If I Was Making...WONDER WOMAN!
In a continuing series of articles, Vadakin is exploring the movie potential of different members of the Justice League, having previously looked at Batman, Aquaman and Green Lantern. Now he's turned the focus on Wonder Woman, an excerpt of which follows.
by Vadakin. When it comes to the biggest names in DC comics, Superman and Batman are at the top and always have been. Together they are known as “Worlds Finest.” These two characters have carried DC on the big screen from the very beginning and have long been prominent figures on the small screen. The addition of Wonder Woman turns Worlds Finest into DC's “Trinity” of superheroes. While all heroes are said to follow similar ideals, for the sake of the trinity, these heroes are made to focus on a particular ideal, at least for marketing purposes. For Batman it's justice. For Superman it's hope. For Wonder Woman it's truth. And the truth is, Wonder Woman has never been given a fair shot. People often point to the Lynda Carter TV show as evidence of the character's success, but I believe that it's that show that has served to hold the character back. Nostalgia can be a powerful tool but just as it took Tim Burton's darker take on Batman to break free of the Adam West show, Wonder Woman cannot continue to be tied to an old TV show and attempts to recreate it.
It is my firm belief that Wonder Woman belongs on the big screen. The David E. Kelley TV pilot was a mistake. The upcoming CW pilot, Amazon, is not where Wonder Woman needs to be going. Her time on TV is done. The sheer potential of the character demands that she be given a shot on the big screen. Of course a Wonder Woman movie has been in development for years at the behest of producer, Joel Silver (The Matrix, V For Vendetta), with Joss Whedon writing several drafts of a screenplay. Whedon cited difficulties in adapting the character and finding a noteworthy villain. I happen to disagree with Whedon on this, but I'll come back to that. Silver even bought a spec script set in World War II but it wasn't to be and Wonder Woman has languished in limbo ever since.
The whole point of this series of articles is to explore ways to make the individual properties within a Justice League framework work as individual films. Wonder Woman in particular is of great interest to me. I believe in the character's potential and I believe that it is not as hard to produce a good Wonder Woman film. In fact Warner Brothers already have a template in the form of a relatively recent animated feature. My approach to this particular article is going to be slightly different to the others. While I've previously focused on general ideas and conflicts, this time I'm going to get into specifics and lay it all out. This is what I would do if I was making Wonder Woman.
Embrace The Myth
In my Aquaman article, I talked about going back to Plato's Atlantis myth for inspiration. Wonder Woman's origins are steeped in Greek mythology. The character exists in a world where the gods of Olympus and the realms they inhabit all exist. Pre-New 52, Wonder Woman was created from clay and given life by the gods. The post-New 52 explanation of Zeus being Diana's father appears to simplify things but to be perfectly honest, I prefer the clay origin. For me there's something infinitely more mystical and compelling about it and for a Wonder Woman movie, the more mystical the better. If I was to sum up my preference for Wonder Woman as a tagline on a movie power it would be – An Ancient Myth In A Modern World.
Embrace the mythology. Not just of the comics, but of actual Greek myth. Let her be surrounded by sorcery, gods and monsters. Let her defend the world from ancient evils. Don't make Zeus an alien. Don't play down the mythical elements of the character for the sake of fitting in with Superman and Batman. Do the opposite. Play it up. Introduce an existence beyond the world we know. Let her bracelets and her Lasso Of Truth be magical, not advanced science.
In combining what appears in the comics with mythology that is thousands of years old, it is an opportunity to make Wonder Woman more than a female Superman. A lot of the questions raised when having discussions about adapting Wonder Woman can be answered by going back to the roots of the story. The Amazons existed as part of Mycenaean-era mythology, around 1200B.C. It's the time of Heracles, of Achilles and the Trojan War, when gods amused themselves by manipulating the lives of mortals. According to the mythology, the Amazons weren't Greek. Their home existed in Anatolia in what is now Turkey. They were fierce warrior women, taken captive by Heracles during his twelve labours. It is, according to the comics, in this environment that Hippolyta pleaded with the gods for help, help that was granted. Freed from bondage, the Amazons were given a new home, away from the outside world, an island named for their once great city – Themyscira. But there was a condition. The goddess Athena demanded that the Amazons dedicate themselves to ideals of truth and justice, a pursuit of peace and compassion. Wonder Woman is that promise fulfilled, and that promise is the foundation for a Wonder Woman movie.
As with Aquaman, making a traditional superhero movie is not the way to go here. A Wonder Woman who starts out catching criminals is a vessel of wasted potential. Gods and monsters. Make Wonder Woman an adventure film, inspired by stories like The Odyssey, Journey To The West, The Lord Of The Rings and others. Let the threat be mythic in scale. Something that threatens the gods themselves and let the gods be gods. A contemporary Hercules or Troy.
When Gods Wage War
As I previously mentioned, Joss Whedon found himself frustrated at the lack of worthy villains for Wonder Woman to face. So much so that he set about creating a new, original villain. It's true. If you were to make a traditional superhero movie, Wonder Woman's rogues gallery isn't up to much. You can't really build a movie around Cheetah or Doctor Psycho, and the ill-fated David E. Kelley Wonder Woman pilot showed just how ineffective a villain Veronica Cale is. A hero is only as good as their villain. Holmes has Moriarty, Superman has Lex Luthor, Batman has Joker, but the likes of Cheetah and Circe always struck me as secondary villains. Sure they can cause damage but I don't see Cheetah taking over the world any time soon. A personal revenge story might work in the future but not in an introduction film to the world of Wonder Woman.
Choosing an appropriate villain is all about reflecting the hero and contrasting ideologies. Superman's best enemies do this. General Zod is the anti-Superman. He is Superman as he might be if he didn't have such a deep connection to humanity. Lex Luthor is the height of human potential gone wrong. He is everything Superman believes the human race can be in terms of intellect and imagination, but also everything that's wrong with the human race in terms of arrogance, ego and selfishness. Batman's villains are also reflections of the hero. The Joker is anarchy personified. Living without rules, treating life as a game. Two Face represents the dual nature of Batman and Bruce Wayne, perverted to the extreme. The Riddler represents Batman's intelligence used to commit crime rather than stop it. Ra's Al Ghul is Batman taken to the extreme, willing to cross lines that Batman won't cross to secure peace and balance.
A Wonder Woman villain must do the same as these other villains. This villain must be an idealogical opposite, a perverted reflection of the Amazon. Well, what does Wonder Woman stand for? Truth. Compassion. Peace. And what's the opposite of peace? War. Thus, the answer is obvious. If a Wonder Woman movie is to embrace the mythology, that should go for the villain as well and there is one villain in particular that stands out as a physical and idealogical threat – Ares The God Of War. In Ares you have a villain capable of great destruction, able to manipulate the weak-minded into doing what he wants, someone who can not only stand toe-to-toe with Diana but in theory, should be able to destroy her, being a full-fledged god. Intellectually challenging, physically imposing, almost unbeatable. In the end, Ares is the only choice.
Once you've made that choice, everything else falls into place. It's not difficult to conceive of a plot for a Wonder Woman film when Ares is the villain. Who is he? The god of war. What does he want? Obviously to start a war. Why? Does warfare give him power? Power enough to plunge the world into perpetual battle? The power to overthrow the gods of Olympus? Suddenly, by the choice of villain alone, you have the makings of a plot. Ares wants to start a war that could doom mankind, Wonder Woman needs to stop it. Simple but potentially epic. It also provides a natural introduction point for Steve Trevor. Perhaps he's a military intelligence officer caught up in Ares' machinations, he crash-lands on Themyscira, tells the Amazons what's going on and it's off we go. That's very basic but it's a starting point worth building on and using Ares also allows the filmmakers to bring in secondary foils like Circe to be a thorn in Wonder Woman's side.
There are other options of course and again, you can look to the mythological elements of the comics for inspiration. The god of the underworld, Hades, provides new possibilities for Wonder Woman movies beyond the mortal realm as do other gods and monsters. Speaking of which, Wonder Woman needs to punch bad guys. Jewel thieves and bank robbers aren't much of a threat. But a minataur? A cyclops? Cerberus? There are lots of monsters in Greek myth to draw from as well as minor comic book villains with ties to those myths that can be exploited.
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