This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Gal Gadot in a scene from "Wonder Woman," in theaters on June 2.

This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Gal Gadot in a scene from "Wonder Woman," in theaters on June 2.

Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Entertainment via AP

Usually, when a piece of entertainment has as much pressure on it as this one has, it's bound to disappoint. Not only is Wonder Woman momentous as a major superhero movie with a female lead (something the world has been sorely lacking), but it's also one of Warner Brothers' last chances to gain any confidence in their current slate of DC Comics universe films following the critically panned Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad.

As it turns out, Wonder Woman is more than up to the challenge.

Though we saw a modern day Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), aka Diana Prince, in Batman v Superman, this movie flashes back to her origin story, which takes place during World War I. We meet Diana as a little girl on the island of Themyscira, desperate to learn how to fight like the Amazon women who are raising her. Her mother is hesitant, saying she hopes that her daughter will never have to fight, but eventually relents on the condition that she is trained "harder than any Amazon before her."

Chill out, bros: Women-only 'Wonder Woman' screening isn't a sexist attack on men

Themyscira is notable not just because it's magically hidden from the outside world, but that it's occupied entirely by women. That changes when American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash-lands on the island while on the run from German soldiers. What he tells Diana about the Great War that rages on outside of her safe paradise compels her to leave. Knowing that the Amazons were created by Zeus, Diana is convinced that Ares, the god of war, is responsible for the violent nature in men's hearts. Kill Ares, she assumes, and you end the war.

Longtime fans of the Wonder Woman comics might give this origin story a bit of side-eye, because the original origin has Diana rise to power in World War II, not WWI. Impressively, the script, the acting and the direction from Patty Jenkins manage to tell an origin story that blends Greek mythology with the first World War in a way that isn't overly cheesy, yet is still true to the source material.

Taken just at face value as a superhero movie, Wonder Woman is one of the best in its class, matching some of the better efforts in a genre that Marvel has dominated for years. Diana, while always more than capable of defending herself, begins her journey naive not only to the outside world, but to the very nature of humans. Her journey of discovery is a compelling one, both with the little things (like the first time she eats ice cream) and the big ones (like her many discussions with Trevor about whether or not people are inherently good).

Notably, there's much more light in this story than any DC Extended Universe films that came before it. Even in the World War I setting, which was not exactly the highest point in humanity's history, there are plenty of moments of levity, humor and, most important, hope. Faith in mankind, despite all our species' flaws, has been sorely lacking in other DC comic book movies, but it's front and center in Wonder Woman.

If you're coming to a comic book movie for the action, though, you'll get what you came for. Wonder Woman's iconic glowing and golden lasso of truth could have looked ridiculous on the screen, but instead it looks awesome, adding a lot of flourish to fight scenes that were already well-choreographed. 

The world needs a more hopeful hero than we get in 'Batman v Superman'

Beyond the standard comic book movie fare, though, it can't be ignored that Wonder Woman takes steps to tackle the subject of sexism. How Diana is treated in the man's world of WWI Europe takes center stage for a solid chunk of the movie, and Diana makes it very clear that she won't put up with that nonsense. Diana is a heroine worth looking up to, and she's not just "strong" because she can beat up groups of men without breaking a sweat.

The movie doesn't ignore issues outside of sexism, either. In an almost off-handed comment, one side character mentions that he would love to be an actor, but that he's the "wrong color" for the profession. Diana's desire for humanity to be perfect manifests itself in many discussions about its problems.

The film's climactic battle runs a bit long and features some out-of-place moments of unimpressive CGI, which is a disappointing way to finish an otherwise great film.

Unlike Batman v Superman, Wonder Woman has a sense of focus. It stands tall as the true pillar of the DC Extended Universe (so far, at least), and it instills faith that maybe, just maybe, Justice League will turn out OK after all.

Wonder Woman (B+)

PG-13(for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content). 141 minutes. In wide release.

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