Thursday, December 5, 2013

What We Talk About When We Talk About Movies

We need to talk.

We don't really post a lot of movie news at F This Movie!, because we made the decision a long time ago that we're just not interested in doing that. There are plenty of other sites you can go to for that sort of thing -- so many that it becomes white noise. At any given time, 3,000 film sites are all reporting on the same five stories. The information is not hard to come by, so we made a choice to stick more to talking about the movies themselves. Doesn't make us right, just hopefully makes us a little different.

But sometimes the world of MOVIE NEWS just kills me -- not so much in the reporting as in the reacting -- and today felt like the right time to talk about it.

Two big pieces of news were announced this week, and the online reaction to both is very telling about the current discourse when it comes to movies. Let's take them in order of importance.

First, director Zack Snyder revealed that Israeli-born model Gal Gadot will be playing Wonder Woman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel Batman vs. Superman (or whichever of the 12 registered titles Warner Bros. ends up going with for this fucking thing). This is "big" news only in that it hadn't yet been confirmed that Wonder Woman would be appearing in the movie, meaning the studio is just trying to cram every big name hero DC has into one film and PRAY TO GOD people give a shit.

Don't sell yourselves short, Warner Bros. People give a shit. People give waaaay too much of a shit.

Seriously, though, quit while you're ahead. You already know everyone on the planet is going to see a Batman vs. Superman movie. You'll make your money. Whether or not anyone likes it is another story, and that's what you should be worried about right now. Stop trying to sell the sizzle. Make a good steak.
But back to Ms. Gadot. I have nothing against her as an actress, because I barely know her as one. To me, she's Gisele from the Fast & Furious series (we'll get to that in a minute). I like her just fine in those movies, because she was given a cool character to play and because she fit within that universe, which is very much about looking beautiful and celebrating diversity. Check and check. But cast her as a the single most famous female superhero in history and it's a whole different story. Like with most comic book movie casting announcements, everyone's an expert. Only in this case, everyone's an expert AND a sexist asshole.

The fan reaction began immediately, and while it's nowhere near as vitriolic as the response to Affleck's casting as Batman, at least that dumb fucking outrage claimed to be based on his body of work. The reaction to Gadot is based solely on her body.

I am not the first person to point out how ugly, hateful, angry and misogynistic the fanboy community can be, but there was something so goddamn depressing about watching it all unfold. The reaction is only to a casting announcement. No one has seen the movie. No one was even privy to Gal Gadot's screen tests, and yet everyone already knows whether or not she's right for the part.

Because what matters more than anything to these geek assholes (note that I do not mean all geeks are assholes, just the ones who are) is that the actress look like a drawing. "She's not right for Wonder Woman!" they wrote in the comments sections of countless web sites, despite the fact that Wonder Woman is not a real person and that there have been multiple iterations and interpretations of the character since she debuted in the early 1940s.

"Too skinny," many said. "She will have to pack on bulk/muscle" was a common sentiment. "Her tits are too small" was a comment I read somewhere else. One person just wrote "Jew." I WANT TO FUCKING KILL MYSELF. These people vote. These people got Shalene Woodley kicked off The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Some other commenters were angry that Gina Carano wasn't cast, to which the internet responded "Not pretty enough." Gina Carano. Not pretty enough.

Ok, maybe you don't think Gina Carano is pretty. Or maybe I don't. What difference does it make? We're not all going to agree on what is "pretty." It is not the single qualification for which an actress should be cast as a tertiary character in a misconceived movie. And yet that's what we reduce the character to. We pretend that we want a strong, empowered female superhero that young women can look up to, then scare off any and every young woman with hateful comments that boil that empowered character down to a cup size.

Surprise, boys. It's a drawing. No one looks like that.
And for those who would argue that talking about a woman being "too skinny" is somehow better than the usual shithead complaint of "too fat," please stop it. I'm sure Gal Gadot is very very flattered that you think she is thin, but you are still reducing a person to only her body image.

Again, no one screamed that Ben Affleck couldn't play Batman because he doesn't look the part, but somehow that's all that matters when it comes to Gal Gadot. I guess it's because Bruce Wayne is a square-jawed white male, and so is Affleck. Disregard that Gadot is a 5'9 model/actress with real-life military training. She's too skinny, and the drawings in all my comic books have bigger boobs and different color hair.

Part of the reason I bring this up is because I'm guilty of it, too. When I read the announcement, my first thought was "That's not how I picture Wonder Woman." It wasn't anything hateful about Gadot's body or nationality (I must be having an off day), just surprise at the "type" with which the filmmakers went. But then I said to myself "Don't be an asshole" and remembered that I am an adult. I will wait until I see the movie to determine whether or not Gadot is bad casting, but by that point I can promise that there will be many other factors that might contribute to Wonder Woman being a bad character or even Gadot stumbling in the movie and all of them have fuck-all to do with what she looks like.

Repeat after me: see the movie, then decide. See the movie, then decide.
Worst of all (ok, not worst of all, because these people really are monsters) is that we're not even talking about movies anymore. I want to talk about movies. It's what I like to do, and why I started this site. We're very fortunate at F This Movie! that we either a) don't cater to these dickheads or b) they just haven't found us yet, because my heart would break if I were to come to the site I've made a home and it was filled with shit like this. We're talking about a casting announcement in a movie we know nothing about except one other casting announcement and the fact that it is combining two beloved properties and is a sequel to one movie which was in and of itself a remake of another movie and then a reboot of another character who has already had two successful movie franchises and now is maybe getting a third.

Everything is broken. And as long as we're arguing over whether or not Gal Gadot looks like the cartoon lady in the pictures, it's going to stay broken. Studios can continue to churn out expensive, shitty movies as long as they're based on existing source material that we can police instead of demanding innovation or originality.

You guys, Wonder Woman casting is the opiate of the masses.

The other big piece of news announced this week is that Universal has now delayed production on Fast & Furious 7 "indefinitely" in the wake of Paul Walker's tragic death this weekend. The discussion on these pieces is less tasteless, maybe because all the assholes got it out of their systems when Walker's death was first announced.

So this isn't going to be more of me yelling. This is me processing my feelings about the development, and hoping you will all join me.
I have been surprised at how affected I am at the death of Paul Walker. He is not an actor I thought about daily. Or monthly. I never considered the possibility of him dying because a) he was only 40 and b) that would have meant giving more thought to him than I ever did. But then his life ended in an instant, and I find myself very sad.

Yes, I'm very sad because he had a daughter and friends and family and people who loved him, and because he died too young. Because he was, by all accounts, a good man who devoted much of his life to doing charity work and helping out people in terrible situations. These are all reasons to be sad when anyone dies, whether or not he is a Hollywood celebrity.

But I also have to be honest with myself and admit that part of my grief is selfish. I am sad that he will not be in any more Fast and Furious movies. It seems so trivial, right? It is the least of our problems. It's where I'm at, though. I have championed the franchise for several years on this site. It has come to mean a lot to me, as it has to many of us. Paul Walker was one of the main reasons for that. Not only has he been around since the beginning, but he's become one of the strongest pieces of the puzzle (Matt Singer at The Dissolve aptly described him as the heart of the series).

And it's not the least of Universal's problems, as they now are in meetings trying to figure out how to go ahead in a way that is respectful without giving up a series that makes them billions of dollars. They announced this week that they are shutting down production indefinitely. And again, if I'm being honest, I'm kind of happy about that.
I don't want anyone out of work and I don't want anyone losing the millions of dollars already invested (though according to The Wrap, the production is insured and won't actually take the loss). Selfishly, I desperately want to see Fast and Furious 7. Everything about it sounded awesome. The addition of Jason Fucking Statham. KURT RUSSELL. The return of Lucas Black from Tokyo Drift. I'm not even a fan of Lucas Black, but I love that they continue to pull all these movies together into one narrative whole.

Plus I was super excited for James Wan, who was getting his biggest showcase to date. He's been making good and successful horror movies for several years now, but I was looking forward to seeing him really step up onto the Hollywood stage and direct the shit out of a huge action movie like this one. This was his moment.

I say none of this to trivialize Paul Walker's death. The reason I'm glad that production has shut down for now is that I'm not interested in a Walker-less Fast and Furious movie -- at least, not any of the ones they would have come up with if they had charged ahead trying to make that July 2014 release date. It was again fascinating (and less horrifying) to read the comments in these news pieces from fans, all of whom have different things that they want to see happen. Some were suggesting that the existing footage be used and that the filmmakers find a way to kill off Walker's character as the best way to "honor" him. Others seemed fine with digitally placing Walker's face on a double's body and finishing the movie that way. Many (including myself) would rather see Brian O'Conner left just as he is at the end of Fast & Furious 6, happy with his lady and his new baby. Leave him with his family, they said.
That discussion actually made me feel a little bit better. Yes, it's only days removed from a bunch of shitheads making jokes about his death hours after it happened, but the commenters on these articles were, for the most part, just trying to figure out how it can be ok to move forward, if at all. No one wants to see the franchise end yet, but we all also understand why Universal is taking pause. Even those who suggested a CGI face swap -- which to me seems goulish and icky -- didn't mean to be cold about it. Everyone seemed to really want to somehow honor Paul Walker in the best way possible.

I don't envy everyone involved with Fast and Furious 7. They have really big, difficult decisions that they're trying to make in the middle of grieving their friend and colleague. Once the shitstorm of internet snark died down, it has been good to see the wave of positive support and fandom that has surfaced. It seems like people are willing to patient with Universal as they attempt to sort things out and hopefully heal before getting back to work and figure out the next step. I'm glad to see that they've made that choice. Maybe they try to make something of the footage they have and work it into the story. Maybe they start over from the beginning. Maybe they walk away altogether. There's a lot of money they could possibly be leaving on the table, and while I don't think it's going to be left there permanently, it's good to see a decision not totally driven by commerce.

In both the Fast 7 and Batman vs. Superman stories, we're all talking about movies we haven't seen -- movies that haven't even been made yet. That's just how things are now. The internet has made it so that every development is reported on and scrutinized, and in many cases the online reaction ends up driving the story. At least in the case of Fast 7, the reactions are generally supportive. That's much less depressing than the Wonder Woman response, which is one of just "NO, WRONG."

Paul Walker is gone, internet. He leaves behind a teenage daughter. The best thing we can do for her is to stop being assholes and teach her that anyone can play Wonder Woman. Even a gorgeous supermodel.

23 comments:

  1. Yes. This. Yes Yes Yes! 1,000 times yes, this. Yes.

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  2. The modern equivalent to tilting at windmills is trying to get some people on the Internet to behave like civilized human beings. I would estimate that about 95% of people in the world are perfectly decent folk. Unfortunately, the other 5% are rampaging assholes who jump and scream and demand that we pay attention to them. While I appreciate your plea for sanity and good taste, Patrick, you are facing an uphill climb because a fair number of that 5% relish your disgust. As that great philosopher Alfred once said, "Some people just want to watch the world burn."

    On the other hand, what you are saying needs to be said to remind the remaining 95% that we need to make our voices heard, too. So keep after those windmills!

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  3. Fantastic. This one has been cooking on the burner for a while, correct? I agree with every word. I stopped going to other movie sites long ago. I still find news through Facebook, and I don't miss it, because I don't see quite as much human stupidity. My first though on reading (via Facebook) that Wonder Woman was being added to the new movie was "there's no way a single movie can introduce and service all those characters!" Nothing about whether or not Wonder Woman would be a real life Amazonian princess. And I'm a super-geek, with literally thousands and thousands of comics, so I have to ask "who the fuck are these people?" Are they 11 year old children? If they aren't, why are they acting like children? Well, not even children, more like animals.

    And Paul Walker: I also didn't see the vitriol and cruel jokes because, again, I only visit F This Movie when I want to talk/read about movies. Paul Walker was an incredibly charismatic guy. I'm watching him as I write this. Again, these people are animals.

    I'm always so proud of the F This Movie community. It's populated with thoughtful, sensitive and intelligent people who behave themselves and almost always think about the feelings of others. It's why I ONLY come here now. Life is too short to wallow in negativity and hate, yet outside these website walls, that's all that there seems to be. If there's a change coming, let it start with what we've being doing here for the past few years. That's what draws people here.

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    1. My exposure to other sites has diminished drastically of late as well. Facebook headlines and status' tell me all I need to know about most things movie news related.
      Im proud to call myself Fuck-Head (a realisation I only came to during the latest F Everything show....im that slow).

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  4. clap clap clap. Way to bring it back around. Very well put.

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  5. Great column. I like Gal Gadot because of F&F so when I heard the casting I was fine with it. I'm not really excited about the movie itself but it's not my thing, so I don't really care too much.

    On the other hand, F&F is SO my thing, so I'm happy they're taking a pause and trying to figure out what to do with the next movie.

    If I had my druthers, I would want them to start from scratch and not include Brian in the next movie outside of a short explaination of where he is. I like where they left the character at the end of part 6. It would be an anti-climatic way to close the arc of the character but considering the circumstances, it's not the worst idea either.

    Then they should include the footage they already shot on the Blu-Ray as a workprint cut and we can see some of what the movie would have been if Walker's tragic death did not happen. There is your way of honoring his work.

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    1. I really like that idea. I would want to see some of what Paul Walker shot, but don't want them incorporating his "death" into the movie as many have suggested. Don't kill Brian O'Conner. I won't be able to handle it.

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    2. It would be really terrible if they killed Brian O'Connor in the movie continuity. I'm thirding the idea of workprint footage as bonus material.

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    3. I, too, am much more for the idea of just having the character go away somewhere than either saying he died or somehow showing his death. I think both of the latter options would be distasteful and a big misstep. But I'm still just so happy that they are taking time (assuming this F&F movie does eventually get made) to hopefully figure out the best and most respectful way to continue without Walker.

      Regarding Gal Gadot, I'm kind of just in "wait and see" mode right now. While her current physical form doesn't scream "Wonder Woman" to me, that's not to say she can't put some lifts in her shoes to grow a couple inches and hit the gym to bulk up.

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    4. Yeah, I'm going to retract my statement re "hero's death" below - Brian and Dom are invincible.

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  6. Oh Paul Walker - when I commented on your lovely tribute the other day I rethought and deleted a line: "I'm not nearly as excited about Fast and Furious 7 now" because it felt selfish. But I think it's fair that we react that way - thousands of great people die horrible tragic deaths - celebrities are in our lives for the movies they make and when they die, it's that loss we feel - to really take it any other way would be unhealthy and/or obsessive. As for the stupid jokes, my philosophy is nothing is sacred as long as it's funny - the irony of Walker's death escaped NO ONE - anyone who felt the need to point it out is an asshole.

    As for FF7, yeah, on Monday when you broke the news to me, aside from being in general funk, my head was swimming with thoughts as to how they were going to make it work (I blame/thank you for the fact I care at all). Have him in by reference to name only? Kill him off in the movie (offscreen a la Letty)? To be honest I hadn't even considered they could CGI him through the whole thing - god, I hope they don't do that. I do like the idea of leaving him a happy family man out of the "business" (DVD player theft?) but if they could edit him into a hero's death, that could be okay too - whatever they do I just hope it's not a sweeping him under the carpet thing (unfortunately there might be some jokes there - sorry!).

    The Wonder Woman thing bothers me a lot too even though, like you, my initial reaction was that she didn't really fit my image of the character, but I'm totally for giving her a chance. Same with Ben Affleck - my tweet the day the Internet blew up over that casting news was: "How dare Ben Affleck think he can play a guy in a movie!" It's so silly. Youth today are entitled assholes, there's just no way around it. They feel they deserve to have it their way, and if they don't get it, they've got loads of platforms on which to express their righteous indignation. Like Steve K. said above, it's probably not a battle you can win, but keep fighting the good fight! I'm just glad to have found a little oasis of decency and intelligent (myself excepted) conversation here at F This Movie!

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  7. Yep, this is the best thing that's ever been published on this site! I'm also fucking irritated by certain websites need to post the same fucking news! "The Amazing Spiderman 2 trailer just dropped!" Who gives a shit. Did you really need to "report" that? We would of all saw it featured on YouTube anyway. Is that news-worthy? That's why you guys rock!

    Also, when I heard about Gal Gadot cast as Wonder Woman, I was just sorta like "Uh, alright. Whatever. I don't care." My total lack-of-interest stems from the fact that, after hearing Wonder Woman will actually be in Batman vs. Superman, I don't think that movie will be good. Batman and Superman in a movie together is an INCREDIBLE (and nerd-gasmy *punches self in face for saying "nerd-gasmy"*) proposition. But now, it seems like Warner Bros. is tossing in whoever the fuck…just cause. It's like what you said Patrick, as if that movie wasn't gonna make enough money already, they gotta throw in Wonder Woman. I don't know. I can tell you one thing I know, I'm 78% less excited for Batman vs. Superman because of Wonder Woman's involvement (NOT Gal Gadot mind you, just the fictional character. It seems like TOO much. Sorta like The Amazing Spiderman 2, which has a cool trailer but I think that movie's gonna be a mess! There's two-too-many villains - Rhino, Electro, Green Goblin (and maybe more)? Pick ONE! I know, the Sinister-Six and junk…ugh, whatever).

    As for Fast and Furious 7?

    I was surprisingly upset by Paul Walker's passing, also. Like you, I never thought about the prospect of him dying, because of the reasons you stated. It was a shock. I'll miss him -- I actually watched Running Scared the day after he died and…that movie's CRAZY and GREAT (I think?)! He's great in it though!

    I'm interested to see what happens. I was really excited for Fast 7 (I've also become a enthusiastic supporter for those films post-Fast Five). Especially with James Wan aboard. I hope they, at least, treat Brian O'Conner respectively (I actually like your idea, Patrick, of leaving him where he is at the end of Furious Six).

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    1. I think I know what you were going for when you mentioned it, and for the most part, I agre, but I would argue that an Amazing Spider-Man 2 trailer actually SHOULD be reported and up for discussion. Unlike something like this Gal Godot news, which is only speculation with no hard facts about how the movie is actually going to be, a trailer is probably the best early indication of a movie's potential quality. Heck, even this very site has a column dedicated to the subject. That's just my two cents about trailers, specifically.

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    2. I'm not opposed to sites posting "news" items, I just don't think we need to be one of them because there are SO MANY already. And I do wish that they weren't all just writing about the same five things, but I understand why they do it. Posting the trailer for Amazing Spider-Man 2 is going to generate a lot more traffic than some of the esoteric stuff we write about here.

      I really appreciate the positive feedback and enthusiasm from everyone. This is a good place to be.

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  8. Patrick, this is the best movie article I've read in a LONG time. Thank you. Thank you thank you. I'm glad someone finally had the balls to stand up and say, "hey people. Stop being assholes!"

    It's been driving me nuts that people get on the internet and bitch about movies they haven't even seen, and react in such repulsive, violent ways when it comes to stupid things like casting announcements. Has the internet ruined the way we enjoy movies? I miss the days when I'd see a trailer, and THAT would be the first time I even heard about a movie. Then I'd see it and react the way I was going to react. Nowadays, we scrutinize these fucking movies YEARS in advance and by the time they're finally here, we're so pent up and obsessed about them that it's hard to even enjoy them.

    I could rant all day, but just wanted to say well done, and well said. THIS is the reason I love this site, and you guys will always be my go-to movie lovers.

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  9. I'm not going to add anything except to praise your words, as they should be praised.

    You said it, truly, sincerely, and it made me proud to read this site. It also made me happy to have someone like yourself out there who could say something so heartfelt and real.

    Thank you for telling the truth, Patrick. Thank you.

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  10. Great article Patrick. I agree with the overall sentiments
    A couple thoughts though (which im sure you'll know are in no way meant to be disrespectful)
    First, this isnt the first post/article ive seen by a respectable site that is commenting on the negative fanboy backlash which ultimately comes down to a response to comments section posts. I dont get that. There seems to be an idea that "fanboys" or "internet community" or "the established fanbase" is accurately represented by these comments, which baffles me. These are silly little comments made by 12 year olds (and stupid 35 year olds) which I dont think they really represent anything. Im just always surprised when people report them as the fans response when they really aren't that and need to be sought out to be found
    Not a jab at you P-Man, there just seems to be an overgeneralisation that occurs when discussing it while the comments, I think we all know, are from an unimportant minority. If studios listen to them then that’s just sad, but people reporting on the negative comments primarily gives them validity with the intended voice of reason coming in second

    Re: Gadot as Wonder Woman. Due to her limited exposure to me I see her as an unproven actress, which concerns me regarding her ability. That is all. Looks are nothing

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  11. Secondly, I have an opinion that I think I am in the minority on, I disagree with the "no one speaks ill of the dead" mentality and can find it borderline disrespectful at times (to clarify Im not saying you have done this at all, Patrick). I think Paul Walker was a fine actor and a perfect fit for F&F, the shock for me (i think) comes from how predictable his career was supposed to be. He was the clean cut, all American, non-intimidating, pretty boy actor, who was to be type cast in F&F to the point that his window of opportunity for star power was to close on him resulting in him being a supporting actor for the next decade after F&F, appearing as the "cool friend" or as the "girlfriend's dad" etc then falling off the radar completely until reappearing in his 60s+ in either a supporting role of a sitcom or dramedy as either a local mechanic with a complicated past (playing off F&F) or as the Jock who never grew up (playing off his pretty boy status), or in a bad cable tv show like Texas Ranger or something. This accident wasnt part of the plan, and that is disappointing

    In terms of how F&F will proceed, I think Im in the minority again here but I think I would like to see them incorporate his death into the movie. I would be particularly interested in seeing them incorporate it in an "art imitating life" manner, in that his death is due to an out of the blue accident that takes everyone by surprise part way into the movie. Not part of a hit by Statham, not a big action sequence that raises the stakes, just an unpredictable accident. Then the movie can focus on how the other characters respond and deal with that, either by withdrawing from their "family" or increasing risk taking behaviour etc etc. The randomness of the death can also work really well as these are characters with incredible skill to control highly dangerous situations, but your skills and preparation cant save you from everything

    F&F6 really tied up the bringing together of the family arc which had been weaved throughout all the movies. It seemed as though Han's death was to act as the catalyst for a "destruction of the family only makes us stronger" possibility, but I think Brain's death would work better storywise because while Han was supercool Brian was super important. It would give a reason for some intelligence to be injected into the series, which wouldnt be a bad thing, due to the meta-content plus it would allow them to have a bigger story without having to blow up the balloon any further and send the team into space
    Death happens, they can shatter people and fracture families. Thematically, it is a powerful opportunity for the series which could also be very meaningful and cathartic for the production and cast. If done respectfully, of course

    sorry about the length

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  12. God, could the people on this site sound anymore like condescending d-bags?

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    1. Most definitely, you poor, small person.

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  13. Oh I agree completely, I just don't trust Warner Entertainment to make a good movie, they've had 5 brilliantly(semi at some points) done movie adapatations of comic books. It is not a crime to feel concern over casting choices when you have a weight of so many other bad choices in style, tone and message.
    I was never the person to say 'Gal Gadot CAN'T play Wonder Woman' because of her image, I would find it strange that a woman who looks like a supermodel could fight toe-to-toe with some enemy that gives her character problems, that's because of a cultural bias that bigger means better. There are tons of females athletes out there that could kick most guys asses, even if they look thinner and weaker.
    What concerns me is her "acting talent", she has been in the F&F series up to now and she isn't the title character. I have to use some form of reasoning to get a conclusion as to why such a big name in the DCU is being given to a female who hasn't proved herself yet.
    Is it because they truly think she can portray a strong and powerful leader of a people? Is it because the WB wants to do a 'Miller style' and sex up Wonder Woman to get horny young men to watch this movie?
    Is it because they don't care about the overall story they're trying to show and just care about the money?
    I don't know and I'll wait until I see her perform as WW in '16, then I'll either hold my hands up and say "I was wrong to doubt you WB, she and Jesse Eisenberg were great choices for two centralised characters in this DC Cinematic Universe you are creating" or I'll vent my spleen like I did with the travesty of a bad movie that Man of Steel turned out to be, like the other BAD DC movies were.

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    1. Just the fact that you're saying you'll wait and see sets you apart from a lot of the reaction I was writing about when this was announced. Thinking that Gal Gadot is an unusual choice or being concerned about what the movie is turning into is totally normal -- what what happens today as people react to Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm in the FF reboot -- but that's very different than just saying she's wrong for the part because of her appearance. That's all I was really trying to get at. Thanks for weighing in!

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