Producers at the CW recently announced that they were shelving plans for a long-in-development live-action Wonder Woman series in order to concentrate on a small screen debut for The Flash. Reactions to this news has been somewhat mixed, with many people weighing in on why this, in the parlance, “sucks” while others have wondered what is so tricky about DC’s #3 character…
Lurking about the internet since the announcement was made, I’ve read a LOT of opinions about Wonder Woman as a live-action property, and a lot of reasons/excuses as to why producers haven’t been able to pull anything together since Lynda Carter packed up her satin tights. From what I’ve gleaned, the various arguments boil down to four basic premises…
1. She’s Too “Complicated.”
The Argument: The character of Wonder Woman has been around since 1941, just a few years less than Batman and Superman, and over the years she has been through a lot of different incarnations. For a while in the early 1970s, she gave up her powers and Amazon heritage and became a catsuit-clad super-spy, followed by a period of World War II era period adventures, and is notable for being one of the first heroes to get a full-scale ground-up reboot after the Crisis On Infinite Earths. Since then, her book has been up and down the charts, and while it’s seldom been a heavy-seller for long, there are enough different takes on Wonder Woman that it’s going to be impossible to say “Here’s what a Wonder Woman story is about!”
Why It’s Crap:
While it is true that there have been multiple takes on the character, the same is true of The Flash, who has taken her place on the front burner of television production. In fact, Flash’s history is considerably more complex, given that there have been several different characters with a lightning-bolt on their chest over the years. As many, including the very thoughtful Christopher Bird, have pointed out, there has not been a single definitive Wonder Woman presented the comics. But all it would take to correct that issue would be a story that chose even ONE of the various iterations of Wonder Woman and told a compelling story. When the first Iron Man movie was made, its wise-cracking jerkass genius protagonist was nowhere in evidence in the comics, which instead focused on an older campaigner Iron Man who had just gone to war with the other heroes of the Marvel Universe, and was considered by many to be the villain of the ‘Civil War’ miniseries. The Robert Downey, Jr version of the character is now the iconic Iron Man to moviegoers and comics fans alike, which leads us to the second argument against a Wonder Woman movie…
2. She’s Not “Iconic.”
The Argument: In the general spectrum of super-heroes, Wonder Woman doesn’t carry the cache of a Superman, a Batman, or even a Spider-Man. Her last solo TV adventures were aired during the Jimmy Carter administration, and while she’s been part of various Justice League cartoons since, Wonder Woman simply doesn’t carry the metaphorical weight of her fellow Trinity members or Spidey…
Why It’s Crap:
The old cliché is true here: My late GRANDMOTHER knew who Wonder Woman is. Having never read a Wonder Woman comic book, at the age of three, my daughter informed me that she wanted to be Wonder Woman for Halloween, and upon donning the costume, struck the traditional Wonder Woman hands-on-hips pose without any prompting. The character of Wonder Woman may not be as instantly recognizable as Batman, but there are VERY few heroes who rank above her in notability. People who have no interest in comic books, such as my fiftyish co-workers, remember her fondly, having seen the television shows, worn the Underoos, even spun in circles to emulate her transformation sequence. To say that Wonder Woman isn’t recognizable enough to support her own movie is utterly ludicrous, especially given the successful outings by the much more obscure (to the general public) likes of Thor and even Captain America. The character of Wonder Woman was on Saturday morning television for a decade-and-a-half straight, my friends, which in itself negates any arguments for her obscurity. Of course, there is another issue raised in relation to the character’s iconic look…
3. Casting Would Be “Impossible.”
The Argument: Wonder Woman is an unnaturally beautiful and regal woman, who fights crime in a bustier and knee boots. No actress will ever capture her “reality”, and the fact that so much of her skin is exposed would make stunt-work even more dangerous and expensive than usual. There is no way to do live-action Wonder Woman right.
Why It’s Crap:
Recently, I watched the movie ‘Blade Runner,’ featuring an extended sequence where Joanna Cassidy and/or her stunt double, clad only in a breastplate, bikini bottoms and knee boots,executed a lengthy chase sequence which ended with her collapsing through a plate-glass window. This effect was achieved with circa 1982 technology, and still looks convincing and brutal 30 years later. Given the advent of digital technology, it seems more than possible to create the illusion of Wonder Woman’s powerset, possibly even easier than The Flash’s super-speed powers. I’d also like to call your attention to the image directly above, adult-film actress Kimberly Kane in costume for the Wonder Woman XXX parody movie. Miss Kane and the producers have captured a very comic-accurate Wonder Woman look on an adult-film budget, which should take the air out of the sails of anyone who worries that Wonder Woman’s costume is impossible to replicate and/or too expensive. None of the superhero movie translations to date, from ‘Blade’ to this year’s ‘Man of Steel’ have faithfully reproduced the costumes seen on the comics page, proving that the characters can be successfully altered to fit their new medium without alienating consumers. If Christian Bale can put on 25 pounds of muscle to fit in the Bat-suit, there’s nothing to keep the likes of Cobie Smulders or Eliza Dushku from fitting into a version of the star-spangled costume, even one that has been redesigned for the realities of an actual female body and the stunt-work of a feature film. Of course, choosing our star leads directly into the fourth argument I keep encountering…
4. Female Leads Don’t “Sell.”
The Argument: From a movie perspective, the target young adult male audience is put off by a female protagonist. Movies about girls are seen as chick-flicks, and there won’t be any fighty-fighty punchy hero goodness like we got with Thor. The merchandising becomes difficult, because female action figures are traditionally poor sellers, while secondary merchandising such as Halloween costumes or logo t-shirts are inherently stunted because only the female half of the audience would want them.
Why It’s Crap:
My complete and utter disdain for the conventional wisdom of the movie industry may be known to those of you who listen to our Zach On Film podcast, but if you’re not a listener, I’ll boil it down: Movie conventional wisdom is bunk. The end. That’s not to say that there wouldn’t be issues with a female protagonist, as the David E. Kelley ‘Wonder Woman’ pilot proved, with its Diana focused on romance and career, as well as dialogue about her “super-boobs,” but that was a clear misapprehension of the kick-ass nature of the character. Movies with female protagonists have proven to be successful when done well (Milla Jovavich’s ‘Resident Evil’ franchise is a world-wide juggernaut, while ‘Hunger Games’ gave us a strong female protagonist bordering on super-hero turf), and there’s no reason why we can’t have the same super-hero action and battle sequences of ‘Man Of Steel’ or ‘Avengers’ with a female protagonist. The statement that Wonder Woman won’t make for a successful film because she’s a woman will always be a self-fulfilling prophecy as long as it is used as an excuse NOT TO MAKE THE FILM.
In short, if any solo female superhero movie is going to be successful, the adventures of superhuman Amazon Princess Diana and her trek to the world of man should have the best chance of success. While it will require a quality script, an appropriate actress in both age and stature, and special effects that do the character justice, a live-action Wonder Woman is rates very high on the risk vs. reward scale, and disappointed fan response to the announcement of the delay should prove that the audience is already interested in a Wonder Woman project. CW’s Mark Pedowitz has been quoted regarding the property that Wonder Woman is NOT a dead issue, but that they “have to get it right,” a sentiment that gives me some hope that I might soon see the adventures of the world’s 4th most-recognizable superhero. Take the time, Warner Brothers/CW/DC/whomever. Put some thought and some elbow grease into it, and give Wonder Woman the triumphant return she deserves, because, honestly?
There’s no good reason not to.