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Not your father’s action movie

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Gal Gadot’s inspiring performance in “Wonder Woman” embodies the type of person we want our daughters and sisters — even ourselves — to become. (Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Pictures)
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“Wonder Woman” may just be the movie we need right now. This story of a brave, confident woman, spurred to action by only the most noble of motivations — to help those who need help — offers a refreshing tonic to the endless drumbeat of fear, prejudice and senseless violence that too often surrounds us.

I walked out of the theater feeling better about the world, no small feat given the news lately. A large part of that was the empowering portrayal of Wonder Woman herself, a woman who is strong in every sense of the word — physically, mentally and morally. But it was more than that.

While there are plenty of exciting fights and amazing stunts, there’s no blood, no gore. The movie is not just about her skill as a fighter, although that is considerable. It’s ultimately about our humanity and the redemptive power of love.

Set during World War I, Wonder Woman sees the evil humans can do, the darkness that lives within each of us. But she also sees the good inside — our capacity to love, to sacrifice for others. Ultimately, the movie turns on her belief and faith in the better angels of our nature.

Gal Gadot’s electric performance as Wonder Woman will stay with you. Her Diana is the kind of amazing woman we want our daughters and sisters — even ourselves — to become. Indeed, every woman we see on the screen shares Diana’s bravery and self-confidence. The Amazon women fight with a blend of skill and strength that is breathtaking to watch.

The men she encounters try to tell her what to do, but she doesn’t listen. When they initially try to protect her, she ends up saving them instead. But once they realize what she can do, they respond with respect. They’re not threatened by this strong woman.

In the movie’s most powerful sequence (no spoilers; it’s in all the ads), Diana climbs a ladder out of the Allied trenches and runs across No Man’s Land, drawing intense fire from the other side, to save a subjugated Belgian village. This is the moment when Diana becomes Wonder Woman, when she truly starts to become the hero she was born to be.

This sequence — and indeed, the entire movie — is especially empowering for women and girls as they watch a strong, brave woman stand tall. But men and boys respond as well. “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins recently tweeted about a group of kindergarteners’ reactions to seeing the movie that included a young boy, long obsessed with Iron Man, who had asked his parents for a Wonder Woman lunchbox.

Perhaps the strongest reactions have come from women seeing the movie through the eyes of their daughters. A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook: “Seeing Wonder Woman with my 9 year old daughter was one of the great joys of my life.”

Wonder Woman is the kind of role model we’ve been looking for. There’s no post-modern irony here, no jaded cynicism. She unashamedly does hard things simply because they’re the right things to do. There’s nothing weak about her femininity. She is a confident woman who refuses to be anything less than what she wants and needs to be.

These days, so much — from social media to political speeches — appeals to our baser emotions, with lots of fearmongering, anger and prejudice. That’s why it was so refreshing to me to watch a movie that, while acknowledging that those baser emotions exist, nevertheless affirms and celebrates the more noble aspects of humanity.

At its core, “Wonder Woman” is optimistic and hopeful — good can outweigh bad, love can conquer hate, women can succeed on an equal footing with men. The movie felt like a balm for my soul battered as it is by everything happening in the world today. It’s an action movie that’s less about the action and more about its main character’s heart.

Go see “Wonder Woman.” And be sure to take the young girls or boys in your life with you. This exciting, empowering and hopeful movie is exactly what we need in these often depressing times.

Sally Stephens is an animal, park and neighborhood activist who lives in the West of Twin Peaks area.

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