When I first started writing for AfterEllen a hundred million years ago, I immediately added my voice to the disgruntled group of lady-nerd writers who couldn’t believe that — in a culture saturated with big-budget superhero flicks — we still didn’t have a Wonder Woman movie. At one point, even legendary feminist comic book superstar Gail Simone, who was writing Wonder Woman at the time, commented on one of my articles to express her frustration about the lack of a film, specifically that Warner Brothers had passed on Joss Whedon‘s now legendary pitch. (‘Cause, yeah, what could Joss Whedon do with a blockbuster comic book franchise?) Well, yesterday, Variety broke the news that Gal Gadot, who has been cast as Wonder Woman in Zack Snyder‘s upcoming Batman/Superman film, signed a three-picture deal with Warner Brothers, which almost certainly means we’re finally getting getting a Wonder Woman standalone movie
So why am I not more excited?
Well, for starters, Warner Bros. announced last week that they’re pushing Snyder’s Superman: Man of Steel sequel back almost a full calendar year to allow “the filmmakers time to realize fully their vision, given the complex visual nature of the story,” which seems like an innocuous statement, but in studio language, it’s a pretty scathing indictment of Snyder’s vision for the film. In fact, fanboys and fangirls started shoveling a grave for the movie as soon as they heard the announcement.
Even if Snyder’s movie does get made, I don’t have very much confidence that he’ll do Wonder Woman justice in it. Telling a Superman story requires infinitely less finesse and narrative know-how than telling a Wonder Woman story — in large part because Superman’s origins and heroic escapades are a part of our collective pop culture conscience already; we’ve known him our whole lives — and Snyder bungled that task as badly as any filmmaker ever has done. Plus, Snyder is notorious for mishandling female action heroes. Feminist Frequency called his turn on Sucker Punch “a steaming pile of sexist crap.” (I agree.) And Slash Film took him to task for not understanding the difference between female empowerment and exploitation. (I agree some more.) All the same arguments can be made for his Watchmen adaptation.
According to Variety, Gadot’s Wonder Woman contract with Warner Bros. means she “will play the role in not only the upcoming Batman-Superman pic, but in a Justice League movie and a Wonder Woman standalone film.”
But here’s where that announcement get dicey: “Limiting the deal to three pictures makes sense for Warners, since the studio still doesn’t know how auds will react to Wonder Woman in the untitled Batman-Superman movie. Since its taken so long to find the right parts to make a Wonder Woman movie work, WB and DC don’t want to rush into a large commitment if fans are still not drawn to a standalone movie featuring the character.”
To sum that up: If fans aren’t drawn to a character who, by all accounts, will play a bit-part in a movie written and directed by a guy who botched up a film about the easiest superhero in the world to write about, and is infamously terrible at writing complicated female characters, and has forced Warner Bros. to push back his Man of Steel sequel a full year, then they won’t make a Wonder Woman movie at all.
And you can bet your golden lasso if Snyder makes a Wonder Woman movie that flops we won’t see another female-fronted comic book movie for a decade. See: Catwoman (2004) and Elektra (2005). Because when a male superhero movie tanks, it happens for a variety of reasons (screenplay, marketing, visuals, directing, acting, costuming, casting, and on and on) but if a female superhero movie tanks it’s because people don’t want to watch movies about women. Yes, in a world where The Hunger Games was the top-grossing film of 2013, edging out even Iron Man 3, that’s still the prevailing attitude in Hollywood.
The odds: not so much in our favor.
What do you think about the news that Warner Bros. has signed Gal Gadot to a three-picture deal to play Wonder Woman?