The only wonder regarding this movie is that it could be so incredibly dull. I keep hoping DC will find a key to unlock the magic inherent in its great cast of characters, but the Midas Touch continues to elude them. We already know that Gal Gadot cuts a striking figure as Diana, aka Wonder Woman, so that’s not the problem. Neither is the origin story, which follows the path laid out by creator William Moulton Marston. In fact, the opening sequence on Paradise Island is the best part of the movie, with majestic Connie Nielsen as Diana’s mother and Robin Wright as the aunt who teaches her warrior skills. This is a woman’s world, and director Patty Jenkins—the first woman given the opportunity to helm a superhero feature—does it justice.
But once aviator Chris Pine crashes his plane into the ocean, things head downhill. It’s no fault of Pine’s; he’s as engaging as ever, playing a British Intelligence officer who’s gone undercover as a German during World War One. Wonder Woman abandons her home and joins him in the modern world, convinced that she must find her war-mongering relative Ares and destroy him. That’s when the movie loses its grip.
Could anyone find a way to make such a narrative dreary and tiresome? The answer, incredibly, is yes. Screenwriter Allan Heinberg (who devised the story with Zach Snyder and Jason Fuchs) and director Jenkins hand us a movie that bogs down in dialogue for more than two hours with far too little action. Even worse, the action itself is unreal; there is no visceral (or vicarious) response to watching Diana leaping about in shots of hand-to-hand combat. Bodies go flying through the air, as do well-aimed arrows from Amazonian bows, but it’s all so cartoonish that the human connection is lost.
Pine has a welcome, lighthearted touch that keeps the movie from becoming completely serious-minded, but like other DC comic book sagas this one could use an injection of humor. Danny Huston plays his Nazi villain for all it’s worth, and the talented David Thewlis (also appearing this season of Fargo) is always good, but they and their costars bring no particular light or spark to the proceedings. Gadot has a genuine screen presence, and hers is the only character whose motivations are clear and worthy of empathy. That’s good for Diana but not good enough to make Wonder Woman the movie it ought to be.