‘Wonder Woman’ Breathes Freshness Into Not Just DC But All Superhero Films


You cannot talk about ‘Wonder Woman’ without talking about the big impact it is ready to make in Warner Bros DC Extended Universe, glass ceiling of Hollywood, increasing female fan base for the superhero genre, you name it!

Turn to any screen, superheroes are there. Nerd culture has taken over and we are effing proud of it. Now there is one more reason to embrace the genre: Wonder Woman. Finally, a movie that does justice to the formidable character played by the equally capable Gal Gadot and helmed by a woman, Patty Jenkins, who makes you see the power and the sense of justice that resides in the Amazon warrior.

Warner Bros and DC have not had any luck when it came to gaining critical praise even though they were the ones who sowed the seeds for the superhero franchise revolution with Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. (We are not going to discuss Val Kilmer, Michael Keaton, and George Clooney avatars.) Zack Snyder was in the driving seat when the wobbly and poorly edited Man of Steel dropped and it only got worse the second time around with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The latter had critics panning it left, right, and centre. But that didn’t stop it from becoming a massive box office success. BvS was one of the top 10 highest grossing movies of 2016 and ranks 51 in all time highest gross box office collection list. Something similar happened to David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. The hype of Will Smith leading an ensemble cast translated into monetary gains and an Oscar for makeup. But it will never make the list of well-made superhero movies.

WB has been dealing with a lot of issues when it comes to DC Universe, the most prominent of which seems to be finding the directors to take charge of the DC Extended Universe movies. With Jenkins, they have hit a jackpot. Jenkins delivers the origin story of Wonder Woman written on a blank canvas. Blank canvas because it took 75 years for Diana Prince to arrive on the silver screen. Sure, Snyder’s BvS was not worth the money, but Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was one of the few good things pointed out in every discussion surrounding that movie.

Jenkins, in collaboration with screenwriter Allan Heinberg, begins her story with baby Diana Prince, her formation years and then brings her attempt at making everything right. Marvel did it successfully when they introduced Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man in 2008. Jenkin-Gadot’s Wonder Woman shows the conflict of emotions as she walks amongst mankind. Diana tries to understand how at the beginning of 20th-century women’s voices are not being heard, a stark contrast from her life on the secluded island of Themyscira. That still doesn’t take away her strength, empathy, neverending goodness, and sense of justice. Diana will help without condemning the human race for inequality in its nature. Gal Gadot brings out Wonder Woman’s innocence with same vigour she brings the fierceness needed to portray the warrior.

If we look at Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man. It took him three movies to show vulnerability, one not related to his lady love, Pepper Potts. A mild spoiler here. In Wonder Woman, Diana understands the power of love and the pain that comes with loving someone. That helps her realise that mankind is not black and white. Humans can choose the shade of grey they find fits them best. Jenkins had to make her one of the ordinary to later make space for her rise and eventually pave the way for the ‘Age of Superheroes’ when Justice League hits theatre later this year. Love was the motivation behind Ryan Reynolds’ 2016 breakout story of a superhero or rather foul-mouthed mercenary turned mutant Deadpool. But as a male super, Deadpool/Wade Wilson has the luxury of slashing everything that harms his love. Diana needs to be vulnerable from the get-go to justify gaining inches in the trenches. That sensitivity makes you root for her when she takes on the German army and, later, the God of War Ares himself.

The other amazing thing about Jenkins-Gadot’s Wonder Woman is how they have avoided objectifying the superhero. There is no leering, lingering camerawork. The outfits may be skimpy. But the narratives built around them only highlight the functionality. Diana is an Amazon warrior. Daughter of Queen Hippolyta and raised by her Army General and sister Antiope. Surrounded by warriors, living the almost Spartan life in the all-woman utopia makes one understand that layers are waste of time for Diana.

The same camera also serves some sleek slo-mo shots when Diana takes on her adversaries. It only intensifies the impact of the power Wonder Woman is capable of yielding.

Two things that falter in an otherwise smooth story are the elongated journey to the war front and CGI overload in the climax scene. Fun moments filled with clever play on double-entendre and the My Fair Lady moment to make Diana fit into 1920’s Britain come as a fresh breeze but a half-hearted attempt at establishing the rag-tag band of misfits takes the charm away. Towards the end, the battle with Ares feels nothing more than last minute insertion to utilise the massive budget of $120 million.

Jenkins followed the path of directing TV shows, indie movie, (which was incidentally 2003’s Monster, starring Charlize Theron, that won the actress an Oscar) before landing the DC tentpole. Sounds familiar? Reminds you of Joss Wheadon? His Buffy, Firefly’s movie adaptation Serenity? The ability to see the bigger picture and piece everything together? Jenkins and her Wonder Woman have arrived to prove that women are as adept at taking care of a superhero movie than men, if not better. Jenkins told The Hollywood Reporter that directing feels like a very natural job for a woman. “It’s incredibly maternal in a way. You’re caretaking all of these sorts of things.”

Jenkins and Gadot have brought a breeze of fresh air for DC Universe. A female superhero that will bring female fanbase to the genre men kept marking their territories with. DC has rich comic book content. One can make a compelling case that it’s better than arch-rival Marvel. Marvel sure has great slate on TV when it comes to female superheroes, with Jessica Jones, Elektra, and the members from Agents of SHIELD. Supergirl is holding small screen fort for DC. But with Wonder Woman, DC will be finally able to one up Marvel on the big screen. They already have Joss Whedon (who still wants to make a Black Widow movie) on board to make the Batgirl movie. Marvel is aiming to catch up with DC there with Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel, scheduled for a March 2019 release. Sony too is ready to come up with Spider-Man spin-offs of Silver Sable and Black Cat. All of this is enough to forget the horrors of Halle Berry’s Catwoman and Jennifer Garner’s Elektra.

Wonder Woman’s International box office tracking expects it to cross $100 million in the first week, an indication that there is an audience if you have a good story to tell, the gender of the director and superhero notwithstanding. It doesn’t necessarily have to be from a man’s perspective.