Wonder Woman: Redefinition Of Superheroes In DC Universe
7 Jun 2017
After a long wait, DC films finally gave green signal to an independent woman-centric superhero film. Wonder Woman is the most popular female superhero and after 71 years since her creation, we get to see her origins.
I remember vividly coming across a post in US-based feminist medium “women’s rights news” which called out to the studio’s refusal to make an independent Wonder Woman film despite having several woman-centric films being successful; namely, gravity, frozen, Alien among others. “Catwoman” (2004) by DC and “Elektra” (2005) by Marvel failed both critically and commercially and bars were set really low for another movie featuring a woman. Marvel Studios have done their share in terms of sexism from denying green signal to a solo film of Black Widow and not releasing merchandise for Natasha Romanoff when Avengers: Age of Ultron came out. DC film’s decision to make a standalone Wonder Woman movie was not spared of sexism in itself. A woman only screening of Wonder Woman was condemned by a lot of men online with the person writing to the mayor of Austin, who gave a perfect reply for the same. Neo-Nazis are still calling to boycott all women-centric films. Vulture posted a very sexist review which drew flak online and Hollywood reporter’s headlines calling out to Waner Bros saying that they were gambling 150 million dollars over a director whose previous film was an 8 million indie flick but to Ms. Jenkin’s credit, her films have Oscar nods including Charlize Theron’s ultimate best actress victory for her film Monster (2003).
With this film, both Wonder Woman and Ms. Jenkins as a director broke the glass ceiling with it being the biggest box office weekend opening for a female director. It simply means that both Catwoman and Elektra failed because they were (in blunt words) mediocre films. What was needed is an opportunity, a good script and a director with an exemplary vision. Plus, Gal Gadot’s appearance in Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice, backed by the soundtrack was the only saving grace of the film, with its overcrowded plotlines and criticisms over the ending, despite having a strong central theme.
The movie is about Diana (Gal Gadot), an Amazon princess who, as per her mother Hippolyta’s (Connie Nielson) narration, is carved out of clay by her and is brought to life by Zeus. Diana finds fascination towards fighting and she feels drawn to the weapon that is described as “godkiller”. When she was told about Ares and how he, as the god of war, is responsible for the corruption of mankind, she takes it upon herself to fight him and bring peace to the world knowing full well that she may not go back to Themyscira. Themyscira is a world run by women or Amazon warriors who are brought to earth to bring peace and salvation upon mankind but they had to be away. When she goes out of the boundaries of Themyscira, she discovers the man’s world or the world run by men where women were reduced to the roles of parenthood and “secretaries”. She is thrown out of a council run mostly by white men, faces slut shaming and is even whistled at, things she never experienced growing up. Men around her underestimated her abilities but after fighting and saving a village from Germans, she earns that respect. She joins forces with a determined fighter, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who ends up on the shores of Themyscira, to find and kill Ares.
Personally, I admired the filmmaker’s decision to cast a Non-American actress and to present her in a form that does not reflect America. Gal Gadot’s grace, elegance, and the confidence she gives while facing the army created the perfect vision. That being said, Gadot’s Zionist views in real life is a matter of another debate as it means her views are opposite to what wonder woman stands for. Which raises the question; will Gadot stick to it?
Action scenes are well choreographed and witnessing women in the audience cheer for Wonder Woman when she opens her hair and climbs up the ladder to face the German army is refreshing to witness.
Patty Jenkin’s direction and cinematographer’s vision brought about the best in Wonder Woman and we see more of her skills unlike the usual depiction of female superheroes where the focus is on woman’s sex appeal and body parts. The focus is on Diana’s weapons and the way she moves her legs during the fight.
First of all, this is definitely the best superhero film after Chris Nolan’s Batman Begins. However, it cannot be matched the depth provided by Nolan’s Batman trilogy and Marvel cinematic universe. The movie is not perfect as such. The first half is slow and the buildup and pacing increase only by the second half. The humor sequences were simple and wonder woman is a wonderful woman. She is excited to see a baby. She is taken aback when men express their repulsion towards women. The comic timings work well and blend in and Chris Pine giving his cents with effortless dialogue delivery and the surprised looks. Plus, we have the cult character Etta Candy, someone we will miss in the upcoming sequels. We will feel for Steve Trevor as he is someone who is forced to be in war and is unable to have a life he wished. Chris Pine and Gal Gadot have excellent chemistry and this dynamic works in the climax of the film. David Thewlis is the only less impressive performance in the film as he lacked the charisma and mysterious look. Or, perhaps we see the Prof. Lupin in him more.
This is only the beginning of Wonder woman’s journey. There is more to her than that is already shown. I felt that the story is incomplete and several events were rushed, including the conclusion of world war. A major plus point about the film apart from the intended feminist narrative is the message about love, friendship, teamwork, sisterhood, and not giving up in the face of adversary by doing what you can do; like Diana facing the German army in “no man’s” land and Trevor attacking the gas factory. When Diana walked up to face the Germans, she was not motivated by an external factor like a personal tragedy or a loss. She did it because that is who she is. A superhero. Thus, the movie redefined the superhero genre. I hope the upcoming DC films stick to that pattern, including Justice League.
Wonder woman is a fresh breathe of air in a world and culture where young girls are constantly given “Mary-Jane Watsons” who were subdued as a damsel-in-distress and “Black Widows” who were sidelined. My male counterpart asked after watching the film, “you are watching this because you wanted to see a woman beat up several men?“. Well, Batman, Superman, Ironman, Ant-man, Deadpool, Doctor Strange, Hulk, and Aquaman. Chances for boys to face a similar question is slim to none. The new fantastic four movies faced flak for casting an African American in the role of human torch. We have a long way to go before achieving a fair representation of women and people of color in the superhero universe.