Yes, let the eye-rolling commence, but if I could explain myself…
Out of the countless superhero movies I have to consume ever year (and have watched in my life), there are only a handful that I completely enjoyed and thought were masterworks of the genre: “Superman,” “Batman,” “The Dark Knight.” Now Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman” has made that small list.
Not only does “Wonder Woman” (opening in theaters Friday) power through the potential pitfalls of the modern-day superhero movie — weak plot, boring villain, lackluster third act — but it also shows once and for all that a female-focused superhero movie can be as strong, heroic, thrilling, and funny as the guys’ (and, I predict, as profitable).
Following her tease in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” in which she proved that she had the look to be a believable Wonder Woman, actress Gal Gadot gets to use her acting chops in this origin story.
Princess Diana of the Amazons starts out as a naive girl who dreams of being a great warrior like her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), and aunt General Antiope (Robin Wright), but she is purposely being held back in her warrior training to keep secret an important truth about her. But when Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash-lands on the hidden island Wonder Woman lives on, Themyscira, she witnesses firsthand what the god of war, Ares, has done to man, and she sets out to destroy him and free mankind of his hold on them.
This is the make-or-break moment of the movie.
Jenkins has laid out a great setup with Diana’s backstory: her thirst to be the warrior she was meant to be, some amazing CGI-fueled fight sequences. But what has ruined many superhero movies (yes, the DC ones, but also many Marvel titles) is the added human element. Jenkins uses a fish-out-of-water scene in which Steve takes Diana by boat to the front lines of World War I not just to bring some lighthearted moments to a mellow part of the movie, but also to start the groundwork for a relationship between Diana and Steve.
It works perfectly and creates some very humorous moments as Diana tries to become accustomed to the world beyond Themyscira (especially when she’s dumbfounded about why all the women are subservient to the men).
After Steve exposes Diana to the war (there’s also the discovery of a dangerous gas the Germans plan to use on Allied forces that Steve wants to stop), we get into Diana unveiling her Wonder Woman powers to the world with stunning fight sequences. A scene in which she seemingly takes on an entire German battalion in the middle of a muddy battlefield is one of the goose-bump-inducing moments in the movie.
If you aren’t sucked into the movie by this point, you should really check to make sure you have a pulse.
Obviously, Gadot as Wonder Woman is what’s front and center in the movie, but I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t gush about Pine for a moment. He really is the secret weapon of the movie. With his dashing looks, self-deprecating humor, and red-hot chemistry with Gadot, he brings an important element to the movie that keeps it from being just a one-note actioner.
For all those reasons, I’m confident “Wonder Woman” is one of the best superhero movies ever made. I can’t wait to get back to the theater and watch it again.