“Wonder Woman,” starring Israeli Gal Gadot, is on track to be the biggest success ever for a female-led comic-book movie, so the AJT is doing something different in reviewing the film: offering perspectives from a woman (Elizabeth Friedly) and a man (Michael Jacobs) to test whether the different sexes see this superhero saga differently.
The official-unofficial tagline of “Wonder Woman” has been variations on the cliché of “breaking the mold.”
After all, it’s the first film in the DC Extended Universe DCEU to have a female lead and the first Wonder Woman film, in addition to being directed by a woman (Patty Jenkins). Yet in many ways, it’s indiscernible from other formulaic superhero films, and therein lies its particular triumph.
“Wonder Woman” normalizes female superheroes with its own enthusiasm and style.
After DC Comics’ reboot of “Batman” and Marvel’s 15-plus superhero films, seeing Wonder Woman in battle manages to feel like a rare treat. Gal Gadot defies initial expectations. At nearly 6 feet tall, she uses her build and naturally arresting angles to create a believably lethal Amazon warrior.
Surprisingly, Chris Pine as Steve Trevor (Wonder Woman’s eventual love interest) offers one of the film’s most moving scenes. Additionally, Trevor’s band of often merry men provides another unexpected bright spot in today’s world of exceedingly bland background characters. “Wonder Woman” is one of the few recent hero flicks to address race or diversity through dialogue, witnessed via a Native American soldier and a Middle Eastern actor-turned-spy.
None of the performances is lacking. Rest assured, the final villain — although restrained — delivers a worthy climax to Princess Diana of Themyscira’s origin film.
“Wonder Woman” allows us to watch as Diana comes to grips with her identity and her powers. Said abilities only become more and more spectacular with each altercation, with wonderful results. It is undoubtedly a standard-bearer for the DCEU and arguably the genre at large.
It’s pointless and perhaps sexist to compare “Wonder Woman” with the few previous movies featuring a female superhero, such as the wretched “Supergirl” from 1984 or the horrid “Catwoman” from 2004; none of them is in the same class as this new wonder.
The question is how high on the list of all superhero films to rank Gal Gadot’s breakout showcase.
In the DC universe, neither “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” nor “Suicide Squad” can hold a golden lasso to “Wonder Woman.” Only “Batman” with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson and Christopher Reeve’s first two turns as Superman and Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy provide the same level of entertainment.
But “Wonder Woman,” the story of an Amazon princess (Diana) who has lived her whole life on a hidden island and doesn’t know what a wristwatch is but is fluent in more than 100 languages, has far fewer plot holes and features more logical consistency than any of its DC predecessors. And Gadot delivers the most likable, charming DC hero since Reeve’s Clark Kent first showed up at The Daily Planet in 1978.
“Wonder Woman” gets points in this centennial year of the U.S. entry into World War I for setting a superhero origin story in the Great War. It’s fresh territory for Wonder Woman herself — created in 1941 and shown in World War II and the contemporary world when memorably played by Lynda Carter on TV — and for superhero stories in general. The World War I setting also avoids letting the Nazis off the hook for being under the influence of Ares, the Greek god of war and the sworn enemy of the Amazons.
“Wonder Woman” has its flaws, beyond Diana’s confusing mix of knowledge and naivete about the modern world. The superhero special effects are jumpy at times, and Ares in the climactic fight acts and looks just like Magneto from the “X-Men” movies.
But “Wonder Woman” offers the best hope yet that the “Justice League” series will be a match for Marvel’s “Avengers” films.