Aaahh! Where did I park the jet?
I cut my superhero teeth on three of the ’70s’ greatest heroes—Christopher Reeve’s Superman, Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk and Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman. With the MCU’s Hulk having reached big-screen perfection after a rough solo start (and restart), and Superman still seeking a better return than either Superman Returns or Man of Steel (I highly prefer the Donner-revering former than Zack Snyder’s moody latter), Wonder Woman’s initial solo adventure was greeted with trepidations as high as expectations. The one-two sucker punch of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman certainly did not help, though Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was the latter’s strongest point.
So how is Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman? The cinematic version of DC’s greatest female superhero is the film Superman deserved, and I doubt Supes minds too much. Wonder Woman does not belabor Diana’s Amazonian origin story, which features a blast of a training sequence with a sturdy, scarred Robin Wright, and she quickly leaves her hidden home island of Themyscira to join World War I. A German attack on her homeland fits the Amazonian legend that the God of War, Ares, will return to lead mankind into endless war.
Naturally, Wonder Woman takes it upon herself to save the world, a lesson that could be learned by her male colleagues in the yet-to-be-formed Justice League (though the jury is still out on the optimism of Flash and Aquaman). Wonder Woman even jabs, “I’m the men who can,” a statement that sums up the enormous, Superman-rivaling might of this hero in both her world and popular culture—sadly, as female superheroes are rare.
With Wonder Woman, the DCEU finally shows an understanding that modern audiences do not need superheroes to be complicated to believe in them; they just need them to be heroic. Wonder Woman displays more hope than her higher-profile male counterparts have since Superman Returns. (The Dark Knight Trilogy is a comic-to-film masterpiece, but Batman typically is not the most hopeful of heroes.)
Israeli-born actress Gadot conveys both the innocence to power through Diana’s fish-out-of-water London experience and the toughness to sell her brash, daring crossing of No Man’s Land (get it?). Gadot is the most heartening hero since Chris Evans’ period Cap, who had Nazis, the most clear-cut baddies, to batter; Wonder Woman accomplishes her rosy world-saving against World War I Germans, who are not nearly as abjectly evil. It is hard to hate on Chris Pine, a confident second fiddle as Capt. Steve Trevor. Smartly, he is also not an in-your-face love interest.
Wonder Woman headily mixes period action with modern FX—her Lasso of Truth is as beautifully realized as her Invisible Plane is missed—and subtle humor to finally provide the DCEU with a film to rival Marvel’s heretofore superior output. Sorry, all five of the superhero fans who have yet to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2; you now have a gut-wrenching decision to make at the multiplex. You might as well make it a double feature!