SYNOPSIS: 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.
At last! A superhero film directed by a woman (Patty Jenkins) that allows a female lead character to be a total badass without trivializing or sexualizing her comes to the screen!
Oh yes, Gal Gadot who portrays Diana Prince/Wonder Woman is an absolute knock-out, but never does she vamp around or use her sexuality to manipulate men. She plays it completely seriously, and that’s one reason this film works so well. DCEU fans can rejoice in WONDER WOMAN, a film during which they won’t have to grimace or try to figure out why yet another director failed to make a decent film.
Another reason this film works is the strong, but not overbearing, sincere, and funny performance by Chris Pine as Steve Trevor. Pine brings Trevor to life with all the hope and dedication to duty that makes him a successful contrasting but kindred soul for Diana. The on-screen chemistry between Pine and Gadot makes for some truly touching and pivotal scenes.
As the film opens, we find the child Diana (Lilly Aspel), daughter of Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielson), yearning to begin training like the Amazons she so admires – especially General Antiope (Robin Wright). They live on an island paradise, Themyscira, hidden from the rest of the world by a protective force field/fog. They live as the ancient Greeks did and have no exposure to the outside world. They train constantly to prepare for battle with Ares, the god of war, whom they believe will one day return to attack them.
Into this remote and magical environment, by accident, Steve Trevor crashes. He is an American spy working for British intelligence fleeing the Germans when his plane is shot down. The now-adult Diana observes and decides to save him. He is the first man she’s ever seen, and her curiosity leads to her desire to fight in the “war to end all wars” that he tells her about. She, of course, believes the war is caused by Ares, an idea both confounding and amusing to Trevor. So against the Queen’s wishes, Diana leaves with Trevor and finds herself in an alien environment, World War I London.
A major strength of the story line is Diana’s development from a naïve, although powerful, woman to one who maintains her desire to defeat evil even when she becomes disillusioned by the world of mankind. Watching her learn from the sincere and courageous Trevor provides some of the most endearing scenes in the film. He agrees to take her to the Front to battle the evil General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and his equally evil cohort, Dr. Maru, better known as Dr. Poison. She’s developed a particularly lethal variant of mustard gas which the General hopes to use to derail the imminent Armistice. He believes in winning at all costs.
Several characters help Steve and Diana along the way. First are Steve’s secretery Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) and Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis). Steve then seeks out three scoundrels who have aided him during his career as a spy. Sameer (Said Taghmaoui) is a smooth-talking con-man and procurer who almost steals the show. Charlie (Ewen Bremmer) is an expert, but troubled sniper. The Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) is a disillusioned Native American who has fled to Europe. He’s a scruffy survivor who understands magic and lends his skills as a bargainer.
No spoilers here, but there’s a twist involving the true villain that will surprise you as much as it does Diana. The conclusion turns out to be more complex than you may expect from a superhero film, but it satisfies none the less.
Is it a perfect film? No, but my quibbles with it are minor in comparison to the success of the film as a whole. Diana’s time on the island goes on a bit too long – I found myself wanting the story to get moving. Plus, there are a few time sequences that seem questionable, like how fast they get to London. However, the decision to have the action take place during World War I instead of World War II enhances the poignancy of the film. Many Americans are not that familiar with The Great War, as it was called, and don’t know the nightmare of trench warfare and the poison gasses that were used for the first time. World War I ended basically in a stalemate. No one won. We celebrate the Armistice every November 11th, but now realize the war was just a preview of what was to come.
As WONDER WOMAN ends, the audience finds Diana Prince in the present day, marveling at the inconsistencies and weaknesses of mankind, but determined as ever to fight for the right. If you’re like me, you’ll be anticipating her next appearance in JUSTICE LEAGUE, opening this coming November. - J.A. Hyde