The Wonder Woman Movie Dream
She’s been around seventy-five years. She’s had hundreds of comics or thousands if you include appearances outside her own title. She’s had a campy live action TV show and appeared in many cartoons and more than a few animated films. She’s an icon and been an inspiration to legions of girls and women (and boys and men). However, until the DCEU Wonder Woman film coming later this year Diana Prince has never had a live action cinematic release.
This is something of a travesty. She’s a great character with a rich enough history (there are some very low points post-Marston and pre-Perez) that always carries a sense of the epic that only cinema can truly deliver upon outside of the original comics. Hell, I’ve argued in the past why she also deserves a video game series.
So far it seems that Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot have a good grasp of the character and her lore and may deliver the first great DCEU film. But what does a good Wonder Woman film need? As Wonder Woman fans what should our hopes and dreams be for this picture? First, let’s lay out the essentials and the good stuff about Diana we’ve had so far.
Wonder Woman or Diana Prince first appeared in 1941 in All-Star Comics #8. She was created by William Moulton Marston, a psychologist and advocate for women in many fields. He believed that women should lead society as their kindness achieves a level of strength and intelligence that men could not match. This inspired him to create Wonder Woman. Named Diana, she is an Amazon of Greek Myth from Paradise Island, a tranquil peace loving land with only women on it. These women all possess great strength and martial skill and Diana is their greatest warrior but also their princess. She has a lasso that forces anyone to tell the truth and bracelets that can deflect any blow or projectile. Her costume speaks for itself.
Diana herself is a kind and loving figure with an open desire to help others, but equally ruthless when forced to be. She is a level headed hero whose passion for justice could overwhelm her on occasion. Despite her origins she has always managed to avoid the traps of Mary Sues.
Thanks to her back story’s basis in myth her essentials are more consistent across the generations than any other superhero from the Golden Age of comics. Her plotlines were not made up over time on the fly like Batman’s and Superman’s. She swiftly achieved popularity and became a well known fictional figure. However in the golden and silver ages when taken out of Marston’s hands she could be reduced to a damsel or a secretary type. For many decades Wonder Woman was not safe from the sexism in publishing she was originally designed to combat.
It’s also worth mentionin that she did have a famous camp TV show in the ‘70s. The basic Paradise Island/Steve Trevor origin story from the comic was left intact. As was the costume and the attitude of Wonder Woman. But the show went for Nazi spies and run-of-the-mill criminals for her enemies. Lynda Carter did manage to give a sense of class and dignity to what could have been a complete joke. Gal Gadot has her work cut out to match Carter, let alone move beyond her. Lynda Carter could even make spinning on the spot in slow motion somehow hypnotic.
In the late ‘80s the great comics artist and writer George Perez took the chance after Crisis on Infinite Earths to create a meaningful Wonder Woman comic reboot. Obviously with Perez the art was superb. But he also created a long lasting run that modernised the character whilst retaining her classic feel.
He undid a lot of the sexist BS from previous decades and gave updated essentials. He provided a young Diana who advanced into a veteran Wonder Woman. He gave her an inner life to go with a bigger supporting cast of family, friends and Gods and demons. This torch was carried on by other talented writers who had fantastic runs including, but not limited to, the likes of Greg Rucka, Gail Simone and Brian Azzarello.
Her most convincing roles in other media have been in the DCAU in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited where she was given a firm and authoritative role. Adrianne Palicki was cast in a TV pilot a few years ago, however by all reports this pilot was terrible and thus was not picked up. It’s a shame this was attempted before The CW got its act together with the Arrowverse and before the DCEU stole her away from any potential appearances there. And that brings us to Gal Gadot and Batman v Superman.
Gal Gadot first appeared as Wonder Woman in 2016’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. My feelings on this divisive film are complex. However we can all agree that in her limited amount of screen time that Gal Gadot projected strength, authority and combat skill. She even managed to fit a cheeky smile into a battle sequence with a monster. She has great chemistry with Ben Affleck too, which will help in the Justice League movie. Gadot’s accent is hard to place sometimes and she is striking in appearance, both serve a portrayal of a mythical figure. Gadot’s service in the armed forces has clearly paid off in the more physical sequences. I was not convinced by her appearances in the Fast and Furious franchise, but she at least has experience with humour in genre work. Gal Gadot is by all means a perfect choice unless somehow has a time machine and wants to fetch Lynda Carter back from the ‘70s. Even then Gadot has better action chops.
In BvS we see that she is similar to that film’s Batman. She’s become a cynic and a bit of a fallen hero who by the end of the film has got back on the righteousness horse. Clearly some tragedy in her past broke her spirit somewhat. She also clearly had the strength of Superman (nearly) and the fighting skills of Batman. She also enjoys fighting, that’s a good sign. Her costume is a little dour, but footage from Wonder Woman shows it’ll be more colourful in the past and footage from Justice League hints she’ll brighten it up in the future too.
So what do I want from this film? I want the essentials of Wonder Woman. She needs to be an open hearted and loving person, but with a ruthless and passionate side. She needs to be able to fight well and make it look epic and make epic fights look easy. She needs to have a lot of great chemistry with Steve Trevor, but also a sadness that betrays a subconscious knowledge of low expectations for their relationship’s long term success. She can be a fish out of water, but she isn’t an idiot, she learns past and isn’t embarrassed or dishonest enough to not fit in quickly. It’d also be nice to see her as a commander and leader and direct inspiration to others, particularly women.
What about the lore of Wonder Woman? There’s a lot I’d love to see. The culture of Paradise Island needs to be full of the contradictions from the comic. The populace (and its Queen) are peaceful, yet trained for violence. Kind, yet pragmatic (they aren’t opposed to an execution or five). Forward thinking yet stuck in the ancient past. If Ares appears he needs to have the classic look without being too campy or too serious. Somewhere between the Perez look and the New 52 look. It’d also be nice if the film had consistent logic to the character’s abilities and no bullshit when Wonder Woman suffers a loss or setback. It has to be convincing. It would also be nice if the gender politics leant more towards competent feminist film making rather than cringey mantra expositing ‘girl power’ shite. She’s called ‘Woman Woman’, there’s no need for heavier hammering of feminism than that. And yes, Wonder Woman is and should be feminist.
So far it looks like a lot of these hopes and dreams are in place. Patty Jenkins is a good and intelligent director. So far the casting is inspired. She’s handled very heavy material before will know how to balance comic book silliness with something as horrific as the First World War, something that doesn’t lend itself to pulpiness as easily as the Second World War. In behind-the-scenes videos one can already witness Jenkins expertly describing Diana’s loving character. These same videos then cut to colourful and cleanly shot action scenes that look epic. There is a sense of pathos and some humour present too. I genuinely think despite a spotty (or at least divisive) track record in the DCEU Wonder Woman is a solid bet. We should have got this film decades ago. We’ve needed a good superhero film about a female superhero, let alone one about Wonder Woman.
I’m so confident about this film at this point I actually wanna dream about sequels. I want to see an adaptation of Brian Azzarello’s run about Wonder Woman being thrown into the internal politics of Olympus. Or stories about Diana running the embassy for Paradise Island and balancing the job of ambassador with superhero. With a grotesquely sexist President of the US we do need a Wonder Woman stepping into domestic and international relations. I don’t even need anything as complex as these two ideas. Just a Diana versus Cheetah film would be cool. Imagine a veteran Wonder Woman getting her arse handed to her by a newly emerged Cheetah and she has to dig deep within herself to survive, let alone win.
Whatever happens, I believe it is going to be…shall I do the pun? I’ll do the pun… WONDERFUL.