Diana asserts herself quickly with a bit more wisdom as she doles out kindness and empathy. In warrior mode, she’s all business; it makes sense that her armor — shin guards, bracers, and shield — are intended for forward defense because nothing is getting behind her once she charges in. With the exception of the mandatory too-much CGI final battle scene, each escalating conquest seems perfectly plausible as Diana grows into an unstoppable force of nature. That said, even the climatic über special effects are forgivable because the importance of that scene still pushes through. Gadot shines through it all; you can’t help but love her.
While Zack Snyder took one of the five story credits, director Patty Jenkins gets the brass ring for propelling a straightforward origin story into a showcase for an Amazon, flipping standard conventions against the exploitation women endure in other films. Example: remember how Jessica Alba always wound up becoming visible while naked as Sue Storm in not one but both of her Fantastic Four movies? In contrast, Chris Pine ends up being the target of such embarrassments — even a little light bondage — but no one ridicules or ogles him for being caught in such compromising positions; his captors are above that.
Even with a typical hero’s journey setup in flashback, Wonder Woman manages a few surprises; clues are given, but only the very clever will put them together. There’s so little to nitpick that one might worry how the obligatory sequel will manage to follow a film this well-constructed and tightly edited. While it’s amusing this incarnation of Wonder Woman could actually defeat both Batman and Superman, it’s even funnier her feature film could kick both their asses as well.
Wonder Woman is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some suggestive content, and charging ahead while everyone else stays behind.
4 Skull Recommendation Out of Four