The film, inspired by the DC comic, is everything fans and moviegoers would want it to be: smart, swift, sometimes funny, occasionally dazzling and surprisingly soulful. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
Suffering Sappho! Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman” is that rarity: a superhero movie with a heart.
Though this heroine, in her trademark red-and-gold bustier, has been around for more than 75 years — making her debut in World War II-era comic books, where she was known to employ the expletive above — Wonder Woman, aka Diana, Princess of the Amazons, aka Diana Prince, is headlining her first feature film. And it’s everything fans and moviegoers would want it to be: smart, swift, sometimes funny, occasionally dazzling and surprisingly soulful. “I believe in love,” says this superhero (Gal Gadot), quietly; words stronger than any blow.
Jenkins, working from a screenplay by Allan Heinberg, smoothly establishes Diana’s story, doing the work of setting up a franchise while creating a movie that stands alone. (Technically it’s a prequel, following up on Wonder Woman’s debut in last year’s “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”) We begin with Diana’s origins, growing up in a woman-only island paradise populated by Amazons where she learns to be a warrior. The arrival of American fighter pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) quite literally seems to burst the blissful bubble of her life; she becomes aware that there’s a war being fought far away (World War I; shifting the timeline from the comic books), and that it’s her duty to end it.
Movie Review ★★★½
‘‘Wonder Woman” with Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielson, Elena Anaya, Ewen Bremner, Lucy Davis, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Said Taghmaoui, Eugene Brave Rock. Directed by Patty Jenkins, from a screenplay by Allan Heinberg, based on characters from DC. 141 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content. Several theaters.
In other words, it’s basically the same good-vs.-evil matchup that’s in every superhero movie, and nothing’s particularly surprising about the plot as it unfolds — particularly the villains (Danny Huston and Elena Anaya), who sneer valiantly but never quite emerge as distinctive. But it’s the mood, established by Jenkins and the actors, that makes this movie sing. The scenes on the females-only island are idyllic (Robin Wright and her cheekbones are perfectly cast as the warrior aunt who teaches Diana to fight); and the battle sequences have comic-book zippiness combined with a balletic grace — these Amazons are badasses who leap and whirl like dancers, zinging arrows and blows along the way.
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Pine, looking like the sort of impossibly handsome devil a comic-book artist might draw (seriously, that jawline is insane), is irresistible as Steve; at once hero, romantic partner and comic foil. “Nice outfit,” he deadpans, upon first seeing Diana’s Wonder Woman get-up; later, upon learning the details of Diana’s origins, he pauses deliciously and utters, “Well, that’s neat.” (Note to all future makers of superhero movies: Please make all “girlfriend” characters as rich — and as entertaining — as this one.)
And Gadot, in a starmaking role, effortlessly makes it her own; she has a gently raspy voice (you wonder who this warrior’s been yelling at), a tough-as-nails stare, and a way of projecting both endless strength and quiet vulnerability at the same time. (Watch in an early scene, as she realizes that she’s able to climb a wall: her sudden gasp of delight is a gem.) Diana’s a superhero without a chip on her shoulder; she was raised in love, and Gadot lets that belief shine through her eyes. You’re both drawn to this woman and in awe of her.
It’s nice to think that love — and strong women — can save the world; it’s invigorating to watch it happen, even if it’s just on a movie screen. Come back soon, Diana; the multiplexes need you.