The greatest wonder of all in regards to the new "Wonder Woman" (opening today), is how it took this long to finally bring a female superhero to the forefront of a comic book movie. Thus far, it's been a man's world when it comes to superhero films, but DC finally delivers a proud, strong, female character (helped out by a strong, talented female lead) in their second "DC Universe" film (following the poorly received "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" last year). The problem is that other than the gender reversal, "Wonder Woman" does little else that feels fresh, and the hokey backstory dealing with Greek Gods and Goddesses feels implausible when you consider that it is supposed to exist in the same space as Gotham City.
But wow, Gal Gadot. An absolutely stunning beauty, the Israeli actress was always a stand-out in the "Fast & Furious" movies (and our impressive first look at her as Wonder Woman in "Batman v Superman" was one of the few things critics could agree on). But here, Gadot proves to be an A-List star, and good enough of an actress to carry a major blockbuster. Her unmistakable accent is covered up in the movie by giving all of the Amazonian women similar accents, adding to the exotic origins of our heroine. She is some kind of rare specimen, that's for sure. And as Diana (aka Wonder Woman), she will surely be an inspiring role model for young girls, and will captivate the minds of young boys as well.
The good news is that Diana is an excellent superhero. Chris Pine plays her love interest, Steve Trevor, a spy for the Allied forces in Germany who crash-lands on Diana's magically hidden island during WWII. Yes, the film is set during the 1940s, because the entire thing is structured as a flashback...the "modern-day" Diana that we saw in "Batman v Superman" receives an old, worn-out photograph from Bruce Wayne (who is not seen in this film), showing Diana alongside Trevor and others. She glances at it, and it takes her (and us) back in time. This allows us to understand where Diana came from and what her relationship was with this man, but after meeting her in the last film, I would have much rather spent time with her in the present. Oh well. It looks like we'll have to wait for the "Justice League" film for any continuation of her character.
As the story goes, Diana is a direct descendant of Zeus, who had created an all-female race of warriors to influence the minds of mankind. Ares, the God of War, is the villain here...he goes against Zeus and vows to destroy the human race, or more specifically, to allow them to destroy themselves. Diana isn't told that she's a Goddess, although that might have been a helpful tidbit in her growth and training. Once Trevor crash lands, she journeys outside the magic bubble around her home-world, and smack-dab into the middle of the war.
Comic book movies are helped out greatly by the presence of super-cool villains, but so far the DC Universe has produced some of the worst (as in un-cool) baddies of all time. Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor was a painful caricature, and Danny Huston's Nazi General Ludendorff is just as lame. That, and if pitting Wonder Woman against Nazi forces in WWII just feels stale, that's because we've already seen the same thing with Marvel's "Captain America." There is some great action sequences and some very impressive, non-distracting CG throughout, but much of "Wonder Woman" just feels like stuff we've seen before in other, albeit male-driven, testosterone-laced movies.
Director Patty Jenkins does not flaunt Wonder Woman like a male director might have been tempted to, and in fact, she goes in the other direction. It's Chris Pine's "dude in distress" character that is objectified, in a awkward bathtub scene. This moment was one of the film's few attempts at lightening up the mood, but quite frankly it could have used many more of them. That's too bad, because so far the DC Universe seems to be taking itself way too seriously. Where Marvel is the cool kid in class cracking jokes at teacher, pocket-protector-wearing DC seems to have its nose stuck in a book, unable to have any fun.
"Wonder Woman" should rightly be applauded for finally giving us a female super-hero, but it's flaws cannot be denied. Through two DC movies at this point, we have been given some fairly thin, one-dimensional heroes to root for, pitted against some equally flimsy bad guys. Where we looked ahead with frantic anticipation for Marvel's "The Avengers," a film that would bring all of these fun heroes together in one film, does anybody share that same fervor for "Justice League"? So far, DC isn't creating the energy or momentum it needs to, and if "Wonder Woman" is any indication, it might take more than just a heroic effort to save this Universe from imploding.
Genre: Action, Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Run Time: 2 hours 21 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen
Directed by Patty Jenkins ("Monster")
This movie opens everywhere Friday, June 2, 2017 (check for showtimes).