This review originally aired on June 8, 2017. The movie was just released digitally on August 29, 2017.
A couple of weeks ago, I complained about the length of fight scenes in superhero movies. As if sent by the gods, we now have Wonder Woman, a superhero movie with mercifully short fight scenes and a sensibility unlike maybe any other superhero movie I’ve seen.
It is still two-and-a-half hours long, so to make a long story very, very short, Wonder Woman is Diana, an Amazon created to protect humankind. Through a series of events, Diana ends up in Europe during World War I, on a mission to kill Ares, the god of war, whom she sees as responsible for all of the death and destruction going on around her. What she finds, I’ll leave up to you to discover.
As directed by Patty Jenkins, the movie is quite admirable. It’s exciting without getting tedious, and it has many of the same qualities I valued in the television show ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’—namely, it stresses the importance of compassion and teamwork, rather than victory through sheer brute force, as is almost exclusively the purview of typical superhero movies. It’s the kind of movie that shows us that, yes, this is a terrible world, but it’s still one worth fighting for.
The Israeli actress Gal Gadot is charismatic as Wonder Woman, playing her as a fierce warrior filled with empathy for those in danger, and this sets her apart from most other comic book heroes, who throw each other through skyscrapers with little regard for the human life inside. Wonder Woman, by contrast, is willing to go over the top of the trenches into No Man’s Land if it means saving a group of imperiled townspeople, even if it distracts her from her overall mission. Because, to Diana, all lives are important.
Which isn’t to say that she doesn’t spend some time kicking Germans around as she searches for Ares—this is, after all, still an action movie, and there’s plenty of action to go around. But the simple fact that the movie doesn’t rely on that action to move forward or to provide thrills is what makes Wonder Woman special, while Diana’s humanity and compassion make her one of the most important superheroes we’ve ever had on screen.