10 Ways to Make a Wonder Woman Movie Not Suck

By Matthew Catania in Comics, Daily Lists, Movies
Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 6:00 am

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At this year's SDCC, Warner Brothers astounded the nerdosphere by announcing a Superman/Batman movie. It was heavily implied that this would be the stepping stone for the long awaited Justice League film. After the initial excitement subsided, the big question on everybody's mind was "Where's Wonder Woman's movie?" The response was that there are still no concrete plans to put a theatrical Wonder Woman movie into production. Her inclusion in the Lego Movie does not count. In case you're not a comic book fan, diving right into Justice League without a Wonder Woman movie is as crazy as making The Avengers before Thor. Wonder Woman is part of DC's "Trinity," meaning she's one of its core characters alongside Superman and Batman. Yet Green Lantern, which is more of a job description than a single irreplaceable character, got a solo film starring its least interesting ringbearer before her. (While I liked Mark Strong's Sinestro and the Green Lantern Corps uniforms making the ringslingers look like victims of House Bolton, it really should've been headlined by Idris Elba as John Stewart.)

Wonder Woman has such a huge cultural cache as THE SUPERHEROINE that it's been said she sells more merchandise than comic books. So it's not as if there isn't a pre-existing audience for her movie. If the general public doesn't know much more about her than what she looks like, it's only because WB and DC don't promote her enough. A Wonder Woman movie would be ideal for both reacquainting the general public with who she is and selling even more merchandise.




The official word from DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson is "We have to get her right ... but she's tricky." While I commend them for not wanting to rush out another Jonah Hex, keeping a Wonder Woman movie out of production until it's absolutely perfect is a surefire way to accomplish nothing. Even if they made a disappointing Wonder Woman movie, feedback would at least tell them what they need to fix for the sequels and eventual reboot. This is where you'd expect me to make a snide comparisson to Guardians of the Galaxy, but instead I will point out that Gina Carano has been approached to star in an adaptation of Rob Liefeld's Avengelyne. If a movie about the most banal entry in the Bad Girl fad hits theatres before Wonder Woman because nobody could pull their act together, everyone at WB needs to commit hara kiri. Seppuku would be too good for them.

It's not impossible to adapt Wonder Woman to a feature film or keep her culturally relevant. If WB invested the same level of attention they lavish on Batman, they could definitely make a successful Wonder Woman film series. To move the process along, and on the heels of the Rileah Vanderbilt fan film that hit the Internet in a big way yesterday, I've thought up some constructive tips on how to translate her to the silver screen without turning it into a trainwreck like Catwoman. (If anyone at WB or DC really likes this free advice, I am also available to consult for money.) The main takeaway is that instead of trying to overcompensate for past misfires by making a bland movie by committee, let Wonder Woman be Wonder Woman.

10. Don't Get Hung Up On The Invisible Jet

The Invisible Jet is one of the most popular arguments against a Wonder Woman movie. "Wonder Woman flies around in an invisible plane while remaining completely visible? That's lamer than a legless millipede! This is incontrovertible proof that Wonder Woman is the worst superhero ever and every single book she appears in deserves to be recycled into kindling for the homeless!" Hyperbole aside, the Invisible Jet is really damn goofy. So including it isn't the ideal way to get people to take her movie seriously.

Because the Invisible Jet is such a bizarre concept, however, it's become indelibly linked with cultural impressions of Wonder Woman. There have been numerous attempts to make the Invisible Jet not be kitschy, the best being Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. The worst was the aborted pilot where she has a non-invisible mini-jet. The downside to salvaging the Invisible Jet is that it'll take a lot of screen time to justify without completely tearing apart viewers' already strained suspension of disbelief.

Whichever side of the Invisible Jet divide you fall on, it's missing the forest for the trees. Unlike her golden Lasso of Truth or unbreakable bullet-deflecting bracelets, the Invisible Jet isn't a core requirement for Wonder Woman. She's been depicted flying under her own power for decades and should do likewise on the big screen. If people can accept Superman flying unaided because he's an alien, they can do the same for Wonder Woman because she's magic. Her magic is harder to disprove than whatever "science" keeps him aloft anyway. If the WB really wants an Invisible Jet reference, they should save it for the sequel. They do want a non-Batman DC movie to make it to a sequel this time, right?

9. Update Her Costume While Keeping It Iconic

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joshwmc, Fan Art Exhibit

Almost every cinematic superheroine's costume (and many superhero's, too) has been a black leather catsuit with optional matching duster. This is appropriate for Black Widow, Catwoman, and even Storm since they've worn similar attire in comics, but it shows an amazing lack of creativity to make it the uniform for everyone. As the premiere superheroine, Wonder Woman should eschew generic fashion trends by keeping an iconic and colorful costume. It's a visual way to reinforce her unique identity.

Not that her costume couldn't use some updating. Depending on the artist, her costume can be drawn too "cheesecake." This has spurred a vocal contingent of fans to insist that she can't be an effective superheroine until she puts on pants, which is well-intentioned but misses the fact that she hails from a society without body shame and is nigh-invulnerable. (I subscribe to a rule where the more powerful a character is the less clothes they need to wear, with Iron Man and Dr. Manhattan on opposite poles of the spectrum.) More consistently troubling is that her costume is made of Americana even though the Amazons have been isolated from the rest of the world for centuries. As an advocate of global peace, it's also insultingly tone deaf for her costume to favor one country, especially before she's had time to compare them all. (Making different nation-themed variants for her action figure line could be a nifty solution though.)

Luckily, artist joshwmc has already designed an ideal Wonder Woman costume. It's neither too skimpy nor too modest. It makes sense as antiquated armor but it maintains the regal flair of someone who is both a princess and an ambassador. Its eagles and stars have been re-envisioned to look classically Hellenistic. (The USA didn't invent those symbols? Fox News will be shocked!) Its hues are rich because it's a product of a culture that's not afraid of vibrant colors in genre films, unlike modern Hollywood. You don't need a drawn out sequence explaining how she got this costume because it looks like something an ancient Amazon might wear. In contrast to making the rest of her costume look more functional, her bracelets remain elegant cuffs to highlight that they were specially forged by by Hephaestus rather than standard issue Amazonian gear. While it's not accurate to any one of her previous costumes, it immediately evokes Wonder Woman's iconic appearance. Most importantly, it's not so excessively utilitarian that it becomes agressively ugly. WB needs to send joshwmc a wheelbarrow full of Benjamins so they can use his redesign as her official movie costume.

So if Wonder Woman's movie costume ends up being a black leather trenchcoat, wardrobe department heads should roll.

8. Make It Epic!

The last time there was any movement on a live action Wonder Woman it was for a CW TV show called Amazon, which may have starred a rude young Wonder Woman wandering around being fixated with ice cream as a cheap borderline sexist bid for audience identification. This followed on the heels of the failed NBC adaptation where Wonder Woman ran a corporation like Batman but had wacky secret identity and romance drama like Superman. The common problem with both approaches is that Wonder Woman is too big for TV. I'm aware that Lynda Carter starred in a beloved '70s TV show, but even its potential as an adaptation was severely limited by the medium. (Green) Arrow works because its protagonist is a regular human so all the stunts, drama, and villains can be acceptably reproduced on an affordable budget. A decade of Smallville is proof that you can't do the same for a superhero renowned for battling larger than life threats. Please do not watch Smallville in an attempt to verify or refute this assertion.

STOP TRYING TO MAKE A MODERN LIVE ACTION WONDER WOMAN TV SHOW HAPPEN! Aside from schlocky TV budget effects and protracted soap-opera cliches, relegating Wonder Woman to the small screen will seriously undermine her inclusion in the Justice League movie. If she's not important enough to get her own movie like Batman or Superman (or even Green Lantern), then it's an uphill battle to convince viewers she's worthy of respect and a spot on the team. WB owes it to her character to show Wonder Woman singlehandedly overcoming nigh-insurmountable obstacles on the silver screen just like her male compatriots. Batman fights glorified crime, Superman fights sci-fi menaces, and Wonder Woman fights magic. And she doesn't waste time with birthday magicians either. She tangles with God-level magic, which is extra remarkable considering that she doesn't have spell-casting prowess.

Instead of toning her down to fit on TV, they need to maximize everything that makes her awesome. Every cinematic appearance by Wonder Woman ought to feel like a special event. That doesn't happen if she has to fight kidnappers and diamond smugglers every week to fill up a season. Wonder Woman also doesn't lend herself to serialized storytelling since even her comics have struggled with presenting worthwhile stories on a regular basis, but with a film trilogy WB only has to worry about adapting her three best stories.

Fans expect big fantasy action from Wonder Woman, so the movie better deliver. Of course epic blockbusters aren't just about the end of the world and CGI monsters. (Dynamation or GTFO!) Epics also rely on genuine emotional connections to give their high stakes weight and meaning. So don't skimp on character development or even the best special effects won't be able to save the movie. The villain needs a clear objective while Wonder Woman needs strong emotional ties to Hippolyta and Steve Trevor to prevent things from being too abstract or perfunctory. So aim for something closer to Lord of the Rings than the Clash of the Titans remake. While tragedy can be an excellent storytelling device in epics, this doesn't need to be a relentlessly grim/dark movie. Include an equal measure of joy and amazement to give audiences a reason to see it again for some escapism. This needs to be a movie that elicits big emotions. Don't try to mimic Nolan's "grounded realism" that only works tonally with Batman. If done just right, Wonder Woman could be just as inspiring as Man of Steel is dour!

7. Embrace Her Classic Origin

I wager this is going to be the most controversial section on the list. Wonder Woman's classic origin of seventy years is that Queen Hippolyta sculpted her out of clay that was imbued with life and superpowers by the Olympians. That'll sounds extra bizarre if WB tries to cram that into a Justice League movie along with all the other stuff they haven't set up yet, but this is exactly the reason why a solo Wonder Woman is needed to properly introduce the character. If set in context, this unique origin that parallels without directly ripping off Greek myths should feel as reasonable as any other superhero origin story. Singling out her origin as "too weird" is unfair since no superhero origin makes a lick of sense in the real world. Even Bruce Wayne would've been treated by the best psychiatrists money could buy so that he'd never feel compelled to become the world's greatest vigilante.

Not content with letting a major superheroine have an iconic origin of her own, DC's New 52 retconned it away. Her super-golem origin was revealed to be a lie covering up that Wonder Woman is actually the shamebaby of Zeus and Hippolyta. Too bad Herakles, Perseus, and numerous other Greek notables already had the same paternity suit. Instead of letting her develop her own relationship with her patron Deities, Wonder Woman is now condemned to a rehash of being stuck betwixt Hera and Zeus's inability to keep it in his toga. Being made with God sperm tends to overshadow all other qualities in a person. Compounding the problem is that Brian Azzarello's Wonder Woman is one of the most popular books of the New 52 for not being completely terrible.

Reducing Wonder Woman's identity to Girl Herakles because she was supposedly too unrelatable is even more frustrating when you realize that her classic origin was overlaid onto Superman in Man of Steel. Kal-El is conceived the old fashioned way in defiance of Kryptonian law and every genetically engineered Kryptonian bloodline is imprinted onto him from a broken monkey skull. (That kind of defeats the purpose of conceiving a natural offspring so he can choose his own life path.) So that's a very unusual birth made even more unique by the addition of attributes from an external source of power. If moviegoers can roll with this rejiggered Superman origin, they shouldn't have a problem accepting Wonder Woman's real origin if presented in a similarly matter-of-fact manner.

The clay baby origin is ideal to develop her as a memorable independent character because it's unique to Wonder Woman and is supremely Feminist. Wonder Woman has no need for a father in the biological or paternal sense. Her immaculate creation shows the Amazons can contribute things of value to the world when they don't have to war with men for their survival. Angst over not being a "real girl" could be a way to humanize the otherwise flawless Amazon. By accepting her regardless of her true nature, however, this can show the Amazons are enlightened Third-wave Feminists. Beings made of earth can also be a metaphor for accomplishing greatness despite humble beginnings. By not being burdened with biological parents, Wonder Woman is free to be the perfect woman anyone can aspire to.

6. Spotlight A Rogue's Gallery That's As Impessive As She Is

Some of you may be laboring under the misapprehension that Wonder Woman isn't as popular as her male counterparts because her rogue's gallery is lame. Even if that were true, underwhelming adversaries didn't stop Iron Man from headlining a blockbuster trilogy. They even made his most formidable foe from the comics into a parody of Batman Begins whitewashing of Ra's al Ghul. Even most of Batman's foes didn't become A-list until Batman: The Animated Series started treating them like real people. So it's really just a matter of picking existing villains that are both a match for Wonder Woman and help define her character, then fleshing them out so they can support a feature film. Because they're not as overexposed as the Joker or Lex Luthor, the public won't be jaded over them either. Since she combines the physical powers of Superman with the tactical skills of Batman yet neither of their weaknesses (Kryptonite and anything that kills regular humans, respectively), her cinematic enemies need to be able to give her a challenge.

Her top enemy is Ares, the God of War who dresses like a badass Greek Nazgul. He needs to be played by a big dude with a voice that's terrifying yet inspiring, so Keith David and Clancy Brown are the top choices. If they kill Ares in the last five minutes of her film debut, it'd be a blasphemous anticlimax that only pleases Secular Humanists. Instead he should be more of a looming force throughout the franchise to emphasize his immortal influence in an age of seemingly endless global conflicts. Most of the battles would be against his unwitting pawns, of which there are many to choose from.

Cheetah is like an evil Lara Croft (maybe cast Kate Beckinsale to compensate for her not getting the lead in Tomb Raider?) who transforms into the ultimate Furry by trying to "mighty whitey" her way into a secret African ritual. Her avarice, malice, and disrespect for other cultures starkly contrast with Wonder Woman's. She's one of the few mortals that stands a chance against Wonder Woman in physical combat, especially when depicted with talons and teeth that can poison even Demi-Goddesses.

Circe (the same one from The Odyssey) wants peace through total subjugation under her rule as opposed to inspiring people to set aside their differences. She's a magic powerhouse that can create hordes of monsters. I'd go with Monica Bellucci just to see her rock a violet wig as she corrupts the weak-willed. Award-winning Peter Dinklage would class up the joint as Dr. Psycho, a telepathic tuxedoed dwarf and misogyny incarnate. Magic and telepathy are both excellent powers for her villains since Wonder Woman can't overcome them with brute superstrength.

Baroness Paula von Gunther is your baddie if you want to see Wonder Woman smash Nazis, not that the movie should be a period piece (unlike Steve Rogers becoming Captain America, Diana doesn't need WWII to become Wonder Woman) or that Nazis are the only real world evil (now pretty much extinct) worth fighting. Dr. Veronica Cale shows that women can be just as responsible for keeping modern society screwed up as men, though her obsessive jealously skews her dangerously close to being Lex Luthor with a full head of hair ovaries. Silver Swan, the sonic-screaming cyborg, checks both the "corrupted former friend" and "science vs. magic" boxes. Devastation is the twisted counterpart to Wonder Woman made of living clay by the Titan Cronus to help overthrow Olympus. She also has mind-warping powers and looks like a child, making battles against her a PR nightmare. Granny Goodness's Female Furies are like evil specialist Amazons FROM SPACE!

Last but certainly not least is Giganta, who as her name implies, ought to be portrayed by Christina Hendricks . Not only can this super-scientist grow to titanic proportions, she's also been shown to have a life beyond being an archenemy. One of the sequels could be Wonder Woman thwarting a catastrophic love triangle of Giganta, Gorilla "Best Supervillain" Grodd, and fellow superhero the Atom. Toss in the Flash (he's getting a TV show that may or may not tie into the movies depending on whether the coin lands scarred side up) to help fight Grodd and you've got a team-up movie that's more interesting than Superman/Batman.


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