PLAYTIME: Wonder Woman: The Movie

The discussion about the Avengers film has started dredging up ideas about how to make Wonder Woman work on screen.  Since some of y'all seem to think you have the answer... what is it?  Focus on the Greek mythology?  Her super powers?  Action?  Romance?  Bondage?  Humor?  Remake/remodel-type sketches with explanatory text are welcome, but so are plain pitches and brainstorming of whatever length.  Not that we're going to solve it for Warner Bros, but what if you had the chance?


  • I'd do a period flick. It's the 1940s, and Princess Diana of Themyscara has come to our shores to beat the living dogshit out of miscreants in the interests of peace. When this starts causing, y'know, massive hospitalization and property damage, FDR tasks Steve Trevor to point her at the Nazis.

    Steve, with a newfound appreciation of life on account of surviving a plane crash and hanging out with the most beautiful woman in the world, is torn between following orders and being sick of fighting/danger/etc. Diana has to stop a Nazi plot while also learning that punching can't solve everything.

    Big themes of the film include "when to fight, when to not", something something commentary on Army Husbands something something, and watching an attractive Greek woman suplex tanks.

  • Alternatively, just rip off The Legend of Korra, since that's basically an Elseworlds where Wonder Woman has to learn zen from Red Tornado, in 1920s China.
  • I'd make it a comedy starring Modern Family's Sofia Vergara. Nuff said.

    To be honest, I have no interest in Wonder Woman unless it's starring a young Linda Carter.
  • Didn't the WW TV show start out as a WW2 period piece?  I've always thought that was a good way to handle "classic" characters such as the early superheroes, rather than always trying to "update" them.  Isn't Sherlock Holmes usually produced as a Victorian costume drama, adaptations of Robin Hood set in merrie olde England, and Tom Sawyer usually lives in Reconstruction-era middle-America?
  • I've never actually seen the original show, but I heard that was the case, yeah.

    (I'd actually do movie 1 in the 40s, movie 2 in the 60s (white-costumed Diana-as-spy being a way for her to try and reign in her wild brawling from the 40s while still doing good) movie 3 in modern day (the Wondy-as-ambassador-CEO, trying to figure out if she's gone "soft" or just grown up.)

  • edited May 2012
    @JasonAQuest - Yes, the original TV series was a period era setting, 1940s during WWII.

    Capt. America's movie was a period tale and only went to modern day in the last 5 minutes.  The same can happen for WW.

    As for the Nazis?  Simple.  The Nazis in their ever-loving quest to add supernatural / occult aspects to their war campaign discover WW's lost island of Amazons.  Things break down and the nazis bomb the island off the map and Dianna is the only survivor.  Thus, you get her into our world, you get her motivation to wear the red, white and blue as she joins our side to get revenge and in the process she learns how to be *human* and falls for some guy.

    Then at the end, switch her to modern day. Her old adventures are stuff of legend. But at the end of the film something pulls her out of retirement.  Make it an alien invasion (rekindles the Nazi attack on her island, et.)  If DC is smart they'd bring up someone from the JLA.  Bats, Lantern, or Supes.
  • @JasonAQuest - as for Sherlock Holmes... the new BBC series is VERY well done in the modern day. But I get what you're saying; the classics work well in a classic format.
  • edited May 2012
    So was House. :)  But if you want to make a character like Superman work, when his civilian profession is obsolete, his iconic phone-booth-change has been a gag for decades, and his trademark slogan is politically incorrect... you set the story in his native environment.  Likewise, Wonder Woman would be much easier to make work as a contemporary of Marlene Dietrich and Rosie the Riveter, an exotic woman whose unprecedented foray into the domain of men makes her both alluring and intimidating.
  • Welp, it's over then.

    It seems pretty obvious.  Which is what I was saying before.  *How* to do it is not a problem.  There are several savvy ways to portray her, it's just icing on the cake.  And it's not about the costume.  We've seen plenty of superheroes drop their comic book attire in favor of some black biker gang leather (X-Men, Dark Knight, Hawkeye, et.)

    So why isn't it being made?  If guys like us (and others even better at this) can knock the story around and into shape, then what holds back the studios?  In my mind, that's the real question.  All the threads about WW just go round-and-round the tip of the iceberg.

    My theory:
    The studios simply don't think enough people will line up to see it.
    Especially, they don't think enough *men* will line up to see it.
    We can see this theory in action with the renaming of a Princess of Mars, to John Carter of Mars, to just John Carter.  I'm sure the money follows the demographics and those figures are not pointing at Wonder Woman.

    A studio just needs to be brave enough to take the risk.  Without that I don't see it happening.  Whedon would have to open his own studio and get it financed, otherwise every number cruncher out there says don't do it.
  • edited May 2012
    Didn't the WW TV show start out as a WW2 period piece?  I've always thought that was a good way to handle "classic" characters such as the early superheroes, rather than always trying to "update" them.  Isn't Sherlock Holmes usually produced as a Victorian costume drama, adaptations of Robin Hood set in merrie olde England, and Tom Sawyer usually lives in Reconstruction-era middle-America?
    Sure — but none of those are ongoing stories that have continued more-or-less uninterrupted to the present day.

    I have ZERO interest in Spider-Man as a '60s period piece. Or a Superman movie set in the '40s. Or Ghost Rider in the '70s. Or Iron Man in the Vietnam War. There's a couple cases I think make sense — Captain America's origin is so heavily linked to WWII and his being frozen and woken up is such a major part of his backstory that I don't think it'd make sense to reboot the character so he got injected with the super-soldier serum in 2012. But in general, I find the argument that superhero adaptations should be period pieces set when the comic first came out to be silly and reductionist.

    (There's also examples of franchises that counter your point — James Bond being the most obvious.)
  • Well, it's funny. I don't have any ideas about a Wonder Woman film. A Wonder Woman ongoing series (or, I guess, a TV show), however... that I could do.

    I should probably add that I've never read a Wonder Woman comic.
  • edited May 2012
    Personally I find Nazis to be a tired, knee-jerk sort of villain, "Well, he's a Nazi, soooo, we don't have to establish much beyond that. Have him do something treacherous and we're good." The WW2 generation is well into their late 80's and older, by now, and WW2 just doesn't have the same pull as it did in the early sixties. So I wouldn't go back to the 40s for Diana. Maybe establish that she has been around in the word since then, or maybe not.

    But then, I'm not going to second guess what they should or should not do to have a successful movie, comic etc. I'm just going to fantasize what I would do, given my druthers, and the fans be-damned.

    As I said elsewhere, the title would be Wonder Woman, but she would never answer to that name. Why would anybody? Diana, of course, isn't Greek, its Roman and my model for Diana would be Artemis, the virgin hunter sister to Apollo. Like Artemis, Diana would be a hunter-- lean, athletic and taut as a bowstring. Among film stars, Camille Paglia described Katherine Hepburn as the perfect Artemis; boyish and cocksure. She probably should be blonde. Apollo and Artemis's origins seem to have been to the north of Greece; they were immigrants. The Amazons were described as being up around the Black Sea, so blonde would work....

    ...however, Diana isn't Artemis, just modeled on her, so for me, a fine contemporary actress to play the role might be Zoe Saldana. I do think that one of the keys to a successful movie superhero is casting the right actor. Iron Man is more successful than Thor and Cap because RDJ is more appealing than Hemsworth and Evans. Hard to know what will work though, Bana and Norton are fine actors and Hulk didn't smash much.

    So anyway, my Diana would be here on a hunt. Since I want a fantasy element she would be here ferreting out and destroying mythological beasties who are here in disguise doing more or less nasty things. Think American Gods.

    She doesn't fly, but she's fast, strong and exceptionally well coordinated and trained.  I'll let her have the magic lasso, and some other weapons as well-- bow, spear, sword and a small shield, each with some special property. I'd dump the WW and go back to the eagle. I'm surprising nobody when I point out that eagles are ancient symbols of authority. Outfits are red, blue and gold, and yes, she has more than one, for different occasions, but they are identifiable by theme, and she often dresses in mufti.

    She would be smart and sexy and rebuff attempts to seduce her. And at some point, I'd have a small scene where she helps a young mother as a tip of the cap to Artemis's role as goddess of child birth.
  • edited May 2012
    I have ZERO interest in Spider-Man as a '60s period piece. Or a Superman movie set in the '40s. Or Ghost Rider in the '70s. Or Iron Man in the Vietnam War.
    And I have a lot more interest than that. (Except for Ghost Rider, which they could set in my living room tomorrow, and I'd still be disinterested. :P)  So whose tastes win the debate?
    But in general, I find the argument that superhero adaptations should be period pieces set when the comic first came out to be silly and reductionist.
    I'll be sure to pass that pearl of wisdom along if I hear someone make that kind of blanket argument.  I didn't.  Comics-to-film adaptations don't have to be done as period films, and I didn't say that it was the only way they would work, just that... it probably would work, as a simpler alternative to transplanting a character from another time period, and transforming them to somehow work in the present.  The period approach worked not just for Captain America, but also for X-Men: First Class and the first half of Superman: The Movie, in addition to working for adaptations of other-genre long-running comics such as the musical Annie and the Tintin film.  I'm not saying an update shouldn't be tried if someone has a particular idea for how to make it work,* but if the character's origins are far enough removed from our social context, it's difficult to do well, and easy to fail... especially if they're doing it simply because they assume that no one will watch the film if they set it in period.

    *I'm working on a script that takes a character from a couple millennia ago, and tries to set the story in the present, so I assure you: I'm not opposed to the idea in principle. :)
  • 1) make her a vampire. 2) put her in high school. 3) profit.
  • I just find the whole "this character was created in [X] time period and has been consistently placed in stories set in the modern day for decades... but we should do the adaptation in [X] time period."

    X-Men: First Class was a prequel to a successful series of film adaptations set in the modern day. Superman: The Movie, as you point out, was also successful even though the bulk of it was a modern adaptation. Annie and Tintin aren't based on series that have been consistently running and perpetually re-set to the modern day like the comics we're talking about. And Captain America, again, isn't a character whose origin has been reset to the modern day in the comics — and the movies brought him to the modern day in basically the exact same way as the comics. So I'd argue that none of those are very good examples of your point.
  • Never mind.  I'm not interested in a pissing contest.
  • Yeah, sorry about that — I didn't mean to jump all over you. I have a knee-jerk reaction to people suggesting that superhero adaptations work better/are more natural if they're set in the time-period the source material came from. I've never understood the logic people have presented for that argument, whether it's being made as a blanket statement or being made about a specific character. (Mostly I hear it about Superman, which is one of the few I can see that argument for — so much of that character's values and idealism were a product of his time, that I agree that he works much better in a historical setting than in the cynical modern world — unless the point is to contrast his "primary color" identity with a shades-of-gray contemporary setting.)

    The reason that these stories last are that they've got elements that are timeless and aren't period-dependent — but they aren't "timeless" in the way something like Shakespeare is timeless, where so much of the power is in the language and you can't update the language in the way you can the set dressing and the costumes.

    But even apart from my personal feelings on the subject, do I think a WWII period piece of Wonder Woman is more likely to be commercially successful than a modern update? No, I think a modern update is more likely to be a commercial success.
  • To put my money where my mouth is: my take would be more of an SF one.

    What if there was an all-female island nation that'd existed continuously since before the founding of Rome? And what if the scientific advances it made in that time were able to keep it completely hidden from the rest of the world — until today? What would it be like to be the first representative of that culture as it makes contact with the outside world?

    One of the biggest things I'd like to play with is: Diana's never met a man before. Ever. She knows all about them — from the Amazons' history and mythology at least. Maybe from TV and internet broadcasts the Amazons have picked up — possibly contraband, because contact with outer world "cultural pollution" is illegal on the island? Maybe she's seen one movie (Casablanca?), and her entire view of the outside world and the male sex is based on it? I think there's a whole lot of interesting terrain to cover there.

    And I, personally, would play up the gender politics. This is someone who's never experienced sexism or misogyny — how does she react to it, considering she can physically out-compete pretty much any male on Earth? How do men react to her? Also, she's clearly a virgin — with guys, at any rate.

    (Basically, I'd want to do a hard-SF take on Wonder Woman. Not because I think it'd sell, or because I think other people would be into it. Just because that's the thing that most interests me about her, the ramifications of her origin and her character.)
  • The more I think about it, the more I want to see the "bullets and bracelets" thing done as a superhuman martial arts discipline in a big-budget feature.
  • (Basically, I'd want to do a hard-SF take on Wonder Woman. Not because I
    think it'd sell, or because I think other people would be into it. Just
    because that's the thing that most interests me about her, the
    ramifications of her origin and her character.)

    That's my approach to this exercise. Don't worry about second guessing "what will work", just focus on what you would want to do with the character to please yourself. Probably more likely to come up with something that does work :)
  • Late last year I wrote an article for a website about giving the DC Universe a hard reboot--as opposed to the New 52, which is a 'soft' reboot. In my head it's kind of a devil's advocate look at the principal characters of this world. Since I am not even remotely invested in the continuity I just kind of went wild with it.

    This is what I wrote about Wonder Woman, who was the toughest character to reimagine:


    An envoy from a peaceful nation of women is dispatched to the conventional world in order to spread a message of peace and equality.

    Wonder Woman is a character to address. Unlike Superman and Batman, which were respectively a wish fulfilment fantasy and an extension of the sort of pulp heroes that had been popular to that earlier point, Wonder Woman was carefully designed… by psychologist, no less… as a tool of propaganda, and for exploring his own fetishes.

    I think that for this character less is actually more. Unlike the other Big Six (with the possible exception of Hal Jordan), Wonder Woman did not fall into her powers by luck, heritage, or grim intent–she was chosen for the role and carefully trained for it. She’s a soldier; her mission is her motivation.

    Wonder Woman is always on the side of peace, love and liberty. She is there to keep the world honest. This is her brief, and her mission, and her purpose, and if she is to enact her mission then she must then believe herself uniquely qualified to make these judgments. 

    This kind of absolutism is, of course is a recipe for conflict in our world. She must be a ultimate moral arbiter and that will set her in opposition to any state, corporation or individual who acts against her principles. This makes her a perpetual wildcard, because nobody is good all of the time. 

    Nobody except for Wonder Woman. 
  • @BrandonSeifert - My "point" was simply that it can work, and in some cases it has. Sorry if it's a pet peeve, but it was just an idea of how I'd do it, and I'm sorry if it came across somehow as some kind of fan dogma of How Things Must Be Done.
  • 1 - I talked about the film medium because this thread came from The Avengers film thread.

    2 - I have no desire to revamp the comic.  It's not like it's being cancelled.  It is being done.

    3 - I mentioned the period film because her principle costume (even today) has a patriotic theme. I find it interesting that Captain America can wear a variation of the stars and stripes in both the Captain America movie and The Avengers movie (in short, not black biker gang leather), but not Wonder Woman.

    4 - As usual, revamp threads about Wonder Woman tend to bring up a lot of reaction which isn't found in other character revamps.  Psychologically, I find it interesting.

    Perhaps the revamp threads on Aquaman spin in the same circle, however, those tend to fizzle out with less passion and they're primarily about the comic (since there's very little film potential).
  • The thing with these movies is, you have to find that emotional core of the character that will resonate with people. The flashy FX will get the audience's attention, but what makes people give a shit about Iron Man is the character of Tony Stark -- the amoral, narcissistic weapons manufacturer who finally gets the consequences of his business rubbed in his face, and how that convinces him to try and turn his life around. The audience gets that, it makes sense to us; we've all had those moments, big or small, when we had to step back and reassess what's important to us. The Green Lantern movie tried to pull a similar character arc, but it was clumsy and unconvincing (and let's face it, Ryan Reynolds is no Robert Downey Jr.). The reason the Avengers' version of Hulk worked and the previous movies didn't is because this time we got to see Banner's character move forward -- he learns to accept and even embrace "the other guy" instead of running away from him.

    So what's Wonder Woman's journey? What does she have to overcome? She's a pampered princess from an isolated, utopian kingdom. She grew up with validation, empowerment, and sisterhood as a way of life. Then she comes out into our world, where those qualities are in short supply. She's here to "save us", but is this violent, corrupt, deeply sexist horrorshow of a society even worth saving? Were the lofty ideals she was taught really just so much fairy dust? That's her real struggle, over and above whatever evil gods and supervillains she has to beat up: Putting her faith through the crucible, and separating out the platitudes and dogma from the things that she truly holds sacred.

    The climactic scene: The bad guy has thrown everything he has at Wonder Woman, and she has survived it all, bloody but unbowed. He couldn't intimidate her, he couldn't corrupt her, and he couldn't kill her. Seething with rage, he demands to know, "Why? Why do you risk everything for these sheep?"

    WW: "Because I love them. Every one of them. I see them struggle and sweat and bleed every day of their lives, and they inspire me. I love them even when they're small and scared and beaten down, because I've seen what they're capable of when they stand up. I love them for what they are and what they can become. I fight you because I love them, and they deserve better than to kneel before a tyrant."

    And then she kisses the bad guy on the forehead. "And I fight you because I love you and you deserve better, too."
  • Wait, is this about Wonder Woman, or Jesus? :)
  • I'd just straight-up adapt Greg Rucka's run on the book, emphasizing the ancient Hellenic-style monster-slaying warrior. Big fight against the Gorgon or Hydra or something at the end. Heads get chopped off with axes and swords, that sort of thing.
  • edited May 2012
    I have ZERO interest in...Ghost Rider in the '70s.
    I would watch the screaming hell out of this, no pun intended. 70s Exploitation Film Ghost Rider is what the Crank dudes' Ghost Rider ought to have been.
  • edited May 2012
    I kinda like the idea of WW being some sort of embassador for Themyscira. So here's my pitch:

    Somebody in the US thought it would be a good idea to take up diplomatic relations, and the amazons, being all peaceful and empowering and into cooperation, play along and send Diana who then finds out it's all a plot to get Themyscira to join some International trade or military union under US leadership, pretty much a takeover. Pissed off, she goes rogue and leaves her liaison Steve Trevor behind to look for her or else he'll get hell from his superiors.

    So now Diana's out in the streets of whatever city is her haunt in the comics and meets some actual Americans who turn out to be not at all like what the diplomats have pretended (they did put on a bit of a show for her). It's both better and worse than she imagined. In the meantime, the villain who's one of the diplomats but totally has her own agenda cons the US government into a hostile takeover of Themyscira. Diana and Steve team up against the effort, but since she can't just go kill the US army 'cause that would be wrong (maybe something she only just learned from Steve? which would mean it's as much about protecting her home as it is about protecting those poor soldiers 'cause the amazons, once unleashed, wouldn't hold back much. (Heck, they hardly even heard of Geneva.)

    The conflict results in Themyscira mystically sealing itself off from the outside world, but Diana decides to stay because she got interested in those weird Americans. Or maybe she's exiled because she got too Americanized.

    Yeah, I know it'd never be made 'cause the US are the bad guys. Which is why I introduced the villain with his secret agenda.

    Anyway, that or Themyscira has been aware of the outside world all along, having sent out spies for a long time but always staying not involved and secluded because they aways decided we weren't ready yet for them to meddle with us, being all flawed and war-hungry and down on social security and stuff. Until a certain rebellious princess decides maybe they shoukd just teach us all that good stuff and leaves for America because it's the most influential of the in-world countries (according to it). Of course, the plan fails miserably, nobody wants to learn what she has to teach, and she actually creates trouble for her home because for the first time ever, a nation becomes aware of Themyscira. Enter the villain who decides they're a danger for the American way and drives the UN into a war effort. The rest is pretty much like my first pitch, with some angsty guilt on Diana's side added into the mix.

    And I agree that nobody calls her Wonder Woman; that's just a media nickname.

  • edited May 2012
    Wait, is this about Wonder Woman, or Jesus? :)
    I dunno if Marston thought of Wonder Woman specifically in messianic terms, but compassion and redemption were big themes in his stories. Besides, just once I'd like to see one of these movies end with something other than the hero kicking the villain off a cliff or whatever.
  • @Jimmie_Robinson I would actually keep the patriotic costume — as a propaganda ploy. There's a technologically-superior island of superhumans off the U.S. coast... and they're all women? That's going to be incredibly frightening to lots of people. So if you're one of them, you want to do something to convince people you're on their side...
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