The journey of the world’s most iconic superheroine to her first solo adventure on the big screen has been a long and arduous one for DC Comic’s Diana Prince, better known as Wonder Woman. From an abandoned Joss Whedon film project in 2007 to an endless line of studio execs convinced a female could not anchor a major tentpole superhero film, it seemed the princess of Themyscira might never take her place in theaters as one of the comic book greats. Wonder no more fans, you can all breathe a huge sigh of relief and revel in the fact that Wonder Woman proves that females can be viable comic book franchise leaders and the DCEU still has life in it yet.
The film is most certainly an origin story, but thankfully one audiences haven’t seen before and follows the stereotypically slow build-up of the main character as they become the hero that audiences recognize. This formulaic crutch works surprisingly well in Wonder Woman in a nearly flawless first act that contains a pitch-perfect stint with the beautifully created Amazons in Themyscira that is full of adventure and gorgeous visuals, followed by some genuinely funny fish-out-of-water moments between our leads Diana (Gal Gadot) and Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) in war-time London.
Gal Gadot is absolutely radiant in the title role and any concerns about her ability to anchor a solo film of this scale are immediately tossed out the window. She is unbelievably charming as the multi-layered Diana and her exuberance is infectious in a way that can easily be compared to Christopher Reeve in the Superman films. We’ve seen very little of Gal Gadot’s work in the past and her appearance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice didn’t give her an opportunity for her to show her truly impressive range as an actress displayed here while having to run a gamut of wise, vulnerable, strong, innocent and so much more.
Gadot doesn’t get all the credit though, as Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is wonderfully written in Allan Heinberg’s script and Pine knocks the material out of the park in that Chris Pine-y kind of way. Trevor is a fully realized character in Wonder Woman, complete with the character’s trademark swagger and heart of gold – which also benefits from an electric chemistry between Pine and Gadot.
Not only is Wonder Woman the first major solo female-led superhero film of its kind, but its female director Patty Jenkins breaks the bleak mold established in BvS and Suicide Squad and injects welcome loads of color, heart and humor into the film. Jenkins deftly weaves in romantic comedy elements, historical epic settings, and superhero carnage into a wonderful story of the exploration of morality, naiveté, and war. She manages to take dark subject matter like WWI and still be able to balance the film with light, hope and optimism thanks to Gadot’s doe-eyed warrior portrayal. Wonder Woman‘s tone could easily have been a mess, but Jenkins puts all the pieces together to fit into an impressively crafted film.
Wonder Woman doesn’t skimp on the spectacle either, with a wide range of breathtaking locations featuring inspired fight choreography. The aforementioned Themyscira showcases the elegant and brutal fighting style created for the Amazons and the period setting of WWI provides a dire setting of retro historical weapons and warfare – although one of the small nitpicks in the film would be an overuse of Zack Snyder-style slow-motion shots excessively throughout battles. But aside from that minor quibble, every time Diana uses her lasso in combat or her cuffs to block bullets, it’s gorgeous and exactly what fans have been waiting for.
The villains in Wonder Woman are also a minor negative with their generally thin character development as is the trend in these types of superhero origin films. The great Danny Huston is villain General Erich Ludendorff of the German army with possible ties to ancient Diana’s Gods, alongside his sinister scientist Doctor Maru (Elena Anaya), aka Doctor Poison due to her designs on creating a chemical gas that no mask or suit can protect against. Huston plays his stock villain by the numbers, but Anaya is a blast to watch in her limited role as she revels in destruction as much as she cowers from real conflict. Her look is also a great design mix of retro fashion accented by her damaged face that is covered up with plastic, much like a well-known character from Boardwalk Empire.
With a star-making performance by Gal Gadot and the terrific direction of Patty Jenkins, the film DC Comics fans have been waiting for is exactly what Warner Bros needed right now. The time (and talent) is right for Diana to finally emerge and Wonder Woman is a blast of hope and pure entertainment that will no doubt inspire generations of young girls and moviegoing audiences alike for years to come.