Hopefully, you already saw Wonder Woman if you are reading this. If not, you may want to bookmark this for later because – spoilers.
Before I even get into the movie itself, it’s almost impossible not to talk about the discussion leading up to Wonder Woman. For women in Hollywood and women characters, there was a lot riding on this one film. That’s largely because the reality is that women don’t get the chance to fail like men do. One dude does a bad thing and it’s #notallmen, but women don’t get that luxury. If WW is considered a failure by the industry it’s “women heroes can’t carry a movie”, or “women can’t direct superhero movies.” Never mind the sub-par records of some other male-centric superhero movies (Batman v Superman, Daredevil, Punisher), these directors and characters all got second chances. I know I don’t feel confident that women are afforded the same luxury, so Diana and Patty Jenkins carried a lot of their shoulders. Thankfully I don’t think we have to test this theory with Wonder Woman. While I didn’t feel it was the best movie (I’m not sure anything can dethrone Fury Road for me), it was a good movie – you know, for a movie about a woman hero written entirely by men.
I haven’t been shy about the fact that largely the DC movies haven’t been for me. It’s a stylistic opinion, but I have generally felt these movies lack joy and color. Wonder Woman tries to buck that trend…at least at the beginning. Themyscira is beautiful, full of cool blues, crisp green, and shining gold. It’s the world of man that is drab, and drags us back into that standard DC color palette. The movie is essentially an origin story. As WW’s origin is less known than her male counterparts this makes sense. And as a character more steeped in traditional myth, this gives an opportunity to explore another part of the DC Universe, especially for those WW fans who don’t read comics.
There was a lot that was good with this movie. First, the Amazons. My main disappointment with them was that they were only in a small part of the movie! While there could have been some more diversity, as someone who will soon be part of the over 40 set, it was nice to see that Themyscira was not filled with young waifs. Nor were the older women covered in overflowing gowns or caftans that hid their bodies. The Amazons were shown as strong, with scars, or marks out in the open.
Diana herself is very much a fish out of water for the majority of the film but remains self-assured and formidable. I’m not gonna lie, the No Man’s Land scene was powerful, and that’s because Diana looks powerful. I believed she was unmovable, and then able to move forward despite what was being hurled at her. It’s maybe a little heavy-handed in terms of metaphor, but I don’t care. For me, it worked. There were some other interesting takes on common tropes. As The Red Menace overheard two women in the bathroom discussing, the typical make-over scene was flipped on its head as Etta Candy (MORE ETTA!) is tasked with making a beautiful woman more dowdy, less distracting to men. You know, so they can continue planning the war and whatever. Thank God she wasn’t wearing yoga pants or leggings, society would have come to a standstill.
My biggest disappointment is the reveal that Diana’s strength is based in the power of love – here’s a trope I would like to see a lot less of! While I get what they are trying to say, having this reveal of her ultimate strength comes right on the heels of Steve Trevor’s death (yeah, he was totally fridged) made it feel more like romantic love, and an utter cliché. I felt the initial scene where Diana first reveals herself as an Amazon and crosses No Man’s Land (I see what you did there), is a much better characterization of her values. Diana’s strength lies in compassion and despite being a god, in her humanity. Compassion, of course, is a type of love, yes, and we see this play out in how Diana rescues a village no one else thinks is worth the time. But the moment where she “seizes the sword” of her own power was too wrapped up in her feelings for Steve, and given the romance angle, that he could be seen as an avatar for the human race gets overshadowed. Diana’s story and origin shouldn’t be based on her love for Steve, but rather in the fact that her compassion is what drives her decisions.
All that said, I think this movie is doing what it needs to do. It is proving that women heroes and directors (let’s get some women writers in there too) can carry a big budget movie. And more importantly how exciting is it for kids of all genders to have Diana be one of their first exposures to heroes? It’s pretty dang great.
We’re now less than a month away from the much anticipated release of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, DC and Warner Brothers’ latest foray into the superhero movie genre. Pre-release chatter remains divided and the recent announcement of an R-rated cut of the film to be released when the film comes to the home market has some fans wondering if the studio is scrambling to piggyback on the recent success of Deadpool. With a superpowered advertising blitz behind it and an audience of the DC faithful eager to see the publisher’s titans tussle, the film will likely do well. The question is, will it do well enough? DC’s movie track record as of late has been less than perfect. Even the title makes it clear that this film is intended to launch a DC cinematic universe to rival Marvel’s, which means both strong box office and positive audience reactions are even more crucial than usual. So what do DC’s biggest stars have riding on the success or failure of Batman v. Superman?
Batman: Virtually Nothing
The main thing that the film’s performance will determine for the Dark Knight is who will be playing him come the next Batman film: whether Ben Affleck is the next Christian Bale or the next George Clooney. Whether there will be another Batman movie is not in question. Batman has proven himself as a media mainstay. Yes, he was out of theaters for a while after the cinematic apocalypse that was Batman and Robin, but he came back and it wasn’t a huge surprise when he did, either. While the aforementioned garbage movie shows that Batman is not totally idiot proof, he is unusually flexible. He can be a kid friendly, incorruptible do-gooder, a deeply flawed and tormented vigilante, or anything in between, and still be accepted as Batman. And he’s had enough success that when there is a flop, studio execs and media press alike conclude that there is something wrong with the individual production rather than something wrong with Batman. If you don’t like a current film or TV portrayal of the Caped Crusader, you just have to wait until the next one comes along. Because there’s always going to be a next one.
Superman: Quite A Lot
Bruce Wayne may be set for life as far as a movie career, but his sometimes ally, sometimes rival Clark Kent is in a very different boat. While both DC and Warner Brothers seem confident that there’s nothing wrong with Batman, quite a few fans have started to suspect that the media giant feels there is something fundamentally wrong with Superman. Much has already been written about how various modern versions of Superman treat the character and his ideals as idealistic, naive throwbacks that aren’t up to facing the real world problems of today. (This isn’t the case with every current version of Superman, but is shows up often enough to start looking like a pattern.) So I won’t go into it. From a movie standpoint alone, neither Superman Return nor Man of Steel became the DC cinematic universe tentpole that WB was hoping for. Superman has brand recognition out the wazoo, but he doesn’t wear his issues on his sleeve the way Batman does and that makes him tougher to get right. The two co-headlining this flick isn’t coming from a place of strength for Supes. He needs Batman to help him put butts in seats. If he’s going to stand on his own again, he needs to prove himself here.
Wonder Woman: Pretty Much Everything
Wonder Woman is not the only other big DC character in Batman v. Superman. In fact, one of my main concerns about the film is that it might be too crowded. But while characters like Aquaman – who gets treated like a joke in pop culture – and Doomsday – who is all but unknown to the average moviegoer – have everything to gain and almost nothing to lose from this film, Wonder Woman’s entire film and TV future may depend on it. Batman is firmly established as an evergreen character with multiple successful films to his name. Superman almost exists outside of any particular movie or story, more of a symbol than a character. Wonder Woman? Well, Wonder Woman is in nearly the same position that Batman was before the first Burton film came out. Ask the average person who doesn’t follow comics and related animated TV shows about Wonder Woman and they’re probably thinking of this:
All due love and respect to Lynda Carter, but this is still a roughly 40 year old TV series. Multiple attempts to produce a new show or movie starring the Amazon princess have been shelved. WB finally seems ready to commit to making Wonder Woman the third major player in its movie DCU, with a film of her own slated for release next year. But for now, she’s still a guest star in Batman and Superman’s movie and a lot still depends on whether moviegoers come out of the theater wanting to see more of her. On top of that, the 2017 movie will be the first of the current era of superhero films with a lady in the lead. How well it does could potentially determine whether both WB and Disney decide to greenlight more movies starring super ladies or not. Either way, the pride of Themyscira has a lot on her shoulders in her modern movie debut.
Are you looking forward to seeing DC’s big three on the big screen? Do you think DC can get their move universe going? Share your thoughts on all things DC movies in the comments.
Let’s open with a question: How many of you are following us on Facebook right now? I ask because some seriously cool conversations have been happening over there lately. The page is a great place for us to share links and other passing pop cultural ephemera and hear what other people think about it. One of those links, posted by Honorary Lady The Goog, was IO9’s critique of that Milo Manara Spider-Woman cover that’s been making the rounds (no, not the creepy 3D rendering follow up.) One of the participants in the discussion asked a question that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. Friend of Tiny Doom Geoff asked, “Have you ladies done an article not just about what you’d like to see in a female hero but also how it differs from the typical guy power fantasy?”
Well, we hadn’t, Geoff, but we’re gonna today. Or at least, I’m gonna. Geoff’s comment went on to clarify that he didn’t expect us to speak for all women, which is great, because I’m super unqualified to do that – just our personal takes on what makes a great super-powered lady and how that is or isn’t reflected in mainstream comics. So here are the five major traits, in order from most to least important to me, I’d like to see in my ideal comic-book heroine and how I think it stacks up to the typical male hero. For the purposes of this piece, the “typical” male hero is able-bodied, straight, white, and super-powered. Yes, there are many heroes who don’t fit this bill, especially these days, but we’re talking about archetypes, here. After each one I’ll give an example of a character who I think embodies that trait.