Before she was Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on a sheltered island paradise, Diana meets an American pilot (Chris Pine) who tells her about the massive conflict that’s raging in the outside world. Convinced that she can stop the threat, Diana leaves her home for the first time. Fighting alongside men in a war to end all wars, she finally discovers her full powers and true destiny.
There was a lot of pressure for “Wonder Woman” to be a hit. Not only have the previous entries of the DC Extended Universe been critical disappointments, but previous attempts at a female led comic book film have been financial and critical flops (“Catwoman” and “Elektra”). Thankfully, “Wonder Woman” is everything that the DCEU desperately needed. It’s as fun and exciting as it is emotionally compelling.
Director Patty Jenkins (“Monster”) gave her film an appropriate amount of humor and drama. Her direction is able to balance the fantastical quality of Themyscira and Wonder Woman’s powers and the bleakness of World War I. She grounds the story just enough so those who are unfamiliar can go along with it without laughing, essentially making a better “Thor” film than Marvel has so far. She’s also not afraid of giving her film breathing room to develop the characters and story, making the action scenes more worthwhile.
Jenkins’ action sequences sprinkled throughout are a blast to watch, but the stand-out sequence is the No Man’s Land set piece. Diana (Gal Gadot) has seen the wounded Allied soldiers and desperate villagers. She is told repeatedly that she can’t help them. Fed up with the situation, she decides to take action and steps out of the trenches and takes on the German soldiers on the other side. This sequence alone is marvelous, but it’s the fact that Jenkins built up to this moment that makes this one of the best set pieces of recent memory.
Gadot and Chris Pine truly shine in their respective roles. Gadot’s performance is full of joy and a strong desire to help the helpless, which evolves as she learns more about the world of mankind. Her performance has a level of likability reminiscent of Christopher Reeve in Richard Donner’s “Superman.” Gadot handles her action scenes well, but she also does an impressive job at giving her portrayal a level of naiveté that’s never annoying. This comes into play during her first moments in London where she has to learn about the harsh gender roles and fashion trends of the early 20th century.
Pine is charismatic as expected — having a lot of the film’s best laughs — and has great chemistry with Gadot. The pair play off each other so well, especially in scenes where they have to teach each other an aspect of their respective cultures. She teaches him the importance of standing up for what you believe in and he teaches her that in war, things aren’t black and white. The way their relationship complements each other gives the film an effective emotional weight that succeeds where so many superhero films struggle to achieve.
Rupert Gregson-Williams’ score is okay for the most part. It isn’t as independent as Hans Zimmer’s work on “Man of Steel,” but does the minimum required to get the job done. Thankfully, his score is saved by his use of Zimmer’s Wonder Woman theme introduced in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” This is due to how patient he is with how he uses it. It is introduced in the film only once Diana accepts her role as a beacon of hope and courage in a hopeless situation.
The elements that hold the film back are the weak villains and the climactic battle. Danny Huston plays an antagonist who’s too Saturday morning cartoon-like for the film’s tone and doesn’t have much depth. Whereas the climactic battle, while not awful, is nothing new to the superhero genre. Then there’s the undeniable similarities to “Captain America: The First Avenger,” which may deter some viewers. Both films take place in an older war setting and feature a similar cast of supporting characters (Captain America’s Howling Commandos and Trevor’s comrades).
“Wonder Woman” is a fantastic film that will excite moviegoers looking for something fresh in the superhero genre. Gadot and Pine are enjoyable to watch, Jenkins’ direction kept the narrative engaging and has a lot of heart. This film should win back viewers who have found the DCEU lackluster and will bring in more hype for “Justice League” coming out later this year. Hopefully, the success of this film will be the wake up call Hollywood needs to allow more opportunities for women in film to be in the spotlight.