In one scene plastered all over the marketing for Wonder Woman, we see the female heroine step onto the battlefield, alone, to try and take out the German forces. This action-packed scene and what follows immediately after it combine to deliver not only one of the best action sequences in a superhero movie of all-time, but it is also a testament to just how crowd-pleasing the movie is as a whole. Wonder Woman is a bold, confident movie with as much heart as it has soul. Wonder Woman is not only a groundbreaking achievement, but also a movie that inspires much-needed hope in dark times like this. And given how crazy things are around the world, Wonder Woman is exactly the type of hero we need right now.
Before she was Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on a sheltered island paradise, Diana meets an American pilot (Chris Pine) who tells her about the massive conflict that’s raging in the outside world. Convinced that she can stop the threat, Diana leaves her home for the first time. Fighting alongside men in a war to end all wars, she finally discovers her full powers and true destiny.
Early on, we watch Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) train to become a warrior just like her Amazon sisters on the island of Themyscira, a visually rich and detailed location yearning to be further explored in future movies. Wonder Woman does a masterful job developing the title character from her small beginnings growing up on this mystical island. Her mother, Queen Hippoyta (Connie Nielsen), warns about the dangers of mankind. But when Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) wanders upon Themyscira and tells the Amazons of “The war to end all wars,” Diana is determined to put a stop to it. And once Diana and Steve leave the island, the movie’s setting and story shift to war-torn Europe. At the point of the seamless transition of genres from fantasy movie to war movie, Wonder Woman truly begins to soar.
Wonder Woman takes a page out of Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger, where humanity and grace play a central role in the movie’s storytelling. No, there’s nothing groundbreaking here, but it feels like such a breath of fresh air given how those traits seem to occur so seldomly in almost every other superhero movie. As Diana encounters the war as it unfolds before her very eyes, you can see that her heart aches for the people caught in the middle of it. Watching someone like Diana, a character filled with so much love, desperately want to help these people provides even more reason to appreciate her character’s drive to conquer evil. And even while Wonder Woman is trying to end the bloodshed, the movie never feels overly dark like its predecessors in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), but instead is always lighthearted and full of delight. With most of the humor centered around Diana’s fish-out-of-water scenario, the humor never feels forced and always sticks the landing.
A big part of what makes Wonder Woman so great is the actress playing the female heroine. Ever so appealing, charming, and compassionate, Gal Gadot shines as the Amazon warrior. Whether in action or in moments where she’s not taking out a group of soldiers, the persistent optimism of Gadot’s Wonder Woman radiates throughout the movie’s 141-minute runtime; and not-so shockingly, Gadot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman is amazingly reminiscent of Christopher Reeve’s iconic portrayal of Superman, the best onscreen superhero performance ever given by an actor. Chris Pine, as Steve Trevor, is almost as good as Gadot, as he creates dynamic chemistry with the female heroine. Pine’s perplexed dialogue and facial expressions around the Amazon princess, resulting from being unfamiliar with how things work outside her home island of Themyscira, draw the movie’s biggest laughs.
Along with the scene mentioned in the opening paragraph, Wonder Woman features some of the best action sequences ever to appear in a superhero movie. From the beaches of Themyscira to the battlefields of Europe, the action in Wonder Woman is wondrously sensational. Whether you’re watching Wonder Woman take out a group of guys in a warehouse, using her Lasso of Truth, or flipping over a tank, the movie utilizes the heroine’s strengths to make her always seem kick-ass. At times, the action is shown in slow motion, but director Patty Jenkins (Monster) perfectly utilizes these small instances to highlight the character’s abilities when in combat – which are awe-inspiring to say the least.
Sure, Wonder Woman’s third act is a bit choppy and its villains are a little underwhelming, but that’s so easy to overlook considering just how good everything else is. Wonder Woman gets so much right in a genre in which all too frequently the superhero origin stories are recycled and only feel like small stepping stones that build toward the ensemble superhero team-up movies that eventually follow. Wonder Woman ranks among the very best of superhero origin movies, which include Superman: The Movie, Batman Begins, Iron Man and Captain America: The First Avenger. Wonder Woman isn’t just a triumph for Warner Brothers and their up-to-this-point wishy-washy DCEU, but it is also a triumph for the movie industry for finally giving female characters the opportunity to take center stage of big budget movies in front of and behind the camera.
And that in itself is just so wonderful.