WONDER WOMAN poster | ©2017 Warner Bros.

WONDER WOMAN poster | ©2017 Warner Bros.

Rating: PG-13
Stars: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, Elena Anaya, David Thewlis, Said Taghmoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock, Lucy Davis
Writer: Allan Heinberg, story by Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs, based on the DC Comics character created by William Moulton Marsdon
Director: Patty Jenkins
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: June 2, 2017

After all of the DC Comics/Warner Bros. big-screen darkness of the past decade or so, it is a pleasure to report that, while it is completely serious, WONDER WOMAN has a sense of joy that feels genuine and earned. With a hero as soulful and compassionate as Diana (Gal Gadot), the Amazon princess who believes it is her personal duty to end war, and a buoyant sensibility through both comedic and dramatic scenes, this is DC at its most mythic and endearing.

We encounter Diana in the present, as she receives a very old, faded photograph of her in full Wonder Woman regalia, surrounded by four men in their World War I garb.

Flash back to Diana’s girlhood on the Amazon island of Themyscira, where all the women are warriors and there are no men. Princess Diana (played as an eight-year-old by Lilly Aspell and as a twelve-year-old by Emily Carey) is the only child present. Everyone else seems of an age with Diana’s mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), who explains that they are in a magical realm, shielded from the outer world. That much is true. However, Hippolyta tells Diana a very curious story about her birth, and the queen is still so concerned about Diana’s safety that she doesn’t want her to train as a warrior. Diana, naturally, goes behind her mother’s back to learn from the best: the heroic Antiope (a thoroughly impressive Robin Wright).

As an adult, Diana believes wholeheartedly in everything she’s been taught, including that it is the duty and privilege of those with power to protect those without it. One day, a WWI fighter plane crashes through the invisible barrier surrounding Themyscira. Diana takes it upon herself to rescue the pilot, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), from the ocean. Soon enough, a battalion of angry German soldiers also crash through the barrier, introducing Diana to the concept of war.

Steve is anxious to get back to headquarters and deliver the intel he gathered prior to the crash. Now that she knows there is a “war to end all wars,” and based on everything she’s learned, Diana concludes that it is her sacred duty to accompany Steve and put a stop to the conflict.

It’s hard to know where to begin with praising this wonderful movie. Perhaps a good starting place is with Patty Jenkins’ direction and Allan Heinberg’s script (from a story by Zack Snyder & Heinberg and Jason Fuchs, based on the character created by William Moulton Marsdon). There is plenty of action and humor, but what really powers WONDER WOMAN is its mixture of sincerity and elation. Unlike many, many other comic book heroes, Diana is not propelled by the death of a parent or put off by her own powers. She may be surprised by a few things she can do, but mostly, she’s worked hard for and is rightly proud of what she has, without being snobbish about it. She also has an essential optimism that, while reshaped by the events of the story (she encounters human evil and lots of death), is never extinguished. The tone is pitch-perfect, balancing the natural and supernatural elements and simply letting Diana and the Amazons exist without having to justify, defend or otherwise impede the plot with a bunch of conversation about women warriors.

Gadot is splendid in all respects, impassioned and kickass and charming. Pine proves to be an exemplary foil, capable in his own right, enthralled rather than threatened by Diana’s abilities. The swell supporting cast includes Danny Huston, David Thewlis and Elena Anaya, who all merit applause for making dialogue that could easily go south sound like something their characters would say. Said Taghmoui, Ewen Bremner and Eugene Brave Rock all bring individuality to Steve’s cadre of allies and Lucy Davis is a standout as a secretary who takes everything in stride.

There are a few quibbles, one being that some of the backdrops are too clearly CGI, making us wish for a few more practical locations. Likewise, there’s a little overall reliance on VFX when practical props might have worked better – Diana’s golden lasso is meant to be something tangible within the film’s universe, not an object akin to the beam of a lightsaber.

That aside, WONDER WOMAN has greatness to it – because of its hero, because of its spirit, and because it is done absolutely right.

Related: Exclusive Photos from the WONDER WOMAN World premiere in Hollywood

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