by Hope Madden and George Wolf
What with rumors of recuts, controversies over costuming and the recent hubbub caused by all-female screenings, Wonder Woman has caused quite a stir.
Of course, she’s been causing a stir since 1941.
In the hotly anticipated film directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster), the Amazon princess is compelled to leave her peaceful paradise when WWI American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands. Learning for the first time about the global destruction, she sees it as her duty to try to end the war.
Gal Gadot returns, after a brief turn as the highlight in Batman V Superman, this time shouldering lead duties in the role she seemed destined for. Her action sequences are convincing – two years in the Israeli military will do that. Playing a newcomer to “civilized” society, Gadot finds an appropriate balance of naiveté and self-sufficiency.
Jenkins and screenwriter Allan Heinberg (in his film debut after an arc of WW comics and years in TV) also strike an effective balancing act with the multiple elements at work in their film: period war drama, sweeping romance, action film and superhero origin story.
That origin story, with an inherent freshness unburdened by multiple reboots, is part coming of age, part fish out of water. As it introduces a new hero and questions if the world deserves her, Wonder Woman benefits from a bit of easy charm and the deft handling of some touchy items.
Chris Pine is the charm. As the dashing Capt. Trevor, he carries self-aware good humor and comfortable chemistry with the lead, and he delivers a few of the film’s best lines.
As for Jenkins’s handling, there’s much to be said for the minefield she inherited with this project: the costume, the lasso – hell, the cartoon Wonder Woman has an invisible jet. There’s plenty to ridicule here, or, for a fanboy, to revere.
Jenkins, finding middle ground between Marvel’s wisecracking and DC’s weighty seriousness, inserts light humor, occasionally reverses traditional comic book gender roles with success, and still manages to simply craft a solid superhero movie.
She can’t escape the genre penchant for excess, and by the third act, Wonder Woman starts feeling every bit of its two-hour and twenty-minute running time. But there is definite hope here, not only for humanity, but the future of the DC film universe.