In Samuel Becket’s famous play Waiting for Godot, Vladimir and Estragon wait in an empty road next to a single bare tree for Godot to arrive – Waiting in an Empty Road Next to a Single Tree for Godot, I’m sure was considered a too long winded title for audiences and a nightmare for the posters, hence its shortening. The two characters are dislocated from time and place, trapped in an area that is simultaneously nowhere and everywhere. Between acts, a few leaves have spluttered the tree, but still Godot never emerges. And, by the play’s end, the characters appear to remain committed to perpetuating their cycle of anticipation and dismay.
Now you are probably asking why am I bringing up a play that was first performed in the early 1950s, when discussing a soon to be released major Hollywood blockbuster like Wonder Woman?
Well, if you discount how the comparison enabled me to formulate one killer pun of a title, to compare the two is seemingly unjustified: including the separation in years, Godot is sparse, minimal, at times farcical, whereas Wonder Woman – with its $130 million budget – seems as though it will be grand, bright and follow a conventional narrative that will have a resolute conclusion.
In fact, although it may be interesting, I cannot comprehend a way to compare both – by my limited imagination, Godot and Wonder Woman are too detached to find similarities. Yet, I am confident there is an interesting dissertation thesis waiting to be uncovered by a far brighter student.
Here is a snippet of a production of Becket’s Waiting for Godot, starring the great Sir Ian McKellen (Vladimir) and Sir Patrick Stewart (Estragon).
Here, however, I do not wish to draw comparisons between the movie and the play, more so between the play and the moviegoer that is expected to view Wonder Woman or any other big franchise film coming out of DC, Marvel, or Lucasfilm. The franchise model of making movies wants to somewhat turn moviegoers into Vladimirs and Estragons – people who remain trapped to an unobtainable, yet distinct cause.
Unlike Vladimir and Estragon, cinema’s audiences do see the arrival of their (Gal) Gadot on June 1st, when Wonder Woman premiers on the big screen. It will be generally considered either bad or good; amazing or terrible. I for one am terrifically excited to see the first mainstream (I say mainstream because the only stream Halle Berry’s Catwoman belongs in is one deep enough to cause that feline of a film to drown a horrible death) female-led superhero movie. However, there is no denying that the film’s arrival does not exist in a vacuum and it is instead a link, preceded and proceeded by other films in the DC Extended Universe chain. The same can be said of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which was released only a few weeks ago: both their arrivals in the cinemas serve to entertain us enough so that we remain fixated on the arrival of the next instalment in the franchise. In other words, their purpose is to keep us ensnared in a cycle of anticipation, by offering us what is to come.
Somewhat like the characters in Waiting for Godot, people who watch major franchise films can also never fully experience a sense of uncompromised satisfaction, even if you find the film itself to be perfect. This is because its creators are intentionally creating moments that will cause you to look to the future – the ‘Godot’ is being continually moved due to Easter eggs and overt post-credit scenes.
Take for instance, the first Avengers’ post credit scene and the announcement trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, that was realised over a year before the film’s release in April 2018. Both serve to turn the fans’ attentions to the future, to show you what the subsequent films are building towards – the big bad known as Thanos. Consequently, each subsequent instalment in the MCU becomes no more than a road sign that indicates our proximity to our destination – a destination that will no doubt be replaced by a new overarching cause. Some will contain more information than others, yet none will provide any definitive resolution to an overall tale. Consequently, the sense of resolution contained to the film’s individual narrative is undermined, as the audience are aware that we are only seeing a fragment of the whole and that they will have to wait till the next component is revealed. The same applies to Wonder Woman. Although a prequel, it serves to capitalise on the intentionally created anticipation surrounding the character in Batman v Superman, whilst simultaneously increasing the hype surrounding the character’s next outing, Justice League, which hits cinemas later this year.
When Star Wars was first made, George Lucas and Co had no guarantee that a franchise was being created. Sure, they had ambition and hope for future instalments, but they were not so overtly confident that they took future sagas as a matter of fact and laced their film with obvious loose ends in order to drum up anticipation: they took nothing for granted. This is not say that Empire Strikes Back did not lay the foundations for Return of The Jedi, or that preparing for sequels is necessarily bad. But, by inviting audiences to knowingly be invested in an expansive franchise in which every film is meant to be interconnected and somewhat interdependent before the film is released, has serious ramifications.
The current trend in the movie business of building a franchise before crafting a great movie, results in audiences’ being stuck in a consistent state of waiting. Waiting for the already announced sequel or subsequent instalment, which this film will pave the way for. Just as Vladimir and Estragon are seemingly bound to Godot, audiences, in many respects, are intentionally being tied to a seemingly never ending cause. Yes, unlike the two character’s there is a sense of progress, but that sense of progress is tainted by the overwhelming sense that what we are watching is nothing more than an advert for what is to come.
Wonder Woman released in cinemas on June 1st