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Thursday, June 8, 2017 12:04 am

Wonder Woman a heroine for the ages

Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman.
PHOTO COURTESY WARNER BROS. PICTURES

 

The wait was long, but it was worth it.

Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman is an inspired breath of fresh air in the DC Comics movie universe, standing in stark contrast to the dark and grimy visions of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Driven by a sense of purpose and a star-making performance from Gal Gadot, this film is a ray of light amidst the often dour and increasingly turgid superhero features of recent years, a throwback to a more innocent time of heroism that’s been lost in the maelstrom of special effects and seemingly endless fights that have come to plague movies of this sort.

Jenkins and screenwriter Allan Heinberg waste little time taking us to the hidden island of Themyscira, where Princess Diana has been sheltered by her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). She’s taken great care to keep her daughter separate from the warrior culture the Amazons of this hidden land adhere to, trying to prevent what she knows is her destiny to become their greatest warrior. Unbeknownst to her, Diana’s aunt, the fierce General Antiope (Robin Wright), has been teaching her the ways of combat, turning her into a fierce warrior as the years go by.

The seclusion of this island nation is shattered when an airplane is shot down nearby and Diana (Gal Gadot) comes to the rescue of its pilot, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American spy who carries information vital to ending the “war to end all wars,” World War I. As she hears more and more of this conflict, Diana suspects that the God of War, Ares, who the Amazons defeated once before, has returned. She resolves to return Trevor to the world of men and confront this malevolent deity on the battlefields of Germany, convinced that this will bring the conflict to an end. However, this is not the only foe she will face, as she will have to contend with Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya), who’s developed a rather nasty toxin, and General Ludendorff (Danny Huston), who plans to release it on soldiers and civilians alike.

The film hits its stride when Diana is taken to London and the naïve woman is knocked back on her heels by women’s place in this society, the fashion they must contend with, and the callousness towards others she repeatedly witnesses. These moments are played equally for humor and pathos, each of them rendered to perfection.

Gal Gadot’s contribution to the film cannot be understated. There’s never a hint of self-awareness in her performance but rather a conviction and sincerity that cuts to the core of this iconic character. Though naïve, she never appears foolish, the actress concentrating on Diana’s inherent sense of goodness and purpose throughout. As Trevor, Pine has great fun reacting to Gadot’s wide-eyed innocence as well as trying to curb her well-intended but blunt actions. He shines whenever he has to contend with the Amazon’s lasso of truth, fighting to keep his secrets before succumbing to its power, while the humorous and romantic chemistry between the two is palpable and a delight to behold.

More than Superman or Batman, Wonder Woman remains the most human of these heroes. She’s not plagued by a sense of alienation or weighed down by obsessive guilt. No, she’s a symbol of hope, believing that despite our faults, there is an inherent goodness in all of us that must be cherished and protected. In concentrating on this, Jenkins has managed to create a unique film in a cluttered genre, while Gadot has embraced all the character represents, giving us a definitive take on an iconic heroine. Here’s hoping the next entry in the adventures of the Amazonian princess comes to the screen sooner rather than later.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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