In a culture overpopulated by comic book heroes and blockbuster franchises, Wonder Woman stands a little above the pack – mostly, due to the talent behind the camera (Patty Jenkins, director of Monster) and a rousing leading lady played by Gal Gadot.
Much like many of the other superhero characters, Wonder Woman – AKA Diana – has a fairly routine and occasionally silly origin story. She lives among the Amazonian women – created by Zeus to be protectors of the world against that god’s son, Ares (the god of war) – on a secluded island, where she trains with the army’s leader (Robin Wright Penn) of her civilization to be a warrior, much to the chagrin of her queen mother (Connie Nielsen).
The outside world doesn’t exist for Diana – that is, until one day a plane crashes carrying a man named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American spy working for the British during World War II who has stolen secrets from the Germans, including a nasty chemical weapon that a Nazi general named Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and a mad scientist with a disfigured face known as Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya) want to drop on soldiers at the front line, but have no problem tossing it on civilians either.
Much like Superman, another of DC Comics’ roster who has gotten the cinematic reboot in recent years, Diana is a noble individual somewhat disconnected from the human world who sees good in mankind, but struggles to understand its cruelty. Her bravery is first displayed during an action sequence that ranks among the film’s best when she’s down in the ditches with soldiers during a battle and, against their suggestions, crosses over into a “no man’s land” that she is told is impossible to save.
During another sequence, Diana storms into a room filled with strategizing British generals who make orders from behind closed doors, while men are sent out to die in their names – although this might have been more pertinent in a World War I picture, but I digress. Regardless, Diana’s refusal to be bossed around by men makes her an interesting figure in the mostly male-dominated comic book universe. She’s a strong woman with a moral compass who doesn’t take marching orders from her male counterparts – or female ones either, honestly.
The film is filled with the typical action sequences, including one against Ares at the finale that, perhaps, utilizes CGI a little too heavily and features one too many large objects (tanks, pieces of concrete) being flung back and forth between the Amazonian and the god. But nevertheless, Wonder Woman is a mostly entertaining blockbuster. It helps that its hero is upright without being boringly so, amusingly naive and well played by Gadot, who is a charismatic and sympathetic lead.
The recent entries in the DC canon have ranged from flaming misfires (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad) to pretty decent (Man of Steel), although none of them can touch Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. However, Wonder Woman is the second best of that bunch as well as one of the few big budget action spectacles this year that I can recommend.