Wonder Woman was the number one film of summer 2017. Its June release saw the movie gross $412.5 million domestically, and a total of $821.8 million worldwide, with director Patty Jenkins securing the biggest opening ever for a female director. Wonder Woman’s star, Gal Gadot, had critics and fans alike praising her strong, focused performance with the addition of subtle nuances which made the character well-rounded and relatable. The affection for Wonder Woman resonated across the globe, attracting a wide-ranging audience, many of whom wouldn’t normally go to see a superhero movie. Warner Bros. is rightfully proud of the film, and launched an Oscar campaign for Jenkins as Best Director, Gadot as Best Actress, and Wonder Woman itself for Best Picture.
Yet despite rave reviews, box office success, and a broad and fervent fanbase, Wonder Woman was shut out of every single Academy Award category. The movie didn’t get a single nod, not even in any technical categories such as Best Visual Effects, or Best Costume – areas where traditionally, sci-fi or fantasy movies will often get recognized even if they don’t appear in the bigger categories. Fans are understandably upset, and Wonder Woman is, according to a Fandango survey, the biggest Oscar snub of 2018.
While Wonder Woman is an incredibly enjoyable movie, it’s actually hard to see how or why it deserved a shot at the Academy Awards. Gadot gave a great performance, yes, but did the script and character lend itself to a depth of performance similar to that given by, say, Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird? Meryl Streep continues her run as the most nominated actress at the Oscars, and sure, her roles are very different to that of Wonder Woman, but when you hold Gadot’s performance up against any of Streep’s, there’s simply no comparison.
However, many felt that even if Gadot didn’t warrant a Best Actress nod, the movie itself should have landed a Best Picture nomination, and Jenkins Best Director, because of the overwhelmingly positive impact the movie had on popular culture. Without a doubt, Wonder Woman attracted audiences who wouldn’t normally give a superhero movie a second glance. It depicted a strong and independent woman who was also soft, feminine, and not afraid of love. That was hugely influential for many younger audience members, whether male or female. It’s been a long time coming, and it’s little wonder that audiences embraced Wonder Woman with such fervor.
Women are finding their voices in a way they haven’t before – or rather, we have, but it’s only now that the world is finally beginning to listen. But just because Jenkins used her (admittedly powerful) voice to bring us Wonder Woman, that doesn’t mean that the overall quality of the movie – its direction, its script, its interpretation and its performances included – are strong enough to warrant a Best Picture or Best Director nomination. A powerful social impact does not translate to Academy success.
Enjoyable and empowering as it is, Wonder Woman is still a rather formulaic superhero movie, and its third act does drag in places, especially in the CGI-fueled final battle. Compared to some of this year’s Best Picture nominees – which include The Shape of Water, Call Me By Your Name, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Wonder Woman‘s adherence to familiar action-adventure conventions stands out even more. The Best Picture movies are daring to be something different – to push the boundaries of film-making, not just represent a force for change.
It’s also worth looking at other movies that missed out on the Best Picture category – most notably, The Disaster Artist and The Florida Project. Both have received critical acclaim; both were shut out by the Academy. In the case of The Disaster Artist, this could well be because of the recent allegations against its star and director, James Franco, who didn’t get mentioned in those categories either (voting closed 4 days after the allegations against Franco came to light). In the case of The Florida Project, though, it’s hard to see why it was shut out of Best Picture, given the impact the movie has already had. No, it’s not altering popular culture like Wonder Woman did, but the quality of the film, the direction and its storytelling speaks for itself.
Best Costume is a tough category; each nominated movie would be a worthy recipient of the Oscar in 2018. The same can be said for Best Visual Effects, where Marvel gets a nod for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi is also nominated. We’ll never know how the Academy voted; it could be that Wonder Woman was only just shut out, or it might have been a long way off.
The fact is that is was shut out. Of every category. But was it snubbed? Not really. Wonder Woman was a good movie, but its power lies in its impact upon the film industry and society at large, not in the quality of direction, its script, or its performances. Wonder Woman arrived at exactly the right time to tap into the public’s appetite for change; look at all that has come since, with the advent of the #MeToo movement. Wonder Woman (both the movie and the character) stands for empowerment, defiance, and strength, and with Wonder Woman 2 in the works, it will continue to do so. But the character has been putting her own stamp on the world for many, many years, and she’ll likely continue as a dominant female figure of popular culture long after Gadot and Jenkins have walked away.
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