“Wonder Woman” — Controversy and Accolades

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Photo: Vox.

The Lasso of Truth (Wonder Woman’s weapon that transforms people into obedient truth tellers) says that DC Films’ “Wonder Woman,” directed by Patty Jenkins, is set to became one of the highest-grossing female-directed movies ever — even in the face of controversy.

The lead actress, Gal Gadot, is Israeli, which was cited as the reason for the film being banned in Lebanon. As is typical with some of Israel’s neighboring countries, Lebanon officially bans products from Israel. Although, according to Al Jazeera, “the principle of boycott is inconsistently enforced.” Previous movies in which Gadot played less central roles were shown in Lebanon. Last year’s release of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which also starred Gadot, was not banned, despite an effort by the Lebanese Ministry of Economy and Trade and the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement.

Up until opening day, there was controversy over whether or not “Wonder Woman” would be shown in Lebanon.  The ban was announced days before the film was to premiere, despite Grand Cinemas saying eight hours earlier that it would not be banned and promoting it five days earlier. Yet multiple theaters still planned to show it. There was a protest on social media. Gal Gadot was criticized not only for being an Israeli, but also for serving in the IDF for two years and offering vocal support for the IDF on Facebook. According to The Washington Post, the movie was banned just two hours before the first showing was scheduled to begin. There has not been an official clarifying statement on this discrepancy. It is possible that because of Gadot’s leading role in “Wonder Woman,” there may have been  greater pressure to ban the movie. Variety reported that in addition to Lebanon, the movie was also cancelled in the relatively liberal countries of Algeria and Tunisia. The movie is being shown in Egypt, Morocco and the Arab Emirates.

Gal Gadot’s picture of her and her daughter, posted to her Facebook page with comments supporting IDF. Photo:  Architectguy.me.

Besides the Lebanon ban, “Wonder Woman” faced backlash when in October the main character was appointed U.N. honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls, with Gadot there to represent Wonder Woman. An issue arose when U.N. staffers voiced their concerns about the appointment, saying that it would be better to select a real person rather than a fictional character to the honorary position. The staffers also took umbrage with Wonder Woman’s sexualized image, saying that she was not a good role model for women and girls. Besides a protest at the appointment ceremony by dozens of U.N. staffers, a petition was also circulated, which has garnered almost 45,000 signatures.

Beyond the controversy surrounding it, the film itself was actually quite good. Compared to the more recent movies DC has put out, “Wonder Woman” was seen critically as the best among them, scoring an 8.1 on IMDB and a 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Conversely, it seems that so far “Wonder Woman” is set to perform below the other recent DC movies at the box office, pulling in a little over $466 million worldwide, whereas “Batman v Superman”, which got a 6.7 on IMDB and a 27 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, raked in over $870 million worldwide.

Rankings and box office earnings aside, “Wonder Woman” delivers a satisfying story. While the overall structure of the movie follows a similar formula to other superhero movies made by both Marvel and DC over the past decade, the execution of the movie makes the overall experience fun and interesting. For example, the characterization of Wonder Woman and her love interest, Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine), helps to sell their romance and makes for a more engaging story.

The story structure is very similar to that of “Superman,” with a fish-out-of-water character trying to understand our strange rituals and customs. But unlike Superman, who grows up in our world, Wonder Woman does not get that luxury. She has to grapple with our rules, without any chance to get acclimated, which makes the story more interesting.

Unlike some of the bland and focus-tested DC movies that preceded it, “Wonder Woman” has more direction and purpose. While the plot is not overly complicated, it is unique enough to make it stand above the rest. What may also give this movie a fresh take is the female duo of director and lead, something that superhero movies have not seen since “Tank Girl” in 1995. With a steady stream of similar movies coming out, a mix-up in actors and directors is most welcome.