5. Romance Is The Side Dish, Not The Main Course
Wonder Woman's call to action happens when American pilot and spy Steve Trevor becomes the first ever outsider to arrive on Themyscira when he accidentally crash lands there due to some plot contrivance magic. He informs Princess Diana of Themyscira of all the suffering in the outside world and she chooses to leave her home and end all war as Themyscira's ambassador because she sets ridiculously high goals for herself. That's when Diana becomes Wonder Woman. Aside from starting her on her superheroic path, the exotic (to her) Steve becomes one of her rare (outside of fan fiction) paramours. But even though it's a female starring film where love is a plot point, don't approach Wonder Woman as if it's a rom-com. That'd be patronizingly sexist to female viewers. It's an epic superhero action movie first and foremost. Treat it like any other tentpole action film, just with the traditional male and female roles reversed.
Steve Trevor is Wonder Woman's primary guide to a world that's much larger and centuries more advanced than anything she's ever known. His lessons to her about its status quo are as important as her lessons to the world on how to reduce its suffering. While Steve is an audience surrogate and a more typical protagonist for this kind of big action movie, this movie is not about him. He should never overshadow Wonder Woman. Don't twist the story into Steve Trevor the American alpha male rescuing Wonder Woman from brainwashing by misandrist lesbian warmongers. (Perhaps that could be avoided by having Diana's guide and lover be Stephanie Trevor, or would that be too progressive?) He can be the sardonic comic relief so that the movie doesn't get too earnest or preachy. While he can add levity, it should never be because he's bad at his profession because that makes him useless and his inclusion sexist. Comic book Steve is pretty Aryan-looking, but an actor of any race can fill the role since the American armed forces are no longer segregated like they were when he was created.
While Steve is important in Wonder Woman's early adventures, he's not necessarily so important overall that they couldn't split up. He can even get fridged to mirror Greek tragedy. If the WB does go this route, it is absolutely vital that they do not hook Wonder Woman up with another superhero. The New 52's Wonder Woman/Superman pairing is such an awful idea that it's getting its own comic book. While Wonder Woman is physically strong enough to be Superman's lover, they have negative romantic chemistry together. (Just return Maxima's calls if that what you need, Superman!) It even felt tacked on in the otherwise great Kingdom Come. Don't break up the Superman and Lois Lane relationship that Man of Steel portrayed well (aside from letting Amy Adams stay ginger so that she looks more like Lana Lang). Even though the outstanding Justice League cartoon popularized it, don't pair her off with Batman either. The public is already so obsessed with Batman that you don't need to add another reason for him to be crowned The Greatest Fictional Character of All Time, Seriously Don't Make Fun of Him or We'll Cut You.
Besides, everybody knows Batman's true love is beating respect for the law into the mentally ill. The absolute worst way to make Wonder Woman a respected character that can support her own films is to make her another superhero's arm candy. She doesn't need to be in a relationship to be an awesome superheroine.
4. Make Themyscira Feel Real By Clearly Defining It
Wonder Woman's home of Themyscria (known as Paradise Island to those who don't speak Greek) is essential to understanding her. If it doesn't feel real, neither does she. It's managed to stay neutral in global politics because of its isolation but military service is compulsory. So it's Switzerland, but with an exclusively female population.
Since Wonder Woman was sent to spread its ideals to the rest of the world, it's important to convey what those ideals are. In early stories, Themyscira was a literal paradise (where BDSM roleplay games are the #1 pastime among its natives) in all respects, no matter how improbable (like high tech Purple Healing Rays). Modern stories acknowledge more of classic mythology by showing it does have civil wars and its Amazons are eager to battle against foreigners. Movie Themyscira has to walk a tightrope between being too Pollyannaish and too bellicose. Showing Themyscira is automatically perfect just because it lacks men is glibly sexist and doesn't illustrate how the rest of the world could emulate it short of gender cleansing. If its Amazons are too bloodthirsty it makes Wonder Woman a hypocrite. Themyscira needs to have peace policies that are both teachable and applicable to the modern world. This ideology doesn't have to instantly fix everything so long as it doesn't come off as outright poppycock.
In addition to equalizing its political extremes, the magic behind Themyscira and its Amazons should be streamlined. Explanations of the Amazons from the comics can be a bit complicated with reincarnation, time travel, or immortality. The really involved magic, however, should be reserved for Wonder Woman. Just say that the Olympians relocated the Amazons to a magically cloaked island where time flows ridiculously slowly. That'll explain how Themyscira was founded thousands of years ago but its original inhabitants are still alive. Throw in a Babel fish spell to quickly explain why ancient Amazons can understand modern English and vice versa. They could even use a pseudoscientific explanation about trans-dimensional barriers for viewers who don't want to admit they're watching a fantasy flick.
3. Don't Be Afraid To Address Complicated Issues
The best superhero movies have deeper themes resonating beneath their wish fulfillment surfaces. William Moulton Marston created Wonder Woman to be a role model for girls, which worked because she was adopted as a mascot of the Feminist movement. So obviously Wonder Woman should be empowering, but not just to female viewers. Since the themes of her stories can often be oversimplified into a battle of the sexes, however, it could be very easy to alienate male viewers. So the movie can't do a lazy "Girls rule, boys drool!" message and call it a day. It needs to show that it takes everybody working together, regardless of gender, to stamp out global inequality. The ideology exchange between Themyscira and the rest of the world needs to be a two-way street. While there are plenty of folks that don't want superheroes and politics to mix, it can't be avoided since they're the whole point of her character.
Wonder Woman's most intriguing contradiction is that she's been trained since childhood to be a warrior, yet her mission is to stop Ares. The movie needs to highlight the lengths she'll go to stop wars, though a full exploration would probably work best in the sequels. Unlike the majority of Justice Leaguers that grew up in the modern America, Wonder Woman will not abide suffering on account of politics. Let's see her rescue refugees, singlehandedly disarm entire armies without killing anyone, and use her magic lasso to compel world leaders to sign and abide by treaties. Ironically, successfully imposing peace without conquest would make her very unpopular with the world. Just as Nolan's Bat-trilogy paralleled the War on Terror, the Wonder Woman series could be a reflection of the West's tendency to act like the World's Police. At what point does Wonder Woman stop being a savior and become a bully? Is the world justified in rejecting her enforced peace? Or should everyone just be happy that a foreign maverick is ushering in positive change? Her entire mandate to end all wars is pretty vague, so hopefully the movies will at least acknowledge that building lasting peace is a very complicated process, in between scenes of Wonder Woman dropkicking Dr. Psycho into Giganta's forehead.
Of course, the bigger issue with getting people to embrace Wonder Woman may be that she comes from an island of pagan lesbians. WB shouldn't try to erase the Themysciran culture out of fear of alienating xenophobic moviegoers. Her movie is supposed to add diversity and expand the cinematic DC landscape. Homogenizing Wonder Woman and her mythos to appeal to the lowest common denominator isn't the way to build a successful film series. The last time they tried it, we almost got saddled with a Lovelorn Sociopathic Corporate Vigilante, which will never be as cool a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. (If you're a masochist, you might as well scroll all the way down here to experience firsthand just how big of a bullet was dodged.) It's probably best to tastefully establish Amazonian religion and sexuality upfront and move on with the story. That way people won't realize they're being taught acceptance until it's too late! It'd also be an intriguing subplot for the sequels to see how the world reacts when the existence of genuine Gods is proven ... they're just not the Gods most folks were expecting. Basically, it's everything that worries executives about her that's unmined storytelling gold!
2. Hire Screenwriters That Already Have Experience With Her
While directors get all the attention, the bulk of a movie's major flaws are either created or averted during the screenwriting phase. It's well-known that Joss Whedon wrote a Wonder Woman script earlier this century. WB rejected it without so much as a "Thanks but no thanks." Then he wrote and directed some movie called The Avengers that made ALL THE MONEY! If I were a WB exec, whoever turned down that script would be cleaning out his desk whilst Whedon's Wonder Woman was instantly greenlit. Since he wrote the screenplay as work-for-hire, WB still has the right to dig it out of whatever landfill they sent it to and film it. I haven't read the script, but based on Whedon's prior works it's a safe presumption that it understood how to portray Wonder Woman to please both fans and newbies.
On the offchance that Whedon's script was indeed a crime against the English language, it's not as if there aren't any other writers that could crack this "tricky" property. Most of them have even worked for WB or DC already! I'm thinking specifically of Michael Jelenic and Gail Simone, who co-wrote 2009's spectacular DTV Wonder Woman animated movie. An almost perfect live-action movie could easily be made from its screenplay (so long as they go with a better design for Ares). It also earned over double its budget in sales without relying on Batman, which should give confidence to the WB bean counters. Most of the writers from the WB's DC animation team would probably do just as well since her appearances on Justice League (regular and Unlimited) and Batman: The Brave & the Bold have been spot on. I still have no clue why folks behind these stellar cartoons haven't been put in charge of WB's live-action superheroes years ago.
Instead of handing her off to random screenwriters that don't understand what makes her tick, the obvious way to make a good Wonder Woman movie is to hire writers that already have a proven track record with her. Since screenwriting isn't that different than writing comic books, even some of her classic authors like George Perez, Greg Rucka, and Gail Simone could take a shot at it or consult. (Your name doesn't have to start with G to write Wonder Woman well, but it sure helps.) Writers with a working knowledge of her daunting mythos are less likely to churn out a jumbled mess like Supergirl. They'd also keep Steve Trevor, the more traditional Hollywood protagonist, from upstaging Wonder Woman.
If WB still picks a random screenwriter out of a hat as protocol dictates, that writer should be made to read tons of her comics. That way they'd draw inspiration from the source material rather than just pulling things out of their colons. At the very least they should be forced to watch the cancelled pilot and then be instructed "Now do the exact opposite of that!" Remember, Catwoman wasn't terrible because it was a superheroine solo flick. Catwoman was an abomination because it had almost nothing in common with the beloved character beyond its title.
1. Cast An Outstanding Actress As The Lead