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Wonder Woman's Strength in Battle and Box Office

Jun. 6, 2017
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As the first female superhero and an archetype of strong women, Wonder Woman crossed boundaries in 1941 when she debuted on the pages of a comic book. She’s still pushing forward in 2017. Wonder Woman is the first blockbuster-slated superhero movie helmed by a woman, and Director Patty Jenkins lets the armor-breasted warrior get her jabs at male chauvinism after leaving the isle of the Amazons and landing in what passes as civilization. 

Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot

Chris Pine

Directed by Patty Jenkins

Rated PG-13

The Wonder Woman movie serves as the origin story for a character in the DC universe we will almost certainly get to know better in the months and years to come. Wonder Woman, aka Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), was raised among the Amazons on a Greek island that serves as their training ground. Her protective mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), molded Diana from clay, and Zeus breathed life into her—or so she says. Family secrets hover at the edges of Diana’s happy life as she learns combat skills. In Greek mythology, the Amazons cut off one of their breasts to better hurl spears at their enemies. The contemporary iteration dispenses with the amputation. Here, Diana, scantily clad in the warm Mediterranean sunshine, learns that brute strength is less important than mindful agility fortified by practice.

She puts her skills to use at last when she saves Capt. Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) after his plane crashes offshore. It’s World War I, and he’s an American spy attached to British intelligence. He’s onto something big. Evil German Gen. Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) has set up a lab-factory in Germany’s ally, Turkey, where a mad scientist with a prosthetic face, Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya), is developing a chemical weapon more terrible than anything yet deployed. A German warship pursues Steve to the island, and the Amazons go to battle to repel the invaders. Bullets from the landing party fell some of the women, but their swordplay and archery wins the day. Against her mother’s wishes, Diana leaves the isle with Steve, determined to end what her new friend naively calls (parroting Woodrow Wilson) “the war to end all wars.”

One can take Wonder Woman to task for many things: plot holes big enough to sail a ship through; gross historical inaccuracies; seen-it-before special effects. But the acting lifts the movie above its deficient storyboard. Gadot is marvelously expressive—not in the acrobatics of combat but in the more intimate moments. Her eyes tell stories. Pulling the half-dead Steve from the sea, she scrutinizes him with tender curiosity. Later, anger flares at the prejudice she encounters in sooty London, and compassion fills her as she sees the results of mechanized warfare. Amid the pyrotechnics are many sideways glances at the suffering and devastation. Although she sallies forth with sword and shield—and nifty bracelets that deflect bullets—Diana is a naïve idealist who believes that Ares, god of war, is behind the mayhem. Slay him and the world turns into a garden—or so she imagines.

Wonder Woman is leavened by humor. Although grateful for saving his life, Steve thinks at first that he’s got one nutty dame on his hands, especially when she informs him that “men are essential for procreation, but when it comes to pleasure, they are unnecessary.” She’s read all the works of ancient Greece but had never seen a man or modern technology. Steve’s watch puzzles her. “You let that little thing tell you what to do?” she asks, reasonably enough. The scene at a London shop where Steve brings her to find suitable clothes is hilarious. The fashions for women from a century ago give little leeway for sprinting, jumping or swordplay.

Naturally, despite the superfluousness of men, erotic interest and romantic love stirs in their breasts. Defiantly determined to bring the war to a close before Dr. Maru’s poison can be dispensed on the battlefield, Diana leads Steve and a merry crew of mercenaries (a Scotsman, an Arab and a Native American) across No Man’s Land into German-occupied Belgium for the final battle of the gods. There are twists that shouldn’t be spoiled in a review. Suffice to say: Diana emerges wiser on the human condition and with plenty of plot strands for her next movie, Justice League, due in November.

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