After years of development hell, news broke in December that Gal Gadot would become cinema’s first Wonder Woman in Zack Snyder’s Batman vs. Superman. The story is under wraps, and only time will tell what sort of role Diana will play in the superhero battle. Will she kick ass? Will her appearance Sucker Punch us with badness like David E. Kelley’s quickly killed series and Snyder’s shitty femme film? Could she end up on the editing room floor like Shailene Woodley in Spider-Man 2?
These questions feel all the more pressing since Marvel head Kevin Feige recently expressed pride in how the company has chosen to show its female characters. Black Widow has been relegated to supporting player, and Captain Marvel is still floating around the rumor mill like so much lip service, rather than becoming an official part of one of Marvel’s carefully planned release phases.
If Marvel isn’t going to step up to the plate and commit, that means everything rests on DC’s Wonder Woman, the superhero who’s “tricky” … except that she’s not. Recent film history gives DC all it needs to know to make Wonder Woman a powerful warrior and not a Babydoll or Sweet Pea.
If only they’ll look, and stop obsessing over how “difficult” Diana is.
This reboot seemed like the dumbest idea out there after the crappy 1998 film. Then the cast was announced – a who’s who of critical, mind-boggling talent including Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche, and David Strathairn. Suddenly, the goofy reptile movie became a compelling collection of top talent. It’s the same forward thinking that cast Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, effectively pulling him out of indies and into blockbusters. Good casting leads to great interest.
Gadot’s contract has her starring as Wonder Woman sometime in the future, but a great appearance in Batman vs. Superman, plus an awesome and unexpected cast would go a long way to making the Princess of the Amazons a legit cinematic presence.
Any time arguments about Wonder Woman pop up, they immediately focus on her skimpy, stars-and-stripes attire, as if the X-Men don’t exist. The world of mutants not only has heroes covered in blue scales or blue fur, but also wildly bright spandex uniforms that could easily undermine the menace of Wolverine’s adamantium claws. Yet it provided no challenge to Professor Xavier’s crew. The modern crew got slick black uniforms, and just to show off, the First Class even incorporated the iconic yellow into their duds.
Wonder Woman should follow suit – something with less color, something more understated and practical.
The 2010 revamp with pants would do well on-screen, pulling in a little of the classic look and a whole lot of practicality. Alternatively, Lois Lane has already proven that adding in the Greek warrior style would make for a similarly practical ensemble. In other words, there are many ways to make Wonder Woman recognizable without making her look like she bought “sexy superhero costume” at the drug store.
Introducing Thor to movie audiences meant delving into stories taking place outside of our world, and detailing the familial battles between Thor, Odin, and Loki. This dynamic allowed the god and his brethren to explore how humanity influences the world of gods, whether it’s his feelings for Jane Foster, or how Sif and Lorelai deal with the peculiarities of the human world in a recent Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode.
Wonder Woman can offer the opposite. As an ambassador to the world outside of Themyscira, her story is about how her home matriarchy battles Earth’s patriarchy. Her world allows for a great investigation of the human world and a lesson for it, rather than just a reaction to it. It’s a world of gods Earth can learn a lesson from, rather than a world of royalty that seems powerful and other-worldly, but antiquated.
4. Captain America
Captain America offers a solid blueprint for how Wonder Woman’s introduction should be plotted. Rather than trying to apply his history to the present, he was introduced in a period piece that focused on the time and political climate that first brought him his fame, before bringing him into the real world and preparing him for The Avengers. His position as a war hero and new comic book sensation were also the perfect bridge to this week’s sequel.
If a Wonder Woman film used a quicker, modified version of this approach, DC could avoid many of the hurdles they seem to be struggling with. Introduce Wonder Woman as a god brought to life from stone, who left her home to join Steve Trevor and fight in World War II, before being called back to defend Themyscira. Time moves differently there, and upon her return to humanity, some seventy years have passed so she’s faced with a patriarchal world where her comic book imprint has become wildly, bombastically sexualized, and men don’t know how to deal with her power. She must face this culture shock as an insidious evil threatens the world that only Wonder Woman can stop.
This acknowledges her past, her feminism, why her original costume was all stars and stripes, why she needs to change tacks today, and her absence from this overfilled world of superheroes.
5. The Dark Knight Trilogy
The greatest hope, however, for Wonder Woman is if the Powers That Be at DC take a cue from Christopher Nolan. For some reason, creatives like Kelley decided Diana should be a vulnerable woman who “yearns to live a normal life.” But she’s a warrior – one skilled and dark enough to thrive in a more heightened and realistic superhero world. She’d be much more at home in Nolan’s Gotham than she would in Joss Whedon’s snarky Avengers or some “I don’t know how she does it” idiocy.
When William Moulton Marston created her, he wanted a superhero whose triumph was love, and his wife urged him to make the hero female. As a figure created to be more than “fists or fire power” it’d make sense to have her deal with a darker and more realistic world of superhero mayhem – one where there’s an actual impact to the destruction these heroes cause.
Destruction porn has done its job, now it’s time for a new fight.