By Caleb Young,
For years now, DC Entertainment has been releasing a string of unsatisfactory superhero movies: movies that have gotten bogged down by superheroes who spend too much time worrying about whether humanity is worth saving, or blow their entire budget on special effects and clearly don’t think to hire a writer.
As the franchise has gone downhill, it began to appear as if a superhero was needed to save it. Wonder Woman is exactly that superhero.
The movie’s plot is fairly typical of the superhero genre. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is really Princess Diana of the Amazons. The movie begins with her backstory, growing up on a mythical sheltered island, where the Amazons have lived for years cut off from civilization. She knows she is different, as superheroes tend to, and is trained to fight early by her aunt (despite objections from her mother).
Diana’s world is changed when a World War I Allied pilot, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) lands on the island, followed by German troops. Diana is pulled into the conflict of World War I, first through the alleys of London, and then to mainland Europe where she sees (and, to an extent, participates in) the devastation of World War I.
Diana resolves to end the war and bring peace to the world, which involves plenty of opportunities for death-defying action sequences, fighting against German scientists, and even encounters with gods. The story masterfully combines elements of the myths that Wonder Woman herself is based off of with the realities of world war.
What makes the movie so exceptional, however, is everything added on top of the basic superhero action. The collision of worlds between Diana’s home island and World War I Europe provides plenty of opportunities for humor. Additionally, the dialogue feels genuine and moves quickly.
While the love interest is present, it doesn’t define the movie. The leading actors, Gadot and Pine, perform well together, are charismatic, and are overall a joy to watch. All of this keeps the movie flowing and the audience entertained, even when “Wonder Woman” occasionally falls into the typical DC movie pitfall: unnecessarily action sequences.
Of course, no review of one of the few superhero movies to star a woman would be complete without a discussion of the feminist component. Superhero movies which star women remain relatively rare, and it is difficult to both use such a movie to show what women are capable of but not become “preachy”.
“Wonder Woman,” perhaps because of its female director (Patty Jenkins), tackles the issue beautifully. Over and over, Trevor tries to hold Diana back, to encourage her to behave more along gender norms for early-twentieth century women. She responds by simply ignoring him, going ahead on her own to catch bullets, charge across battlefields, and of course, eventually save the world. By having Diana ignore gender stereotypes, “Wonder Woman” makes a mockery of them- perhaps exactly the feminist message we need in this political climate.
So, by all means, as the summer movie season begins, give “Wonder Woman” a try. The movie is truly entertaining, drawing viewers in immediately as Diana’s backstory is explored, and keeping them present with daring action scenes, witty dialogue, super-heroics and a dash of feminism. Be prepared for a balancing act, while spending the whole movie on the edge of your seat.