“Wonder Woman” opens in Paris at the Louvre. It’s present day and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) is at the office, doing her archival thing, when a package from Bruce Wayne arrives. As one might expect, this package arrives via armored vehicle, in a locked briefcase with an armed escort. Upon receipt, Diana unceremoniously opens the case and is immediately taken aback by the sight of its contents. It’s the original photo of Diana, in her Wonder Woman outfit, flanked by an unlikely grouping of gents. Director Patty Jenkins then transports us from present day to Diana’s childhood on the island of Themyscira.
Themyscira is beautiful, peppered with majestic waterfalls and outlined in pristine beaches. It’s also the land of the Amazons. Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) is the queen here and she’s also Diana’s mother. She’s hyper protective of her daughter and insists Diana stay away from warrior training. Antiope (Robin Wright) is Diana’s aunt and a warrior. She trains all soliders as she is the general of Hippolyta’s army. Fortunately for everyone, Themyscira is protected by a magical shield that makes it invisible to the outside world. It’s permeable, but if no one knows you’re there, they’re unlikely to come looking. It’s in this supremely sheltered environment that Diana grows and thrives.
Over time, it becomes evident that Antiope has been expertly training the princess. Antiope always conveys a sense of urgency when training her niece. She seems aware of a truth that Diana isn’t yet ready to face. And so, she teaches her to fight, to defend and protect herself. She instills in the young princess that she is stronger than she realizes, always mindful to remind her that one day she’ll undoubtedly be called into action. All that empowering goodness is interrupted one day when USAF fighter pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) comes crashing through Themyscira’s invisibility shield.
Steve Trevor is one of the good guys. The Nazis are the bad guys. Steve’s a spy and so he’s flying a Nazi plane when he crashes into the ocean just missing the shore. Unfortunately, he becomes trapped in the cockpit of his plane, stuck under a piece of mangled metal. He tries desperately to escape from what’s left of his plane before it’s completely submerged but fails. Just as he goes limp, Diana bursts onto the scene and saves his life. There’s no time to celebrate because the Nazi regime is on Steve’s tail and they’re not messing around. Through sheer dumb luck the Nazis find their way to Steve & Diana and promptly open fire. The Amazon army isn’t far behind and an awesome battle ensues.
The Amazons kick ass and Diana & Steve are safe for now, but it isn’t long before Diana realizes that she must leave her homeland to help Steve end World War I and save all of mankind. "Wonder Woman" is Diana Prince’s origin story. It’s the story of a super hero’s self-realization and the triumph of good over evil, love over hate. It’s everything one might expect from a super hero origin story, both good and bad. However, the good far outweighs the bad.
Gal Gadot is it. There’s really no other way to put it. She brings the necessary wide-eyed innocence without being cliché or obnoxious about it. She's instantly likeable so you’re rooting for her character from the get go. In addition, her action sequences are seamless. Gadot’s execution is precise yet forceful. She’s a strong lead in every sense, and Patty Jenkins showcases her expertly, never once exploiting her physique.
The entire supporting cast is impressive to say the least. Chris Pine summons a bygone-era charm to play Steve Trevor and it works. Pine and Gadot manage to make the most of their on-screen chemistry while maintaining an innocence to their exchanges. All of this makes for compelling storytelling. Gadot and Pine bounce off one another with witty banter just as deftly as any buddy movie duo. Not only is Pine a great leading man, he’s an excellent sidekick. That is, even the love interest has depth, and how refreshing is that?
Can I get a round of applause for character development in a super hero movie?
One of the things I complain about most when it comes to movies from this genre is lack of character development. You can stuff a movie full of exhilarating fight scenes, shoot outs and car chases but if the characters aren't fleshed out, it'll always fall a little flat. I was hoping this wouldn’t be the case with “Wonder Woman” and low and behold, it wasn’t. I watched Diana grow, learn and train. I cheered her on, laughed and cried with her. I was invested.
Conversely, remember that thing I said about “Wonder Woman” being everything you’d expect from a super hero origin story? About that: This movie is long as hell. It feels like two hours and twenty minutes, more like three if you take into consideration the trailers and such. As a result, there might be a moment or two where you think to yourself, “WTH time is it and will it be dark when I finally leave this place?” The other thing that irked me was the villain. I'm unsure how to explain this further without spoilers, so I won't. All in all, he came across as weak. With that said, "Wonder Woman" is monumental. I’ll give you a second to get the eye roll out of your system. How about I meet you at the start of the next paragraph when you’re done?
Brace yourself though because it’s about to get worse.
I was totally one of those chicks that cried during the movie. Normally that isn’t much of an achievement. I can, will and do cry at the drop of a hat and I’m not even ashamed. With that in mind, I wasn’t too surprised when my eyes welled up the first time Wonder Woman unleashed her fury. Then it happened again, and again, and again. Every damn time the super hero music swelled and Wonder Woman wound up to unleash holy hell on her enemies, I teared up a little. Didn't even try to hide it. For once it was a woman and it felt like magic.
I’ve been demanding (i.e. shouting demands futilely into the void) a new approach to super hero flicks for some time and I am happy to report Patty Jenkins just delivered--big time.
Wonder Woman (2017) – A