Mired in the discouraging dearth of a blockbuster leading by a super-heroine, Hollywood finally dishes up WONDER WOMAN, one of DC Comics' venerable triumvirate, directed by Patty Jenkins, it is a much belated sophomoric feature after her promising debut MONSTER (2003), and a legitimate star-making vehicle for Gal Gadot, who brilliantly incarnates herself in this iconic character with thorough conviction and pizzazz.
As a superhero's origin story, inherently the film has no alternative to spare audience the mandatory expositional narrative arc of Diana's backstory, she is a deicidal creation conceived by Zeus and Hippolyta (Nielsen), the Queen of the Amazons, to stop Ares, the God of War, from wrecking havoc in planet earth. The advent of a WWI Allied spy Steve Trevor (Pine) disrupts the tranquility of Themyscira, a hidden and empyrean island where resides the kingdom of these all-female Amazonians. After having the first contact with advanced mass-killing weaponry, pitched battlefield and sacrifice, against the will of her mother, Diana resolves to plunge herself into the WWI front, and firmly believes that if she can assassinate the evil German General Erich Ludendorff (Huston), whom she redeems as the reincarnation of Ares, the war will end. Aided by Steve and his allies, Diana gallantly enters into the mankind turmoil, and her faith will be put to test when things fail to turn out as she expected, does mankind really deserve her? An honest-to-goodness script shoots blunt barbs towards our patriarchal society and innate frailties, which emphatically differentiates the film from most its peers with its sobriety of what causes all the mayhem. The turning point also hits the mark when a heroic act viscerally teaches her what love means and why us, the lesser mortals still deserve her protection. What makes the movie click with mass audience is the humble and self-deprecating attitude in its backbone.
On the other side of the coin, WONDER WOMAN is nevertheless, hampered by its comic strip puerility, from a black-or-white characterization to slipshod plot designation, villains are ill-fatedly sidelined to leave more room for catalyzing the improbable cross-species romance, and its comic relief is essentially PG-13 and in shortfall before everything will be duly embroiled with gravitas, pathos and moral conundrum.
Be that as it may, Gal Gadot is indisputably an entrancing Wonder Woman, particularly in the action scenes, where she jumps, dashes, whomps, high-kicks like a genuine warrior choreographed with female-empowering confidence, wet behind her ears sometimes, but ultimately virtuous, courageous, lethal and unyielding. Accordingly, Chris Pine, although pigeonholed in a lesser salient role, breathes an air of endearment into the scene, Pine’s personal charisma is a force to be reckoned with in spite of the limit of his potency, which is essential to precipitate the game-changing shift during the crescendo.
From a strategic point, the movie’s success bracingly reassures the stuffy studio bosses that audience is heartily welcoming female talents both before and behind the camera, and alsosubstantiates that DC Comics can finally take up the gauntlet from Marvel Universe after many an underperformed juggernaut and at the very least it sparks a possibility that it may interrupt the latter’s hyper-prolific monopoly in the market, which is always a good thing for audience looking for diversity and pluralism.
referential points: Joe Johnston’s CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011, 7.1/10); Zack Snyder’s MAN OF STEEL (2013, 7.5/10) and BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016, 6.6/10).