MOVIE REVIEW: Wonder Woman is a kick-arse superhero romp

WELL, that's a relief.

With so much at stake, thank Zeus that Wonder Woman didn't fall into the same trap as its DC Extended Universe predecessors.

Instead of taking the dull, dark and dreary path laid out before it, Wonder Woman took a full run down the byroad to somewhere warm, funny and properly entertaining.

It wasn't just that Wonder Woman had been tasked with rescuing the DC franchise from the three duds it's released - and hopefully it will, someone's got to keep Marvel honest.

It's also carrying the weight of whether female-led superhero movies will continue to be greenlit and funded by Hollywood studios, something they've been reluctant to do since the dual disasters of 2004's Catwoman and 2005's Elektra.

A successful run at the box office and with critics and fans will not only pave the way for the upcoming Captain Marvel but also the Batgirl flick DC has in development with Joss Whedon. And who knows what else down the pipeline? Maybe that Black Widow solo outing we've been teased with for years.

The long overdue first big screen iteration of the superhero since its comic debut in 1941, Wonder Woman is an origin story for Diana, Princess of the Amazons (Gal Gadot). It's also the first superhero movie to be directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins (Monster), who was originally attached to the second Thor film before she was sacked.

Clay Enos - Warner Bros. Entertainment via AP

One hundred years before she fought alongside Batman and Superman, Diana was living on Themyscira, an island shrouded by magic from the outside world. There, the Amazons, a race of female warriors, live, including Diana's mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). From a young age, Diana is trained by her aunt, the fierce General Antiope (Robin Wright), to be the best fighter.

One day, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) an American pilot working for British Intelligence is shot down and crashes into the waters around Themyscira. The island is breached by the Germans on his tail and the Amazons engage in battle in a pulsating fight on the beach.

Hearing about the great war (WWI) taking place outside of Themyscira's borders, and the millions of men, women and children butchered, Diana ventures into Man's World to take down Ares, the God of War, who she's convinced is responsible for the travesty.

Alex Bailey - Warner Bros. Entertainment via AP

Gadot, easily the most redeemable part of the dreadful Batman v Superman, is absolutely enchanting, balancing Diana's obvious strength with her vulnerability. She starts off her journey with the moral absolutism that comes from being ensconced on an unreachable island paradise but after the horrors Diana encounters, Gadot also has the gravitas to pull off the confusion and disillusion in seeing the darker side of mankind.

Gadot's sparkling chemistry with Pine is also a plus, the two complementing each other's energies. A scene between the two in a boat - with Steve's insistence he is an "above average" specimen of man - is a perfect example of the play between Diana and Steve, and Wonder Woman's understanding of why levity in a superhero film is so important.

Other comic elements are provided by Diana's forthrightness butting up against a repressed and patriarchal England, and Steve's ragtag support crew played by Lucy Davis, Ewen Bremner, Said Taghmaoui and Eugene Brave Rock.

Clay Enos - Warner Bros. Entertainment via AP

Where Wonder Woman excels is in the pure joy and spectacle of its roaring action sequences, which are conservatively deployed to maintain their power.

There's a lyricism to Wonder Woman's lithe movements, especially in the way she launches and contorts her body through the air. Seeing this female body accomplish such amazing physical feats, at the very least, gives audiences something fresh to watch instead of the usual testerone-fuelled punch-outs. Ditto, how she wields the Lasoo of Truth, a visually distinct weapon.

Of course, it's not without problems. The dialogue in particular is so stodgy at times you wish the characters would stop speaking, the CGI is often overdone and plot twists are telegraphed. But none of those things are surprising for a superhero movie, nor is the overlong two hours and 20 minutes running time, though the movie is fairly well-paced.

Wonder Woman is, undoubtedly, feminist - just as her creator, William Moulton Marston, intended more than 75 years ago. Marston, who was in a polyamorous relationship with two women, based the character on feminists of the era, including birth control activist Margaret Sanger.

He'd be pretty proud of how she finally made it onto the big screen.

Rating: 3.5/5

Wonder Woman is in cinemas from Thursday, June 1.

News Corp Australia


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