Warner Brothers confirmed on the record today that the long-neglected Wonder Woman will be featured in a live-action theatrical release for the first time in her 72-year history, and her first live-action non-bootlegged role in 34 years. This potentially historical part has been awarded to Israeli actress Gal Gadot, who was a complete unknown to me before today, though I understand she’s a regular in the Fast and the Furious series. For longtime fans who’ve been wanting to see our legendary Princess Diana on the big screen, your wish is about to be granted.
One catch: she’s not yet earned a film to have all to herself. Instead she’ll be a supporting character in Zack Snyder’s Batman vs. Superman crossover.
At this point, details are scarce. We have no word yet on whether she’ll be a prominent teammate, a new hero with much to learn, a ten-second walk-on Easter egg, the main villain, a super-powered Lex Luthor minion, a joke like the Mandarin, or what. One thing we can tell just by looking: the company’s consensus is that she’s not ready for a solo film, or even a headlining role. You’ll notice it’s not called Batman vs. Superman vs. Wonder Woman, or Wonder Woman Presents Batman vs. Superman, or even the equalizing Justice League. Assuming the working title is allowed to stand, nothing about it implies any observance of the “Big 3” ranking usually afforded the entire trio, not just to the guys.
Barring any deeper developments, she stands to become the Black Widow of the DC movie universe. That doesn’t have to be an out-and-out insult, but it feels like a demotion at the very least for arguably the greatest super-heroine in comics history (or the character who should be exactly that, all things considered). Obviously they retain the option to follow up with a spinoff movie of her own, but that won’t be exercised till after this landmark first appearance that may define her entirely by how well she relates to the starring males. After years of trying out various ideas and committing to none of them, the Powers That Be and/or all available filmmakers appear to be admitting they have zero confidence that she could convincingly stand on her own.
Not that I personally have a clear vision of what a Wonder Woman movie should be, to be fair. My impression is she’s a hero just about 24/7, a warrior when she has to be, a peacekeeper when circumstances permit, a representative of her people except when they’re being written as belligerent harridans, an independent spirit (no thanks to her creator), and — above all — absolutely, positively not just a female Superman. Beyond that, her status quo in the comics has varied so much over the decades that it’s difficult for me to elevate a single version above all others. There’s fair latitude for any number of interpretations, but I’m afraid to see whether Zack Snyder’s rendition will more closely resemble the good parts or the bad parts of Sucker Punch.
I have no opinion yet on the actress herself. I’m not joining other online comics fans in being judgmental about her body, or about the word “model” in her work history. Those complaints are beyond me. I’m not fanatically attached to any one visual interpretation. Even if I were, actors can make physical transformations as needed, especially lesser-known stars who aren’t yet typecast for life. And great actors come from many career tracks with resumés in all sorts of shapes.
If DC Comics simply has to have Wonder Woman join their movie universe, though, it seems sad and unfair that she has to prove herself to today’s audiences with a second-string trial run before she’ll be permitted her own private slot on the WB release schedule. Because her 72-year publishing history, her well-known TV series, her cartoon roles, and her 72 years’ worth of merchandising profits weren’t good enough. Couldn’t they find just one writer who can figure her out without relegating her to backup-hero status?
If not, is America in a position where we absolutely have to have Wonder Woman in a movie or else life is meaningless? Are we so desperate to see her writ large that we’ll accept it by any means necessary? Because honestly, the last time we viewers shrugged and said “We’ll take what we can get!” the result was Green Lantern and I’m still wishing they’d take that one back.
Never even mind the part where moviemaking logic says Green Lantern deserved his own film more than Wonder Woman does.