Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice gave film critics a chance to flex their roasting skills, and flex them they did, with many attacking the film’s plodding, illogical script, joyless action sequences, and grim tone. Christopher Orr of The Atlantic called the film “tiresome, ill-tempered [and] lazy,” while Time magazine’s Stephanie Zacharek laments that it’s just “not much fun.” More than one (!) reviewer has even called it a “joyless slog.”
While I could gleefully pile on to this barrage of criticism, I won’t, not because I was a fan of the film—I have taken exams that were more entertaining—but because there is one bright spot in Batman v Superman that deserves mentioning, and that bright spot is Diana Prince (better known as Wonder Woman), played by Gal Gadot.
Gadot’s character, though she doesn’t get all that much screen time, was by far the film’s most interesting, perhaps because her story hasn’t been told in the Man of Steel universe yet. The film holds back from revealing too much about the Amazonian superhero, possibly to preserve some of the character’s mystery for the upcoming Wonder Woman film, but what we do see of her proves that she is as competent, powerful, and fierce as she is in the comics.
At times, the reticence to reveal too much about her means holding the character back even against all storytelling logic: the film’s head-scratcher ending (spoiler alert), which features Superman attacking Doomsday with the Kryptonite spear, is supposed to be a heart-warming moment of self-sacrifice, because Kryptonite is Superman’s weakness—but it’s also one that would have been completely unnecessary if Wonder Woman, who isn’t allergic to Kryptonite, had just been the one to finish Doomsday off instead.
Still, the limited screen time granted to Wonder Woman makes her upcoming film exciting, as it leaves open more possibilities than if she’d been more fully fleshed out. Marvel has more than a dozen films planned before female-led Captain Marvel is released in 2019, and we will probably reach a tenth Spiderman reboot before we ever get a standalone Black Widow movie. Wonder Woman is an opportunity for DC to do what Marvel apparently can’t or won’t: put a female superhero front and centre on the big screen for a change, and soon.
First, though, they’d better figure out what made Batman v Superman such a disaster, lest Wonder Woman become their next catastrophe.