Wonder Woman [Review by Haus]
After last year’s double throat-punch to hero films — the rambling Suicide Squad, and the interminable and downright dismal Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice — the DC franchise was pretty much on life support. As the premiere date for Wonder Woman drew near, the usual promo engine was strangely silent, chugging out posters and ad spots at a rate better suited to a subtitled art-house pic. None of this seemed promising. Fool me once, shame on DC; fool me twice? Well, I will say that going into Wonder Woman, I didn’t expect much.
And I hope you don’t either, because that’s the best way to see Wonder Woman: a brilliant hero picture that clambers atop its hokey source material to deliver a stunning aria to old-fashioned heroes, 2017 style.
This triumph is due in chief to two women: Director Patty Jenkins (whose main prior film credit is Monster, 14 years ago) and Israeli bombshell Gal Gadot (who cut her teeth with supporting roles in three Fast and Furious films while doing her level best to elevate some pretty lousy comedies). More on Gadot shortly.
I’ve waited until the fourth paragraph to tell you this is essentially a movie about an Amazon princess from a mythical island of beauties who ventures out into Europe during the First World War. Because that sounds silly. And it is. But it’s so well done, and has so much heart, that even the thick-necked tough guy beside me whose main love in life is a seatbelt extender (I reckon) was sniffling through act three.
To hell with posters: That’s publicity you can’t buy.
Gal Gadot is utterly breathtaking as Diana. She’s found her stride with this material, playing equal parts the kindhearted naif and a fearsome fighter who’s tough as Q-carbon. Her Crocodile Dundee-style fish-out-of-water routine is played to great effect against century-old fashions and mores. The result is a smartly feminist gloss on the usual superhero fluff, albeit one in which the men in the film–and those watching, natch–are basically cross-eyed over Gadot’s beauty. Let’s call it two steps forward and one back.
For a movie that concerns itself chiefly with an imaginary island and a hundred-year-old war, Wonder Woman also is surprisingly grabby, very immediate. The Zack Snyder influence is certainly strong here — many super-slow-motion grimacing leaps with swords held high, Greek mythology, the muted glint of dark filters on armor, and hair rustling in the breeze while our heroine stands akimbo. And action fans will find plenty of lights and fights, with largely period-appropriate yet splashy special effects.
Chris Pine plays a handsome American pilot and spy, Gadot’s guide in our strange world and a maybe-sorta proto-love interest — although as we now know, in the post-Frozen landscape of girl-power filmmaking, it’s not at all a given that they’ll end up paired off. Pine is good, as always, and the supporting cast is strong as well (Elena Anaya stands out as a creepy German chemist, as does the ever-marvelous Connie Nielsen as Gadot’s mother).
But make no mistake: This is Gadot’s film. Her Diana Prince is a breath of fresh air, wholly unconcerned with concealing her identity, with playing along socially, with a single compromise to her mission and with being anything but who she is. Gadot’s utter confidence in this character is alone worth the price of the ticket. I could watch her all day (and may yet).
Wonder Woman is truly great. So see it, love it, and please join me in praying that Zack Snyder doesn’t squander all this unexpected goodwill and kick the upcoming Justice League back into the stinking spittoon where Dawn of Justice now rests.
Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is both the hero you deserve, and the one you need right now.
Haus Verdict: One of the best hero films in recent memory. When it comes to this Amazon, go ahead — add to cart.
Wonder Woman opens Friday, June 2.
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