Wonder Woman Finally Gets a Movie of Her Own

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Wonder Woman
Warner Bros

Wonder Woman is a bright, promising start for a new superhero franchise. The picture may be hobbled by familiar genre junk—in the beginning, an overabundance of origin-story narrative clutter; at the end, yet another fiery digital apocalypse—but in finally providing the kick-ass Amazon with a movie all her own (after 75 years of Wonder Woman comics), director Patty Jenkins has created something fresh and stylish—an action-romance that's unusually light on its feet.

The movie is fueled almost entirely by the flashing, dark-eyed charisma of Gal Gadot, who introduced this Wonder Woman in a cameo in last year's dismal Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Gadot, a onetime Israeli beauty queen and former IDF combat instructor, has no trouble at all incarnating the warrior princess Diana, a young woman raised in an all-female society on a kind-of-mythical island who ventures into the world of men and is appalled by the violence and gutlessness she finds there and determines to do something about it. If this woman were running for any office at all, she would have my vote.

The movie is also fortunate in having secured the blue-eyed soul-hunk services of Chris Pine, whose romantic chemistry with Gadot is a rare combination of warmth and self-deprecating wit. Pine plays Steve Trevor, an intelligence officer with the American Expeditionary Forces (the year is 1918), who has discovered that the Germans have a horrible new weapon that could extend World War I beyond an armistice that is on the verge of being signed. They must be stopped.

Before we meet Trevor, though, we have to sit through quite a lot of backstory. We learn how the Amazons were created by the god Zeus to defend the aforementioned world of men from the violent depredations of Zeus's son Ares, the god of war. And we spend quite a bit of time on the balmy Amazon island of Themyscira, where squads of armored women feint and leap and parry for their trainers in settings that vaguely recall the low-budget alfresco imagery of old Doris Wishman nudie films. (Although I hasten to add that there is no nudity in this film.) We watch as little-kid versions of Diana are given martial instruction by her aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright), against the wishes of her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) —who knows an important secret about her daughter—and we wait for all this introductory stuff to wind down and go away.

The movie starts getting good when the grownup Diana, standing on a high cliff, sees a lone monoplane plummet out of the sky down into the sea. Trevor is the pilot she rescues, and also the first male being Diana has ever encountered. (Gadot deftly sketches Diana's fascination with this exotic creature with little more than a light brow-furrow.) After some interrogation with the Amazonian Lasso of Truth, Steve tells Diana there's a "war to end all wars" going on. She detects the hand of Ares in it, and compels Steve to take her back to this war so that she can put an end to it by finding and destroying Ares – who she soon determines to be the fanatical German General Ludendorff (Danny Huston), whose evil chemist Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) has cooked up a virulent new poison gas that Ludendorff is preparing to deploy against the encroaching Allies.

En route to the European front, Steve guides Diana to London for the movie's most amusing stretch. While her Amazonian super-costume is a very toned-down version of the traditional hot-goddess uniform, it still won't do for normal world-of-men wear. So Steve takes Diana out to hit the shops, where Gadot is charmingly funny in discovering that 1918 women's clothing is entirely unsuited for combat kicks, jumps and leg-sweeps—or any of her other violent specialties—and that it is quite difficult to maneuver a big superhero sword through a revolving door.

The movie disregards the bondage overtones of the Wonder Woman comics, but does maintain a straightforward feminine POV. You might expect director Jenkins—who's been unable to get any movie made in the 14 years since her first feature, Monster, enabled an Oscar win for Charlize Theron—to be a little bitter in this regard, but she seems entirely cheerful. True, when Steve's assistant Etta (Lucy Davis), details all the duties she does for her boss, Diana does say, "We call that slavery." But Jenkins also has Diana melting down at the sight of a baby on a London street, and the contrasts between feminine and masculine principles in this picture are for the most part gently conveyed: Steve is dedicated to snuffing warmongers; Diana is more concerned with war's victims. When Steve teaches Diana how to slow-dance in a lamplit village square one night, she says, "Is this what people do when there are no wars to fight?"

Although some of its sets are shabbily artificial-looking, and some of its slo-mo action is wearily dated (Zach Snyder was one of the producers), this is nevertheless a movie you root for. It's richly pulpy but cleanly wrought, and it creates a new comic-book world that's blessedly free of the grim neuroses that darken so many superhero films. Most notably, its star is a gift to a genre that was long past the point of beginning to feel seriously depleted.

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  1. So you’re saying that we’ve been waiting for Gadot?

    1. She pronounces the T. She isn’t French.

  2. IDF women tend to be hot, but in a way that is kind of scary.

    But i like being scared.

    1. I wonder if there are studies on the relative hotness of women who use IDF vs those who use the pill?

  3. How do I best signal my virtue? Heap praise on the film? Huzzah for women! huzzah for bold, independent mary sue amazons, etc etc OR maybe complain about the costume? OMG, WAY too skimpy, sexualized male, gaze! Do I complain b/c the star is pretty? omg omg PLZ hollywood, cast someone with real curves! BLATANT LOOKISM & fat shaming! Perhaps #wonderwoman sowhite?

    Oh, how can I show I’m not one of the bad ones? Nah. it’s too confusing. I’ll just say “fuck Trump.” That always works.

    1. I thought this was a good review. No need to be mean to Mr. Loder. I’m just upset he failed to mention Kathy Griffin’s small role as Frau Klemm.

      1. I was not attacking KL. His movie reviews are great.

  4. I was planning to go see it (despite being disappointed with the last three or four DC movies I’ve seen) but (a) I can’t stand Chris Pine and (b) the way that critics have heaped praise on this makes me suspicious that they’re just trying to signal their virtue in supporting a female-centric superhero (when did we stop using “superheroine”?) movie.

    I can wait a week or so to see what the word of mouth is from people I have more trust in.

    1. NPR liked it, if that helps.

    2. I enjoyed it way more than any of the other recent superhero flicks. Not a high bar, I realize, but it’s well worth seeing on the big screen.
      I did the 2D version, though, and a matinee.

  5. Don’t know why people though Dawn of Justice as dismal. I thought it was great. Finally a super hero movie that actually explored the motivations of the protagonists rather than just firing of stupid quips between punches. Iron Man fighting Captain America made no sense. Even with the fisticuffs-laden narrative backdrop, it made no sense. But in Dawn of Justice we understand why Bruce Wayne wants to defeat Clark Kent. Me may not disagree with it, but it makes sense.

    Was the movie a bit slow? Sure. But I don’t see why that’s a bad thing. The real flaw of the movie was the miscast Jesse Eisenberg. Great actor but lousy Lex.

    1. Finally a super hero movie that actually explored the motivations of the protagonists rather than just firing of stupid quips between punches. Iron Man fighting Captain America made no sense.

      “Finally” a movie that did something a couple months before the movie you complain about? Did you not understand Iron Man’s motivation in earlier movies?

    2. Yeah, it was literally centralized control and spying on Ironman’s ‘team’ and freedom, justice, and the ‘American way’ on Captains side. Yeah, sure, it was trite and badly done but the motivations themselves were beaten into your face until you couldn’t see straight.

    3. we understand why Bruce Wayne wants to defeat Clark Kent

      Because he doesn’t know yet that their moms had the same name! It’s so simple.

  6. Is Themyscira an ancient-Greek culture or a modern one? If it’s ancient Greek in its culture, why would Diana have a problem with slavery? If it’s modern, why didn’t Zeus give it machine guns instead of swords?

  7. The Washington Post: Why a gay law professor is trying to shut down women-only ‘Wonder Woman’ screenings

    Speaking for myself, I actually enjoy being excluded from some (not all) screenings of Wonder Woman. It’s somewhat erotic. It temporarily turns the theater into a hidden, feminine space, an inner sanctum, what the Sanskrit language calls the yoni. Oh, wow.

    1. I saw that some theatre’s were doing that, and I honestly can’t figure out if we’re supposed to be for or against segregation anymore. I suspect, but can not confirm, that those showings are probably going to be pretty empty except for hardcore feminists and lesbian couples.

      Not there’s anything wrong with that, but business-wise I can’t think of a reason to exclude ~50% of paying customers from a particular showing; especially when most people who go to the movies are going with a significant other and most of those are going to be men.

      *shrug* Their business, their rules.

      I still plan on seeing this movie in theatre’s either way, just because I want to see Kirk go back in time.

      1. …I honestly can’t figure out if we’re supposed to be for or against segregation anymore.

        I wouldn’t call this an instance of segregation, since only a small number of screenings are for women only. I have some sympathies for the men’s rights movement, but this is really nothing for men to complain about.

        1. No one actually gives a shit that a bunch of idiots want to get together and mutually masturbate to a superhero that’s existed for longer than all of them have been born. But the bunch of two faced hypocrites? That irks even me. Anytime men try to get together without women they get shut down…by women.

          Even worse they defend it with “but it’s different because….”

      2. I note the “women only” screening at my nearest Alamo Drafthouse (the chain that’s been in the news for doing them) is scheduled for Wednesday night. Which is to say, a slow day in the movie business anyway, and not remotely a traditional date night. And it’s not like the customers interested in a women-only showing (for whatever reason) can get one at any other theater in the area, or on any other night.

        So, by providing a differentiated, limited-availability experience, which has further been highly publicized by the media, it’s quite possible that they will draw more people than the usual Wednesday night showing of a movie would draw in the same theater. Or perhaps just different people than would normally go to the Alamo Drafthouse, and possibly gain some of them as continuing customers.

    2. Brian Dixon is that guy always jacking it in the back of the theater, isn’t he.

      1. You’ve mistaken me for Pee-Wee Herman.

  8. Why liberal heads explode.
    Having to choose between feminist and anti-Semite.
    Deal with it.

  9. “Although I hasten to add that there is no nudity in this film.”

    Expected, but it is a letdown (literally).

  10. Life’s too short to waste precious time watching movies without gratuitous female nudity.

  11. I want to see this, but the ‘reviews’ are sounding a little too good.

    1. “I want to see this, but the ‘reviews’ are sounding a little too good.”

      The Ghost Busters remake paradigm?

  12. I’m not a big fan of comic book movies, but this was the best of the recent DC movies. It wouldn’t call it great, but it was fun. Some of the shots of the supermodel marching into battle (directly at the camera), with a “blue steel” look on her face, just looked silly to me and made me chuckle.

  13. How do you pronounce her name? Is it like “Waiting for Godot”?

    1. More like “Guh-DOT” — the “t” isn’t silent…

  14. I saw it this afternoon and highly recommend. For those of you worry about being hit over the head with politics, the only political message is “war really sucks,” which is, as these things go, not particularly controversial. Gal Gadot and Chris Pine are charming, the Amazons are all athletic, and it’s nice to have a superhero who isn’t consumed with angst.

    Quibbles: 1. Everything does not have to be blue. I am beyond tired of all movies being blue. Themiscyra was, thankfully, bright and reminded me a bit of Minas Tirath in the LotR movies, but London was, again, blue. 2. Entirely too much of that “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” slo mo GCI in the fight scenes. Really, it’s okay to compete a flip-kick in realistic time. Those two things, however, are my only complaints and pretty much every action movie these days has those problems.

  15. I’m not sure I am gay anymore when I see Gadot play Wonder Woman.

    I may be a lesbian.

  16. A good movie if you can turn off your mind. But the movie won’t let you. It keeps stressing the same memes over and over: Men are bad (make war) because they are temped by the god Aries. Who is Aries and why does he care about humanity? He wants to make the world beautiful and humanity messes it up, no thanks to him. He just gives them the means; they could chose to not use it. I deduce Aries is a metaphor for technology. (Note his presence in the break thru moment for the evil doctor.) This is the old meme that technology is “unnatural” and offends the natural beauty. It is anti-life and ridiculous but some societies still buy it (Amish?). Diana believes she can destroy evil (What evil lurks in the minds of men?) by destroying Aries, based on her assumption that all men are good, just under an evil influence. She gives up her meme, then proceeds on her original mission. Why? No explanation. Don’t think, just watch.

    Aries claims all men are evil because some are evil. (The sins of the individual is the sin of collective?) Diana’s refutation: Yes men are bad, but so much more. Note two things. The use of “men” not humanity. And the cryptic rebuttal. “…so much more…”? How do you concede all men are evil but deserve to thrive, because they do other stuff too? Don’t think, just watch.

    Why condemn “men” and not humankind or humanity? Could this be a subtle anti-male meme?

    (Continued on next comment)

  17. (Con’t from previous comment)

    Diana’s “pretend mother” is a puzzle. She loves her and is dedicated to protecting her but lies to her and withholds vital information she needs to survive, on the grounds that it will hasten her eventual confrontation with Aries. So he admits Diana will be in danger, but wants to delay it, at the price of the power knowledge gives. Does she think ignorance is bliss worth dying for? Don’t think, just watch.

    Aries is intent on destroying humanity, excuse me “men”, but helps Diana’s team. Why? Don’t think, just watch.

    Steve is intent on destroying the plane with the remaining poison gas after blowing up the gas factory/supplies. It is stated the plane must be destroyed in the air, not on the ground, because it would kill thousands. Why is the air safer? Why can’t Steve leave a bomb in the plane and bail out? Why can’t he let Diana do it? She can’t die. Is he stupid or suicidal with a martyr goal?

    You guessed it: Don’t think, just watch.

    1. Point of spelling: Aries is a Zodiac sign. Ares is the Greek god of war.

      Bazinga.

      1. Spellchecker?

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