1. Wonder Woman is a larger-than-life icon, a character who has existed for more than 70 years. She will probably still be important when everyone breathing now is dead. But for the last decade, she has existed most prominently as a casting rumor. They tried making a movie out of her, or several movies, or a Justice League movie that would’ve produced a Wonder Woman spin-off – a process that engulfed geek demigod Joss Whedon in a mid-’00s Dark Period so painful he has (maybe accidentally, maybe not) devoted years of his life to DC’s comic-studio archnemesis. They tried making a TV show out of her, a process that served no purpose beyond squandering Adrianne Palicki’s post-Friday Night Lights glow; they tried making another TV show out of her, this time a prequel sans costume, and that didn’t work either. For more than 10 years, the idea of a human female playing Wonder Woman onscreen has been a hotly contested debate, conducted in dark rooms between producers and in the internet echo chamber.
2. Now, the casting rumor has become a casting fact: Gal Gadot is playing Wonder Woman in the Man of Steel sequel, alongside Henry Cavill’s Superman and Ben Affleck’s Batman and probably inevitably playing Martian Manhunter.
3. The first question almost everyone asks is: “Who is Gal Gadot?” And the easiest answer is: “The actress from Fast & Furious who isn’t Michelle Rodriguez or Jordana Brewster.” And an unusually astute moviegoer might say: “Oh, you mean Gina Carano from Fast & Furious 6? The martial artist who starred in the underrated Haywire, who actually briefly dated Henry Cavill and looks basically exactly like the generally-agreed-upon idea of Wonder Woman as a very attractive but also very muscular woman? That’s great casting!” And the response to that is: “No, no, no, the other actress.”
4. I want to make one thing clear: I think Wonder Woman is basically an impossible role to cast, which is another way of saying that I think anyone at all should just play Wonder Woman already. She’s a feminist icon who predates the last several generations of feminism, a style icon who generally wears almost nothing at all. She’s sort of immortal but she looks very young, she’s sort of a badass warrior but she’s also a stranger-in-a-strange-land neophyte eternally adjusting to the outside world. And she’s sexy, a fact which, in the wrong hands, can veer sexist almost immediately. (See Also: Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, a movie that is clearly trying to be a deconstruction of fanboy sexism and which also utterly succumbs to fanboy sexism.) Her costume is problematic, a fact that DC Comics has implicitly admitted to by regularly forcing her to put on more clothes, but Wonder Woman without her costume doesn’t really look like Wonder Woman.
5. I would imagine that part of the problem with casting Wonder Woman is that Hollywood is mostly run by guys who each have their own inaccurate and occasionally offensive perspective on what the Ultimate Vision of Womanhood would be. But honestly, you could put Sheryl Sandberg, Camille Paglia, Hillary Clinton, Lena Dunham, Tina Fey, the women from American Horror Story, and the writing staff of Jezebel in a room for a week and ask them to cast their ideal Wonder Woman, and the net result would be the same. Because Wonder Woman is in some ways less defined than Batman and Superman – her origin changes constantly – she is arguably way more interesting than either of them, a free-floating idea that hasn’t been nailed down yet.
6. Which is another way of saying that Jennifer Lawrence would’ve been great, but she’s too young. And Beyoncé would’ve been great, but she’s already an even more powerful idea than Wonder Woman is.
7. It’s worth pointing out that the character is having a resurgence in the comic books. The ongoing series by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang is great. There’s a Superman/Wonder Woman series where the two characters are dating, the kind of actually consequential ongoing story that mainstream comics usually avoid. And Grant Morrison is writing a ridiculously ambitious Wonder Woman graphic novel. We’re living in a renaissance for heroines. So it only makes sense that Wonder Woman would have a renaissance too.
8. And, cards on the table: I really like Gal Gadot in the Fast films. She was introduced in the reunion-sequel Fast & Furious as a a criminal working for a drug kingpin – and as a replacement Diesel love interest after Michelle Rodriguez’s character died. Her name was Gisele, which is a name you give a really hot female character when you’re on a deadline. Gisele came back in mega-reunion Fast Five, where she was retconned into a Mossad agent-turned-supercriminal. You might ask why an ex-Mossad was working for a drug kingpin. Shut up, that’s why! Gisele’s romance with Han – the stealth-cool guy in a room filled with muscles – proved to be one of the more enjoyable and weirdly endearing side-arcs in the ludicrous latter Fasts, right down to the gloriously silly moment of self-sacrifice in Furious Six. The central joke of Gisele is that she’s a henchman who looks like a supermodel – take away the romance and the bikini scene and she’s a fast-driving gun-bot who could be played by any of the grunts from Armageddon. She works entirely because Gadot plays her dead straight.
9. The flip side of that: Gadot plays her dead straight, so it’s by no means clear she can play anything else. Her IMDb is spotty beyond the Fast films. A model and a former Miss Israel, Gadot’s non-Fast filmography is limited. She spent 2010 in Date Night and Knight and Day, which is mainly interesting because the movies’ titles almost rhyme and because the best-case scenario is that you forgot those movies were movies.
10. Worth pointing out that Gadot in the Fast & Furious films has a more believable range of emotions than Henry Cavill in Man of Steel. Or, for that matter, Ben Affleck in Daredevil.
11. Gadot’s casting also leaves open a whole host of questions about the Man of Steel sequel. What kind of Wonder Woman will she be? Will she be a big part of the movie, or a spin-off tease for Justice League? Will she be a love interest for Superman or Batman? Both? Gadot has an accent, which apropos of nothing could indicate they’re doing the Wonder Woman-as-New-Arrival-From-Themyscira persona. Gadot looks like royalty. She doesn’t look like a fighter. Are they going to make her “realistic,” by which I mean, not a princess from a magical single-sex island, who might be descended from a Greek god?
12. Zack Snyder directed the weirdly fratty Watchmen, which badly didn’t do justice to a great lead female character. He also made Sucker Punch, which was Sucker Punch. But close to a decade ago, he made Dawn of the Dead, which briefly turned Sarah Polley – the very good and thoughtful-eyed actress who is roughly 4 feet tall – into one of the horror genre’s best-ever action heroines.
13. We basically know what to expect from the Marvel movies at this point. Rigid professionalism. Witty banter. Assembly-line visual style. Unchallenging narratives. Cameos. But what the hell is this Man of Steel sequel, that has 40-something Oscar-winning Batman and man-candy emo Superman and heroin-chic B-movie-star Wonder Woman and football and rumored titles that all sound like early ’90s erotic thrillers? It sounds unlikely. That’s not a bad thing.