In her preview piece for the New York Times a couple Sundays ago, Manohla Dargis bemoaned the absence of a female-driven potential blockbuster this summer. (Her explanation for why Sex and the City doesn't count is one of the best lines ever printed in the paper of record.) Good on her. But what Ms. Dargas doesn't do is offer a solution. And here in America, we're all about solutions. (Gas-tax holiday, anyone?) So allow us to do what the chief film critic for the New York Times cannot. Allow us to give CPR to Wonder Woman.
Once upon a time, a Wonder Woman big-screen adventure looked like a lock. Geek king Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) had written a script. Potential stars' names were being tossed around on blogs. But last year Whedon was dropped from the project, and producer Joel Silver recently told one fan Web site that he's "not sure if it will happen." The wailing and gnashing of teeth over how badly the Silver-produced Speed Racer underperformed at the box office probably isn't going to help matters.
But for all the reasons Dargas would have pointed out if she were as forward thinking as we are, Wonder Woman would be a sure thing. In the empowerment department, the role fits perfectly into the women-kicking-ass tradition Dargas identifies Sigourney Weaver in Alien and Rosario Dawson in Deathproof with. After all, Wonder Woman isn't some long-lost cousin of an established male hero (see: Supergirl) or a world-beater reduced to love-interest status (see: X-Men, Jean Grey). She's an emissary from an island ruled by aggro female warrior types (you know, the same place Jezebel writers come from). And in her current comics incarnation, she's portrayed as having more testicular fortitude than Superman and Batman -- James Carville's version of Hillary Clinton with the strength of Zeus added.
Empowerment, of course, does not greenlight movies. Cocaine-addled film executives greenlight movies, and they must be spoken to in a language they understand. Here's how to sell it to them: "Hey, that Iron Man movie made an assload of money. Wonder Woman will, too."
This logic, though simple, is not false. Iron Man proved that movie-goers will movie-go see characters who aren't Superman, Batman or Spider-Man -- so long as those movies are well-cast, tightly directed and epic in tone (but not length). In the comics-hero pantheon, Wonder Woman lives on the same plane as Iron Man: She's not quite A-list, but she is big enough to get the nerd army that makes or breaks these films excited if you give them something to get excited about, as Marvel did with its genius casting of Robert Downey Jr.
Dargis is right. We live in troubled times. And troubled times call for heroes. What we need now is a woman who can single-handedly shake Hollywood from its chronic macho-think, a woman who wears a red-white-and-blue halter top and knee-high boots. What we need now is Wonder Woman.