Sunday, June 4, 2017

Wonder Woman Review: Gal Gadot A Revelation! Hail Diana, Wonder Woman!

WONDER WOMAN debuted in All Star Comics in 1941. On TV, it was first made into a TV movie in 1974 starring Cathy Lee Crosby, which bombed because they didn’t give her any super powers. In 1975, Lynda Carter starred in the iconic TV series and it clicked with viewers, so it ran for four years until 1979. In 2011, it was remade again into a forgettable TV movie, with Adrianne Palicki.

Through the years, Wonder Woman has become the top superheroine icon who easily eclipses Lara Croft, Catwoman, Electra and even the Disney princesses. DC Comics finally comes up with their first “Wonder Woman” for the big screen, and gets it right as an origin story that will conquer the hearts of fans all over the globe.

She was first introduced by DC last year, played by Israeli beauty queen Gal Gadot, in “Batman V. Superman”, where Bruce Wayne gets hold of an old photo of hers taken during World War I. Now, she gets her own movie, directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins, who helmed Charlize Theron in the dark drama, “Monster”, that gave her an Oscar best actress award and also did the equally dark TV series, “The Killing”. And Jenkins did a superb job of magically transferring it to the big screen.
Wonder Woman is actually Diana, the daughter of Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), created by their God, Zeus. She is the only child in Paradise Island populated by Amazon women, which is created by Zeus to protect them from Ares, the God of War who is sowing mayhem in the world.

When we first see her in the movie, Diana is a little girl who wants to be trained as a warrior.
Diana’s mom is against it but she gets well trained by her aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright, one of the best actresses on TV today in “House of Cards”), a ferocious warrior herself with impressive sword and bow and arrow skills. Diana is given her shield, bracelets, the sword known as the god killer, and the Lasso of Truth, made by another god, Hephaestus, that can force the truth from anyone else held captive by it.

What’s nice about Diana is a she’s an open-hearted, somewhat naive babe in the woods who believes it’s her duty to rid the world of war, which is why Ares is her foremost adversary. One day, she sees an airplane crashing into the waters of their island and she rescues its pilot from getting drowned, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American who works as a spy for British intelligence. The Germans then land and we see the Amazons engage in a rousing and stunning battle on the beach between men with guns and women on horseback.

Steve is the very first man that the Amazon princess meets and she insists that she returns with him to the war front to have a showdown with Ares, who is causing World War I, tagged then as the war to end all wars. They’ll be up against the villains, a German general (Danny Huston), who Diana suspects is Ares, and Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) who invents deadly poison gas and wears a mask on the lower half of her face ala-Phantom of the Opera. It becomes Diana’s mission to stop them from killing millions of people and they’re secretly aided by a British politician (David Thewlis), who has his own secret motivations.

The story is told with touches of humor, like the sequence showing Diana shopping for modern clothes (which she thinks are too confining and impractical) with the help of Steve’s secretary, Etta (Lucy Davis). Another great scene shows her in a meeting of male politicians where she demonstrates she’s a polyglot, gives them a piece of her mind and shames them.

Steve’s ragtag group of friends who help in their mission also provide some laughs, including a Moroccan operative (Said Taghmaoui), an American Indian black market expert (Eugene Brave Rock) and an alcoholic sharpshooter (Ewen Bremner.)

You cannot fault the film’s production design, from the awesome and idyllic Paradise Island to early 20th century London up to the muddy and dirty trenches on the warfront, all capture vividly by the fine cinematography. But the best thing about this origin story is Wonder Woman herself, played with much pizazz by Gadot as a woman who can scale walls with her bare hands and really kick ass without compunction, but is a softie inside who loves babies and can’t over how good a cone of ice cream can be.

There’s also a sad love story sandwiched in the movie that hits just the right emotional note, with Chris Pine, one of the most charismatic actors in Hollywood today along with the so many other Chrises (Evans, Pratt, Hemsworth), serving his role extremely well as the self-sacrificing male damsel in distress. If Diana would miss him, then she could cross over to “Star Trek” and meet him as the young Captain Kirk.

To tell you the truth, we didn’t like Gadot when we first learned she’d be Wonder Woman. But as we watch her in the movie, she’s the type that grows on you and becomes quite a revelation that we eventually cheer and root for her. We find her portrayal quite endearing, especially towards the ending when she declares: “I believe in love”. We waited until the very end of the finals credits to see if there’s a preview of the next “Wonder Woman” film, but there’s none. Well, we’ll just have to wait then for “Justice League” when Wonder Woman goes partying with Batman, Aquaman and other DC superheroes. Hail, Diana, Wonder Woman!

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