Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, February 21, 2019

"Wonder Woman" shines as one of the best superhero films to date

After a series of poorly reviewed movies for the DC Extended Universe, largely helmed by director Zach Snyder, actress and soon-to-be mega-star Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins pick up the slack with “Wonder Woman.”

Although Gadot’s Wonder Woman appeared in Snyder’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and is set to appear in this fall’s “Justice League” film, this is the first stand-alone film for the beloved comic character. The film tells the origin story of the Amazonian warrior, born to Greek God, Zeus and Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons from Greek mythology. It follows Wonder Woman and World War I spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) as they seek to end the war in Europe, which threatens to kill millions.

While many superhero movies stumble when telling the hero’s origin, “Wonder Woman” excels by cutting right to the chase and creating an immediate emotional connection with the characters and a compelling, coherent story from the jump. Pine and Gadot’s chemistry is a treat to watch, even if the jokes regarding Wonder Woman’s sexual innocence are a little overdone.

The story is a typical coming of age tale, but the script is largely sharp and witty enough for it to feel fresh, at least in the moment. When lines fall flat, or the scene feels like a retread of another superhero flick, the stars on screen are charismatic enough to carry the moment nearly every time.

Jenkin’s take on big action is not so far removed from Zach Snyder’s, which is to say over the top damage, CGI heavy and flashy, but cinematographer Matthew Jensen is able to create stunning, engaging chaos on screen. Seeing Wonder Woman fearlessly charge into a bullet storm or throw around Ares, the Greek god of war, is remarkably cool from a gender politics standpoint, but it is also done in a way that pulls you into the shot.

The supporting cast, consisting of Trevor’s secretary, Etta Candy (Lucy Davis), as comic support and a cast of military misfits, is charming and given good material to work with. However, the character of Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) is a black mark on an otherwise progressive film. Chief serves as evidence of a much larger race issue in Hollywood, which frequently reduces minorities, especially Native Americans, to caricatures.

“Wonder Woman” is a brave, energetic and greatly enjoyable popcorn movie that is as uplifting as it is downright badass. It isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, and it didn’t have to in order to separate itself from the vast majority of other superhero movies of the last decade. Lynda Carter, who played the original Wonder Woman on TV in the 1970s, has every reason to be proud of the captivating, enigmatic Gadot and her stellar director, and the giant leap for female lead action movies this movie took.

Grade: A-

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