The boys behind the DC movies finally allowed a girl director into their club, and, much like a superhero herself, Patty Jenkins has shown them how it’s really done.
Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman” is a heroic piece of work, and it puts to shame the other DC Extended Universe movies: “Man of Steel,” “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad.”
While those movies attempted to be “edgy” and simply ended up sludgy — not to mention gray, lifeless and humorless — “Wonder Woman” is a thing of hope and beauty; it’ll give you a lump in your throat and make you want to cheer.
Jenkins, who may be vaguely familiar to movie fans as the woman who directed Charlize Theron to an Oscar in 2003’s “Monster,” has not made a theatrical film since then, and so this resurrection is doubly satisfying.
Gal Gadot plays the title character, introduced as a distant third banana in “Batman v. Superman.” In the present day, she examines a century-old photo of herself, and flashes back to her story.
She was born Diana on Paradise Island, among the amazons, the daughter of the queen (Connie Nielsen).
Young Diana watches the women warriors train — with no man around to tell them they can’t — and she wishes to do the same. Her mother objects, but her aunt (Robin Wright) secretly agrees.
Years later, dashing, roguish World War I pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands on the island, alerting Diana to the vast troubles in the real world.
Following her destiny to vanquish the God of War, Aries, she joins Steve in the real world to do just that.
Steve, meanwhile, has a smaller mission; he joins with his international band of misfits — Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner and Eugene Brave Rock — to stop a German general (Danny Huston) and an evil chemist (Elena Anaya) from poisoning the world with a deadly new gas.
Diana sees the humans with genuine wonder and empathy, wishing to help and ease suffering everywhere. She understands that, despite everything, each person is beautiful.
It’s a simple, brave message that seems needed at this moment.
In her performance, Gadot captures what Christopher Reeve’s Superman and Chris Evans’ Captain America had: a special kind of humble displacement and appealing innocence.
At the same time, she full of flash and dazzle, and flat-out amazing. Her action sequences are choreographed gorgeously, fluidly, designed to be clearly seen and enjoyed, like a badass ballet.
This fall, the boys are back with a new “Justice League” movie, but for now, DC is sitting pretty with “Wonder Woman.”
3 and a half stars
Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston
Written by Allan Heinberg
Directed by Patty Jenkins
Running time 2 hours, 21 minutes