The Legacy of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman

When Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman hit theaters, it seemed as if it might become one of the most impactful films of the 2010s. It was famously the first modern superhero film to revolve around a female lead (though Marvel followed quickly with Captain Marvel), and it was also directed by a woman — the wonderful Patty Jenkins. Wonder Woman seemed destined to stand as one of the best films of the superhero era in which we find ourselves, and was poised to spark exciting new trends of representation and originality.

A few years and one thoroughly disappointing sequel later though, and the general feeling surrounding this modern iteration of Wonder Woman is somewhat more complicated. So we gave some thought to the question of how we’ll remember the character as portrayed by Gal Gadot.

An Unassailable Debut

Gadot’s time as Wonder Woman started with a bang. When the first film debuted in 2017 it was almost shockingly successful. At the time, DC’s attempt at a cinematic empire to rival Marvel was floundering, to put it lightly. Man Of Steel had been disappointing; Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice had been flat-out bad; and Suicide Squad had been a debacle. Even with a Justice League film in the works, Wonder Woman felt like DC’s last chance to establish a compelling individual character. And it delivered.

Fans were in awe of the easy charisma with which Gadot brought this character back to life. She anchored an enjoyable, sensible film that was packed with action but not (like its DC counterparts) wildly over the top. Critics responded as well, to the tune of a 93% rating at Rotten Tomatoes and widespread incredulity when the film was snubbed during Oscar season. As Variety noted at the time, there had been some thought that it could receive nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (Jenkins) and even Best Actress (Gadot).

Even without Oscars to its credit though, Wonder Woman made its mark. It was a resounding success that breathed new life into DC’s “extended universe” and seemed to set both Jenkins and Gadot up for limitless futures.

Gadot in Real Life

The rebooted Wonder Woman persona was helped along by the fact that Gadot presented a conventionally admirable character in real life. Much like some of the cast members behind the Avengers have appeared to make a point of demonstrating integrity and championing progressive causes in their real lives, Gadot appeared more than ready to assume the mantle of modern feminist icon.

Some of Gadot’s early comments surrounding the release of Wonder Woman concerned body positivity. She was unabashed in her responses to critics of her “superhero body,” and wound up sparking a bigger conversation about body shaming. Past that, Gadot also came to embody a particularly modern brand of feminism — an attitude that feminism is something to expect rather than strive for. It was an empowered stance, and enhanced Gadot’s position as a role model for young girls.

We should note simply as an acknowledgement that other aspects of Gadot’s public persona are more polarizing. Without getting into details, her politics are viewed by some as admirable, and by others as problematic. But the aspects of the actress more closely tied to the role of the first female superhero headliner — her strength, confidence, and feminism — contributed to the sense that we were witnessing the building blocks of a powerful legacy.

Missed Opportunity in Gaming

Where Wonder Woman first fell short of fulfilling that legacy was in gaming. Superheroes have been hit or miss in gaming in general. With all of the success Marvel has had in the past 12 years, for instance, only Spiderman really has a gaming franchise to speak of. Other characters thrive in some popular mobile games, but that’s about it for Marvel.

There were opportunities for Wonder Woman though, if only because she followed in Batman’s footsteps as a solo cinematic hero from DC. Given the universal adoration of the “Arkham” gaming series that has thrived alongside multiple Batman film releases (despite not being directly tied to any of them), it seemed at one point as if there was a reasonable chance of a major Wonder Woman game release.

In the years since Wonder Woman hit theaters though, the franchise has made no such move into gaming. In fact the only solo appearances the character has are — in what might come as a surprise to some — on internet slot machine sites. For those unfamiliar with this branch of the gaming world, Gala Spins explains that as slots have evolved over time, “video slots” have become the new norm. These are basically more like conventional video games, and as such employ characters and themes.

Today there are countless slot games based on popular characters, and Wonder Woman has one of her own, too. The only trouble is that it isn’t actually based on the Gal Gadot version of the character. So basically, while the character does appear in some broader Justice League-themed games from recent years, the closest thing we have to a solo Wonder Woman game is a slot machine from before Gadot’s time. It’s an undeniable missed opportunity for a franchise that we can’t help feel ought to be a bit bigger by now.

A Botched Sequel

A lack of success in gaming can be overlooked if the core entertainment — the film franchise itself — is good enough. After all, the likes of Iron Man and Thor have become enormous in modern entertainment without noteworthy solo games of their own. Unfortunately though, the Wonder Woman film series did not remain good enough to leave us particular confident about the modern character’s legacy. The second film, Wonder Woman 1984, was botched.

This was partially due to its complicated release during the time of COVID-19. Throughout 2020, we actually saw a number of films delay their releases — sometimes multiple times. The new film in the James Bond franchise for instance was initially delayed from summer until November, and later pushed again to 2021. By contrast, Warner Bros. made the bold decision to release Wonder Woman 1984 alongside streaming opportunities on HBO Max. By any definition the film was a box office flop, though it’s difficult to say with confidence how many people watched it on HBO Max.

Beyond issues with the nature of the release though, Wonder Woman 1984 was also a poor film. There was some fun action, and Gadot did what she could. But it was a jumbled story that lacked the clarity or intrigue of its predecessor.

An Uncertain Future

From all of the above, you can make of Wonder Woman’s legacy what you will. As of now, it’s an unfinished story.

As far as we’re concerned, Gadot’s superhero has always been somewhat limited by the fact that the DC film universe is a mess. That said, there’s still every chance for Wonder Woman to stand as a sort of lone triumph in a failed franchise. According to Collider, Warner Bros. “fast-tracked” development on an untitled third Wonder Woman film in the aftermath of the HBO Max release. So hopefully, we’ll be seeing more of Gadot in character before too long.

If the third film is as good as the first, the legacy will be back on track.