PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s no wonder women have been wondering about Wonder Woman for years.
With all the male superheroes and role models tumbling out of the comic book universe and filling out movie screens with testosterone and Spandex, well, it’s about time this wondrous woman emerged in the middle ring.
Wonder Woman, long since a DC comic book and television icon, could have landed safely and impactfully just by being decent.
But this film is better than just decent: it’s actually something, if not masterful, at least special and satisfying.
For the makers, this appears to be a labor of love, one which audiences may well embrace the heck out of.
Israeli actress Gal Gadot stars as the title character, a universal female hero and trained warrior, princess of the Amazons, and her alter ego, Diana Prince.
She lives on the all-female island of Themyscira, where she disobeys her mother, Hippolyta, played by Connie Nielsen, breaks into a heavily guarded armory, and steals the mythical sword, the “God Killer.”
When a plane crashes and the downed pilot, Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine, tells her of the major conflict in the outside world, she heads to London to come to the aid of war-plagued humanity and their involvement in the war to end all wars.
Whereas the comic books were set during World War II, the film is set during World War I.
The script by Allan Heinberg, from a story by Heinberg, Zack Snyder, and Jason Fuchs, is an origin story that explains Wonder Woman’s familiar defining props – the lasso of truth, the indestructible bracelets, the invisible jet, the forehead tiara.
The script draws heavily from the original 1940s comic book by William Moulton Marston, and Gadot and Jenkins team up to make her multidimensional, both strong and vulnerable, fierce but compassionate.
And the narrative not only flows from early frames to late, but offers humor, charm, and heart to go along with the considerable and able action.
Gadot and Pine have a sparkling, unforced chemistry. And although it shouldn’t be a distracting novelty to find ourselves watching all-female fights and action scenes, it is. And they and their choreography are, by the way, top-drawer.
Director Patty Jenkins, who got an Oscar-winning performance out of Charlize Theron in Monster in 2003, was obviously inspired by director Richard Donner’s Superman with Christopher Reeve.
Working on an epic scale for the first time, she hereby becomes the first female director of a studio superhero flick and the first director of a superhero film with a female protagonist.
And what she has accomplished is a vigorous, entertaining thriller that also has emotional impact and takes an immediate it’s-about-time place on the timeline of film history.
So we’ll lasso 3 stars out of 4. Wonder Woman flirts with being wonderful. Will wonders never cease.