Although the movie is set during the height of World War I, Wonder Woman’s themes and central figure feel more relevant than ever.
Nowadays, the cinematic landscape is filled with comic book adaptations that rely on superheroes who are at different ends of the creative spectrum. There’s the artful approach, most popularized by Christoper Nolan’s masterful Dark Knight Trilogy or more recently the epic Logan, where the hero is dipped in a vat of grittiness, the material imbued with an edginess, the protagonist emerging a damaged, complex individual. Then you have your G-rated family affair—think The Avengers, where the camaraderie takes on the dynamics of a family dramedy, except these guys have to save the world from impending doom. Then you have your wildcards like Deadpool, a fresh and unapologetic character who breathed life into the almost-oversaturated genre. That’s the beauty of these superhero stories—there’s a wealth of possible executions and outcomes for each. And Wonder Woman, well, it’s a triumphant balancing act of a number of these elements, resulting in an epic superheroine flick that’s moving, inspiring, and badass.
Before Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) evolved into a villain-destroying femme fatale, she was an Amazon princess, training on a hidden paradise island that shielded her and her people from Ares, the god of war. The unexpected arrival of American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) sets her journey in motion. Steve is a spy trying to upend the plans of the Germans and their secret weapon, collaborators General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and a mad scientist called Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya), who have invented a dangerous gas that obliterates anything it comes in contact with. Convinced that the war is a product of Ares’ wrath, Diana leaves her peaceful home of female warriors to join Steve at the forefront of the violence.
The script works because as the story moves forward, the shifts in tone and mood are fluid. Aside from functioning as a contained superhero film, it’s also part wartime thriller, romantic comedy, and historical fiction. Director Patty Jenkins, who rose to critical acclaim directing Charlize Theron to Oscar gold in Monster, seamlessly crafts an arc of emotions hinged on (who most would probably call) the most well-adjusted superhero of the Trinity.
Gal Gadot is in fine form as the lasso-wielding, strong-willed goddess. Even during the more comedic parts of the movie, where her chemistry with Pine is at its most palpable, Gadot handles the dialogue with an intelligent ease. After playing Wonder Woman, it’s hard to imagine her in roles that are of the mundane. Like statuesque actresses Charlize Theron and Sigourney Weaver before her, her innate strength is only rendered more powerful by her indubitable exquisiteness. Her physicality—a beauty gifted from the heavens coupled with the athleticism of a seasoned action star—lends her an otherworldliness that can’t be caged.
The pureness of her approach to the role fuels the very thrust of the film: where most would succumb to cowardice, here is an individual willing to risk her own life for the sake of others. It’s a strength that’s laced with empathy, a heroism that’s sincere and untainted. Never mind that she looks like a Victoria’s Secret Angel while toppling tanks and deflecting bullets—she’s a contemporary symbol of hope during a time when the social consciousness has yet to rid itself of the prejudices that inspire war, a truth that can be applied both to the film's setting and real-world affairs. And aside from being a pro on the battlefield, she has principles!
There’s a pivotal scene in the movie where Diana refuses to stand down, barging through the crossfire, ready to annihilate anything that gets in her way. She’s in full Wonder Woman gear, so sure of herself, a glimmer of optimism in her eyes. It’s difficult not to imagine many young girls (and maybe even some young boys) being inspired to help others after witnessing her in action. And maybe this is why we need a hero like Wonder Woman more today than ever before—even when she’s unafraid to cut through the bullshit and make her presence felt, it’s never just about her. It’s always about the bigger picture.
Wonder Woman is now showing in theaters nationwide.