Why Can’t Wonder Woman Get A Movie?
With the recent announcement of a Batman/Superman movie, a Flash, Jim Gordon, and Constantine TV series’ in the works there’s been a question bandied about, where’s Wonder Woman? She’s the most prominent female superhero and yet she can’t even get her own TV series off the ground let alone a movie. She’s never had an animated series like Batman or Superman, when she does appear in a cartoon it’s not usually a plot centred on her or use her more than a cameo. There are exceptions, such as the Bruce Timm Justice League cartoon or her own animated movie, but as more cartoons are made those seem more like exceptions than anything else. Green Lantern gets more of a spotlight than her; being a prominent guest star on The Batman and Batman the Brave and the Bold, as well as getting his own movie and cartoon series.
There have been reasons cited for this, many of them seem more like excuses than an actual cause for why she’s not used as much as the others. Some say female superheroes don’t sell, citing the Catwoman and Elektra films as proof of this like terrible spinoffs were somehow going to be popular if they had a male lead. No one ever said ‘because Batman and Robin bombed white male superheroes clearly don’t sell’ since that’s nonsense. However it does seem to be an industry line whenever a property fails that isn’t a straight white male one. Fantastic Four failed and we’re supposed to be getting a reboot in a few years, X-Men 3 and Wolverine Origins bombed but we got X-Men First Class and The Wolverine because no one said that the X-Men, and especially, Wolverine don’t sell since that would be ridiculous. The problem is that when you have something ‘outside the norm’ to point at and say ‘that’s why it failed’ that’s going to get blamed rather than the actual problems. As discussed with Pacific Rim I doubt anyone knows what can be a hit and what will fail, so things like a ‘female lead’ gets blamed since the films with male leads do well.
One of the other big problems that keeps getting brought up by critics, WB executives, DC executives, and fans, is that Wonder Woman is ‘too complicated’ to do on film. Now while her history is a little convoluted, including multiple roles she’s played, different ideas on what the Amazons actually do, and changing her backstory, I don’t think it’s more convoluted than any of Batman’s or Superman’s history as a whole. You can ignore plenty of the history that doesn’t work just like you can ignore Electric Blue Superman or the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh to make good stories. It is possible to do a film or TV show where the central elements of favourite eras of Wonder Woman are boiled down and revitalised as something new and modern, like they’ve been doing with Superman and Batman for decades.
The central premise is a solid one; Diana must leave her isolated island of women to fight an evil in the outside world. In so doing she learns of their (well America’s) ways and brings some Amazonian teachings to them. Simple, effective, and leaves room to add in details that flesh out the world more. It may not be as dramatic as “parents gunned down in front of him when he was 8” or “doomed planet, desperate scientists, last hope, kindly couple” but there is a sense of adventure that can be tapped into. Travelling into a strange new world, exploring different and alien ways, except that world is ours. Use that to look into darker themes of ourselves and culture while also how wondrous parts of it can be. Or it can be two hours of a mythological movie set in modern day, fighting titans and monsters in Washington. That central premise offers a lot of story potential that is somehow deemed to complicate for people to get their heads around.
If they could do an animated movie that modernised her origin for 80 minutes then it’s possible to do it for a two hour live action feature. I can’t see why they couldn’t apply the same story beats, add some more character development, and use the supporting cast better, it’d be a good film. I doubt that’d happen once the Hollywood processing machine has gotten through with it. With the multiple script rewrites every film gets it’d take an A-list director to get a coherent vision across. Otherwise it will become another Green Lantern. That’s one of the problems with the Hollywood system, it’s usually not the ‘one director, one vision’ that is expected. Kevin Smith broke down the process a little bit when he talked about his experience writing the failed 90s Superman movie. With a property like Wonder Woman I don’t doubt the executives will want to make sure it succeeds by meddling till there’s no way it can succeed.
Other than story reasons there are qualms about how she looks, the costume basically, and if they could even find someone that could play her. The costume is considered too iconic to change for some, and too silly to be done on film, but is it really more iconic or silly than Batman’s, Superman’s, or Spider-Man’s? Those have all been changed for the films, especially Batman’s, and no one really minds it except for a few fans that complain about any changes made. It will need altering for film just like all of them do, keep in mind the only time Batman’s costume was exactly like the comics was in the Adam West TV series and movie. Just make it more armoured and give her an armoured skirt and it’ll look fine while keeping the iconic look.
The actress might be tricky but if Chris Hemsworth can bulk up for Thor then a decent actress can do the same for Wonder Woman. They can do some Hollywood height corrections if needed, since movies can have everyone looking the same height regardless of actual size. I think the big issue is more to do with ideology than finding actors that suit the part. The general image for women runs counter to Wonder Woman’s big, muscular, Amazonian proportions that she’s supposed to have. Though the comic’s artistic interpretation differs depending on the artist. It’s hard for them to make a “proper” Wonder Woman for film while still keeping the ‘skinny attractive’ appeal that is constantly there in most mainstream images of women. It’s harder to make the strong and imposing superheroines look like that with constraints on what is considered attractive. That’s probably one of the bigger problems in making action movies about female characters.
In the 2011 film Colombiana Zoe Saldana, who was Uhura in the recent Star Trek films, played an assassin, but she needed help lifting the larger guns and weapons on set. She did not bulk up for the film like male action stars do because they needed her to be attractive. One of the taglines for the movie is even “Vengeance is beautiful.” In the same year Haywire came out, another female lead action thriller, except it starred MMA fighter Gina Carano. She looked like she could actually hold a gun and the director even changed his approach to filming the fight scenes so he could show off how good Carano could fight. I can see WB casting more in the Saldana range of ‘traditionally beautiful person who can sell a movie on sex appeal’ rather than someone who can make themselves physically imposing for the role.
There are current rumours of Marvel trying to make a Carol Danvers Captain Marvel movie and I’d be all for it if they can pull it off. It’d be a shame if they can do it before WB can even get a Wonder Woman movie going. So far there are more people talking about why Wonder Woman’s not getting a movie than any rumours of WB trying to make a movie about her. Recently a fan-made trailer came out showing how a Wonder Woman film could be done with the same sort of style as the current movies while keeping the central core of the character intact.
So if fans can put something together like that then why can’t WB? An executive needs to take a risk and give it a shot. Otherwise entertainment becomes stagnant when no one wants to try anything new, just take what worked before and rework it till people get sick of it. I’ll end it on Lynda Carter’s (the actress who played Wonder Woman in the 70s TV series) thoughts on the matter:
“I think they try to just make her a female version of a male superhero, and that’s not what she is,” observes Lynda. “She is an Amazon Princess and she’s got really strong sisterhood values. She’s smart, and she just happens to be beautiful and super strong, and she has these great cool things like these bracelets and boomerang headband and non-lethal kinds of ways of dealing with people. She’s just saying, like, ‘Get a grip!’ all the time. … She slaps the hands of the bad guys.
“Maybe they need a female writer who gets it. I’ve often tried not to say that, but I think it’s the truth. It’s like, ‘Hellooooo guys, get a female that understands what that’s all about.’ You look at any society that suppresses women, and it’s violent. Look around the world. … There’s a humanity that they’re missing. There’s got to be a sweetness, a kindness, a goodness in the character. The rest takes care of itself.”