Following disappointing critical reactions to the movies in the Warner Brothers DC Universe so far, the fate of the studio’s superheroes fell to one woman, Gal Gadot.
The actress is the star and title character of Wonder Woman, the first female-led superhero movie since 2005’s Elektra and the first to be directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins.
But where Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad floundered, Gadot and Jenkins’ movie has smashed boundaries since opening this month, and earned favourable reviews in the process.
Not only did the US$100 million (Dhs367 million) opening weekend in the States outstrip the modest US$75 million (Dhs275.4 million) prediction by some distance, the movie has ignited a debate on feminism and chauvinism in Hollywood.
In 2004, Jenkins’ debut feature film Monster landed the Best Actress Oscar for Charlize Theron’s outstanding portrayal of real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Wonder Woman is her first Hollywood movie since then. Would a male director have waited for 13 years for a chance to make their follow-up to an Oscar-winning movie? Perhaps not.
In the 12 years since Elektra was released (and let’s be fair, flopped) there hasn’t been another superhero movie with a female lead, all the while we’ve seen a handful of different Spider-Men, Batman has been rebooted twice and dozens of other male superheroes have also had their own vehicles.
It was about time we had a woman in charge of a superhero movie, and about time that movie focused on a female character.
“Without ever knowing it, I think Wonder Woman was my dream role,” Gadot says. “I grew up watching women playing princesses or damsels in distress. You had Meryl Streep or Charlize Theron, but it wasn’t common to see great roles for women.”
The former Fast & Furious star also has a clear message to those who think Wonder Woman’s outfits stop her from being a feminist icon. “I think there is a misconception about what feminism is. For me, it’s about freedom.”
Last year’s Ghostbusters reboot was supposed to be a new beginning for movies with women in the lead roles, but it met with criticism from the off, with many internet commentators refusing to accept the switch from male to female characters. It didn’t help that the finished movie wasn’t all that, either.
This time around, though, there has been no such criticism and the internet reaction has been wholly positive. Not least from Gadot’s peers, who have Tweeted their support for the movie and Gadot and Jenkins’ roles in putting the spotlight on women working in Hollywood.
The movie’s star has already received words of encouragement from Ellen DeGeneres, Viola Davis, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and more, including Chris Hemsworth (aka Thor, from the rival Marvel Universe).
All things considered, it seems to be going pretty well for the actress, who almost gave up on the profession two years ago. “It was literally right before I auditioned for Wonder Woman,” she explains. Being an actress is tough. The amount of rejection you get can be exhausting.”
“I’m my biggest critic but I do believe we’ve got something right with the movie. Now all I care about is that people like it.”
Meanwhile, in a recent interview, director Jenkins said her “heart sank” after hearing the title role had been cast by the time she’d even started working on the project. But she was quickly won over by Gadot.
“Frankly, I think they did a better job than I could have [in casting Gadot],” Jenkins said. “Because I don’t know that I would have scoured the Earth as hard to find her. I would have just looked for an American girl… She’s the greatest.”
Gadot was introduced as Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. When she arrives on the scene, Batman is about to meet his maker at the hands of a giant fiery alien. Superman can’t get the better of it, either, but Gadot’s character manages to finish it off, saving them (and the world, presumably) in the process.
So, Earth, the DC Universe, Hollywood... It looks like Gadot has saved them all.
Wonder Woman is out now in cinemas across Dubai.