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‘Wonder Woman’ marks DC’s triumphant return to great storytelling

After the disappointment of last year's "Batman v Superman" and "Suicide Squad," Warner Bros. and DC Comics finally find their stride with Patty Jenkins's "Wonder Woman." (Video: Erin Patrick O'Connor/The Washington Post)
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“Wonder Woman” is the first masterpiece in Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment’s Justice League era.

Breathtaking and action-packed, with an occasional dark edge and plenty of humor, “Wonder Woman,” more than any of Warner Bros.’ current DC Comics films, channels the one emotion from the company’s classic cinema lore that has been missing from its current superhero movie slate: inspiration.

This movie feels far away from the often less than critically acclaimed DC Comics cinematic universe it is connected to. That’s not to say there aren’t fans who don’t love DC’s initial offerings. If you liked “Man of Steel,” “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and “Suicide Squad,” “Wonder Woman” should be a fanboy exclamation point for you. If you didn’t like those movies, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying this one.

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“Wonder Woman” is enhanced by its setting in the past: World War I. This allows Wonder Woman, arguably the most revered female superhero of all time, to get the uninterrupted origin story she deserves without the interference of other characters, before her eventual call-up to the Justice League. Slivers of the movie take place in the present day with hints to her Justice League connection, but not enough to deter the well-done movie beginnings of a comic book legend.

And then there’s Gal Gadot, who had the almost impossible task of being the woman who would be Wonder Woman after Lynda Carter — and holds her own.

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There is no scene in which Gadot doesn’t take command of the screen — from her pre-Wonder Woman Amazon training on the hidden island of Themyscira, to her fish-out-of-water reaction to a “man’s world,” to the World War I action that sees her take on entire battalions by herself.

At her side for the fight is Chris Pine, an A-list Hollywood leading man who can’t outshine Gadot despite some scene-stealing moments and acts of heroism. When they’re not dodging bullets together, Pine’s Steve Trevor (part of an all-around stellar supporting cast) desperately and comically tries to persuade Diana (Wonder Woman) not to walk around England with her sword and shield all the time. These moments show Gadot and Pine’s strong chemistry, pointing to another difference that sets this film apart from other DC films: The romance is just as intense as the action.

In one of the film’s final battles, after using her forearm bracers to deflect a bullet back into the gun from which it came, Wonder Woman takes on a German military officer, who is perplexed at the power she exudes. “What are you?” he says.

She gives him a look that says you should already know.

“Wonder Woman” didn’t need a top-notch villain, but it gets a fantastic one in Ares the God of War, who is masterfully hidden in plain sight. No one believes in Ares and therefore no one sees him coming. You won’t see Ares coming either, but his arrival is quite the moment.

Also be on the lookout for the scene-stealing (and at times hilarious) Lasso of Truth and incredible displays of Wonder Woman’s superhuman strength (you will believe a tank can fly).

With director Patty Jenkins having executed WB/DC’s best effort to date — and under high pressure — the movie could spark Internet chatter about whether WB’s fellow DC characters might shine brighter outside of the scope of director Zack Snyder (“Man of Steel,” “Batman v Superman” and the upcoming “Justice League”) although he is ceding some control after his recent family tragedy.

Snyder contributed to the story for “Wonder Woman” along with Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs. He also originally cast Gadot as Wonder Woman for her bit part in “Batman v Superman,” equipped her with a masterfully crafted suit by costume designer Michael Wilkinson and gave her the most-praised moment in that film: her entrance (which introduced her catchy theme music), followed by her battle against Superman-killer Doomsday.

But you can’t deny that Jenkins has directed WB/DC’s best film by a lot. “Wonder Woman” has multi-movie franchise written all over it, and she would be a welcome part of Wonder Woman’s future sequels.

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Some believe “Wonder Woman” was the first time DC Entertainment President Geoff Johns was able to flex his moviemaking muscle. The movie has some of that same magic Johns used as a writer to successfully reboot DC Comics. This is a good thing for future DC films.

WB/DC has often seemed to be rushing to catch up with Marvel Studios in building a connected universe. But with “Wonder Woman,” WB/DC has finally taken advantage of having access to some of the greatest superheroes in pop culture and made the type of movie everyone expected when they first announced they would try to build a movie universe the Marvel Studios way. Justice Leaguers with movies on the way (Aquaman, Flash, Batman) would be wise to follow her lead.

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