Millenia later when our descendants would have inherited a fragile Earth from us, scrounging for resources and barely having enough to live they would remember about the great war their ancestors had fought – a war which had divided humanity, as they clashed against their brothers to prove allegiance to god-like characters who existed only in texts and pictures written by visionaries and story-tellers. No, my friends, this was not a war for Religious Supremacy. This was (*Superhero landing*) the DC v/s Marvel War !
Despite being considered as the black sheep of the comic family as we know it today, DC wasn’t always so unpredictable. With a rich film history spanning from the 1940s, DC held onto the comic book mantle for 60 years before the first blockbuster Marvel franchise came out breaking the solo run.
This rich legacy of films and characters made sure that ‘Superman’ and ‘Batman’ were ingrained and epitomized in every kid’s mind, making them synonymous with the term “Superhero”. Compare this to Marvel’s early attempts to bring their characters on the big screen and you would be greeted with films which looked like hilarious low-budget parodies of our favorite characters like Iron Man, the Hulk and Captain America.
It wasn’t until the 2000s when the X-Men Franchise took the world by storm and opened a flood-gate of characters which had never before had a chance to flourish and rise to the stature of Batman and Superman. This was the time when DC’s existential crisis struck Warner bros. and they realized that they had taken their six decades worth of legacy for granted. While Marvel had been able to re-invent themselves and grab the attention of Gen-X, DC had barely seen any evolution in their two pall-bearers. With Superman languishing after Superman Returns and Batman bashed into the wall with the laughable Batman and Robin, Marvel had found its opening and they ran with it! By the time Nolan had revived Batman from that deep, dark grave dug by Joel Schumacher and restored some balance into the equation, Marvel had already established itself as a force majeur.
Fast forward into 2016 and the much anticipated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has received a caustic reception at the hands of fans and critics alike. Suicide Squad, which was being touted as a wildcard was also shot down and barely made a ripple, considering its star-cast and a new version of The Joker. Marvel, on the other hand, had diversified by leveraging its enormous repertoire of characters like Iron Man, Captain America, Ant-man, Dr. Strange, Hulk, and not to mention the Avenger franchise. DC had become the victim of its own history. They had accomplished everything with just two characters and that was the problem. As Warren Buffet once said – “Do not put all your eggs in one basket.” Or two baskets, actually, as DC learned the hard way.
This brings us to Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman and why it is so important for the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), especially now. So, here are the 3 things which DC has strategically done right with this new Superhero in town:
1. First ever Female Superhero film: Hold your breath nerds ! Don’t look so outraged and ask – “But what about Cat-Woman, huh ?” Well, technically, yes. Halle Berry’s Catwoman was indeed DC’s first attempt at launching the origin story of Batman’s partner-in-crime but do you really want to factor in a film which had no Batman franchise to fit into and for which Berry received a Razzie Award, quoting – “I want to thank Warner Bros. for casting me in this piece-of-sh–, god-awful movie!”. Yeah, didn’t think so. Barring that monstrosity, the only exposure to a female superhero we have had in DC’s universe was in Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy which introduced a much more authentic version of Cat-woman to us through the acting tropes of Anne Hathaway.
Wonder Woman stands tall even if you discount any association with the Justice League. Gal Gadot’s delicate balance of grace and combat skills, make her a perfect casting choice for the powerful Amazonian who is considered, by some, to be equal to Superman in strength and character. With this origin story of this relatively less popular character, DC has brought a new Superhero role-model that all of us can look up to. Marvel’s closest answer would be Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow but I am willing to bet my money that she can’t even come close to matching Wonder Woman Gal Gadot’s screen presence.
2. All about the characters: One of the biggest problems with BvS was that it was trying too hard to tell several stories at the same time – it wanted to tell the origin story of Batman, the origin of Justice League, the origin of Doomsday, a glimpse into the origin of Darkseid, an introduction of the new Lex Luthor, a flash into Barry Allen’s prediction to Bruce Wayne and finally the story of how the greatest heroes we knew stood against each other. There just so many details for an audience to grasp and the film-makers to put together that, somewhere within this concoction, the characters took a backseat. As a result, there came an uproar on various inaccuracies which fans claimed had risen from Snyder’s lack of understanding about the essence of them. “Batman is not supposed to kill. You broke his code!”, “Lex Luthor is not supposed to be a jittery, fidgety boy but a man whose IQ surpasses even that of Batman”, etc.
Wonder Woman takes on Marvel with what Marvel does best – elevate the characters to a point where the story wouldn’t matter. The story of Diana Prince or Diana of Themyscira is built on a simple premise that evil should never be allowed to prosper in the world when you have the power to stop it. Brought up in a very protected environment, far away from the vagaries of mankind, by her demi-goddess mother – Queen Hippolyta (played by Connie Nielsen) and secretly trained by General Antiope (played by Robin Wright), Diana’s first exposure to the insanity outside was through Chris Pine’s character Steve Trevor who is an American spy being chased by German forces. As Diana learns more about the First World War from Trevor she becomes determined to help the victims and defeat Ares, the God of War. In London, Trevor gathers some of his trustworthy allies to accompany himself and Diana to the front. Here we are introduced to Sameer (played by Saïd Taghmaoui), a middle-eastern, whose multilingual and charismatic persona would win your heart; and a heavy-drinking Scottish sniper called Charlie (played by Ewen Bremner) whose quirky mannerisms would remind you of Jack Sparrow. Even though the story is about Diana, you feel invested into all these surrounding characters who show her the reality.
3. The right dash of humor: Another complaint that the audience has about DC films is that they are too “dark”, “complex” and “visceral”. Although there is a faction that likes their movies exactly like that, it’s true that the occasional humor bodes well when your plot revolves around crime, revenge and death.
Even though Wonder Woman’s story is built with the backdrop of World War I, the dynamics between the various characters is heart-warming especially in the face of such peril. From the scene when Diana finds Trevor on the beach and says – “You are a man ?” and he, shocked from seeing the most beautiful woman peering down on him, replies – “Do I not look like one?” to the scene where Diana is forced to dress like a “lady” in 20th century London and walks out into the street with her sword and shield like it was no big deal, the film is sprinkled with such moments which keep the story grounded and keeps the audience gripped to the screenplay.
Patty Jenkins has been able to do what iconic directors like Zack Snyder have failed in, time and again. She has been able to establish a brand new Superhero in a space which is patriarchal to say the least and is sexist in the way it treats female characters; so much so that Wonder Woman is now a proud, standalone addition to the entire Comic-verse. When critics post comments like – “The best DC film since The Dark Knight.”, and “It’s so good that it’s technically a Marvel film.”, you know you’re doing something right. Joss Whedon, now that you have taken up the helm to Justice League, we want you to take a page out of Jenkins’ notebook and give us the best DC movie of all time. Do not screw this up !
By the way, did you know Gadot has served for two years in the Israel Defense Forces as a Combat Instructor ? No wonder!
Disclaimer: The images used in this post are the sole property of the makers of the film and are not owned by us in any form whatsoever.