“Wonder Woman” is good. Really good. Pure good.
It is to superhero cinema what Diana Prince is to the world: foreign but more than welcome.
For whereas comic books have panels for art, comic films seem to continually have boxes for checks: Painful past. Inherent flaw. Man. Check.
Not Diana’s Wonder Woman. What makes this hero super are her balances to those checks: her innocence and sensibility. That and a smile that could melt hearts and, if not, then a sword to pierce them.
It’s a combination that makes her first feature film strikingly different from the start. Although “Wonder Woman” shares some thematic themes with “Thor,” the underrated Marvel movie seemed overly obligated to bound its starry soldier to earthly elements—it opens in New Mexico.
Diana (Gal Gadot), on the other hand, might be of this world, but her mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielson) wants nothing to do with it. Hippolyta’s Amazon warriors train under the tutelage of her sister Antiope (Robin Wright) to protect their isolated island of Themyscira. It’s clear why: It’s serene, happy, and kind without man preceding it.
But that ends with the war to end all wars. When Allied pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands on Themyscira, Diana begins her emotional ordeal with death, duty, and, above all, love. In their early attempts to understand each other, it’s hard not to fall for Prince and pilot. And in what could appear to be banal banter, director Patty Jenkins makes a distinct departure from Hollywood’s other ridiculous reels: We laugh at the leads—not with them.
Cinema has become so cynical that outlandish storylines are increasingly going outside the fourth wall, winking at audiences to remind them that we’re all in on this joke together. “Jurassic Park” took itself seriously—“Jurassic World” did not. “King Kong” believed in its beauty—“King Kong: Skull Island” killed that beast.
“Wonder Woman” is a marvel of a movie for its ability to be fun and funny, yet it never makes fun of itself—a dramatic difference that differentiates this drama. From the moment Trevor and Diana leave Themyscira, it feels like an adventure akin to “Indiana Jones,” knowing full well what failure could found: the death of millions. It’s no joke.
And “Wonder Woman” never treats it as such. From her stand at No Man’s Land and sways in the snow to a shocking reveal, suffering casualties, and sacrifice, “Wonder Woman” is one of the most emotional entries in the comic cosmos and certainly in DC’s struggling “extended universe.”
But if the “Lasso of Truth” must be wielded, there are a couple snags in “Wonder Woman” that prompt some unfortunate snickers: questionable computer graphics and bad bad guys. General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) can come across as comical, almost intently so, reminiscent of Gene Hackman’s and Ned Beatty’s bumbling baddies in 1978’s “Superman.”
That negative aside, it’s not the only similarity it shares with “Wonder Woman.” Like Christopher Reeve’s Superman, Gadot’s Wonder Woman is naively good, with the might to do what’s right in a world weakened by so many wrongs.
It makes her story super. And with disciplined direction, an always serious score, and carefully crafted and cared-for characters, her movie is even more.
“Wonder Woman” is a wonder.
4.5 out of 5