Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was always bound to be a testosterone-heavy affair. After all, its title implies the cinematic equivalent of a WWE match. Still, for those hoping that perhaps the movie would take the Mad Max route, there was legitimate reason to get excited: Zack Snyder’s follow-up to Man of Steel would introduce Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince, a.k.a. Wonder Woman, and the film's marketing teased her with flair. That Wonder Woman is even appearing in the movie is significant. Batman v Superman marks the character's debut in a live-action, theatrically released movie. That’s an astonishing fact, considering she’s been around since 1941. (Now, count how many times you’ve seen Batman’s parents die in a movie. Guess what? You’ll get to see it again.) And no one can blame a lack of interest among audiences; a Fandango survey about Batman v Superman, published by Deadline, found that 88% of moviegoers polled were eager to see Wonder Woman. And, sure, if you sit through the movie’s two-and-half-hour runtime, you will get to see Gadot’s Wonder Woman kick some ass. She swoops in during Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman’s (Henry Cavill) final showdown with Doomsday — a Kryptonian monster cooked up by Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). Her fighting style is dynamic — she even employs her famous lasso — and she’s vital to the action. Without her, the boys would almost certainly lose.
But in order to see Gadot’s Wonder Woman shine at the end, you have to first watch Bruce Wayne try to hit on Diana — an excruciating thing. Because in this universe, even Wonder Woman starts out as eye candy. Diana and Bruce encounter each other at a party thrown by Lex Luthor. Unbeknownst to them, at least initially, they are both there for the same reason: to steal information from Luthor. Bruce is in the midst of an interview with Clark Kent when he pauses to ogle her. “Wow, pretty girl,” he says, as she walks by in a tight burgundy dress. “Bad habit. Don’t quote me on that.” (If I were interviewing a mogul who said something like that, I would certainly quote him. That’s Trump-level bad.) But at least Diana gets to upstage the men later. The same cannot be said for Superman’s girlfriend, Lois Lane (Amy Adams), or his mother, Martha Kent (Diane Lane, burdened with a terribly unflattering wig). Their main purpose in the film is to be used as bait, and subsequently get rescued, by one of the dudes.
The movie labors to portray Lois as a tough-as-nails reporter. “I’m not a lady,” she says early in the film. “I’m a journalist.” On a trip to D.C., she confronts a source in the men’s room, prompting him to say that she “belongs” there given her “balls.” But that’s just thin and corny posturing from the screenwriters. Lois is consistently used as a pawn. In one of the opening scenes, Lois is interviewing an African warlord. Things go awry, and she’s held at gunpoint. Superman saves her. Later, Lex Luthor pushes her off a building. Superman saves her. During the final showdown, she gets stuck in a body of water. Superman saves her. Notice a pattern? That last instance is particularly frustrating given that, for a moment there, I thought Lois was about to save the day. Lois goes into the water to retrieve a Kryptonite spear that could defeat Doomsday. But she ultimately fails, necessitating the aid of her super-boyfriend. (Oh, yeah, and she's wearing ridiculously high heels most of the time. Call it the Jurassic World problem.) Perhaps the only female character in the movie who's never defined by her looks (or her love for Superman) is Holly Hunter’s Senator Finch. She’s wary of Superman’s unchecked power, but equally concerned about Lex Luthor’s evil plot. She’s smart and knows her way around a good aphorism. Too bad the movie’s plot ensures that we won’t see her again in the franchise. In a movie as busy as this one, we can’t expect that every character will be well-defined. Hell, Batman and Superman barely are. But Batman v Superman relies far too heavily on the damsel-in-distress trope. And, while Wonder Woman certainly isn’t in distress, the movie still gives her short shrift. At least she’s getting her own flick soon enough.