[Contains very slight spoilers for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (hereafter referred to as BvS) and the upcoming Wonder Woman movie, but I will try not to reveal key plot points.]
I’ll be the first to admit that I was pretty vocal about how unfit I thought Gal Gadot was for the role of Wonder Woman. Too slight. Nothing … Amazonian about her. It’s a little ironic since I was fully on board with Morena Baccarin playing her in a movie penned by Joss Whedon — a movie that never came to pass — and Gadot and Baccarin are not dissimilar in body type, but Gadot is taller.
Once I saw some interviews with Gadot, it was impossible not to be charmed by her. And she brings that charm to the character in what is pretty much an otherwise very grim movie. Her moments were few, her screen time limited, but she stole every scene she was in, and she inhabited the character in a way that made me not just happy but hopeful for the future of the franchise.
It’s hard, with what little we saw of her in BvS, to truly analyze what they’ve done to her character. To know if we will approve or not. If her origin story will address issues that pretty much even the comics have shied away from — like, for instance, on an island full of only women, wouldn’t same-sex relationships be the default? If Diana is heterosexual, wouldn’t she be an outlier in her own world? Not necessarily a pariah, but different. I’d love to see that examined. I’ll be interested to see how much, if at all, the Greek gods show up in this. In the current comic canon, they play big roles. But this movie clearly does not follow the comic canon (or Wonder Woman would be with Superman), so the gods may be more abstract than realized. From what we saw, I think this Wonder Woman will fill my need to have her be more Xena than Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman. I believe in the warrior part of her. I know others gravitate more toward her mission of peace.
If you look to comic book canon, you can pretty much take your pick of what kind of Wonder Woman you want. She’s changed considerably over the years, growing and evolving (I saw a recent Kimmel show where he was interviewing Chris Pine about his role as Steve Trevor in the Wonder Woman movie, asking if she would have her invisible plane. Pine clearly knew nothing of the history of the invisible plane. And the plane has not appeared for decades when it was supplanted by her ability to fly, not just ride the air currents. Her latest iteration in the comics is perhaps the greatest change of all considering what they’ve done to her backstory, what role they’ve chosen for her to take on, and that the subtext with Superman is now full on text. But you don’t have to go back that many reboots to find a softer version, the Amazon Princess who left her island to help man’s world as an ambassador of peace and love (and possibly to get to know Trevor — we’ll find out more about him in the upcoming Wonder Woman movie, which will be conveniently set in 1918 to allow everyone who isn’t an immortal to pass on before we hit the events that launch BvS and the new Justice League.)
There are other reasons to love the casting of Gadot. The first is she’s from the Med and she looks the part: brown eyes being the biggest break from our normal iterations of Diana but also a lovely accent. The second, which most women won’t mind but some fanboys may, is that she’s not walking around with personal flotation devices for breasts. There have been times in the comics when she honestly looked top heavy, and the ample bosom made her costume ludicrous — or at least in grave danger of a major wardrobe malfunction. One of my favorite comic outings for Diana, the Justice League standalone book A League of One, breaks the mold and shows an athletic Diana rather than one who looks like she’s shelled out a lot of money for implants, and I’ve always loved that version of her. Gadot brings that Diana to life.
But what about Diana herself? What do we learn about her? First, she’s not going to need rescuing, like poor Lois did more than once in the movie. Diana’s fight scenes were amazing. I’ve seen articles that took issue with moments when she used the lasso, seeing some kind of parallel with a vagina — honestly, I have no idea what they meant. The lasso is iconic. As is her sword. And the sheer might of the way she fought was so fun. What was more fun was the smile — almost a sneer — she sported when she fought. This is a woman who is no stranger to combat — and who is damned good at it. You probably saw the scene in one of the many trailers: it’s one of the few light moments of the film.
And the best part of Wonder Woman is that she chooses to join the fight of her own free will with no ego powering the act. She chooses to do it because even though she was sick of the world and frankly disillusioned of any chance for people to work together toward peace, she decided not to disappear again (as she presumably has for many years) and help. Because it was the right thing to do and someone needed to do it. It made for exciting viewing, especially when faced with the whole Bats versus Supes part of the movie. Which is part of the problem with BvS. First, it was Man of Steel sequel. Then it was the gateway for the Justice League and other standalone movies. Then Batman started to take over a lot of the movie, which was fine with me, since Affleck played him superbly, but we did tread familiar ground: his backstory doesn’t change much from reboot to reboot. The whole Superman-Batman adversarial thing was all a bit contrived and, well, stupid — and the moment of switch from enemy to ally hinges on a very strange thing and is abrupt and, a bit eye rolling.
But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how badly this movie gets panned (and the critics do not appear to be fanboys or gals. If they were, they’d realize the movies are riffing off two iconic storylines/books in the DC universe — with a few little nods to their fans, especially to the shippers (people in favor of a Superman/Wonder Woman or Batman/Wonder Woman relationship — that question has probably been answered in this movie, but there is a hilarious inside shippers’ moment that is a little bit of a nod to both sides.)
It doesn’t matter if the movie is dark, and a bit brutal (although if you got through Daredevil, this is nothing). It doesn’t matter if it’s not really much fun at all. Because the Wonder Woman movie looks like it will be — and even if it’s not, it’s going to be our first ever taste of her origin in a live-action movie with people who seem to respect the character at the helm. In BvS, we got a taste of what’s to come for Wonder Woman, and what’s to come tastes like ambrosia and honey.
[Gerri Leen lives in Northern Virginia and originally hails from Seattle. She has stories and poems published or accepted in: Escape Pod, Grimdark, Spellbound, Sword and Sorceress XXIII, Spinetinglers, She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror and others. She is editing an anthology, A Quiet Shelter There, which will benefit homeless animals and is due out in 2015 from Hadley Rille Books. See more at http://www.gerrileen.com.]