I am baffled by the popularity of Super Hero movies. I keep thinking, hoping, it’s just a phase. If it is a phase; it doesn’t seem to have an end in sight. I’ve often considered going to a Super Hero movie in the past and I have almost gone a handful of times, but alas have never bought a ticket. I always opt for the film about real people with real problems and no CGI; but even the valiant fall. I caved and went to the newest box office sensation Wonder Woman.
The stunning, charismatic Gal Gadot plays the titular character, a/k/a Diana Prince. Diana is an Amazon princess, who was raised on the island of Themyscira. Her mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) is queen of the Island and her aunt is General Antiope (Robin Wright), she is also her trainer/traitor preparing her to be a warrior. The film is set in 1918, but you don’t realize this until a hunky blue-eyed WWI soldier crashes his warplane off the coast. Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) is almost as pretty as Gadot, and is lucky enough to be rescued from downing by her; as Diana performs her first official act of superherodom. They both look great wet.
Diana defies her mother’s command to not leave the island and teams up with Steve to try and stop the Great War. I clearly don’t understand the language of super hero movies; when Steve gives a statistic about the casualty number of WWI that is both inaccurate and that he wouldn’t have knowledge of until years after the war, I scoffed. However, when he and Diana sail from what I believed to be a mythical paradise island that appears to be in another climate zone to downtown London with no complications, I get it. Throw realism and expectation out the window.
In England Steve and Diana continue their maverick and rebellious save the world shenanigans when Steve defies authority and assembles a motley crew of crusaders with Diana to go directly to the front. Here, firsthand Diana witnesses the horrors of war, and is outraged by the apparent apathy and futility of the Allies to rescue a village in France held in servitude by the Germans. Have no fear, she is a superhero after all, and a thrilling sequence that swirls with comic book colors and noise as she battles a gaggle of Germans, and proves good can triumph, blazes across the screen in cinematic fury. She not only is physically impressive during this sequence, but Wonder Woman’s conviction and commitment to doing the right thing reflects badly on humankind’s lack of courage and conviction.
Directed by Patty Jenkins, whose only other feature film (according to IMDB-many impressive TV credits) is the fabulous 2003 Oscar winning Monster; the film never overplays its feminist hand, nor does it shy away from the oppression women have faced in society. Gadot plays the great heroine deftly; she is strong, funny, charming, beautiful, naive, feminine and compassionate- a warrior for all time. She is poised for super stardom. I am sure there are critics or even audience members who may scrutinize the film to see if they can detect the mark of a female director; this scrutiny is sexist in itself. However I did notice a bit of beguilement in the camera’s eye in some close-ups of the leading man, Pike; which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Ultimately how much you like Wonder Woman may depend on how much you like superhero movies, and I might be the only one on the planet who doesn’t love them. For me, they are very simplistic and repetitive, I found this repetition especially vexing in the destined climatic battle between good and evil. But even someone who doesn’t love the genre, will most likely fall for this well-crafted, visually thrilling, fast moving cinematic comic book. Just smart enough to be interesting, but not too smart to be pretentious, its heart is in the right place and its thematic takes on the evil and good in all of us, if not hugely original or complex, is always relevant. Stick around for the end credit sequence; it’s spectacular.