‘Wonder Woman’ film review: An inspiring, fun adventure worthy of the iconic superhero
After years of dark and gritty superhero flicks, "Wonder Woman" (in theaters nationwide starting June 2) is refreshing in its simplicity: an uplifting hero embarks on a grand adventure to save the world.
In short: Set during the late years of World War I, Princess Diana (Gal Gadot) leaves the safety of her paradise island, hidden from the rest of the world, to join Allied spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) as they attempt to stop the German army from unleashing a terrible chemical weapon. Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis and Connie Nielsen also star.
It's weird to have to make this disclaimer, but this review will critique "Wonder Woman" in a vacuum, based solely on its strengths and weaknesses as a standalone movie. Long discussions can be had about the merits of representation, in seeing a female superhero kick ass, or how this entry compares to the rest of the DCEU films - but those discussions have an appropriate place elsewhere.
"Wonder Woman" takes a character of pure optimism and surrounds her with morally grey characters and throws her into one of the darkest eras of the 20th century. She is elementally a hero to her very core - it is the defining aspect of her nature even as a child. And it is this core integrity that is tested throughout her first adventure. Diana is principled - but the very first non-Amazon she meets is a morally flexible man who will do what needs to be done.
As the film progresses, it becomes clear that Diana is nigh invulnerable - but that was previously revealed in her "Batman v. Superman" cameo. The fact that she held her own against a monster that managed to kill the Man of Steel defuses some of the tension in "Wonder Woman." Thankfully, this film is aware the physical stakes do not exist for her - and the film instead directly challenges Diana's convictions.
Diana moves with a sense of duty. She has a clear sense of right and wrong. She acts when others hesitate. "Wonder Woman" throws everything at Diana to make her question her idealistic faith in humanity. While Diana cannot be physical broken, this film works because her journey threatens to break her spirit and resolve.
Gadot ("Fast Five") is perfectly cast as the Amazonian princess. She exudes curiosity and naiveté about the world outside Diana's island home - but Gadot absolutely rocks it as a headstrong warrior who would leap into battle.
This enjoyable action-adventure is not without its technical flaws. The antagonist operates in the background and pretty much has just one scene. The reveal of the real antagonist is a drawn out failed surprise - anyone even halfway awake will quickly figure out who is the villain. Some odd editing choices do the storytelling no favors (suspenseful moments are undercut by choppy cuts). While the climatic battle addresses Diana's arc as a character, the movie's ultimate resolution is a bit open-ended and somewhat anticlimactic. Does the world at large know about Wonder Woman or did she quietly stop her heroics after WWI until "Dawn of Justice"?
Final verdict: "Wonder Woman" rises above some technical missteps and a poorly defined villain to showcase an inspiring hero on a fun and exciting comic book adventure. Princess Diana of Themyscira is the hero the world needs.
The comic book adventure "Wonder Woman" opens in theaters on June 2. This film has a running time of 141 minutes and is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content.