‘Atomic Blonde’: Not Who You Want Her To Be. And That’s OK.
When you see a James Bond film, there are certain expectations about his character. He will show up impeccably dressed, fight like a pro, and end up with a beautiful woman. This is the formula which has created a successful long-term franchise both at the box office and with fans. What do we know about his back story? Not a whole lot. We may catch glimpses throughout the series, but the point of these films is to be whisked away on a rollercoaster of an adventure.
Atomic Blonde is a spy. She is impeccably dressed, fights like a pro, and ends up with a beautiful woman. (At least briefly.) We know very little about her back story and motivation. Yet, the point of this film is to be whisked away on a rollercoaster of an adventure. Sound similar? Yet a common complaint of critics is that the movie cannot be fully enjoyed without a compelling back story.
Lorraine Broughton (played by the incredible Charlize Theron) is an MI6 spy during the Cold War. It’s not far-fetched to compare her to Keri Russell’s Cold War character in FX’s The Americans. Elizabeth Jennings has also been described as “cold” and “steely.” They both share a tough exterior and are forced to compartmentalize their lives. Why is that a problem? Do all female characters need to be the same? Would we be having this conversation about James Bond? I don’t think so. Female representation onscreen with leading female protagonists has been quite sparse over the past several years. The different expectations about the appropriate narrative motivation for men versus women are puzzling. Do all women need to be motivated by love and/or family? That to me is a perpetual stereotype. Sure, we need heroes motivated by those things. But there is also room for women who do what they do for the love of the chase. The challenge. The fight. I believe we need to let these films be what they are: entertainment.
We do, however, need to move away from choreographed lesbian sex scenes, which are directly based on pornography. The male gaze is alive and well in this film. It’s getting really old. And incredibly un-sexy. Charlize deserved better than that. The audience deserved better.
I will go see Atomic Blonde again. The cinematography by Jonathan Sela is some of the most creative and visually stunning I’ve seen in a long time. I will be surprised if he is not nominated for Best Cinematography. The film is fun. It’s exciting. And it’s sexy. These are all things an action film strive to be. I for one, choose to simply enjoy the ride.
Micky Small is a graduate student in Digital Media and Performance at Arizona State University by day, and building a production company called Femme Powered Productions with original live-action female superheroes by night. Follow her @femmepwrdprod Sign up for updates on her first film at www.thevioletblazechronicles.com
Sofia Boutella. Watch the trailer here. In theaters July 28, 2017.
sequences — and ever-magnetic star — to make up for a narrative that’s