Movie Review: Wonder Woman
In “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” Wonder Woman makes a striking entrance on the battleground. Gal Gadot looks fantastic as a warrior princess and more than holds her own, fighting alongside Superman and Batman. She was, in fact, the highlight of that movie.
“Wonder Woman” is arguably the most anticipated movie of the year, or dare I say, generations. Even as superhero movies have reigned supreme, there hasn’t been a credible one with a female lead. Now that “Wonder Woman” has arrived at the theaters, how does her origin story fare? In a word, wondrous.
Formed from clay and brought to life by Zeus, Diana was raised in Themyscira, a hidden island inhabited by all-female Amazonian warriors. The island is a breathtaking sight, with soaring stone walls, clifftop meadows and craggy sea cliffs towering over azure waters. Life is paradise.
The leaders, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and General Antiope (Robin Wright), have divergent point of views about how to raise Diana. As her mother, Hippolyta wants to protect Diana from the world, whereas Antiope believes that the best way to truly protect her is to train her to be a strong warrior so that she can defend herself should the situation ever calls for it. Young Diana, who has the aptitude for fighting skills, is eventually trained and trained harder than any other and grows up to be the fiercest fighter.
When a plane crash lands into the island, carrying a British pilot and spy, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine, “The Finest Hours,” “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,” “Unstoppable“), Diana plunges into sea and saves his life. Steve is not alone, however. Hot on his trail is the German army, hunting him down for a notebook that belongs to General Ludendorff (Danny Huston). The notebooks contains the work of a malicious chemist, Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya). They are building a chemical weapon, poison gas that would annihilate everyone on its path.
A shoreside fight between the Amazonians and the armed soldiers ensues. Even with a dazzling display of balletic combat and archery dexterity by the warrios, there are casualties on the Amazonians’ side.
Diana, raised with a belief that Ares, the God of War vanquished by Zeus, may still be alive and return to corrupt and harm mankind, grabs a special sword, shield and lasso and sails off with Steve, following him back to London. She naively believes that Ludendorff is Ares and that if she defeats him, his death would end all wars. In reality, things are not that simple, of course.
Back in the modern world, Steve is not able to convince the government about his plan to take down Ludendorff. He goes rogue and recruits a few good men to embark on his own mission. Diana, tagging along for the journey, is shaken by the horrors of the war, encountering the wounded and the dead. Revealing herself as Wonder Woman, she is even more determined to save the world, first by crossing through No Man’s Land, fighting and dodging bullets, allowing a safer passage for the men. There is a high spot when she leaps from a makeshift shield and crashes into a tower.
The movie balances the dramatic (even very moving) scenes with comedic ones. Gadot and Pine share a natural chemistry. Any preconceived concerns about Gadot being cast as Wonder Woman will be gone. She is athletic and graceful, exudes the right amount of charisma, innocence and conviction. There is a sense of exuberance lighting her spirit. A capable and credible fighter with a heroic heart, she chooses to venture into the world truly out of a sense of moral duty.
Pine’s Steve is world-weary, courageous, charming and humorous. He is not merely a comical sidekick or damsel in distress here. As a matter of fact, based on his selfless, valiant actions to stop the genocide, he is a hero in his own right.
The fish-out-water scenes, where Diana encounters a man for the first time and not quite knowing how to act in the men’s world, bring the needed levity that prevent the movie (essentially a war movie along the lines of “Captain America: The First Avenger“) from being dark and grim.
The action scenes and visual effects are triumphant. The glorious soundtrack is particularly memorable. But more importantly, as promised by director Patty Jenkins, the story has heart, humor, heroism and humanity. It’s a superhero fantasy adventure, war drama, action and romance with a heroine that embodies truth, peace, love, courage and compassion. Even with all the darkness in the world, we can always choose light.
“Wonder Woman,” simply put, is a wonder.