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Wonder Woman unfolds as if it’s got multiple personalities. An attempt at course correcting the perceived stuttering leviathan of the DCEU. A debut of one of pop culture’s most revered and popular comic book icons, which is also the first major superhero film that has a female hero front and center (I really don’t want to count Catwoman or Elektra). On top of that, having a female director at the helm, and a world war one setting that doesn’t exactly scream of nostalgia.
The noise around Wonder Woman has been at once deafening and superfluous. A bottleneck choking on think pieces, online shouting matches, overwrought analysis, and rants from and about MRA’s, feminists, DC films, superhero fatigue, and whatever gripe people have with movies this very second. It’s like putting pressure on a golden retriever puppy to kick a penalty goal in the final minute without the use of gravity. You can understand all the pieces out of context, but put it all together, and you just end up feeling immensely sorry for the puppy.
Strip all of that away and you have a wonderfully joyous adventure, with healthy doses of humour, action, and most importantly, soul. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does feel fresh, like a new coat of vibrant paint. It feels so disconnected from the rest of DC’s stable of films that it could take place in an alternate universe, and it’s all the better for it.
First appearing in an extended cameo in last year’s ambitious but misguided Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Gal Gadot’s magnetic and glowing portrayal of the lassoing, sword wielding, blunt-talking Diane of Themyscira gives the film an assured and compelling centre on which to wrap a somewhat predictable and by the numbers plot around. We’re treated to Diane’s homeland and its warrior culture, her rescue of Chris Pine’s Ally spy Steve Trevor and the spontaneous invasion by his German pursuers before being whisked away to jolly old London and rollicking and fun fish-out-of-water tale. The second half of the film, where Diane confronts the true horror of war on the Western Front, is sporadically impactful yet unfurls more like an average superhero blockbuster, elevated by Gadot’s beaming, undeniably powerful aura.
The film works best when Gadot and Pine are trading banter or fight side by side, each scene popping with exuberance and energy—from their talk about marriage and sexual biology to their dance among snowfall and kicking all kinds of ass when Diane lets loose her powers for the first time. Director Patty Jenkins (her first feature since 2003's Monster) gradually pulls back the restrictions holding Diane in place, culminating in her run through No Man’s Land that has justifiably become the highlight of the film. It’s breathtaking, triumphant, thrilling. A soaring, emotional score, punctured by her electric cello theme that's already damn iconic. Basically, it’s as true a superhero moment than any that have cropped up over the last decade.