Monday, January 31, 2011

Anne Hathaway, A Modest Proposal: Parlay Catwoman Into Wonder Woman!

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Anne Hathaway has a lot going for her as an actress. She has more than proven her willingness to take deep or challenging roles with her parts in Rachel Getting Married and Love And Other Drugs. She has long managed to keep a serious side, but let loose in Get Smart and provided a profoundly unsettling performance in Alice In Wonderland as the White Queen, for which there was a shockingly small amount of merchandise (especially considering the rest of the film . . .). While she has acted opposite greats like Julie Andrews and Meryl Streep, she has a gravitas of her own that sets her up as the natural successor to either or both. With the announcement that Anne Hathaway will play Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises, Hathaway reveals a lack of prejudice toward genre works and this might well be the solution to Warner Bros. other lingering genre franchise problem.

Anne Hathaway should play Wonder Woman in the cinematic rendition of Wonder Woman. While it might take other esteemed actresses like Dame Judy Dench decades to leap from Shakespeare to graphic novel fare, contemporary cinema is proving there need not be a bias against super hero or science fiction works. Hathaway has received a grand total of three (yes, only 3!) nominations for Best Actress in the Oscars and Golden Globes and one has to wonder why. Hathaway has great range, but so many viewers see her in the “good girl” role and as a wholesome woman who represents strangely middle-of-the-road values. But with her being cast as the Catwoman, one has to trust that the man who put Heath Ledger into the role of the Joker is not going to recast the edgy female vigilante as something softer. And if Hathaway can pull off the vicious, self-serving streak needed to embody Selina Kyle properly, honestly what is left for her?

I submit that Wonder Woman is the role that she ought to take following The Dark Knight Rises and customizing the role for Hathaway is the element that could make the film into cinematic gold and help break the stigma of nominating (and awarding) a genre heroine performance for the big two acting awards.

Why Anne? The principle problem with figuring out a script for Wonder Woman is not, despite popular opinion, figuring out the time period to set the film in. The difficulty with Wonder Woman as a cinematic character is casting the title role with a woman who has the ability to straddle the pacifistic values of Princess Diana and the understanding that more drastic measures might be necessary in the real world, which is something Wonder Woman came to learn pretty quickly. Anne Hathaway has the strength on screen to espouse liberal, feminist values of equality without infusing it with any sense of camp. While Lynda Carter did a great job with the attempt in the late-‘70’s Wonder Woman, too often her part was written with the intent that Carter smirk or laugh off inequality with irony. Anne Hathaway has a screen presence that makes speeches interesting when she speaks and for a heroine whose most common method of diffusing a situation is to talk her way out of problems, it seems like that would be a quality directors would desperately want for the role.

The balance issue is a serious one. For a long time, I was in the Charisma Carpenter camp for Wonder Woman. She had the look, I figured she would look great in the outfit (despite her tattoos), I rooted for her. But while Carpenter might make a great Wonder Woman, it is virtually impossible to see her as the more reasoned, mellow, philosophical Princess Diana. Anne Hathaway’s acting background easily makes her the powerhouse choice for the Themysciran Princess and with The Dark Knight Rises she has the opportunity to once and for all prove she has the acting chops to pull off badass and physical.

Second, there is the sex appeal factor. Say what you will about Hollywood and its annoying tendency toward thin and pale, but Anne Hathaway has a quality that her peers do not. Jolie is far too invested in her kick-ass factor, Scarlett Johanssen has done too much where she has played dull and dead-eyed and . . . Emma Stone is still a bit young for the role. Hathaway seems like she would be the one to fit into the one-piece best. But even better than that image (it’s not some Maxim shoot featuring Megan Fox) is this thought: if there were ever to be a heroine on screen who is able to discuss with another character how she is using her sex appeal as a disarming tactic or because she is just so comfortable with her own body, who else could deliver such lines with credibility besides Anne Hathaway? I spent quite a while trying to come up with one person and I didn’t.

Finally, there is the story factor. Wonder Woman has been plagued and delayed for years because apparently every writer working on the project only has an idea what Wonder Woman might look like and not her character, her struggles or her adversaries. Arguably, the fundamental problem with what the Star Trek films was was that they eventually just became “kill the villain” stories. After Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, each director (save Nimoy in The Voyage Home) tried to come up with “the next Khan” and the movies all degenerated into a story that resulted in supposedly pacifistic people killing the villain. Similarly, super hero movies degenerate the same way. The hero is introduced, a villain rises up (either inspiring the hero or inspired by the actions of the hero) and they meet and ultimately the hero must defeat the villain and the viewer is left admitting that the movie might not have been all that original, but the effects were all right. Wonder Woman’s story has been supposedly hampered because writers working on the various scripts can’t figure out the villain. What if the world today were the villain? What if the whole point of a Wonder Woman movie was to have Wonder Woman try to change minds, save lives and fight for peace instead of just using violence to fight more violence? Who could pull off a superhero film wherein the heroine helps insure that roads are made through Africa to insure that medicine gets to war torn villages or wherein the heroine fights in her one-piece superhero outfit by night while working as an ambassador brokering peace in a war torn region by day is not Anne Hathway? Seriously, the writer who can write the script that makes interesting the superhero genre by challenging the conventions that ambitiously is the one who wins the Wonder Woman race and that writer/director is still stuck with who could pull it off on the big screen. Who if not Anne Hathaway? Think: The Dark Knight meets The Hurt Locker meets . . . hell, what is the name of a movie that actually deals with people sitting down and trying to broker peace across a table? That’s the super hero project that Anne Hathaway is destined for and that is worthy of a Wonder Woman story.

I realize that it might take others actually seeing Hathaway in the catsuit, kicking butt before they ask “What can’t she do if she’s making me believe this?!” But I’m already there and I say, “Anne Hathaway, you should be Wonder Woman and you should demand a superhero film worthy of your talents that challenges the audience that stuck with you . . . even after Bride Wars!” And for those naysayers, it all comes back to the balance question: if not Anne Hathaway as Princess Diana and Wonder Woman, then who?

For works featuring Anne Hathaway, please check out my reviews of:
The Dark Knight Rises
One Day
Love And Other Drugs
Family Guy Presents: It's A Trap!
Alice In Wonderland
Valentine's Day
Twelfth Night Soundtrack
Bride Wars
Rachel Getting Married
Get Smart
Becoming Jane
The Devil Wears Prada
Brokeback Mountain
The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement
Ella Enchanted
Nicholas Nickleby
The Other Side Of Heaven
The Princess Diaries

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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