All the world’s been wait­ing for her

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPRING ARTS PREVIEW | MOVIES - ann.hor­na­day@wash­post.com

Some pretty bad movies came out in 2016, some in­volv­ing talk­ing cats, oth­ers in­volv­ing dirty grand­pas. But the most dis­ap­point­ing re­leases, by far, were “Bat­man v Su­per­man” and “Sui­cide Squad,” each of which adapted a DC Comics prop­erty with its own dreary mix of fre­netic ac­tion, lack­lus­ter char­ac­ter­i­za­tion and cold­hearted cyn­i­cism.

But there was a bright spot in all the gloom, a tether of hope for DC fans still await­ing the kind of stel­lar big-screen ex­pe­ri­ence their Marvel­loy­al­ist ri­vals boast about ev­ery time a new “Avengers” movie comes out. Even in the midst of the mind­less car­nage and non­sen­si­cal plot­ting of “Bats-Vee-Su­pes,” Won­der Woman quite lit­er­ally saved the day as the film’s strong­est, most al­lur­ing char­ac­ter. Por­trayed by Is­raeli ac­tress Gal Gadot with a su­perb blend of ath­leti­cism, glam­our and ul­tra­cool self-pos­ses­sion, Won­der Woman ca­su­ally stole the show while lay­ing waste to a mini-universe of bad guys (and show­ing up the good guys with sim­i­lar aplomb). Whereas it seemed like we’d seen it all be­fore when it came to gri­mac­ing men in tights en­gag­ing in CGI’ed der­ring-do, Won­der Woman burst on the scene as some­thing gen­uinely novel, sub­ver­sive and ex­hil­a­rat­ingly mod­ern.

While Dis­ney dithers about giv­ing Scar­lett Jo­hans­son a much-de­served “Black Wi­dow” movie of her own, Warner Bros. quickly rec­og­nized what a trea­sure it has in Gadot and com­mis­sioned “Won­der Woman,” a stand-alone Jus­tice League in­stall­ment that will ar­rive in the­aters June 2. Di­rected by Patty Jenk­ins, who helped Char­l­ize Theron earn her Os­car for “Mon­ster,” and fea­tur­ing a po­tent sup­port­ing lineup that in­cludes the re­doubtable Robin Wright, Con­nie Nielsen and — oh, yeah — Chris Pine, “Won­der Woman” still isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a guar­an­teed hit. But it pos­sesses all the right el­e­ments to right a badly list­ing DC ship, while prov­ing that women-led ac­tion pic­tures aren’t an oxy­moron and that, our cur­rent glut of comic­book spec­ta­cles not­with­stand­ing, we can al­ways use an­other she-ro.

“Won­der Woman” isn’t the only en­cour­ag­ing news for women on-screen this spring: On Feb. 17, the AFI Sil­ver The­atre will play host to a re­vival screen­ing of Julie Dash’s ger­mi­nal 1991 film “Daugh­ters of the Dust,” a hugely in­flu­en­tial movie that most re­cently served as an in­spi­ra­tion for Bey­oncé’s vis­ual al­bum “Le­mon­ade.” Also on Feb. 17, “XX,” an an­thol­ogy of hor­ror films by direc­tors Karyn Kusama, An­nie Clark (also known as St. Vin­cent), Rox­anne Ben­jamin and Jo­vanka Vuck­ovic, will open in the­aters. No less a tow­er­ing fig­ure than Oc­tavia Spencer will play God in “The Shack” on March 3. And Shirley Ma­cLaine will bring her trade­mark brand of acer­bic adora­bil­ity to “The Last Word,” an in­ter­gen­er­a­tional com­edy costar­ring Amanda Seyfried, on March 10. Add a clutch of movies toplined by the likes of Jo­hans­son (“Ghost in the Shell”), Jes­sica Chas­tain (“The Zookeeper’s Wife”), Emma Wat­son (“Beauty and the Beast,” “The Cir­cle”) and Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn (“Snatched”), and what you get isn’t ex­actly a rev­o­lu­tion, but a pretty good start.

WARNER BROS./DC COMICS

If see­ing an­other caped man feels like a fly­ing kick to the gut, look for “Won­der Woman” in June, with Gal Godot in the “she-ro” role.

Ann Hor­na­day

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