In just over a month DC and Warner Brothers will unleash on the world, in my opinion, it’s most important title to date when Wonder Woman hits theatres on May 2. Rather than focusing on the mechanics of the movie itself and the rumors and speculation surrounding the characters, lets look at it from a different angle.
The cultural significance of this release cannot be understated as Wonder Women is easily the most heralded female comic book character (although not the first) and one of the most popular comic book characters of all time…period. Listen, there aren’t too many corners of the planet where by uttering the name Wonder Woman will not elicit some type of response or familiarity. Quite simply, with the likes of Superman, she is considered a national treasure and her influence can be felt across multiple generations of fans both home and abroad, both men and women.
She is a rich and equally complex character who represents the best of mankind and womanhood…strong, independent, fearless and compassionate. Since feminists of the day were on his mind when he created her, it’s no surprise that William Moulton Marston’s creation would go on to be a feminist icon in her own right, perhaps THE feminist icon of the 20th century.
She was modeled after the unconventional liberated women of that time, a time when a majority of women were subservient and submissive. For that era, she was a unique feminine archetype for force, strength and power. “Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world”, Marston wrote. An odd character is his own right, in this instance, seemed to be ahead of his time.
Historically while not great, Gal Gadot does have a few options (from TV) if she wants to research past Wonder Woman iterations. Wonder Woman’s most popular version to date has to belong to Lynda Carter, who played the hero on TV from 1975-79 in a hit program, ratings wise. Prior to that, Wonder Woman was played by Cathy Lee Crosby of That’s Incredible! fame in an ill-fated, live-action 1974 TV film that failed to impress. More recently, a pilot was shot that never aired for NBC starring Adrianne Palicki of Friday Night Lights fame.
The character has had a lot more success in animated form, especially in recent years. The longest-running of these DC Comics program was the animated Super Friends, which ran from 1973-86 and prominently featured Wonder Woman as a founding member of the group. She’s appeared in recent Justice League animated films and had hear own animated film in 2009 starring Keri Russell.
Now, 76 long years later we’re getting a live action feature length Wonder Woman film and things seem to be pointing in the right direction. With two women at the helm, Director Patty Jenkins (of Monster fame) and Gal Gadot playing Princess Diana of Themyscira, the word from early screenings and released footage have ranged from good to great. Most giving the slick action sequences, beautiful cinematography and good performances high marks while stating that the plot is simply stated, so much so that it doesn’t befuddle the main goal of it protagonist, something that was detrimental in Batman v Superman.
In fact one of the few positives from Batman v Superman, although under utilized, was our first look at Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman/Diana on screen.
The bar in the world of comic book movies is set very high these days, so much that Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad were considered disappointments even though they made a combined $1.6 billion at the box office and untold fortunes in merchandising. DC and WB have been playing catch up to Disney’s Marvel for some time now and this is the year they expect to gain some serious ground not only with Wonder Woman but with the fall release of Justice League as well. While Wonder Woman isn’t expected to make a billion dollars, anything short of that for Justice League will create some more serious head scratching.
MCU films not only have been big money makers for Disney, but they’ve been embraced by critics as well, typically receiving aggregate scores of 80% or higher. It’s important for the DCEU, to ensure long term success, that Wonder Woman is a critical success as well as a box office one.
From a character standpoint, whether you’re a DC or Marvel person, its tough to argue against the fact that DC certainly has the edge with women superheroes, since they have THE woman superhero. Marvel has some wonderful female warriors no doubt but none match the significance of Wonder Woman. Which is why this film succeeding is so important, even beyond the DC v Marvel war and even beyond box office records.
If this movie performs at or above expectations, then the path is clear for all sorts of female comic book standalones to be green lit. Already, again a strength for DC, we know Harley Quinn will return in Gotham City Sirens and we’ll see Brie Larson take on the role of Captain Marvel in 2019. But beyond that, a Wonder Woman victory could help usher in lesser known (generally) titles such as She-Hulk, Power Girl, Artemis, Mockingbird or perhaps get that Black Widow film finally made.
All sides should agree that a win for Wonder Woman is a win for everybody. At Comic Con recently I saw a family of three generations of women all dressed as Wonder Woman, it was great sight and proof that she endures beyond generational gaps and continues to inspire women of all ages. In that sense, the Wonder Woman that was released in 1941 is not much different than the one we see today. And in keeping with that, it’s no surprise the film is getting a PG-13 ratting to reach and appeal to wider audience.
Women have had a long tough road in America and Wonder Woman is no exception. She’s experienced many “facelifts” over the decades (remember the jumpsuits and Mod Boutique?) mostly to satisfy someone’s (men) perverse idea of what a woman’s role should be in post-war America. During the “nuclear family” era where social conservatism reigned supreme, little was expected from women where family was seen as the primary unit of society. These movements directly opposed what Wonder Woman stood for and the stereotypes she fought against. They forced Wonder Woman (and all comics) into an age (Silver Age) of silliness and strict conformity to gender stereotypes that lasted until the 2nd wave of feminism in the late 1960s.
Yet, through it all, she’s remained steadfast and true to the principles of an Amazonian Princess which at its core is to simply help humankind make the world an inclusive one where pluralism reigns supreme. And whether this movie succeeds or not will have more to do with us as a society than the product up on the screen.
“Please take my hand. I give it to you as a gesture of friendship and love, and of faith freely given. I give you my hand and welcome you into my dream.”
-Wonder Woman #167
June 2nd can’t come soon enough.
Till next time…