1/22/2013


Even though Wonder Woman is 70 years old, there has never been a movie because she's a strong female character with a confusing origin and complex personality.

Above Image: Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman first appeared in 1941 (All Star Comics #8). Since then, there has never been a live action theatrical movie. Considering she's one of the "Big Three" DC characters, along with Superman and Batman, this is strange.

Superman has five movies. Batman has seven films. Wonder Woman has none.

Many people have tried. But every attempt to bring the movie to the big screen has failed. Read on to find out the reasons why and what it says about everyone's favorite Amazon and female superhero movies.

Lame Villains
Wonder Woman's worst enemy: Lee Press-On Girl

Quick! Name Batman's main villain! Now, name Superman's nemesis! Finally, for 100 points, name Wonder Woman's arch-villain! Can you? Wonder Woman has no great villain.

See if these names sound like terrifying foes: Angle Man, Baroness von Gunther, Circe, Doctor Cyber. None of them would have made it past to the C-list in Batman's Rogue's Gallery.

Joss Whedon, who came close to writing and directing a movie based on the Amazon Princess, told Entertainment Weekly, "Batman has it made, he's got the greatest rogues gallery ever. Wonder Woman has no one, which means it's hard to tell a compelling story."

When you hear Batman is fighting the Joker, or Superman is fighting Lex Luthor, you know it'll be good.  Do you care if Wonder Woman is fighting Cheetah? Does she have any good villains?

Loving Hero in an Age of Anti-Heroes

People love anti-heroes these days. People love to see someone break rules in violent ways, but Wonder Woman is the opposite of that. That was intentional. She was created that way.

In the 1940s a psychologist named William Moulton Marston, already famous for inventing the lie detector (or polygraph), came up with an idea for a new kind of superhero. This hero would fight evil, not with fists or firepower, but with love. Elizabeth Holloway Marston agreed, but said, "Fine. But make her a woman."

In a 1943 issue of The American Scholar, Marston wrote: "Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don't want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women's strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman."

Wonder Woman will never be a dark hero like Batman. This lack of darkness is her greatest strength and weakness.

Can Wonder Woman succeed in an age of dark heroes?

Confusing Origins

"I promise to fight for the right for empowered women to wear knee-high boots!"

One problem with doing a Wonder Woman movie is there's no consistent origin. Whedon said she had a "great origin" and most people would agree. But if you asked people what her origin is, you may get very different answers. It's not like that with some heroes.

Batman has the murder of his parents, which leads him on a never ending quest to fight criminals. Superman has the destruction of his home planet and his adoption by Earthlings. Spider-Man gets bitten by a spider which gives him spider-like powers, but becomes a hero after the death of his Uncle. Wonder Woman's origin has been completely rewritten several times.

Let's start with the original story from the 1940s. Wonder Woman is an Amazon champion. Steve Trevor is a United States intelligence officer whose plane crashes on the Amazonian's isolated island and she wins the right to return him to "Man's World." There she takes the secret identity of an Army nurse, named Diana Prince, and fights crime and the evil of the Nazis.

Now we travel to the 1960s. Wonder Woman's origin is rewritten to give her more of a mythological basis. On the day of her birth she gets the blessing of several deities. Making Diana "beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, as strong as Hercules, and as swift as Hermes." She loses her powers, becomes a boutique owner and has a Chinese mentor named I Ching. I Ching's teaches Diana martial arts and weapons skills and she travels on a variety of adventures from an international spy to mythology. She eventually got her powers back.

In the 1980s, after the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, her origin was revamped again. Hippolyta wished for a child and made one out of clay of the shores of Themyscira (the new name for Paradise Island). The clay figure was brought to life by the Greek deities and blessed with superpowers. Wonder Woman was made an ambassador from the island with the mission of bringing peace to our world.

After so many stories of her beginning, can her origin be told? Which is the right one?

A Complex Personality


Some characters are easy to explain in one sentence. Superman fights for truth, justice and the American way. Batman is the dark fighter of the streets of Gotham. Spider-man is a nerd who becomes a hero. Wonder Woman is more complex than that.

"It's hard to draw a bead on her; she doesn't define easily in one sentence. " Wonder Woman comic writer Greg Rucka said, "Superman does, Batman does, Spider-Man does those [are the] sort of iconic characters where, in the course of a half of a page, you can get them, explain what they're about; but Diana is far more complicated so that different writers focus on different aspects.  That doesn't mean any one writer is right or wrong just that they gravitate to different things about her character.  Every writer looks for an 'in' with the character some people have found the 'in' with this sort of naïve virgin, some have found it in the über-warrior, and some people have found this in the sex symbol.  Those didn't work for me, [but it] doesn't mean that those who came before are wrong that was their take, this is mine."

David E. Kelly, who produced the live action Wonder Woman pilot, told MovieWeb, "When I started thinking about all the complications and potential layers to this superhero, I just got more and more intrigued. It was also something I was a little bit afraid of."

Even Joss Whedon said "Besides [Wonder Woman's] great origin story, there's nothing from the comics that felt right 100 percent, no iconic canon story that must be told. Batman has it made he's got the greatest rogues gallery ever, he's got Gotham City. The Bat writes himself. With Wonder Woman, you're writing from whole cloth, but trying to make it feel like you didn't. To make it feel like it's existed for 60 years, even though you're making it up as you go along. But who she, and what the movie, is about, thematically, has never been a problem for me. But the steps along the way, it could be so easy for them to feel wrong. I won't settle. She wouldn't let me settle"

Wonder Woman is a scary character to write for. Is there any way to bring such a complex character to the screen?

Licensing Challenges
"Drat! I knew I shouldn't have made a rope so easily accessible!"

It's difficult to get the license to do a Wonder Woman movie in the first place. There have been licensing problems with Superman, but nothing like trying make Wonder Woman.

While details are shrouded in secrecy we know two things: it's expensive and complicated. When Kelly was making his expensive Wonder Woman pilot, most of the cost came from "the studio requiring a rich license fee."

Paul Dini, who produced Batman Beyond and other DC cartoons, said, "There's kind of a licensing problem:  if we wanted to do Wonder Woman as a series, we could do that, [but] if it was a guest-shot, it was a little more problematic.  I don't really understand it, it just turned out to be easier all the way around [to use Big Barda in the Batman Beyond episode 'The Call']."

Is Wonder Woman stuck in legal red tape?

Casting the Amazon
"That's right boys. These legs go all the way up."

Another problem with a Wonder Woman movie is casting. She has to have characteristics that are hard to come by in an actor. The Amazon Princess has to have a perfect mix of height, strength, compassion and love.

When David E. Kelly was casting his Wonder Woman show he told said, "I remember looking at several people and going, 'Yeah, now good luck trying to find her.' She's got to be strong, smart, emotionally accessible - and oh yeah, an Amazon! Good luck. I remember speaking to DC, and saying, 'We may have to compromise on the physicality. We need to go with the best actress. And if the best actress is five-foot-five, we have to be open to that, because there's too many layers for this character to also demand that she be nearly six feet tall.'

In order for a movie to work, they often look for big name actors.  Is there any actor in Hollywood that can play her?

Gender Bias
"Why does the Justice League pay Batman 4% more than me?!"

The final problem with doing Wonder Woman in anything, much less a movie, is a bias against strong female characters.

The late comic book writer Dwayne McDuffie talked about the gender bias in comics. "First, Wonder Woman is more of a symbol than a character.  Even more so than Superman, if you give her the slightest bit of personality, you'll grievously offend a significant portion of her fans. 

"More importantly, she's female.  A large percentage of superhero fans just don't like competent heroines.  There's something about the genre that attracts those kinds of fans. 

"Think about all the people who hate Hawkgirl, Wonder Woman, Vixen even Supergirl.  How can anybody hate Supergirl?  The male characters, including the ones who aren't very nice, don t inspire the ire that even the most likable female characters do...A fair number of guys who write this stuff are either disinterested in women with power, or actively opposed to it."
Gail Simone, an American comic book writer best known for DC's Birds of Prey explained, "It is also a sad fact that a significant number of big name writers don't care about Diana at all, which baffles me.  Great gimmicks, great origin, great character I don't get it."

The sad truth is that, as much as we'd like to see a well-made Wonder Woman or Supergirl movie, there just isn't enough of an audience to support a film.

Will movie audiences ever want to see a strong female character?


What do you think? Will we ever get a Wonder Woman movie? Would you like to see one?
[Image Source: io9.com]


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21 comments:

Maurice Mitchell said...

I'm a big DC fan, and the 60's version of her origins is the one I remember best.
I'm sure her costume is a bit of a conflict. (I have no problem with it though!)
Perhaps the only way she'll have her own show is if she's highlighted in a JLA movie first.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Pretty comprehensive analysis. The funny thing is that Wonder Woman is perhaps more defined by her supporting cast than most people are willing to admit. Her mother, Hippolyta, is so important that she actually became Wonder Woman for a while. Steve Trevor, her guide and sometimes romantic partner, is that link to the outside world who most writers completely overlook, who has actually disappeared for large stretches at a time. One of the things that absolutely has to be done for any consistent work to be done with her is to address this, stop fighting it.


Also, Circe really shouldn't be lumped in with the dredges you scoured to find villains who are obscure even to me. Just saying. Although your overall point still stands.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Interesting post. I don't think it has as much to do with the fact Wonder Woman is a girl as it does the other things you mentioned. I think the problem is strictly Wonder Woman's. Movies with other female superheroes could do well. For instance, an Origins movie about Storm or Rogue I think would do well. I would go see a movie about Black Widow any day of the week. All they really need to do is choose good stand-alone characters. The heroines that are simply female versions of their male counterparts (i.e Supergirl, Spidergirl) aren't taken as seriously. That's true even for me and I am a girl! Wonder Woman wasn't well developed from the beginning, that is obvious. That has everything to do with the time period she was created. Maybe she just isn't movie material.

Maurice Mitchell said...

great points. Still would like to see a wonder woman movie though--was thinking Bridget Regan from legend of the seeker would make a great wonder woman. :)

Nutschell

www.thewritingnut.com

Maurice Mitchell said...

The 60s origin is the one most people think of Alex, and the JLA movie could be her doorway in.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Great point Tony. Steve Trevor has been labeled as just a love interest, but he's really important to make the character relatable. The funny thing about the "dredges" is they are from the Wikipedia list of her biggest villains. Go figure.

Maurice Mitchell said...

I never thought about the male\female counterpart thing Jessica. It's true that female geeks have it rough.

Maurice Mitchell said...

I can totally see her Nutschell. Great point

Maurice Mitchell said...

Y'know it gets a bad rap but, when I saw it, I thought it had potential. Unfortunately it tried to make her a dark hero. That was their biggest mistake.

Maurice Mitchell said...

A lot of heroes get short shrift Pat. The Hunger Games, Underworld and Resident Evil movies prove it can work.

Maurice Mitchell said...

I have always loved Wonder Woman and think that her WWII origin would work best. I always hated the trippy 60's origin. She can succeed, but we need to go there with her . Make her dark, make her powerful, give her a villain that will make her bleed and fight to the last breath in her body. Make her brooding and most of all do not make her sexy.

Batman is not sexy therefore Wonder Woman should not be sexy. That is the problem with Alice, with many strong females. We have to make them sexy so the men will feel better about themselves for liking her. If she's "sexy" then she still fits into the male devised role for women that we have always suffered with. Women are just as strong, brutal, savage and willing to kill in heartbeat like a man.

Wonder Woman needs to be like Gina Carano in Haywire or Kara Thrace from BSG We can also remake her villains into Banes and Luthors. No one says Cheetah has to stay that way. If Cat Woman can go from Eartha Kitt to Anne Hathaway, Cheetah can become the new Luthor, Ares the new Bane. And for the love of God, lose the lingerie costume.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Melissa, I'm so glad you commented. These are really good points, especially about Wonder Woman's sexiness, but I still hope they don't make her dark.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Aww.. Thanks! Okay, maybe they don't have to do dark. They could go the Tom Welling route with her. But she has enormous potential and if DC will just give the ok, she could rule the box office.

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faced.

Miriam Lynn Archie said...

My daughter and I both enjoyed the 2009 animated Wonder Woman movie. Why couldn't they expand on something like that for a live action feature?

Maurice Mitchell said...

Great question Miriam. Maybe it's easier to animate than to film. Special effects are cheap and no casting needed. Thanks for commenting.
Subject: [geektwins] Re: Is There An Easy Answer To Why Has There Never Been a Wonder Woman Movie? [Movies] ~ The Geek Twins

jpfola26 said...

This article shows complete ignorance over WW.
1. Wonder Woman has some absolutely fantastic villains. Its DC writers who choose not to use them.
Ares, Circe, Cheetah, Alkyone, The Crow Children, Veronica Cail, The Gorgan Sisters. The list goes on-
You might look at Cheetah and think she´s a bad villain, but she is no worse than the likes of Metallo. Its prejudice from the name.
Go up to anyone on the street and tell them the main villain of a film is going to be called Braniac and see what kind of response you get. Cheetah in the right hands is an excellent villain, she just is a poor archnemesis to WW.
2. WW origin has been expanded, not changed. Just like every other superhero. Her story from the original has had slight variations to modernise it, but that is all and if you bothered to read it, you would see that its a fantastic and one of the most profound origins. Every bit as profound and complex as Batman and Superman and much better, grittier, mature and darker than Spiderman.
3. WW, if you did some research has had some excellent stories, but she does need that great iconic story. Not the new 52 rubbish. But hey I´m working on that, so no bother.
4. Wonder Woman personality is not that complex at all. She´s a warrior because the Amazons trained so as to make sure they were always ready to defend their peace. But they ultimately were a peaceful and somewhat flawed but enlightened race.
She herself, is great because behind the grace and wisdom, lyes the beating heart of a lion, of a warrior. Piss her off and shit is going down. She will kick your ass, in style. The main way to piss her off is to hurt the innocent that she is sworn her life to protect.
5. Antiheroes are cheap overrated gimics most of the time. There are only a few worth the paper they are written on. Why can´t a hero, be well a hero. Sometimes thats what we need. Plus WW is more bad ass than your average antihero anyway. This is a chick that blinded herself purposely, so as to fight a GORGAN, By pouring acid in her eye. all to protect us. Yet because of her advanced warrior training she still came out on top.
6. I´m a comic fan I have no problem with female heroes that are good. The bias towards female heroes is usually they aren´t. Usually they are just counterparts to men. When they are great flawed, tragic or kickass heroes, men do not have a problem. Buffy The Vampire slayer anyone, clarice starling. The list goes on.
Terrible article that is properganda. I see similar things being written about superman, its pure ignorance.

Raul said...

Actually Wonder Woman is now probably more darker and grittier hero than Batman, not shying away from running a sword through an enemy or snapping their neck.

Hamtonio said...

Agreed. The author also is mistaken that WW doesn't "break rules in a violent way". Are we forgetting that she snapped a guy's neck to save Superman? Not only did she kill him, she did so instantly without hesitation or regret because it was to save Superman.

Namnoot said...

However the ramifications of doing so were profound,costing her friends and allies and, ultimately, leading to events that literally changed the DC universe.

Dan said...

The character of Wonder Woman was developed by a man who had fantasies of being tied up and whipped. Lovely.

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