If You've Not Seen Wonder Woman, Do So!


Directed by Patty Jenkins
Warner Brothers, 141 minutes, PG-13

Summer blockbusters and I are usually not on the best of terms, but I'll make an exception for Wonder Woman. Patty Jenkins is the first woman to direct a superhero film. It's a travesty that it has taken this long, but welcome to the club, Ms. Jenkins. May it never again be a fraternity.

One of the things that makes Wonder Woman work on the screen is that it's based on a comic book character. Unlike biographies, textbook myths, or reworked fantasy novels, comic books long ago abandoned official single narratives. These are not your grandmother's super heroes—at least not entirely. It's a multiverse out there, folks, so don't expect this Diana Prince to be like the William Moulton Marston original. (As those who've read Jill Lepore's The Secret History of Wonder Woman can attest, that's a good thing—Marston was a sick puppy!) Nor are the Amazons faithful to Greek mythology; DC Comics put its first spin on the Amazons in 1941 and it's been a gyroscope ever since.

Before I go one sentence deeper, let me utter the two words that assure you'll keep your eyes glued to the front: Gal Gadot. She is utterly riveting as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince and in ways that go well beyond her astonishing beauty. She plays with a full deck of emotions: steely, impulsive, moral, conflicted, fearless, vulnerable, calm, angry, determined, frustrated…. In other words, she has too much depth for us to see her as just a comic book character.

The story opens in Themyscyra, the island home of the Amazons—some of whom are mortal and some of whom are demigoddesses. It is a magical CGI-created Herland paradise of hills, greenery, waterfalls, and fantastical architecture ruled by Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). Most Amazons are born through asexual parthenogenesis, but a god fathered Hippolyta. Even Zeus is gone now, though, as he used the last of his power to bind Ares, the god of war. Only a select few know of Hippolyta's parentage, including General Antiope (Robin Wright), who relentlessly trains the Amazons in case Ares is ever unshackled. From an early age, Diana wishes to become a warrior, but her mother does not want her to know that she is a demigoddess. Diana has a mind of her own, however, and chooses to leave Themyscyra when the Amazon world is rocked by the appearance of Steve Trevor's plane bursting through its cloaking fog with a hot pursuit of Germans at his tail. The "war to end all war" (World War One) is underway and, though the Amazons have never heard of it, Diana's sense of justice is aroused and she's off the see what she can do, with shield, tiara, magic bracelets, and the lasso of Hestia in hand.

There are nice flashes of humor as Diana tries to learn human ways and Steve (Chris Pine) attempts to teach her, but this is a save-the-world action film that ranges from London, to Paris, and to Belgium. Along the way, Diana and Steve gather companions, Wizard of Oz style: Sameer (Said Taghmaoui), a Moroccan spy; Chief Napi (Eugene Brave Rock), who has secrets of his own; a Scot named Charlie (Ewen Bremmer), who'd be a sharpshooter if he didn't drink so much; and a British MP (David Thewlis), who clandestinely bankrolls their mission. You'd not think such a motley assortment would be much of a match against the pure evil of General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston), poison maven Isabel Maru (Elena Anaya), and the entire German military, but may I remind you that Wonder Woman is a super heroine?

Want to enjoy this film? Let go of your logic. Just do it. Let this big spectacle suck you in it. There is a lot of money on the screen. The credits roll forever and even if you only glance at them, you'll notice a veritable who's who of CGI, f/x, and animation worked on the film. I imagine that cinematographer Matthew Jensen and costume designer Linda Hemming submitted large invoices of their own. I even liked Rupert Gregson-Williams' grandiose score, though I'd like it even more if a future director's cut lost the god-awful Sia "To Be Human" track. But, really, this film has everything you could hope for in a summer blockbuster: lots of action, creepy villains, solid acting, characters with dimension, and a fabulous performance from Gadot. Did I mention that, at long last, we have a female who kicks butt? If you forget, millions of little girls across the globe are poised to remind you.

Rob Weir


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