Right off the bat here, I will be fully transparent: I am not a comic book fan. I have nothing inherently against them — quite the opposite, actually. There is a massive, loyal superhero fandom out there, which I tremendously respect and admire...I just don’t count myself among them.
However, I waited for “Wonder Woman” to hit theaters with bated breath. Why, you may ask? Plain and simple: I love movies, and I want to see all movies with women at the helm succeed. I want to see women directing in, producing, writing, starring in all the movies that Hollywood produces, whether it’s a big-budget superhero blockbuster or a charming indie release.
Point blank — the more money a movie like “Wonder Woman” makes, the better the odds that Hollywood will greenlight more female-led projects, and that is what we need.
“Wonder Woman” is the first female-led superhero film directed by a woman. I’d like it to be the first in a long line of them in years to come, the one that paves the way for all the others.
Of course, it helps that the movie is receiving both incredible buzz and solid reviews, an absolute saving grace for the DC Extended Universe, which has been weighed down by critical misfires like “Man of Steel,” “Batman v Superman,” and, most recently, “Suicide Squad.”
Truth be told, I wanted to go into “Wonder Woman” somewhat blindly. I didn’t check out any of its predecessors. I did do some research, but hoped the origin tale would fill in the blanks for me.
“Wonder Woman” gives the backstory of Diana (played by Gal Gadot), a woman that has grown up as part of an all-female race of Amazon warriors, put on Earth to protect and guide all of humanity.
As a child, Diana has the unshakable urge to become a warrior, going against all her mother’s wishes by training and sparring with the strength of a fighter far her senior.
The better part of the first half of the movie goes through these motions, which feels slightly egregious at times, but picks up at just the moment it’s feeling too weighed down.
As a young woman, Diana is fierce yet precocious, charming yet determined, and it’s these qualities that make her such a likeable leading lady. Even as she becomes an adult and transforms into Wonder Woman (and the moment the transformation happens was so incredible, I had actual goosebumps), she keeps that same wide-eyed wonder, and that’s where this movie succeeds.
Diana has plenty of hilarious moments, such as when she meets a man for the first time (Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine) and, upon seeing him naked, asks if he’s “average for his kind.” (For the record: Steve says he’s “above average,” thankyouverymuch.) There’s also the time she can’t quite figure out how to get a sword through a revolving door (#superheroproblems, anyone?).
The story excels by not being too pedantic or “dumbing” her down — if anything, her naïveté about the civilized world away from her private island is what makes her such a stellar character.
She’s also whip-smart, and learns quickly to trust her own instincts.
Of course, this is a comic-book movie, so there’s plenty of big explosions and CGI marvels to keep superhero purists happy. But the action is great and will keep you on the edge of your seat.
And yeah, the script relies heavily on the usual tropes (come on, you didn’t think they’d leave out a love story, right?) but I won’t hold it against the film’s creators.
At the core of this story is a lot of heart, which is what makes it so, well, wonderful. Films like this are pure escapism, but it’s always nice when there is a good message sandwiched between an epic romance and a badass warrior throwing an actual tank at a bad guy.
If this superhero newbie had to explain why people like superhero movies, I’d guess it’s because we intrinsically enjoy seeing the fight between good vs. evil, and the triumph of good when it prevails.
“Wonder Woman” gives us that and so much more. It questions the good in humanity, while reminding us that everyone is fighting their own battles, sometimes much bigger than mustard gas in a war compound.
In today’s political climate, I’d argue that message can resound long after we walk out the movie theater exit.
Photo: Warner Bros.