You don’t want to read too much into these things, but after DC Comics’ bleak creative stumbles in establishing a shared movie world — the so-so “Man of Steel,” the bad “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and the awful “Suicide Squad” — it turns out all they really needed was a woman’s touch.
“Wonder Woman” finally brings the 77-year-old Amazon princess to the big screen in her own film (her brief appearance was one of the bright spots in “BvS”), and the result is not just one of the better origin stories but one of the most hopeful, positive superhero movies we’ve seen in a while. Directed by Patty Jenkins (“Monster”) from a screenplay by experienced comic scribe Allan Heinberg, the film maneuvers comfortably within the confines of the genre while offering enough that’s new and fresh to stand out from the DC and Marvel pack for reasons not related to gender.
Of course, it stands out for that reason, too, and doesn’t pretend otherwise. Women and men often have different ways of approaching the same problems — not for nothin’, but there’s isn’t much property destruction in this story — and I hope subsequent Wonder Woman appearances delve more into how a heroine’s thinking can be different from a hero’s, and how that can be helpful. Her credo isn’t based on justice, revenge, or strength, but on love. Surely this will have an impact on how the Justice League solves its problems.
The year is 1918, though we don’t know that yet. The lady we will come to know as Wonder Woman (she’s never called that here) is Diana, (Gal Gadot), who lives on a hidden island paradise inhabited by the Amazons, a race of women who were created by the Greek gods and still speak with Greek-adjacent accents. They are extremely well educated in the languages, arts, and sciences of mankind, and they’re aware of men’s biological purpose, but they’ve never dealt with them directly and have no need for them. (No, they don’t sit around all day talking about how much they hate men, either. We’re not on their minds at all, fellas. Sorry!)
“Man of Steel” (2013) B-
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016) C-
“Suicide Squad” (2017) D
“Wonder Woman” (2017) B+
Most Amazons are trained as warriors against the inevitable day that the island’s peace is ruptured, but Diana’s mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), wants a pacifist life for her special daughter. Yet Hippolyta’s warlike sister, Antiope (Robin Wright), sees potential greatness in her niece, especially when Diana exhibits supernatural powers during a training exercise. When an American World War I pilot named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) somehow stumbles into the island’s protective bubble (this is not explained), trailed by the Germans (ditto), the Amazons find that their arrows and spears, though wielded magnificently and filmed in awesome slow-motion, are no match for the Germans’ guns. Jenkins makes sure we understand how new and horrifying modern weaponry is to the old-school Amazons.
[Continue reading at Crooked Marquee.]
B+ (2 hrs., 21 min.; )