GAL GADOT (left) and Connie Nielsen in a scene from ‘Wonder Woman.’.
(photo credit: DC COMICS)
Once upon a time, the words “Amazon princess” could only mean one thing – Wonder Woman. Today, Amazon anything conjures up associations of the online retailer. But DC Comics is trying to change this with Wonder Woman, a movie about the female warrior who fights evil with what can only be described as accessories that give her superpowers.
In Israel, the release of the latest in a long string of superhero movies has been anticipated feverishly because it stars native daughter Gal Gadot of Rosh Ha’ayin. Although Israel is rarely out of the headlines, Israelis have an intense craving for a certain kind of credibility on the world stage that comes only from sheer admiration. It’s why otherwise rational Israelis find themselves glued to the television to watch Eurovision, the first international competition in which Israel had great success. If Gadot is a hit as this woman warrior, many seem to feel, it would be a win for Israel.
I don’t know whether Wonder Woman will be good for the Jews, but Gadot is credible and more as the ass-kicking Amazon. As someone who grew up loving the Wonder Woman comics, the matter of Wonder Woman’s big-screen portrayal is not a matter of indifference to me, and, like many fans, I worried that Gadot was too sylph-like and model-ly to be convincing as the world’s strongest woman. But, as she has discussed in many interviews, the IDF veteran and mother of two trained hard for more than half a year to hone her super-heroine skills and physique, and it paid off.
She made a brief appearance as Wonder Woman in last year’s lackluster Batman v Superman and made it clear she projects the confidence and charisma she needs to be convincing as Diana Prince (Wonder Woman’s human name). True, she is not as zaftig as Lynda Carter was in the ’70s television show, if I must lower myself to making those sorts of invidious comparisons, but she has a face the camera loves, and the kind of toned but slim body that befits a 21st century incarnation of this super heroine.
She is at her best in the fight sequences, as well as any scene where she has to project toughness or anger, raising one eyebrow slightly like a typical Israeli after someone has tried to cut in line.
Only she doesn’t just shout at them, but ties them up with her truth lasso or knocks them senseless with her magic shield or sword.
The movie suffers from the usual preachy subtext (love is the answer, not war), occasionally leaden plotting and cloying, unfunny attempts to lighten the mood with humor (“What’s that?” Diana asks the unclothed Steve Trevor as he relaxes in an underground pool, but she’s referring to his watch) that characterize comic-book movies. That said, overall the movie is fun, and for once it’s aimed at female tweens and teens, not the boys. In this age of the groperin- chief who now lives in the White House, seeing a young, beautiful woman vanquish mostly male bad guys is not nothing. And Diana gets to wear some beautiful clothes while she’s doing it, and have some softly lit romantic scenes with Steve.
The movie opens with Diana’s origin story, how she created by her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) out of clay and given life by Zeus, on the all-female island of Themyscira. The scenes of her as a child and a teen, acquiring her warrior skills under the tutelage of General Antiope (Robin Wright), reveal the feminist underpinning of Diana’s story, as well as the conflict at the heart of it: Diana grows up in feminist utopia, but ditches it for the first man she meets.
The Amazon warriors all seem to have vaguely Eastern European accents, particularly Robin Wright, whose line readings reminded me of Melania Trump at moments. Gadot does not have an Israeli accent. Her English is well-coached and you can see the concentration on her face as she utters every line. She reminded me of what Christopher Isherwood wrote about his famous heroine, Sally Bowles: “You could tell that she was speaking a foreign language from her expression alone.”
When Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) washes ashore, Diana rescues him, intrigued to finally meet a man. It turns out that Steve is a British spy fighting the Germans in World War I, and some German bad guys soon turn up to destroy the Amazons’ island paradise. Although the Amazons have an advanced civilization with extensive knowledge of human history, they don’t realize that their arrows will be no match for gun-toting soldiers.
In an inexcusable lapse, Diana does not deflect their bullets with her magic bracelets, as she does in many other scenes in the movie.
Convinced that the massacre on the island and the war itself are the work of Ares, the god of war, Diana accompanies Steve to London to have it out with this evil deity. Meanwhile, General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and scientist Maru (Elena Anaya) have come up with a new kind of mustard gas that will penetrate gas masks, just as German generals are about to negotiate the armistice. Thinking Ludendorff is Ares, Diana concentrates on fighting him. Steve enlists several colorful misfit/ underdogs to help defeat Ludendorff after British intelligence bigs won’t help.
Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui) is a polyglot spy; Charlie (Ewen Bremner, who plays Spud in the Trainspotting movies) is a drunken sharpshooter; and The Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) is a wise Native American well versed in tracking.
Wonder Woman ends with a sequel on the horizon, that will certainly get made if the movie inspires little girls to ditch their Disney Princess regalia and learn to scare off creeps with the raise of an eyebrow, the Gal Gadot way.