Wonder Woman; 141 min; Rated PG-13
Consider that the character Wonder Woman made her debut as part of the DC panoply of superheroes in 1941, introduced to comic book fans as Diana Prince, a warrior princess from the idyllic island of Themyscira, home to Amazon women who with each generation trained in the art of self-defense and war.
And now, finally, after more than 70 years, Hollywood has decided that perhaps, just perhaps, there is an audience for a stand-alone female superhero and has brought Diana (Gal Godot) to the big screen in the just-released “Wonder Woman.”
Interestingly, she is never referred to as Wonder Woman; rather, she’s called, simply, Diana. Wonder Woman seems more a title (even an exclamation) than a name.
Of course, she is semi-divine, born to her mother, Queen Hippolytia (Connie Nielson), fathered by the god Zeus, and trained in combat by her aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright).
As a young woman — and act one is an origin story — she is head strong, brave, determined, ever the eager student.
And then one day, as she stands on a high cliff overlooking a pristine beach, out of the sky comes a damaged biplane, which crashes into the sea not far from shore. Diana dives down into the water and swims out to the plane and rescues the yank pilot, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), pulling him to shore.
She has never seen a man before, least of all a pilot dressed in WWI flyers garb. She insists on knowing who he is and where he came from. What they both suddenly realize is that he has been followed by boatloads of armed German soldiers resulting in a long battle between the women of the island and the Germans.
It’s only later that Steve explains that he is a spy for the English and that there is a war raging, “the war to end all wars.” Diana is filled with disbelief and anger that the god of war, Ares, who she believed dead, has reappeared and is once again causing chaos and death.
She decides to leave the island with Steve, and together they sail to London where, for the first time, she is introduced to an early 20th-century city that teems with people and buildings unlike anything she has ever seen.
And it is at this point that the story begins to take shape. Outfitted at a Harrods department store, now dressed in a demure skirt and jacket and round glasses, she and Steve, along with his sidekicks, make their way to the front lines where brutal trench warfare is ongoing.
It’s there that they hear that the Germans are working to perfect a lethal uber-gas, being developed by an evil German commander Ludendorf (Danny Huston) and a ruthless German chemist, Dr. Maru (Elena Anya). Their mission: to find the laboratory behind enemy lines and destroy the new munitions.
What is unexpected is that Steve and Diana discuss good and evil and her conviction that if she can eliminate Ares the war will end. What she is unprepared for is the reality that it may not be simply Ares but mankind that is predisposed to engage in the destruction created by war, to include the killing of innocents.
There are, of course, magnificent battle scenes. And act three is standard CGI fare where Diana and Ares confront each other in a cataclysmic match of strength and will. But what makes “Wonder Woman” fine entertainment is the getting there, which is nuanced and thoughtful.
After decades of DC/Marvel testosterone-driven superheroes in tights, Diana Prince is refreshing and wonderful to look at and it still amazes that the studio would take a chance on her and the story. Diana is, well, attractively human, though she possesses skill sets that astonish.
The ending of “Wonder Woman” is obviously just the beginning. She will return and the struggle for decency and peace will go on, to the delight of her new fan base.