As I’ve mentioned before, the 2017 “Wonder Woman” movie starring Gal Gadot and directed by Patty Jenkins may or may not have changed my life. I cried my way though the whole movie and left the theater with high hopes for future super heroine depictions. Those hopes were somewhat sustained by the 2018 “Black Panther” release because, although the badass females in that movie weren’t the main characters, they were still very much celebrated and given almost as much screen time as the Black Panther himself, T’Challa, and his nemesis, Erik Killmonger (but that’s a topic for another blog).
Regardless, I left the theater after watching “Wonder Woman” with my heart in my throat and my head in the clouds regarding future super heroine depictions. But I was brought back down to Earth hard after I finally got around to watching Zack Synder’s “Justice League.”
By now, you’ve probably heard of the controversy surrounding the late 2017 release and, more specifically, the altered Amazonian warrior costumes (And if you haven’t, have you been living under a rock?).
According to an article from Cinemablend.com, the official line from Michael Wilkinson, costume designer for “Justice League,” is that the reason the costume designs are so different between the two movies is because of the different time periods.
“For the majority of screen time in Justice League, the Amazons appears in 2017: one hundred years after the events of the Wonder Woman film,” Wilkinson said. “We wanted to show the passage of time by having a slight development in their armor, so some of the lines and details are different.”
Saying “some” of the lines and details are different is a bit of an understatement as nearly all the Amazonian costumes in “Justice League” have been reduced to thin lines and bare midriffs, a design that is incredibly impractical for a female warrior race.
Lindy Hemming, costume designer for “Wonder Woman,” has been interviewed on her inspirations for the 2017 movie costumes and several chapters of the book “Wonder Woman: The Art and Making of the Film” were devoted to the subject. But the best analysis of the costumes, by far, came from a fellow costume designer and writer Amanda Weaver. Weaver, an unaffiliated fan of the film, broke down the costume designs in a series of tweets that are well worth the read.
Weaver reversed-engineered Diana’s costume and that of the other Amazons in the 2017 movie and compared it to early Roman armor, ending her passionate “gushing” by saying the armor of Diana and her fellow Amazonians “showed respect” and that “The intent was to portray these women as warriors first and foremost.”
And warriors they are. Even though that’s not how Wilkinson and Synder went about portraying them.
Wilkinson continued in the same article from Cinemablend, saying, “Zack [Synder] wanted a more primal feel. So we harkened back to a time where armor was more primitive, metal was less developed and the Amazons had a more tribal feel.”
Because “primal” and “tribal” apparently mean less clothing, more skin on display, and not as much protective armor, which seems counterintuitive for a warrior race. Never mind that most of the Amazonians wore hard leather armor with only some pieces of metal placed at a few key locations along their bodies.
I could keep going about how this costume change takes three giant steps back in terms of female representation in the movies by reducing a group of powerful warrior women to dude-bro fantasy babes wearing nothing but skimpy leather bikinis, or about how since “Wonder Woman” was filmed before “Justice League,” Synder probably already had the original Amazonian costumes and made the conscious decision to scrap those designs and waste time and money creating new more revealing outfits, but I’m not.
I’ll just content myself knowing that although Justice League made away with just over 2 million in domestic revenue, according to BoxOfficeMojo, Marvel’s “Black Panther” made almost that much on its opening weekend.
Better luck next time, Synder. Who knows, maybe if you stop catering to dude bros and start broadening your female and POC representation, you’ll start seeing greater returns.
Just don’t ever expect to get on Marvel’s level.
And with that, let the power of Lara Croft be with you.