Gal Gadot Elevates WONDER WOMAN Above Zach Snyder's Touch

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Starts June 2nd, 2017.

Gal Gadot wasn’t a household name in the United States, even after appearing in three THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS films. She will be now, as the eminently likable star of WONDER WOMAN and the first person to overcome the many deficiencies of Zach Snyder.

Gadot is classically beautiful, but more importantly she comes off as genuinely likable. I’m sure most guys in the audience will be drooling, but the fairer sex will largely approve of her too. This particular Wonder Woman seems to be based primarily on the New 52-version of the venerable comics character, where she’s more of a goddess than a sculpted clay ideal made real. Gadot’s hard-to-place accent lends that other-worldliness you would expect from a mythical Amazonian princess, but she’s got determination in spades, reminding me of Ashley Judd or Jodie Foster in terms of resolve, with a healthy dose of Marissa Tomei’s sassiness. It’s a charming combination that makes Gadot more than just a pretty face, which are a dime a dozen in Tinseltown. I wouldn’t mind seeing Gadot’s Wonder Woman play against Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn somewhere down the line, if they can do it without Jared Leto’s Joker riding on his on-screen girlfriend’s coattails.

The plot is loosely based on the original origin, but set even further back to World War I. I rather appreciated that, since most Golden Age superheroes were created in response to World War II, and thanks to the History Channel there is virtually nothing left to say about Hitler and his ilk. The Allan Heinberg screenplay, crafted from a Heinberg, Jason Fuchs and Zack Snyder story, plays out a bit like MARVEL’S CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER, despite the switch from Der Führer to Der Kaiser.  Both feature shield-wielding super-strong heroes in roughly patriotic colors. More reminiscent of Snyder’s SUPERMAN vs. BATMAN, YAWN OF JUSTICE, Wonder Woman is a bit more wildly destructive. What is it with the average citizens in the DC films being so generous with their praise and affection for the “heroes” that demolish their towns? And yes, I realize that the Hulk makes a mess all around Manhattan, but not like Super Messiah does in his films. In that respect, Wonder Woman is much less destructive. She also swings a mighty sword but there’s never any blood, because DC had to know little girls were going to be watching. I’m sure if it was any other sword-swinging heroine, Snyder, even from the producer’s chair, would have made sure his arch-typical bloodbath scenes were accounted for. The man makes Quentin Tarantino look hemophobic.

On the whole, Gadot’s performance shines bright, and makes for a winning solo debut after her tepid inclusion in Snyder’s debacle last year. She also works very well with her leading man, the likewise talented and attractive Chris Pine, playing Captain Steve Trevor. I can’t help but wonder if this Captain ever kept a Captain Log’s and occasionally refer to it between takes? Poor Mr. Pine is dangerously close to being typecast. Joining the heroic “couple” are Trevor’s fellow secret agents, including Saïd Taghmaoui, a French-American actor of Moroccan descent, as the master of disguise Sameer, Ewen Bremner as Charlie, a sharpshooter with a bit of PTST, and Eugene Brave Rock as Chief, a Native American who trades with both sides of the war. While they push to close out “The War To End All Wars” on the front lines, David Thewlis’ Sir Patrick Morgan and Trevor’s secretary Etta Candy, played by Lucy Davis, support them at home. The heroic forces are not facing mere soldiers, however, as Dr. Muru, AKA Dr. Poison, played by Elena Anaya and Danny Huston’s General Erich Ludendorff, who has some small bit of super-strength thanks to Dr. Poison’s experiments, provide better than average opposition. Of course, they’re just the appetizers to the main course of Ares, God of War, played by…well, that’s a spoiler I won’t spoil for you (and don’t Wikipedia it either)! 

Everybody wants to be Marvel. Hollywood is scrambling to slap together shared cinematic universes between previously unlinked entities. You’ll see the next round of Transformers movies start to incorporate G.I. Joe and M.A.S.K. and other old Hasbro toy lines. Universal is going to tie their classic movie monsters together, starting with The Mummy. DC/WB, one would think, should be able to pull it off easily, considering how well their television franchises all play together (except for GOTHAM, which is fine standing alone). The lowest common denominator in the DCEU (DC Extended Universe…even their acronyms are terribly clumsy), is Zach Snyder, whose taint can be seen in every DC movie since The Watchmen (not counting the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy), where his style actually worked well. I wonder if director Patty Jenkins would have used the slow motion effects on her volition if Snyder wasn’t executive producer. Jenkins is a supremely capable director who guided Charlize Theron to a host of awards in Monster in 2003.

While overall WONDER WOMAN has a sunnier disposition than the other DCEU films (God that DCEU thing is just plain awful—couldn’t a company based on creativity come up with ANYTHING better?) I just feel like Snyder got his way too much, and for that the blame should fall squarely on the heads of Geoff Johns and Jon Berg, the DCEU co-honchos and co-producers of the JUSTICE LEAGUE films. Patty Jenkins deserved a free hand to craft a film that could stand toe-to-toe with Marvel’s best (CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER and CIVIL WAR…and not counting “GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY” which is sort of over and above the scope of a Wonder Woman story) but Gal Gadot’s WONDER WOMAN will do wondrous numbers at the box office when it debuts on June 2nd across America. I think the superhero movie-loving portion of the public will soon be looking forward to a full trilogy of Gal Gadot WONDER WOMAN films, as bankable franchises continue to be the chief operating principle of most studios. 

Grade: 
4.0 / 5.0