Befitting its World War I setting, Wonder Woman has a certain throwback charm, with Gadot and Pine playing off one another as good-naturedly as partners in a 1930s screwball comedy. It’s a vibe that stands in particular contrast to the bitter, Snyderesque unpleasantries—Do you bleed? You will!—that characterized the movie’s immediate DC predecessors.
After a brief framing scene in the present day—Diana Prince (Gadot), working as a curator at the Louvre, receives a package from Bruce Wayne—the movie takes us back in time to Themyscira, the legendary island of the Amazons. There, a young Diana is told by her mother, the Amazon Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), how the latter sculpted her out of clay and then had the god Zeus breathe life into her. (Like most origin stories told to young children, this one proves not to be entirely accurate.)
Diana wants to train to be just like the proud, immortal warrior-women all around her. Her mother opposes the idea, but her aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright), is in favor. The latter wins out of course, thus sparing us a movie in which Diana tries to end World War I by writing a thoughtful editorial in The Times of London. Diana also learns about the war god Ares, son of Zeus, who was defeated when he rose up against his father millennia earlier, but is believed to be on the prowl once more, fomenting discord in the World of Men.
Diana herself knows little of the world or men, her females-only island being protected by veils of fog and a magical force field. That is, until who should fall out of the sky and through said force field but USAF Captain Steve Trevor, piloting a German fighter plane that he stole while on an espionage mission. “Would you say you’re a typical example of your sex?” Diana asks him. Yes, she is going to be awfully disappointed by the outside world.
After dispatching the squad of Germans who were following Steve, Diana agrees to help him leave the island and deliver the intelligence he has gathered, which he believes could turn the tide of the war. She is convinced that Ares must be behind such rampant bloodshed (she’s largely correct), and that “once the Germans are freed from his influence, they will be good men again.” (She’s pretty far off on that one, I fear. I’m reminded of a line from the great Tom Lehrer’s “MLF Lullaby”: “We taught them a lesson in 1918, and they’ve hardly bothered us since then.”)
So after Diana arms herself with sword, shield, and truth-impelling lariat, it’s off to London (“It’s hideous,” she proclaims) and then to the war front in Belgium. Villains are introduced in the form of a German general (Danny Huston) and his evil scientist henchwoman (Elena Anaya). Meanwhile, a high-up in the British War Cabinet (David Thewlis) helps Steve and Diana put together a likably motley quartet of comrades to assist them.