In the wake of Man of Steel, a lot has been said. We talk about its merits, its impact, its relevance, its content and quality — and all of these are valid discussions assuredly.
But today I’d like to move away from yet another article about Superman’s problems and instead talk about a different problem of the related variety, something of issue now that the Man of Steel is in the world: why there is no Wonder Woman film in theaters or steadily in production, and why that’s a problem.
Supposedly out there in the crazy wilderness of Holly-Weird, a Wonder Woman film is an object of active discussion and has been for some time now. David Goyer, writer of Man of Steel, claims he would like to do a Wonder Woman film next, and websites like The Wrap claim that Aquaman (not the James Cameron one starring Vincent Chase) and Wonder Woman are movies that could be seen pending the success of Man of Steel. Not only that, but Nicolas Winding-Refn has stated that pending the success of his Logan’s Run remake (we get this before WW?), he may get to make a Wonder Woman movie with Christina Hendricks attached to star as the superheroine (to which Hendricks has confirmed she would do it).
Of course, all of this is on top of years worth of reports of a Wonder Woman film in development, such as the 2001 film that almost happened with Joel Silver where actresses like Sandra Bullock, Lucy Lawless and the wrestler Chyna were approached, or even the 2005 Joss Whedon written/directed film that never was due to lack of enthusiasm from everyone but Whedon (who is still generally upset about it).
But at a certain point, all of these reports and comments and whatnot get tiresome.
So why is there no Wonder Woman movie, or even a Wonder Woman movie announcement? Perhaps it is because, as CW president Mark Pedowitz stated in regards to the current state of production of CW’s potential Amazon show (following the failure of David Kelley’s Wonder Woman),
“It is being redeveloped, we’re waiting for the script to come in; we haven’t seen it yet… We are preparing to pilot it off-cycle should the script be what we want it to be. We do not want to produce something that doesn’t work for that particular character — it is the trickiest of all the DC characters to get done.“
To which I respectfully reply: bullshit. There’s nothing inherently tricky about Wonder Woman that is any more tricky than any other superhero ever.
Earlier this month, USA Today ran an article entitled “Wonder Woman: Not strong enough for silver screen – yet”, in which several self-prescribed movie lovers debated the possibility of a Wonder Woman film. In it, these sources discuss the various reasons for which there is no Wonder Woman film, all of which (as the article states) are some of the same generic things you always hear: an inaccessible origin, that she’s not a male hero and will be a bust at the box office or that the outfit doesn’t work.
And yet, as we’ve seen, even previously inaccessible characters have proven to be box office successes (Man of Steel) and that the outfit, under circumstances, can be changed for the purpose of a film (see: any superhero film ever). It seems that the ideas of superheroism that allow male heroes to reach the screen can’t similarly apply to Wonder Woman if only because of the “tricky” issue of her gender, since that is primarily the only ostensible thing from an objective standpoint that sets her apart from the superheroes who do get movies.
This doesn’t take into account Wonder Woman as a character, mind you, or even Wonder Woman as an iconic one at that. I think it can be fairly argued that Wonder Woman is a more interesting character than Batman, who generally feels like he has a single-serving purpose to his various stories, and Wonder Woman can definitely stand her own against Superman. What strikes me as worth discussing, though, is that the things inherently keeping Wonder Woman from the big screen are based on antiquated ideas and a general lack of creativity.Continued below
Look: have we not evolved from this rather sad and dull mentality? Has it not been proven that female characters and actresses can hold their own in summer blockbuster films just as much as any man in tights and a cape? The Hunger Games set records for opening day ($67.3 million) and opening weekend for a non-sequel and — guess what — it starred a female protagonist who has gone on to become a cultural icon of her own (with her actress, Jennifer Lawrence, recently winning an Academy Award — for a different film, but still). Brave released in a higher number theaters than any previous Pixar film, and outside of the recent Disney Princess-ification fracas has been seen as a positive role model for young girls and as a positive tool for sharing mother/daughter relationships. We’ve got an entire franchise of films devoted to a kick-ass feminine lead in the Resident Evil and Underworld films, both of which are just about as genre-specific as any superhero film. And what about movies like Haywire? What about movies that star Angelina Jolie throughout her entire career? Hanna, Kill Bill, Alien, even the two Charlies Angels films and Tomb Raider films… even Sucker Punch.
These movies all exist in a heroine-led world, and while you can debate their merits all night long that does not somehow suddenly negate their existence or their role in pop culture as films that support a feminine lead in an action-based role in place of a male character — and, in some cases, in an even better capacity. (Honestly, have you seen Hanna?)
Simply put, the notion that people will not support a female-led action movie immersed within a specific genre is a notion that is only serving to those that lack imagination, one that’s beyond antiquated and entirely irrelevant in today’s world. Pure and simple, it is bunk; all you need to do is make an eye-grabbing action film and you will fill seats, female protagonist or not.
And if a sequel to 300 can be made, there is literally no further excuse I will accept as to why Wonder Woman wouldn’t work. So make a Wonder Woman movie.
There are many reasons why a Wonder Woman movie needs to exist.
The first and simplest explanation is that, given current film making styles and trends, a Wonder Woman film essentially just “makes sense.” See, whether they seem willing to admit this anymore or not, Wonder Woman is part of DC’s Trinity. She is literally one of three characters that DC uses to bring their brand around, a character so famous and iconic that very little was needed to be known about her so much as people just know her. You can sell t-shirts with the WW symbol on it to a person who has never read a Wonder Woman comic; that’s how iconic her role in today’s pop culture is.
While DC has lately proven how little they care about the character (Superman and Batman both have a litany of titles while the comic sales charts is literally measured in Batmans — no, seriously), the easiest way to somewhat get a win/win scenario out of this would be to put a Wonder Woman film into actual production: it would show that DC Entertainment/Warner Bros has an interest in one of the biggest character properties they have in their stables and it would show fans that DC Entertainment/Warner Bros doesn’t have their heads firmly buried in the sand.
Not only that, but if we’re to buy into the idea that a Justice League film is on the way in the same fashion as Marvel’s Avengers, a Wonder Woman flick seems to be par for course. DC had originally made its name in having a diverse line-up of characters that populate their world, and Wonder Woman was always a huge part of this; as such, the films should reflect this nature as well. You can’t have a Justice League without Wonder Woman in one of the three most important chairs, and Batman and Superman have both had their times to share on the big screen. Having some lucky actress suit up with a talented screenplay and director is something that should’ve been happening yesterday.
Really, it can’t be that hard to make a Wonder Woman movie. Off the top of my head as someone who has never made more than a crappy student film in his life, I can think of at least five ideas that would fit into who Wonder Woman can be and should be, all of which would make an entertaining film:Continued below
- Wonder Woman’s historic/mythic legacy, which we know movie goers will support because of 300
- Wonder Woman in a fish-out-of-water story in which she arrives in our world and doesn’t understand our rules and customs, which we know movie goers will support because of years of comedy and also Thor
- Wonder Woman in a tense action-filled thriller, either historic or modern, which we know movie goers will support because of Gladiator
- Wonder Woman forming a relationship with Steve Trevor, which we know movie goers will suport because of every romantic movie ever and every superhero movie ever that features the opposite sexes courting
- Wonder Woman just being a big damn hero for thousands upon millions, which we know movie goers will support because of the Avengers
See, all of those examples are male-dominated choices, and that’s very much on purpose. The trick of it is is that they can work in a unisex fashion. What works for Thor (and, in my opinion, Thor is the best Marvel film outside of the Avengers) when looking at from a distanced perspective can work 100% perfectly for Wonder Woman in every way imaginable. If you gender-bend the entire production, it doesn’t suddenly become a lesser film; all the qualities that made that movie work in one way can assuredly work the other, because the story is solid, the performances are strong and the direction of the film creates a movie with humor, action and a whole lot of visual spectacle. The hero of Thor doesn’t need to be male for that movie to work just in terms of a solid film — and that’s proof positive that Wonder Woman could and should exist.
Not only that, but a Wonder Woman film is important in showing people a positive, strong feminine icon on the big screen standing toe to toe with every dark, gritty super-dude out there. Not for nothing, but Man of Steel and Dark Knight don’t exactly produce role models so much as they show us models in roles. No offense to the talent of Bale or Cavill, but they’re well built men playing stiff “heroes” with nice and tight clothes; we see damaged men behaving in damaged ways in a damaged world, the excuses of which we’ve come to rely on in order to let the lesser qualities of the movie role by. While I generally believe that a dark Wonder Woman movie of a similar fashion could possibly work (I guess), there’s a real opportunity that Wonder Woman presents to actively subvert years of tropes and genre trends, only which she herself can destroy.
See, what our general definition of heroes lack is active compassion. Some of it is there on a very surface-value level in that they protect people, but for the most part the heroes of today are selfish and narcissistic men who all have to learn to be less selfish and put their egos aside — that’s basically what Thor, Batman Begins, Iron Man, Green Lantern, Green Hornet etc are all about. However, this is seemingly a trend that was developed mainly for men; audiences can buy the idea that a rich billionaire will suddenly change his ways and build a suit of not-iron to fight crime because we’ve basically been taught to buy into it.
With female superheroes, though, the road seems generally undefined — because we haven’t really had any. Sure, we’ve had strong characters like Pepper Potts and Black Widow hold their own within a sea of testosterone, but neither are starring in a film by themselves — yet. So what we don’t have is a series of genre tropes designed for the female superheroes on the big screen in an isolated situation, and I think Wonder Woman is the perfect character to explore these ideas and set them for us.
So Wonder Woman could stand above and beyond the other heroes of today and accomplish wonders: she could provide a strong role model for young girls and women everywhere; she could offer up a film about a hero who actively embodies compassion over egotism; she could represent everything we’ve ever wanted in a hero, someone to save us and not just mess shit up for somebody somewhere else to have to clean up. Not only that, but Wonder Woman could be seen as a positive female role model for young boys and men, someone who can teach men everywhere a thing or two on respect alone. There is so much Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman could do if given the opportunity, it’s literally mind boggling how we haven’t gotten there yet.Continued below
It’s not like there isn’t material to pull from. The recent New 52 stories by Azzarello, Chiang and Adkins could probably make a decent set of action movies. Gail Simone’s run as well, and the emphasis it places on Wonder Woman’s stature. Greg Rucka’s run would make a fantastic series of films if there was more Wonder Woman stories ingrained in our culture, given what it did to push her out of her standard element and even force her to make Man of Steel-type tough choices. Heck, just taking all three of these, throwing them in a blender and serving what comes out when you mix and mash it all together would probably suffice in putting together a solid enough movie to crush at the box office.
If cosplay alone has proven anything, particularly with regards to the above image of Sarah Scott taken by photographer Adam Jay, a live-action Wonder Woman that delivers something close to the comics in terms of visuals is not outside of the possibility — particularly because Scott and others are making a fan film of their own. I will happily watch the Wonder Woman fan film if/when it comes out, just as I would some big budget Hollywood blockbuster, because a character this iconic deserves to have a wider audience, a bigger range in production and visibility. If DC/Warner Bros were smarter, there would be something Wonder Woman-related in the same quantity that there is Batman crap, because she in every way imaginable has the potential to be that big, that relevant all the time always.
And ok, sure, I suppose there’s that earlier mentioned potential Amazon series that would be the latest from CW’s teen-drama superhero world that gave you Smallville and Arrow, but that hardly counts, does it? I wouldn’t be against it coming together, but Wonder Woman had a TV show in the mid-to-late 1970’s that was a success and forever solidified Lynda Carter in the hearts of millions; we don’t really need to retread that ground. What we need is the same kind of spectacle that gave Batman and Superman new lives for audiences around the country — we need a big blockbuster film — because while it may be a weird statement that could perhaps even detract from my overall point (honestly, I can’t believe I’m fully typing this out), I can’t help but note that there are two instances of Wonder Woman appearing in adult films (with a third on the way) before DC Entertainment can get even one instance out for general audiences. There’s something inherently disheartening and wildly strange about this.
Lately I find myself rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a myriad of reasons. One of the things that repeatedly strikes me about the show, though, is how much of all the ideas of Wonder Woman the show gets right; Buffy isn’t Diana, but there are similarities between their power, responsibility and tradition. And we bought into the idea of Buffy for seven years, didn’t we? Sure, it was on TV and the movie had its own set of issues, but Buffy ended in 2003 and still remains culturally relevant as a source of positive female roles in genre-based storytelling thanks to comics and more — it’s sort of strange how, given the positive impact Buffy left on a genre and a group of people, that there’s no active follow-up to this that’s left as strong a cultural influence.
If you ask me, Wonder Woman could be just that. A set of films starring the character is what the doctor is prescribing to fix what ails us. We’ve seen the male-led superhero film over and over at this point, and it’s time to try something new.
Wonder Woman has been iconic long enough. It’s time to truly make her an icon.