‘Wonder Woman’ has it all, and is the best of the DC Comics movies to date

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“Wonder Woman” is a marvel.

Forgive the crossing of the comic streams, but “Wonder Woman” — which is somehow the first live action film take on the iconic superhero — dazzles in ways we’re simply not used to from the DC Comics brand. This is a careful, considerate film that moves at its own pace and takes its time setting up its story and characters, and pays off in a big way once the action gets rolling.

Credit director Patty Jenkins (“Monster”) with shifting away from Zack Snyder’s brutal, bludgeoning approach to the DC landscape. (Snyder still has a hand here, and shares a “story by” credit.) Jenkins lets us spend time with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot, bringing thought and nuance to the role) and get to know her before thrusting her into battle, and it’s that steady, even-handed approach that makes all the difference.

After a framing device introduces Wonder Woman in modern day Paris, we catch up with WW as Diana, a young Amazon child raised on a mystical island free of men and full of warrior princesses.

Among them are Antiope (Robin Wright), Diana’s ferocious aunt, and Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), her protective mother. They impart on her the ways of their people and raise her to be a fierce, all-powerful fighter.

But she’s no killing machine. She’s a sensitive, thoughtful, compassionate soul whose world is uprooted when American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes into the waters near her island. Diana rescues him, and she travels with him back to London, where World War I is underway and she sets out to do her part to stop it.

Her immediate goal is to find and kill Ares, the Greek God of war. But there are several others in her way, including General Erich Ludendorf (Danny Huston), an officer in the German army, and Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya), an unambiguously named chemical weapons specialist and co-conspirator of Ludendorf.

This is where “Wonder Woman” really takes off, but the film is in no hurry to get to the battlefield. There’s a great bit where Diana stops at a train station and enjoys an ice cream cone, and it’s like the movie is pausing along with her. We’ll get to the good stuff soon, the movie is saying, but first a little dessert.

There are also plenty of fish-out-of-water moments with Trevor explaining the world and human nature to Diana. It’s these character building moments that give “Wonder Woman” its legs to stand on, and make her feel like someone we care about before the fists start flying.

Once they do, the action delivers, even if Wonder Woman’s high bound leaps suffer from a bit of CGI excess. But even the Overblown Climax — a staple of superhero extravaganzas, especially in the DC universe — works in a big way, and there are consequences felt and checks and balances for every blow thrown. “Wonder Woman” plays like an old school adventure, more “Raiders of the Lost Ark” than “Batman V. Superman.” It takes itself seriously without being uptight about it, and that allows audiences to do the same.

“Wonder Woman” has action, humor and heart, as well as strong performances across the board, especially from Gadot and Pine. In a summer where the disappointments are already piling up, this is a movie that makes good on its promise, and then some. It’s the first summer tent pole film to be directed by a woman, which is straight up crazy. Given the results, it won’t be the last.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

‘Wonder Woman’

GRADE: B+

Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content

Running time: 141 minutes

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