This week has been an exciting one for women in film.
To start off the week Sofia Coppola became the first woman in 56 years to win the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival for her film The Beguiled, and only the second ever.
Nicole Kidman received a special Cannes award simply for her contribution to the festival, premiering a total of 4 projects: The Beguiled, The Killing of A Sacred Deer, How to Talk to Girls at Parties and Top of the Lake, Season 2. She also made a statement saying that she pledges to work with a female director at least once every 18 months.
Jessica Chastain, who was selected for the Cannes prestigious jury this year, proceeded to speak out against the representation of women in film after having to watch 20 of the Festival’s films within 10 days. She made an impassioned speech stating that the “one thing [she] got to take away from this experience is how the world views women, from the female characters I saw represented… It was quite disturbing… [she wants to see women] that are proactive, have their own agencies, don’t just react to the men around them. They have their own point of view.”
Then to finish off the week, away from the isolated film space of Cannes, the highly anticipated Wonder Woman was released. And can we just say, FINALLY.
Finally, DC have found their voice and nailed a superhero story in the build up to Justice League.
Finally, we don’t have to search for the little things that we liked about a DC live-action film.
Finally, we have a superhero film directed by a female.
And finally, finally, there’s been a superhero film with a sole female lead, the first out of over 50 superhero films that have been released in the last 10 years.
Wait, let me repeat that, because it deserves dwelling on.
There has been 50+ superhero films in the last 10 years and Wonder Woman is the first to have a female lead. Seriously.
The last one was Elektra in 2005, but we won’t discuss that.
To me that statistic is more shocking than the one above, at which Sofia Coppola is only the second female director to ever to receive the Best Director award at Cannes. But both highlight the same thing: Hollywood have not been investing in and supporting women and maybe it’s time they should.
That’s not to say that we haven’t had some kickass women leading action films: There’s been the Underworld and Resident Evil franchises, and you could certainly make your case that they are superhero films to a certain extent – both heroines save people and kill the bad guys. However, only the first film of each are worth a watch and they sit outside of the 10 year spectrum that I’m casting.
Regardless, neither of those carried the same cultural weight that Wonder Woman does. In being the first female-led big superhero film, and the follow on from several heavily criticised DC live-action films, it doubly faced the awful burden of representation for action heroines and the DC live action film Universe.
It didn’t have an easy time either. Gal Godot’s casting was criticised for being too skinny for the role and not muscular enough; there were several marketing slip ups, the most notable of which was when Wonder Woman was being used to advertise dieting products; and the film has been banned in Lebanon due to Godot’s Israeli heritage, which also takes into consideration her 2 year service in the Israeli Defence Forces. That’s not even getting into the whole debate surrounding the “skimpiness” of the Wonder Woman costume itself.
When you look at it altogether, it’s the perfect example to demonstrate that women will always have it harder reaching the top.
I must say though, it does make the victory so much sweeter.
The origin story is refreshing, clean, and very self aware in how it sounds within the real world. The fight sequences are extremely well choreographed and are a pleasure to watch – it’s not just flying, punching and destroying buildings, Man of Steel. Though it does slip a little into the typical DC excessively long superhuman fight at the end, I must applaud them for not destroying a city with a presumed disproportionate amount of casualties this time.
Despite its WWI setting, one would think that the dark and brooding atmosphere of the DC universe would remain, but Jenkins has managed to lighten the mood a bit, squeezing a few solid pieces of humour in there. Some verbal and some physical, Diana’s introduction to the real world is slightly reminiscent of the first Thor, but I would argue better executed. The 1916 setting certainly heightens this, as women’s rights were far more stunted then than they are now, giving a slight nod to the Suffragettes movement; real-life superheroes in their own right.
Altogether, the film itself is a true audience pleaser, and it puts the internet trolls back in their place.
Go see Wonder Woman. Trust us, you won’t regret it. And if you do and don’t like it, well then you’re sexist.