Latest superhero movie lives up to its name

Wonder Woman

‘Wonder Woman’

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine

Directed by: Patty Jenkins

Rated: PG-13

 

As superheroes go, I was never very fond of Wonder Woman. As imagined in the old TV show starring Lynda Carter, the costume was a skimpy, satin, patriotic, sexist invention. And her superpowers were a couple of cuffs, a shield and a lasso? What’s so special about that?

That was then, and this “Wonder Woman” feature starring Israeli actress Gal Gadot as the super heroine is definitely now. As part of the DC Comic universe, it was time for her to have her own standalone feature, and it’s bound to be one of the biggest hits of the summer.

Credit can be spread equally to casting, story, production and a director who brings a much needed female sensibility. Prior to this, Patty Jenkins was best known for “Monster” (2003) about serial killer Aileen Wuornos, which earned Charlize Theron an Oscar. After this premieres, Jenkins will probably be able to write her own ticket to whatever she chooses to direct next — and she’s earned it.

After a prologue that details the destruction of wicked mankind by the gods, the story hops to modern day Paris where Diana Prince works at the Louvre in the antiquities department. Inside a mysterious attaché case delivered to her from Bruce Wayne’s Wayne Enterprises, she finds a link to her past that sends the story back to the very beginning when she was the child of the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta (Connie Neilson), living on a idyllic island shrouded from the world.

That ends when World War I Allied spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash-lands his plane offshore, and Diana cliff dives into the ocean to save him. After a spirited battle between the Amazon warriors and the Germans who are chasing Steve, Diana is awakened to her destiny when Steve tries to explain the devastation of the war.

The action quickly moves to London and then on to the front lines of the war in Belgium all in an effort to stop a war-hungry German commander (Danny Huston) and his mad scientist (Elena Anaya) who is cooking up mustard gas in her laboratory. Steve, Diana and a great band of misfits including a Scottish sharpshooter (Ewen Bremner), a Native American scout (Eugene Brave Rock) and a Middle Eastern fixer (Said Taghmaoui) cross the front in search of the base where the gas is being produced, and along the way, Diana begins to understand not only her powers, but her true destiny as she gains strength and confidence.

Of course, this is a bit of a love story too, and Gadot and Pine have a pretty powerful chemistry that makes the most of Allen Heinberg’s wonderful script that provides levity, mostly found in Diana’s innocence at not understanding the modern world, and lots action, but not without purpose. It is the age-old dilemma of superheroes that in order to protect life, they always end up taking life, but here Diana’s conflict in doing so is weighed against the goal, and in the end, her message is clear and couldn’t be more prescient for our times. Simply, it is this: “Love always wins.”

Comic book hero movies have become so derivative. The big, city destroying battles against nameless villains, the pouty angst. It was time for something fresh, and this movie certainly qualifies. It’s the antidote to a genre that more often than not takes itself too seriously. “Wonder Woman” finds the right balance of action, purpose and the humor that can be one of the most important elements in the genre. “Wonder Woman” is pretty wonderful.

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