After four films, DC finally appears to be getting one right in the form of Wonder Woman. As the only bright spot in last year’s colossal blockbuster mess, Batman v. Superman, director Patty Jenkins delivers a satisfying, standalone superhero movie.
Diana Prince, Wonder Woman’s alter ego, has one of the more challenging origin stories to pull off – Diana is princess of the Amazons, the warrior women from Ancient Greek myths, and spends most of her life on their island home of Themyscira, free and safe in their paradise away from men. What had the potential to come off as hokey, cheesy, or worse a straight man’s fantasy, is pulled off for the most part, and also passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors.
The beginning drags a little, lots of shots of the beautiful, paradise of the island, and setting up the tension between Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and General Antiope (Robin Wright), Diana’s mother and aunt, who butt heads about how best to raise Diana, which while nice, don’t feel completely necessary to the story as a whole.
The story picks up once Steve Trevor (yes, another Chris playing a Steve) crash lands on Themyscira, bringing WWI right to Diana’s door. Heeding the call to action, Diana leaves behind the comfort and safety of her home, to end the war.
There are a lot of great, light hearted moments, as Diana encounters the “modern” world. From being confused and frustrated about how women are expected to dress, to how to navigate a revolving door, there is a sincere pleasure in watching an unaware Diana blunder past the societal expectations of women to have a shouting match with Steve about honor in war, and the importance of lives, after a bad encounter with a few British Generals.
Chris Pine plays off of Gadot well, flipping the typical gender roles, often being the damoiseau (the male equivalent of a damsel) in distress. While their chemistry isn’t completely believable, they seem like comrades in arms and loyal friends more often than actual lovers, it works well enough that the viewer is willing to go along with it, if only to see Steve become flustered by Diana for one more scene.
The plot is not original overall. Most moviegoers are familiar with a clueless god trying to make sense of the world they’ve stumbled into (Thor) and a character gifted with superhuman abilities fighting on the side of justice and fairness in a World War (Captain America), but the combination of Gadot’s fresh take on Wonder Woman makes the plot worth hearing again.
Another thing to applaud is the blessed lack of oversexualizing Wonder Woman as a character. Is her outfit a little skimpy? Yes, but all of the fight scenes focus more on Gal Gadot’s athleticism, showing off what her body can do, rather than what her body looks like, a refreshing change from Harlequin’s CGI-shortened booty shorts.The same can be said for the fight scenes on Themyscira. At no point did it feel like any woman was being objectified or being turned into an object. Instead, they were to be marveled at for what they could do, and who they were.
Though Wonder Woman has some bumps, the strong performance from Gal Gadot makes the movie an overall enjoyable experience, and is a sign that DC might be righting the ship. At the very least, they will continue to have at least one interesting character to work with in the upcoming Justice League.