Smacking, macking and marginalisation: the things that worry me about Justice League now that I’ve seen Wonder Woman


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I was eager to see Man of Steel back in 2013. It promised to be a more serious, more contemporary take on Superman in a similar way to how Christopher Nolan had approached Batman with his brilliant Dark Knight trilogy. As it turned out though it was underwritten, po-faced and dull. Nonetheless when the sequel, Batman v Superman, was announced I was once again quite enthusiastic about the whole idea, especially as this was to establish a shared movie universe like Marvel’s successful superhero series. Unfortunately this film was as pompous and underdeveloped as the one that came before it with poor characterisation and lazy plotting. Then there was Suicide Squad which looked quite fun but in reality was even more messy than the others. I enjoyed some of the performances but by any rational measure the movie was nonsensical, amoral and sexist. I couldn’t be taught though because I was still optimistic for release of Wonder Woman this week. I felt sure that this one would buck the trend. 

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The good news is that it did. While not perfect, the DC Extended Universe’s fourth film is entertaining, amusing and even in places quite inspiring. More importantly it does its central character justice with a strong feminist sensibility and a clear message about the value of knowledge, unity, bravery, righteousness and love. Interestingly rather than this final success making me look forward to Justice League, this November’s film that will bring Wonder Woman, Batman and probably Superman (he kind of died in the last film) together with Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg, I’m uncharacteristically worried. 

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One of the problems with Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad was the way in which all three culminated with the heroes fighting large soulless CGI foes at the end. Rather than these battles being epic and exciting they were distracting and dull. For all its victories Wonder Woman kind of does the same thing. The only real difference is that this time you actually care about the people involved, which helps. Marvel Studios fell into a similar pattern closing their movies with samey conflicts involving things flying around and shooting stuff. They addressed it though, playing cleverly on the conventions and expectations they had created. The big smack down in Ant-Man all took place in a kid’s bedroom and the big army of super bad guys set up during Captain America: Civil War failed to materialise in favour of something low key, considerably smarter and much more satisfying. All of the DC films have wrapped up with special effects enhanced super beings smacking each other with various bits of building, vehicles and laser beams. If Wonder Woman didn’t fix this I have no faith that Justice League will do any better.

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In the modern day opening of Wonder Woman movie our feminist protagonist is sent a gift by Bruce Wayne. It isn’t a simple box of choccies either, it is the original glass plate of a photograph she had taken in 1918 so he’d have had to go to some significant lengths to get hold of it. He may have made the effort because he wanted to build their professional association but after his clumsy flirting with her in Batman v Superman I fear he may be after more than just being super friends. If Justice League involves lengthy scenes of Ben Affleck’s libidinous Batman macking on Wonder Woman I don’t think I could stand it. Even worse, if she shows interest in him then it would undermine the authenticity of her relationship with selfless Steve Trevor in her stand alone movie. I wonder if Brucie knows he’s sent her a picture of her one true love. 

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My biggest fear about Justice League is that by throwing Wonder Woman in the middle of a bunch of guys like Smurfette than she will become marginalised. She is by far the best character DC have given us but when they put her back with Batman and Superman, the company’s traditional cash cows, they may concentrate more on them and less on her. When you consider that the film needs to introduce three other male cast members as well there is a real danger that the wonder woman will become a second class citizen. This is not what the character deserves, it’s not what Gal Gadot deserves it would not be a fitting way to follow Patty Jenkins’ important film. 

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Wonder Woman is in cinemas now, Justice League is scheduled for release on 17th November and Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad are rubbish.

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