First, in 1938, there was a Superman. Then, a year later, in 1939, came a Batman. And two whole years later, in 1941, came a Wonder Woman.
DC Comics calls them their “Trinity”: the three holy archetypes of superheroes. Every hero since – whether from DC Comics, Marvel Comics, or countless others – has walked in their footsteps, yet – it took 76 years for the third to finally hit the big screen.
This past weekend, Wonder Woman finally hit cinemas. It’s been a long journey from the two-dimensional comic pages to the multiplex. Sure, there was the beloved 1970’s Linda Carter lead show, and yes, the Justice League cartoons, but it wasn’t until last year’s mostly maligned Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that we finally got to see Diana, Princess of Themyscira in her full, widescreen glory. Portrayed by Fast and Furious’s Gal Gadot, she was easily the best thing in the film. And I’m happy to say that in this, the fourth film of the DC Comics Extended Universe, her first solo film, Warner Bros. finally got the superhero movie magic right.
Building off of the photo seen briefly in Batman v Superman, Wonder Woman is a period piece. Set in the era of World War I (a nice change from all the World War II movies we get), we see Diana growing up as an Amazon warrior on Themyscira, trained in secret by her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright), much to the chagrin of her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen).
Diana is proving herself quite capable as a warrior, showing an adeptness at both hand to hand combat and weaponry, when sure enough, the World War makes its way to the hidden island’s door, in the form of castaway Steve Trevor (Chris Pine).
Trevor is a US operative acting for British intelligence, his plane shot down by the Germans due to his stealing of specific intel – rescued by Diana, he is pursued by the Germans, and in this moment, Diana seizes her destiny. She must join the fight, she must stop the war, and she must fulfill the Amazon’s destiny of stopping the God of War himself, Ares.
The movie which follows is a tremendous ride – from the fish-out-of-water scenes (a’la Thor) which allow Gadot and Pine to build tremendous chemistry, to the beautiful action (including a blood-pumping sequence in No Man’s Land, Wonder Woman’s true coming out party), this is a pitch perfect superhero romp for the Summer.
Gal Gadot absolutely shines as Wonder Woman. Her charisma and enthusiasm shown in Batman v Superman are met with a full character performance here, Diana’s love and honor a driving force, causing for probably the most positive and inspiring hero in a superhero film (certainly a DC Comics one!) this side of Chris Evans’ Captain America. Why wasn’t Henry Cavill’s Superman this inspiring? Chris Pine as Steve Trevor is perfect – probably the first truly well-rounded love interest of any superhero film – and he reminds us why we all loved him as Kirk, bringing the same level of awkward charisma which won us over back in 2009. They’re matched by a great supporting cast, including the scene stealing Etta Candy (Lucy Davis), and Trevor’s pack of mercenaries (Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, and Eugene Brave Rock as Sameer, Charlie and Chief, respectively.)
Wonder Woman succeeds perfectly as a great superhero film in a time of great superhero films (even if I have some quibbles with the third act), and from the perspective of me – a thirty-something middle-class white male – it’s a positive sign because it means that DC Comics movies can finally stand toe-to-toe with Marvel, and Hey! Justice League could be good!
But I recognize that for others, Wonder Woman means even more:
- For my wife, who literally was brought to tears at seeing a strong, emotionally positive, totally kick-ass female hero brought to the screen.
- For my young niece, who will one day see this movie and go “I can be a totally awesome hero too!”
- For female filmmakers, as a female director was given a massive budget and delivered.
For these people, Wonder Woman isn’t just a “fun movie” – it’s a big step forward. And really – if what is a fun time at the movies for me can mean all of those things as well, goddamnit – Wonder Woman is even better for it.
Go see it. Bring those you love. You’ll have a blast. Promise.
Wonder Woman is in theaters now.