I recognized Diana, the only child raised on the paradise island of Themyscira amongst Amazon women who is, as we nearly all must know, destined to become the woman known as Wonder Woman.
I recognized her as the nurses at a small inner-city hospital who received this baby born with spina bifida, predicted to die, but who refused to give up on me and fought like hell to keep me alive.
I recognized her in the female doctors who did everything within their power to save my life, the friends and family members who refused to believe the naysayers whose negative predictions for my future foresaw weakness and dependence and failure as my destiny.
I recognized her in the teachers who pushed their way through a brain that works differently than most and figured out how to teach and reach and believe and empower.
I recognized her as the friends and peers who refused to give up and refused to let go when every cell within my being wanted to give up and had decided that everything was impossible.
I recognized her as the lovers who have embraced both the strengths and weaknesses, masculinity and vulnerability in a body that is different and quirky and sick and holy.
As an adult with a lifelong disability, I've grown up with women much like Diana, wonderful in both similar and different ways, who have possessed a strength that saved my life and my heart and my mind and who, indeed, trained me up to be the warrior of my own life and whose strength I always have and always will celebrate.
Indeed, through nearly every single one of Wonder Woman's nearly 2 1/2 hour running time, I found myself celebrating this awesome wonder of a woman whose cinematic presence felt both otherworldly and intimately within my own world.
Wonder Woman is the kind of superhero that I've always wanted to see on the big screen. Wonder Woman, despite the obvious and occasionally intrusive influence of the Snyder house of style, is the superhero film that I've always wanted to watch even if it runs a few minutes too long and detours away from much of what made it a near classic in its first two-thirds in favor of a more traditional, aka Snyderesque, actionfest in its winding down toward the finish.
Yet, even there, there's something to be celebrated about the faithfulness in having a seriously kick-ass superhero who isn't trying to become a man but instead is all woman, all intelligent, all compassionate, all powerful and seriously freakin' amazing.
To say that Wonder Woman is one of the best of the DC universe superhero flicks seems like an almost ludicrous understatement though, if we're being honest, with only a couple of exceptions the bar is set pretty low. Wonder Woman is devoid of the steampunk meets emo stylings and storylines of recent endeavors like the Batman v Superman bummer of a flick that only shined when Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman entered the picture. Wonder Woman is also refreshingly devoid of the over-the-top antics of a film like Suicide Squad, which tried immensely to convince us of its badassery but failed miserably.
The truth is that, despite its flaws, Wonder Woman is a film that I can't stop thinking about and I can't stop raving about and I can't stop saying enough about director Patty Jenkins's ability to hold on to the reins enough to create a film that gives little girls around the world a superhero they deserve that reminds them they can be intelligent and powerful and compassionate and pure and, yeah, even beautiful.
Wonder Woman is a film that you don't sit around watching it and picking out its flaws. You don't sit there wondering why a superhero who wants to save the world ends up destroying cities and, in not so thinly veiled action sequences, destroying innocent lives in the name of justice. Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman goes after the baddies and just the baddies, her compassion for humanity protective and fierce and disciplined and occasionally even quite adorable. Even when she must confront the truth about evil, this Wonder Woman confronts the truth and commits to doing what she believes.
Gal Gadot is simply extraordinary here, so completely owning the role of Wonder Woman that it's difficult to imagine anyone else could have been considered for the role. The Israeli born actress speaks with an acccent, yet she is so completely immersive that before long one is simply consumed by her performance.
Raised away from men, Diana also spends her childhood protected by her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), from Ares, the God of war. The story isn't entirely revealed to Diana, though Jenkins scatters clues for the audience throughout the film and my guess would be that even the most novice of superhero flick connoisseurs will be able to figure things out before they are revealed. When an American airplane pilot manages to crash land near the island, Diana is introduced to a man for the first time in the form of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). He is in the midst of fighting in World War I, an armistice nearing yet fragile with General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) doing all he can to sabotage the endeavor with the loyal help of Elena Anaya's disturbing Dr. Poison, whom one can see easily as a predecessor for future events that we all know will unfold in Germany.
The team assembled to support Diana and Steve, while under-utilized, also shines out in such a way that one could be excused for thinking of an Ocean's scenario. Trainspotting's Ewen Bremner is a joy as Charlie, a PTSD-ridden sharpshooter whose entire being changes over time thanks to Diana's influence while Said Taghmaoui shines as a secret agent and master of disguises. Native American actor Eugene Brave Rock is Chief, whose approach to war seems to be less about taking sides and more about doing whatever possible to make it all end. David Thewlis, left best undescribed, is also an understated gem.
There is, not surprisingly, a relevance to modern times for Allan Heinberg's screenplay and despite the third-act detour Wonder Woman features one of the most beautifully and faithfully developed superhero characters played to magnificent perfection in a tour-de-force by Gal Gadot. There are moments of sexual tension, mostly chaste, between Diana and Steve but Wonder Woman avoids turning this superhero into a sexualized, exploited superhero.
Wonder Woman is a superhero. Period.
Chris Pine, whom everyone learned could shine outside the Star Trek universe in last year's Hell or High Water, proves to be the perfect sidekick for Diana, an appealing man comfortable with his own presence yet never running away from the truth that Diana is truly an extraordinary woman with extraordinary gifts.
There is so much more I could say. There is so much more I want to say. Recognizing that Wonder Woman does, indeed, possess flaws, Wonder Woman remains a film that lights up the DC universe and redefines in their world what a superhero can be and what a superhero film can be. Here's hoping that in a sequel, and there will be one or more plus the upcoming Justice League, that a little more discipline is used and we get just a little bit more Gal Gadot/Wonder Woman and a little bit less of Zack Snyder's Hollywood stylings hinder but don't ultimately sabotage Summer 2017's first truly entertaining movie experience. Certain familiar pieces of the Wonder Woman experience familiar to most via Lynda Carter's television work aren't yet present here, but rest assured that this is the Wonder Woman we deserve.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic