PLOT A sheltered young woman on a remote island discovers she has powers beyond her imagining.
CAST Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Danny Huston
RATED PG-13 (action violence)
BOTTOM LINE A knockout debut for Hollywood’s first major female superhero. Hugely entertaining.
“Not culturally encompassing or sensitive” is how Wonder Woman was described last year in a petition objecting to her new post as United Nations honorary ambassador. Her too-ample flesh and too-tiny suit concerned staffers who successfully pressured officials to remove the DC comics figure from her post. Now that the Warner Bros. movie has arrived, however, the UN might be having some regrets.
“Wonder Woman,” the first big-budget blockbuster devoted to a female superhero — and the first directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins — isn’t just a triumph for women, it’s a triumph, period. This is grand entertainment with rousing action, sparkling humor, a romantic streak and a titanium-strength debut from Gal Gadot in the title role. Sexy, yes, but also dignified and fearless, Wonder Woman punches through one stereotype after another as if it were the most natural thing in the world. This is the female-focused crowd-pleaser we’ve been waiting for.
The story begins on the ladies-only island of Themyscira, where young Diana (Lilly Aspell) yearns to train under Gen. Antiope (a war-scarred Robin Wright). Battle is in Diana’s blood: She was created as a dormant weapon against Ares, the god of war. We believe it, too, thanks to Gadot, who plays the adult Diana with the bearing of a Valkyrie and a touch of vulnerability. Diana hears her call to arms when an American soldier, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), crash-lands in the ocean. He brings awful news: World War I has started.
From here, “Wonder Woman” rather beautifully manages to become multiple movies. It’s a fish-out-of-water comedy, with Diana navigating the chauvinist, corseted world of the early 1900s (she poses as Steve’s “secretary,” a nod to Wonder Woman’s rather egregious role in some early comics). It’s a love story in which Diana falls for Steve’s charm and sincerity. (Pine is tailor-made for the part.) And of course, it’s a superhero movie driven by Diana’s mission to destroy the German Gen. Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and his sinister scientist, Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya). The excellent script, by Allan Heinberg and others, even finds time to ruminate convincingly on the nature of man and war.
“Wonder Woman” feels a little overstuffed with characters (Ewen Bremner, Said Taghmaoui and Eugene Brave Rock play the multicultural rogues who join Diana’s fight) and the action scenes occasionally look obviously computerized. But these are quibbles. With this knockout debut, Wonder Woman seems poised to become the next great cinematic superhero of any gender.