Posts Tagged ‘franchise’

If you’d like the shortest review for Ghostbusters that I can provide, it’d be this: It’s a fun, hilarious, if flawed action comedy starring some of the funniest women in movies and television.0004565435-ew-1420ghostbustters_612x380

It’s not hyperbolic to say that Ghostbusters is significant in the current landscape of Hollywood. It is both an example of the cinematic malady of reboots, remakes, and “reimaginings” of previously existing franchises as well as the agonizingly incremental shift towards female-led movies as viable properties regardless of genre. Unsurprisingly, then, that a lot of people would find “issues” with it, the reasons of which range anywhere from “Another reboot?” to “They’re ruining my childhood!” to, my personal favorite, “[insert expletives about women here.]” But whether you think Ghostbusters is the next step in the vast conspiracy of women taking over the film industry or it managed to “ruin your childhood” – somehow – I can’t stress just how important Ghostbusters is to the next generation of moviegoers. Yes, the 1984 film means a lot to the young men and women who grew up imagining themselves as Peter Venkman, Egon Spangler, Janine Melnitz, or maybe Slimer, but this new generation of girls and boys will be spoiled for choice as they get to pull from two casts of funny, smart, and competent Ghostbusters to emulate on the playground or dress up as for Halloween.

Having those options is a huge deal. Huge. As a tomboy who watched the gendered cartoons of the 80s and 90s, I often found myself gravitating towards the “boys’ cartoons,” which included Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joe, and The Real Ghostbusters. On the playground, however, I was still “the girl,” so I could only be a girl character because playground logic sucks. But it’s that basic kind of logic kids latch on to and when girl characters are ditzy blondes, secretaries, or the sexy evil counterpart while the boys get to play quippy heroes and awesome villains, it sends a message. Thankfully, some of us grow out of the gender binary as law mentality, but giving kids that ability to see male and female characters in similar roles goes a long way to ensuring they see equality as the norm. And if Ghostbusters can contribute to those future generations’ acknowledgment of women as comedians, action heroes, scientists, and yes, Ghostbusters, then the film is a success in my book.ghostbusters-full-new-img

What I find most interesting, though, is the way Ghostbusters addresses the “controversy” surrounding its main characters without really addressing it outright. It starts with a short, to the point question Martin Heiss (Bill Murray) asks of the Ghostbusters in the wake of their first successful capture of a monstrous apparition:

Why are you pretending to capture ghosts?

It didn’t really hit me until that moment, about halfway through the movie, that Ghostbusters, directed by Paul Feig and co-written by Feig and screenwriter Katie Dippold, is held up by a spine of subtext most women recognize immediately. The “controversy” surrounding the film being what it is, it’s impossible not to see the through-line that informs the Ghostbusters’ most prominent threat outside of actual ghosts: skepticism.

It makes sense, then, that Heiss, a skeptic, asks the question in such a condescending manner. He, along with the main antagonist Rowan North (Neil Casey), are part and parcel of the misogynist culture that continually thwarts women where matters of respect and legitimacy are concerned. While the movie itself never flat-out makes gender an issue within the plot or the story – save for an added scene blasting YouTube commenters and a quick, “You shoot like a girl!” towards the end – it’s constantly present in the external forces acting against the team. To wit, it isn’t a coincidence that these external forces are male. Heiss, Rowan, the ‘Buster’s secretary Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), and the Mayor of New York (Andy Garcia) all present minor and major hurdles for the team as they try to prove themselves in a city determined not to believe them. ghostbusters-2016-ghosts

The most fleshed out character arc in Ghostbusters concerns Dr. Erin Gilbert’s (Kristen Wiig) struggle to be taken seriously as a scientist. At the beginning of the movie, she’s obsessed with getting tenure at Columbia University because tenure equates to status within academia. When her book written about the paranormal with childhood pal, and fellow scientist, Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) resurfaces, she seeks Abby out to keep anyone at the university from finding out about her dalliance in pseudo science; thus the plot begins. The importance of those early scenes, however, feed into the movie’s subtext. Erin wants to be acknowledged by her peers and her university; she wants the pride associated with legitimacy and the respectability that comes with it. Her concerns and actions are deeply rooted in how she wants to be viewed by the rest of the world, which keeps her from throwing herself into her true passion. This is reinforced throughout the film as the media questions the veracity of their first paranormal catch, the Mayor’s office’s actively calls them frauds despite knowing the city’s ghost problems are real, and Erin’s personal trauma of seeing a ghost as a child only to ridiculed by other children with the moniker “Ghost Girl.” With each new development, Erin’s frustration and her desire for legitimacy become more apparent.

It makes the scene with Heiss that much more significant within the narrative. Everything about how Murray plays him is a reminder that women are scrutinized far more than men when it comes to verifying their work, actions, and words. Protection of female sex workers, reporting domestic violence and sexual assault, and even the concept of “Fake Geek Girls” are only a few examples of how women rarely get the benefit of the doubt. We’re liars until proven innocent and even the truth doesn’t guarantee anything. To put it another way, when Venkman says, “Back off, man, I’m a scientist,” he says it cooly and with smarmy confidence. When Erin says, “We can figure this out. We’re scientists!” it’s said desperately, as if everything’s riding on proving themselves as such. And for Erin everything is riding on proving that, as scientists, the Ghostbusters can fix the problem. Her confidence and her self-worth are tied up in her credibility more so than Abby, Holtzman (Kate McKinnon), and Patty (Leslie Jones) so her departure from the team after being called a fraud, yet again, rings true.logo

It’s unfortunate, though, that the scene in which Erin leaves the team is missing from the theatrical cut of the film. One of the consistent pieces of criticism towards the movie is its pacing issues, which I agree is problematic. The story has been building to Erin’s crisis of confidence and departure from the very beginning, so to lose it and what I assume would be an emotional moment between her and Abby as long-lost friend reunited, then torn apart again, is an odd choice. It’s a pivotal moment and the loss of it adds to the messiness of the third act. Her return to the group feels less triumphant and less emotionally resonant when we’re not really sure she left the group at all.

Erin’s return to the group is similarly an important moment because of the message sent. Yes, it’s okay to doubt yourself. Yes, the world may constantly try to weigh you down and question everything. But it’s through the strength and resolve of friendship, of a community, that keeps us going. Erin is the most like herself with Abby, Holtzman, Patty, and even Kevin. She’s more confident, self-assured, and she pushes herself to do things she never would have done before – because her friends are there to help her succeed and lift her up if she fails. She, in turn, will do the same. If you take nothing else away from this movie, at least let that be the one thing that sticks.

If you’ve been on the fence about Ghostbusters, I’d encourage you to go see it because it is a fun time at the theater. There are plenty of homages to the original film, but this new batch is doing their own thing and carving out a new branch of the Ghostbusters franchise. Hopefully, a sequel will give Feig and Dippold more time to flesh out the characters and give us an even more entertaining story starring these hilarious women. More importantly, Ghostbusters is a step in the right direction for women in Hollywood. We can bust ghosts with the best of them and the more chances we get, the more this won’t seem like a “big deal.”

Advertisements

If you’re a fan of comic books, Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds, or even – gasp – a fan of all three at the same time, then you’re probably aware that the Deadpool movie, long in production limbo and only recently started filming, will receive an R rating. This is good news and as is befitting of the Merc with the Mouth, the team bringing him to the big screen (for realz this time!) announced the rating victory in the only way that made sense.deadpool footage

Some of you might be wondering why it’s so important that Deadpool has an R rating. Even Mario Lopez points out in the video why having a PG-13 rating would benefit the movie; franchise, sequels, toys, etc. But what it really boils down to is authenticity. Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, isn’t a PG-13 character, he’s an R character. His world is full of graphic violence, ambiguous ethics, and some pretty choice language. Yes, he’s funny, irreverent, and breaks the fourth wall, but a lot of that is used as a stark contrast to the awful things he says and does. Emphasizing one aspect over the other kind of misses the point.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, a little background, yes? Yes.

Deadpool has been kicking around Hollywood since about 2004 when New Line Cinemas tried to produce a film with writer/director David S. Goyer, who you may remember from such films as The Dark Knight Trilogy, Man of Steel, and Blade, helming the project and Ryan Reynolds starring as the titular character. This was around the same time as Blade: Trinity (2004), which Goyer wrote, produced, and directed and Reynolds starred in alongside Wesley Snipes and Jessica Biel. Goyer apparently lost interest, but 20th Century Fox picked up the film rights and put a spinoff into production as a potential followup to X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) where Reynolds was cast as Wade Wilson/Deadpool.

Sort of.

that-deadpool-movie-we-were-all-excited-about-will-be-pg-13While X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a box office success, it was a critical failure and didn’t sit right with many fans of the X-Men universe, the comics or the film series. Regardless of its prequel status and the inflated cast of mutant cameos, one of the more egregious errors was the treatment of Deadpool to the point where most fans don’t even consider the character on screen to be the same as the one they found in the pages of Marvel comics. To be fair, none of the X-Men movies have stuck to the comic book canon completely, but Origins seemed to be checking off a list of names to use without any thought put into motivations, personality, or anything else that would make a character compelling. Reynolds does, however, have one of the best scenes in the film and his sarcastic, snarky attitude resonated with fans of Deadpool. The movie may not have gotten it right, but Reynolds did.

Since then it’s been an ongoing battle to get Deadpool his own movie with Reynolds being the character’s biggest champion and cheerleader. So it was to everyone’s delight when the film was given the official green light in 2014, not long after the test footage for the film was leaked, with a scheduled release date of February 12, 2016. The timing of the film’s production and release within the context of the current landscape of superhero and comic book franchises, however, is what makes Deadpool‘s rating so important.9df2a3cce7aae4167e8461ac7ab22c9d

Deadpool‘s status as a viable property emerged during the first wave of successful Marvel films of the late 90s and early 2000s. Basically, it was post Blade (1998), X-Men (2000), and Spider-Man (2002) but somewhat preceded the concept of a shared cinematic universe propelled by Iron Man (2006) on down to The Avengers (2012). Yes, the X-Men films had an internal continuity (sort of) but aside from being based on Marvel characters, the film rights under 20th Century Fox left any possibility of a crossover with Marvel Studios off the table. In the wake of Marvel’s billion-dollar franchise of films, pretty much every studio has tried or is attempting to copy their model. One of the more consistent elements of the Marvel films, and most superhero films in general, has been a PG-13 rating.

ryan reynoldsThe PG-13 rating is a studio’s dream for franchise films. It allows for the broadest range of audience demographics while still maintaining a level of action, violence, salty language, and sexual innuendo that we’ve collectively accepted as appropriate for children to see with their parents and teens to see on their own. Adults, obviously, are always welcome. From a marketing standpoint, kids and teens are the target audience because, as we all know, studios are looking to make bank on merchandise. One need only look at the plethora of Marvel Cinematic Universe toys and the children gravitating towards them to understand why Marvel Studios hasn’t let any of their films break the PG-13 barrier. Not that it’s handicapped the movies at all, but then again we’re not dealing with characters who occupy an R-rated world.

Comic books published by the big two of Marvel and DC currently maintain an unofficial PG-13 rating, though your mileage may vary on whether or not that’s true depending on the subject matter. Either way, both companies have imprints, MAX and Vertigo respectively, meant to handle mature content for readers and the MAX books regularly featured characters like Wolverine, the Punisher, and Deadpool in stories that went beyond acceptable levels of violence, language, and bloody satisfaction. But these are also the stories many fans of the characters latched on to before Hollywood got a hold of them. Wolverine and the Punisher were products of a lax Comics Code and the ultra-violence of the 80s and early 90s and Deadpool was an inspired copy of DC’s Deathstroke. These are not characters who regularly cuddle bunnies and sing show tunes. Well, Deadpool would, but he’d probably be murdering a guy to death while doing it. The point is when adapting characters like Wolverine and the Punisher to the big screen, there’s a reason why Fox continues to produce the exploits of deadool_vs_deathstroke_by_luizhd-d7546h6PG-13 Logan, in X-Men or solo films, while Frank Castle’s two rated R theatrical releases have become cult classics.

Given everything that’s occurred since the initial interest in Deadpool, one would think Reynolds, director Tim Miller, the writers, and producers would attempt to go the safest and seemingly most profitable route. But I think it goes back to what I mentioned earlier. This is about authenticity, bringing the real Deadpool to the big screen. There might be some thoughts of sequels or a franchise, but I guarantee that what’s really at the forefront of the filmmakers’ minds is making the best damn Deadpool movie they can, which means getting a hard R rating so they can at least say they made their Deadpool.

And really, a rated R movie for a Marvel character isn’t a huge stretch at this moment in time. Marvel Studios is about to release their Daredevil series on Netflix, which has no standardized ratings to speak of, and from all accounts it sounds like the series could be Marvel’s grittiest venture to date. Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist are slated to follow but no one’s talking “franchise” just yet. This is as much Marvel experimenting with how far they can go deadpool-ryan-reynolds-450x244with their “street level” heroes as it is building their live action universe. Yes, Deadpool is owned by Fox, but he’s also part of a growing trend of studios exploring comic book properties beyond broad spectrum demographics. Dark Horse’s Powers has already premiered on Play Station, Valiant has started the process of developing a shared cinematic universe with their properties, and Image Comics darlings Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction will be developing several of their works from the publisher for television. There may be blockbuster superhero films, but niche audiences are also proving to be just as lucrative.

And I’m sure Deadpool would appreciate that.

If bending to the will of North Korea wasn’t bad enough, it looks like Sony also likes bending over backwards to appease the male movie-going audience of crybabies who see an all-women cast for the Ghostbusters reboot as a threat to the time-honored tradition of busting ghosts. Clearly the lady-folk donning unlicensed nuclear accelerators is most unorthodox and ghostbusters-castcannot be tolerated by polite society.

As reported by Deadline, Sony has given the greenlight for director/writer/producer Ivan Reitman and actor/writer Dan Aykroyd to form a subsidiary production company, Ghostcorps, that will focus explicitly on developing Ghostbusters related properties and merchandising. First on the docket is another Ghostbusters movie slated to immediately follow director Paul Feig’s (Bridesmaids) 2016 reboot staring Kristin Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon. This sequel (?) already has Joe and Anthony Russo (Captain America: The Winter Solider) on board to direct following their first-look deal with Sony as well as Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3, Mission: Impossible 5) tapped to write the script and Channing Tatum on board to produce and, most likely, star per the pitch uncovered during the Sony hack.

Reitman further explained how the films will kick off the new Ghostbusters franchise to Deadline:

Paul Feig’s film will be the first version of that, shooting in June to come out in July, 2016. He’s got four of the funniest women in the world, and there will be other surprises to come. The second film has a wonderful idea that builds on that. Drew will start writing and the hope is to be ready for the Russo Brothers’ next window next summer to shoot, with the movie coming out the following hear. It’s just the beginning of what I hope will be a lot of wonderful movies.

Ghostbuster-Lady-ThumbThe key to comedy is (pause for effect) timing. So it’s really mind-boggling that Reitman and Aykroyd, two people known primarily for their comedic ventures, would have the inability to understand how poorly timed their deal with Sony truly is. Look, I’m all for expanding the Ghostbusters world. The premise is solid regardless of the cast, but I’m not the only one who sees how suspicious it is that Ghostcorps was announced in conjunction with the film following the all-women cast. World building is important to a burgeoning franchise, especially one with a 30-year gap, but this announcement feels exclusionary to Feig’s Ghostbusters. It also reeks of panic in response to the vocal minority of dudes who took to social media with their complaints about the reboot and the female leads while the tiniest violin played in the background. Not helping is the fact that Reitman and Aykroyd’s involvement lends greater legitimacy to the film starring Tatum and puts the movie-going audience in the position of creating a gendered dichotomy between the films. The kicker being that Feig’s Ghostbusters will most likely be referenced in the news as the all-female Ghostbusters while the Russo Brothers film will just be referred to as The Ghostbusters because Hollywood is stuck in the male-as-default mentality.a886df9e392dba27a9dd27225c748b56

Seriously, I wouldn’t be opposed to a Channing Tatum, and possibly Chris Pratt, starring followup if the studio had either announced Ghostcorps along with Feig’s reboot or waited until maybe the film was further along in production before throwing another one into the mix. It sends a message that the studio lacks confidence in Feig’s film and it’s disappointing that, as it stands, Wiig, McCarthy, Jones, and McKinnon won’t get to just be The Ghostbusters. It’s always going to come with the caveat of the female Ghostbusters despite the fact that women hold the same love and nostalgia for the original movies as men. Women cosplay as Ghostbusters, read the comics, and watch the cartoons, but you know what women haven’t really had in regards to busting ghosts? Representation on film. That’s what it all comes down to. Sure, a team of men and women would be great in future films, but having a full team of women in an action/horror/comedy sends another message about who can lead a film, the openness of multiple genres, and the strength of thoughtful world building.

Like I said:

This year marked the 30th anniversary of Ghostbusters, which first premiered on June 1, 1984. Strangely enough, this is also the year that’s seen the most traction on the much rumored, only dreamed about, and highly divisive continuation of the 212992-ghostbustersfranchise. While many fans of Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, have longed for a third installment in the supernatural undertakings of New York’s finest paranormal experts, getting the movie off the ground has been a long and arduous process. The biggest hurdle in getting a third film made was the apparent lack of interest on the part of co-stars Bill Murray and Harold Ramis as well as director Ivan Reitman. Considering the cast and crew were essentially pressured into making the sequel by Columbia Pictures in 1989, it’s not surprising that there would be some hesitancy in making a third.

Plans to revive the franchise have been bandied about for over two decades with interest waxing and waning depending on popular trends in Hollywood and the state of the film industry itself. The project appeared to be moving forward in 2010 when Reitman announced he’d be directing and that Murray, Ramis, and Aykroyd would make cameos in order to pass on the torch to the next generation of Ghostbusters. The death of Harold Ramis in February of this year, however, followed by Reitman dropping out of directing a month later seemed to be the last straw for the franchise. With the need for nostalgia-fueled movies running high, was a third film even worth attempting if Ramis was gone, Murray a probable no-show, and Reitman backing off to produce rather than direct?

ghostbusters3The fact that Ghostbusters III is now a highly anticipated reality speaks to the franchise’s viability. With Reitman taking a back seat as the director, it was announced in October that Paul Feig would take over those duties, adding that he intended to make the next movie about an all-female team of Ghostbusters with screenwriter Katie Dippold. Neither Feig nor Dippold are strangers to projects with hilarious women – the two worked together on the buddy cop comedy The Heat (2013) starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. Prior to that Feig gained critical acclaim with Bridesmaids (2011), featuring an all-female cast of comedic actresses, while Dippold cut her writing chops on MADtv and Parks and Recreation. Their comedic backgrounds in sketch, improv, film, and television make them highly qualified to take over the reins of a huge comedic franchise that includes cartoons, video games, and comic books.

The only sticking point is Feig and Dippold’s plan to turn Ghostbusters III into a hard reboot, starting from scratch instead of building off of the first two films. Feig told Entertainment Weekly:PaulFeig_KatieDippold-585x424

I had lunch with [Sony Pictures co-chairman] Amy Pascal when I got back to town. She was just saying, gosh, nobody wants to do this. I said, yeah, it’s really hard to take that on, especially since it’s 25 years later. how do you come back into a world that’s had these ghosts and all this? It just felt too difficult. How do you do it and not screw it up? But then it was bugging me for the next few days because Ghostbusters is such a great thing and everybody knows it, and it’s such a great world. It’s a shame to just let this thing sit there. I want to see another one. My favorite thing to do is work with funny women. I was like, what if it was an all female cast? If they were all women?  Suddenly, my mind kind of exploded: that would be really fun. And then I thought, well, what if we just make it new? It’s not coming into the world that existed before. It’s always hard if the world has gone through this big ghost attack, how do you do it again? I wanted to come into our world where there’s talk of ghosts but they’re not really credible, and so what would happen in our world if this happened today?

 

gb33-ghostbusters-3-dream-cast-kristen-wiig-and-emma-stoneThere are pros and cons to this approach. On the one hand, I can totally see why rebooting the property and starting from scratch works to Feig and Dippold’s advantage. If the movie functions as it’s own thing, removed from the previous films, then it gives them the ability to establish their own rules as to how the paranormal works in a modern day setting. It also sets a new tone for possible sequels going forward that would allow them to do more world-building, making the movies as funny and scary as they want without having to stay true to what came before. Their Ghostbusters would be “spiritual” successors to Reitman’s in that the general premise would remain the same while giving them the freedom to branch out with their own brand of Ghostbusters.

On the other hand, Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II never concretely established the mechanics of the paranormal, so it would still be possible for Feig and Dippold to establish their new team of Ghostbusters while building off of the first two films. Yes, the tone of Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II was mostly lighthearted fun with a few freaky moments, but in the thirty years since Gozer tried to destroy the world and Vigo tried to possess a baby, there’s plenty of room to explore how the world has adjusted to ghosts being a thing and whether or not the Ghostbusters have thrived or faltered.

That’s why I feel like there’s more potential in at least keeping the next Ghostbusters film in the same reality as the first and second. One of the charms of the first film was the idea of treating ghosts like vermin, something that needed to be exterminated with the Ghostbusters taking on the role of blue collar working stiffs who just happen to take them out with highly unstable proton packs. The simplicity of the premise is how easy it would be to introduce new characters into the world.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that the Ghostbusters, in-universe, have expanded their business to other cities outside of New York, recruiting young, eager scientists, engineers, and your typical blue collar types in the same vein as police and fire departments. Depending on your team, there are plenty of ways to introduce the new characters. If Peter Venkman had a local tv show in New York, it’s not out of the question that one of the new Ghostbusters, or all of them, watched his show as children. cartoon ghostbustersRay owned a bookstore, so someone could have been a former employee. Maybe others took classes from Egon in college. Hell, Winston could have taken over the business himself, acting like the beleaguered captain to a bunch of newbie Ghostbusters. Or it could simply be a case of having characters who want to bag ghosts. Look at the plethora of “ghost hunting” reality tv shows; the paranormal is of definite interest to the viewing public and I could see a Ghostbusters parody of those reality shows, only this time the ghosts are proven to be real and the ‘Busters are cashing in on the trend.

Of course, the same parody could occur in a universe where the Ghostbusters are reintroduced via reboot. While trying to be “ghost hunters” a la the tv shows, a group of female scientists and enthusiasts discover real ghosts, which leads them down the path to becoming Ghostbusters. So, yes, it’s possible for in-universe and new universe explanations, but I still like the idea of one of the new Busters being such a fangirl for Venkman’s show that she went into paranormal studies because of him.

Ghostbusters is a franchise made to be updated as new teams are introduced. Dan Aykroyd definitely sees the same potential in the franchise, telling Dennis Miller on The Dennis Miller Show in 2011 that:

What we have to remember is that ‘Ghostbusters’ is bigger than any one component…The concept is much larger than any individual role and the promise of Ghostbusters III is that we get to hand the equipment and the franchise down to new blood.

enhanced-30907-1410210614-1The “new blood” in question may be actresses like Kristin Wiig, Emma Stone, Melissa McCarthy, Lizzy Caplan, Jennifer Lawrence, and Amy Schumer. But the recently leaked emails from Sony reveals another possible spin-off starring Channing Tatum and Chris Pratt, with the Russo brothers (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) producing, that could turn the Ghostbusters franchise into a multi-movie spanning universe where various teams from around the country, or the world, join together to defeat a major threat.

Yes, I know it’s wishful thinking, but in the post-Avengers world of movie making, I guarantee you the thought has crossed the mind of at least one executive at Sony. Anything that can be turned into a franchise of movies with tie-in comics, tv shows, and toy lines is ripe for the picking. So, yeah, DREAM BIG! And much like J.J. Abrams taking on Star Wars VII, Ghostbusters will be in the hands of a director and writer intent on honoring what came before while still pushing forward. There’s also a whole generation of actors who are passionate about being involved in the project because they grew up with the movies. As daunting as the task is to “get it right”, it’s also not about reinventing the wheel. Ghostbusters lends itself to finding new angles of storytelling within a familiar setting. All you need is a team, cool gadgets, some humor, and a lot of ghosts!

hqdefault

But what are your thoughts on Ghostbusters III? Should they work within the already established universe or branch out on their own? Who would be your dream team of female Ghostbusters?

2013_10_Gal-Gadot-Beautiful1

Yesterday, Variety reported that Israeli actress Gal Gadot was officially cast as Wonder Woman/Diana of Themyscira/Diana Prince for the upcoming Superman/Batman movie. Gadot, best known for her role as Gisele Harabo in the Fast and the Furious franchise, will join Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent/Superman and Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne/Batman. It still remains unclear how big of a role Gadot’s Wonder Woman will play in the film since it was also confirmed that The Flash will make an appearance and rumors persist about Nightwing/Dick Grayson making a cameo as well as rumors of Lex Luthor and a possible second villain (perhaps Doomsday?) taking up screen time. Given the cast so far, we’re one Green Lantern short of a Justice League Begins movie.

Zack Snyder, director of Man of Steel and the aforementioned Superman/Batman movie/sequel/whatever issued this statement about Gadot’s casting:

“Wonder Woman is arguably one of the most powerful female characters of all time and a fan favorite in the DC Universe. Not only is Gal an amazing actress, but she also has that magical quality that makes her perfect for the role. We look forward to audiences discovering Gal in the first feature film incarnation of this beloved character.”

man-of-steel-castWith the announcement of Gadot as the most iconic female superhero, it was inevitable that comic book fans and non-comic fans alike would chime in on the casting. It’s about what you’d expect; there’s as much backlash as there is support. Personally, I know nothing about Gadot as an actress. It’s been a long time since I saw the first Fast and the Furious movie and I didn’t exactly stick with the franchise, so I have no idea if the movies really showcase her talent or if she has that “magical quality” Zack Snyder is talking about. If there’s one longstanding compliment I can give to Snyder it’s that he always casts his movies well. I may have my problems with Man of Steel, but the cast isn’t one of them.

Not surprising, though, one of the first things to come up was Gadot’s look and how she measured upWW to the image of Wonder Woman. The most prominent reactions were to her weight. Gadot is a thin woman, which doesn’t necessarily match up with the perception of Wonder Woman, by many fans, as the warrior princess blessed by the Greek Pantheon. In the comics, Diana is often depicted with the body of an athlete, svelte but muscled. It makes sense because, while she may have been given extraordinary gifts by the Gods – depending on the origin story – she’s still part of a warrior culture. Her blessings give her greater power, but at the end of the day she’s still a capable fighter. Diana has been training her entire life, so if one were to logically think about how she’d look, female athletes would be the best real-world examples. There’s a reason why a lot of people were looking at MMA fighter turned actress Gina Carano for the role. Cliff Chiang’s version of Wonder Woman in her current solo title brings those logical elements together, creating a Wonder Woman who has the look of a warrior but retains her femininity. Other artists like Alex Ross and George Perez have emphasized these qualities as well.

While I do agree that Gadot is skinny, she’ll more than likely be hitting the gym. If Zack Snyder’s smart, he’ll make sure that happens. Not that Gadot would need much motivation. During her two-year term of service in the Israeli Armed Forces, Gadot was a sports trainer, so she already has an athletic background. At the very least she just has to bulk up a bit. Think Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2. Besides, she’s not the only actor to change her body for a role.

Christian Bale - The Machinist to Batman Begins

Christian Bale – The Machinist to Batman Begins

Henry Cavil Transitions to Superman

Henry Cavill Transitions to Superman

Ben Affleck...I'm sorry, what were we talking about?

Ben Affleck…I’m sorry, what were we talking about?

So, yeah, I’m sure it’ll be covered. If not, and she remains as thin as she is, then we’re getting into the dangerous territory previously tread when Jennifer Lawrence was cast as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. In that case, Lawrence was criticized for being “too fat” to play Katniss. With Gadot as Wonder Woman, we’re looking at the reverse with an actress deemed “too skinny” to play a role that many believe requires a woman of larger proportions. Given the choice, I fall on the side of casting someone with an athletic body to match the Amazonian warrior in my head, but that doesn’t mean Gadot and her trainer won’t strike a happy balance. The point is, there is a level of believability surrounding Wonder Woman as a warrior that needs to be satisfied. Just saying she’s strong because the Gods gave her these abilities robs her of the years of actual training she received from her sister Amazons that would reflect in how her body has shaped over time.

There’s also the possibility, and worry, that Gadot may have been cast because she’d look good in the costume. Let’s be honest, Zack Snyder doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to portraying women in his movies and there’s the very real possibility that Gadot’s Wonder Woman may only serve as eye candy. To his credit, Snyder did right by Faora (Antje Traue) and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) in Man of Steel, so hopefully he’s learned from those mistakes. Wonder Woman, from the moment you see her, exudes power and femininity, which should come from the actress portraying her, not through the use of slow-motion or ass-shots.

The issue of her costume, however, factors into how she’s framed within the movie. There was a huge backlash against DC Comics for giving Wonder Woman pants in J. Michael Straczynski’s run on the title, which the New 52 rectified by putting her back in her most iconic costume that’s essentially a one-piece corset/swimsuit and knee-high boots. How her outfit translates to the big screen is a different beast entirely. What works in the comics, doesn’t necessarily make sense in the “realistic” world being built up in the nascent DC Cinematic Universe, so Snyder and his team are going to have to make a choice and I can’t say that I envy them in this regard. Personally, I’ve never had a problem with giving her pants. The iconic costume is iconic for a reason, but putting Gadot in that costume also presents more opportunities for sexualizing the character instead of relying on the actress to transcend the outfit. If Superman is essentially wearing Kryptionian mesh armor and Batman wears a segmented, armored suit, then why does Wonder Woman have to wear a corset and boots? She’s just as powerful wearing pants. If they chose this route, they just have to avoid the David E. Kelley Wonder Woman outfit.Darwyn-Cooke-Wonder-Woman

The other issue appears to be with Gadot’s height. Henry Cavill is six foot one while Ben Affleck is six foot four, putting Gadot at a disadvantage, height wise, at five foot nine. Again, this boils down to how we perceive Wonder Woman, as an Amazon, compared to Superman and Batman. Generally speaking, Wonder Woman is usually depicted being as tall or taller than both Superman and Batman, which is a way of visualizing her power and strength. It’s been used in a lot of comics when artists and writers want to emphasize that Superman isn’t the only powerful hero in the DC Universe. Darwyn Cooke’s Justice League: The New Frontier is one of my favorite reveals of how Diana measures up to Clark as well as Jeph Loeb’s reveal of Big Barda’s height compared to Superman’s in Superman/Batman: Supergirl. In terms of the movie we either have to trust that Gadot’s acting abilities are top-notch that we don’t notice or they’re gonna give her some boots that give her some extra height.

Strangely enough, the reactions to Gadot’s casting don’t necessarily reflect poorly on her as they do emphasize that the first appearance of Wonder Woman on the big screen is a huge deal and that fans of the character have very different ideas of who the character is and how she should look. It’s no different from when we nitpick the casting of any actor or actress portraying a character that’s been around for 70 years. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have gone through so many reboots and reimaginings that the likelihood of pleasing everyone is impossible. The only difference here is that this is Wonder Woman’s first time being featured in a movie whereas Superman and Batman have had multiple actors portraying them since George Reeves put on the cape in 1952. Actually, it goes even further back if you count the Batman and Robin serials of the 1940s. This is also the beginning of a shared cinematic universe for DC and Warner Bros., so the casting of Gadot and the choices they make in how she’s portrayed are going to be what sticks for the foreseeable future.

WonderWomanPictureFor my part, I’m always going to be more concerned with the story and where Wonder Woman falls into the plot. The role could range from cameo to supporting player and until WB puts out an official synopsis of the plot, we can only speculate how big of a role Wonder Woman will have in a movie that introduces her via her male peers with whom she’s supposed to stand alongside as an equal. I’m obviously not the only one who realizes this as many fans and articles have also commented on why Wonder Woman doesn’t just get her own movie before Justice League. And I’ve been on that side of the fence for a long time. I’ve written about it multiple times and I’ll continue to say that Wonder Woman doesn’t need to earn a movie of her own when every male character in the current comic book movie landscape got his movie without question. But we also don’t know WB’s long-term plan. We know Justice League is on the table, but how far out is still unconfirmed with the 2017 release date that came out of San Diego Comic-Con still a rumor. Like I said, the way things are shaping out in terms of the cast of Superman VS Batman, the proto-Justice League is already moving into place. I would love to see Wonder Woman get her own movie before Justice League because she’s Wonder Woman and she deserves it.

The reaction to those who continue to make the exact same statement has been one of, “Hey, we got Wonder Woman in a movie. We should be happy about this.” And, “I’m sure it means a Wonder Woman movie is on the way.” In regards to the first reply:  Yes, I’m happy Wonder Woman is going to be featured in a movie, but I will continue to question her purpose in it until I have some plot details and a better understanding of WB’s plans. Also, just being grateful that a character shows up in a movie is a double-edged sword. Until I see Gal Gadot in the costume and hear her speak, I can’t judge anything. The same goes for Affleck, but to imply that her just being in the movie is good enough sends a message to the filmmakers as well. What if it all goes wrong? What if Snyder falls back on what he’s done before regarding female characters in his previous movies? What if Goyer drops the ball and Wonder Woman is relegated to the background? Was I supposed to be happy about that the whole time? Obviously the reverse could happen and I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong. If this movie ends up being a fantastic superhero movie that gives Wonder Woman a fair shake along with Superman and Batman, I’ll be the first to admit it. But I’m not Mary Sunshine, so it’s great that others have such faith in what’s to come, but I’ll keep my skepticism and if I can respect your devotion, you can respect my reservations.wonder-woman

Concerning the second reply, it’s another show of faith in WB and the filmmakers that seems to be separating us. I hope to high Heaven that Wonder Woman gets a solo movie, but the constant assurances of it from others who know as much as I do about WB long-term plans for their movie franchises, which is nothing, that they’re certain it’ll happen doesn’t mean it actually will. We only really know that Justice League will happen, it’s just a matter of when and if they attempt to make another movie before then. So you can have you faith in the idea, but the fact of the matter is Wonder Woman has only ever popped up on the radar of WB in regards to movies in which she shares screen time with other heroes, never as a solo act. If, however, they announced a Wonder Woman movie would precede Justice League or that they were at least planning for one afterwards, then fine, your faith has been rewarded and I jumped the gun. Happy Happy Joy Joy to all of us! My concern will always remain with the hows and whens.

wonderwoman-kate-beaton

So that’s all I got on the matter. This is, as always, one person’s opinion. But what do you think about the casting of Gal Gadot and Wonder Woman being part of Superman VS Batman? Should she get a movie before Justice League or are you content to wait?