Within the margins of the superhero movie game, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has held the monopoly on comedy, directing prowess, general good will, and — perhaps best of all — Hollywood’s coveted Chris community. With Evans, Hemsworth, and Pratt in its corner, the MCU has brilliantly outshone its chief competitor, the DC Comics racket. But in snagging the fourth Chris — Chris Pine, that is — to play Steve Trevor in its upcoming Wonder Woman movie, Warner Bros. may well have made a play for one area that Disney’s Marvel films haven’t quite figured out how to handle just yet: Giving us a heroine who truly gets to be the heroine.
Pine’s entry into the world of superhero cinema doesn’t come with the above average strength or intergalactic adventures of his fellow Chrises. Instead, his main goal is simply to win Wonder Woman's (Gal Gadot) heart. Trevor was invented in 1941 as Wonder Woman’s primary love interest, and will come to life in the likewise love- and interest-worthy form of Pine in the super heroine’s first bona fide feature film.
Of course, Trevor has had a good deal more on his plate than just garnering affection from the Amazonian princess. Throughout his comic book history, he has served as a military intelligence officer, a secret agent, and a Justice League liaison; his work immediately beneath A.R.G.U.S. Director Amanda Waller could operate as connective tissue between Wonder Woman and the preceding DC movie Suicide Squad (in which said character is portrayed by Viola Davis). But superheroes' love interests often do have their own passions and projects — those things just don't stand at the forefront of their storylines.
And while few would deny Pine the opportunity to play the wily agent in a comic book movie, it’s tough not to hope for a version of the character that’s saddled chiefly with being the romantic beacon, potentially even a dude in distress, for Wonder Woman.
Every major superhero movie to date has dealt in this trope, casting a collection of talented actors to handle the task: Margot Kidder (Superman), Kim Basinger (Batman), Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man), Jennifer Garner (Daredevil), Jennifer Connelly (Hulk), Katie Holmes (Batman Begins), Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man), Liv Tyler (The Incredible Hulk), Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight), Natalie Portman (Thor), Hayley Atwell (Captain America: The First Avenger), Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man), Amy Adams (Man of Steel), and — as far as a few peeved Marvel fans are concerned — Scarlett Johansson (Avengers: Age of Ultron) and Evangeline Lilly (Ant-Man). So, you know, it’s pretty much always women.
On the one hand, sticking a man or two into this supplementary position isn’t going to “make up” for the genre’s indignant refusal to give women strong central parts. But an actor like Pine playing, foremost, the “love interest” in a superhero blockbuster — one with as much pedigree as Wonder Woman, what’s more — does help to leaven the tradition in an interesting way.
Using a striking alpha male like Pine as one part heartstring-tugger and another part target-for-menace, we can begin to normalize this brand of stock character across the gender line. We’re probably never going to get rid of the “romantic” backup in blockbuster cinema, but it’d be nearly as big a victory to fill this position with more and more strapping men as it would to get more and more super powered women at the heads of these pictures.
It's a small step toward the liberation of gender-defined barriers that we wish to see across the cinematic board, but the inclusion of Pine in a love interest role is a step nonetheless. And if Warner Bros. beats Disney to the gate with this bit of progress, the MCU might not be kingpin in all corners of the superhero game after all.
Images: Warner Bros. Pictures (2)