With WONDER WOMAN In SUPERMAN/BATMAN, Why Not A Solo Film Too?
CREDIT: DC Comics
Now that Warner Bros. announced Wonder Woman's live action portrayal in its Superman/Batman film, the company is finally bringing together its "holy DC superhero trinity" in film.
But the announcement also makes it tough to ignore that the trinity isn't exactly an equal opportunity club. Despite Wonder Woman being one of the best known female superheroes in the world, her character has been constantly passed over by Warner for a solo film, while Superman and Batman have gotten multiple reboots and sequels.
The Wonder Woman appearance in Zack Snyder's Superman/Batman film — along with the possibility of a Justice League movie with other DC heroes — has given weight to arguments for Wonder Woman finally getting a solo film.
Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara certainly implied in October that Wonder Woman was a priority for the company when he spoke at an event at USC's Institute of Entertainment Law and Business.
"We need to get Wonder Woman on the big screen or TV," Tsujihara said.
Now that her latest film debut is confirmed, what's to stop Warner from following up with a Wonder Woman solo movie?
It's Not Her — It's Gun-Shy Hollywood
Although a previous successful Wonder Woman TV series (starring Lynda Carter) ran on ABC and later CBS from 1975 to 1979, more recent attempts to adapt the comic book heroine to live action haven't gotten far enough for audiences to see.
Perhaps most notable in recent year was Joss Whedon's 2007 screenplay that the Avengers filmmaker said he felt really good about, but Warner apparently didn't. According to Whedon, the screenplay portrayed Wonder Woman as a powerful, godlike character who only learns to understand humanity through a love affair with human Steve Trevor.
Whedon admitted to CraveOnline recently that he still has a sore spot about not being given the chance to bring Wonder Woman to film — particularly now that he was so successful with The Avengers.
“Early on, it’s like grief," he said. "There’s a period of anger where you’re like ‘hey, remember all those times when I told you it would’ve worked? They [Marvel] believed me, and it did!"
There have also been recent Wonder Woman TV shows in development that didn't take off — from a David E. Kelley television pilot in 2011 that went nowhere at NBC, to a slow-moving "prequel" series at The CW called Amazon, which is "still in development."
It seems like, no matter the approach, Hollywood just can't find the right way to translate Wonder Woman to a solo movie — or they're at least gun-shy about the Amazon warrior.
Mark Pedowitz, network president at CW, summed it up well for most people involved in the attempts to develop a solo Wonder Woman project: "We don't want to produce something that doesn't do the franchise justice. It's the trickiest of all the DC characters."
What's the Hang-Up?
But fans are starting to wonder, what's so "tricky" about Wonder Woman?
Sure, she's got a comic book story that involves an isolated island, but the first three minutes of Man of Steel didn't shy away from portraying a distant alien planet, complete with strange costumes and foreign-looking animals. Wonder Woman's island is tame in comparison.
And yes, Wonder Woman has connections to the Greek gods, but they're not central enough to her story to be a necessity. And wait a minute… when's the last time Hollywood shied away from Greek mythology in films? And doesn't Marvel's Thor franchise — now heading toward an inevitable third film (and featuring a villain that fans are begging to see more) — prove there's a way to approach heavy mythology in a grounded way that fans accept?
Let's face it, the core argument against a Wonder Woman solo movie Is that she's a woman. Although internet-based comic fans seem to be practically salivating for a female-centered superhero movie — evidenced by blog post after blog post after blog post — Hollywood has been slow to move on the idea.
While Stan Lee may not be an official spokesman these days for Hollywood (despite all those cameos), he seemed to sum up the movie industry's attitude toward female superheroes like Wonder Woman when he told The Hollywood Reporter recently: "The thing is, the women like these [male-centered] movies as much as the guys. So we don't have to knock ourselves out finding a female [superhero]."
Hollywood also likes to insinuate that female superhero films don't work by pointing at recent(-ish) attempts like 2004's Elektra and 2005's Catwoman. But surely the problems with those films were… well, those films? And didn't they, despite their groan-worthy plots, outperform several male-helmed comic book movies? (Punisher, I'm looking at both of you.)
Plus, the arguments against a female-helmed movie are starting to sound hollow in the current Hollywood environment. When a movie like The Hunger Games, which features a female protagonist, takes in a higher worldwide gross than Man of Steel (despite the latter's much higher budget), audiences are obviously willing to see a movie starring a female hero.
"It's weird that some people have the idea that Wonder Woman lacks the elements to be a successful film," comic writer and former Wonder Woman scribe Gail Simone told Newsarama. "Done right, a Wonder Woman film is partly Hunger Games, Top Gun, Harry Potter, Clash of the Titans, and the Avengers — all those elements of these incredibly successful films are hardwired into her story already.
"When people say to me, 'the audience isn't ready for a Wonder Woman movie,' what I actually hear is, 'I really have no idea what audiences have been going to see in large numbers for the past decade.'"
Besides, didn't Hollywood once claim that audiences wouldn't accept a shared universe? That superheroes had to exist in their own movies, but that crossing them into each other's films wouldn't work? Now that Avengers has proven that theory dead wrong, who's to say now isn't the time to also attack the "women-don't-work" theory head on, in a way that only an Amazon princess can?
Importance of Now
It's one thing for Warner to ignore the cries from internet fans for a Wonder Woman movie — after all, a few vocal comic book fans don't necessarily equate to mainstream moviegoers. But it's another thing to ignore the potential that a Wonder Woman franchise holds, particularly if it's launched soon.
Wonder Woman is still a recognizable property that Warner can leverage, but the property's power is diminishing every year that she stays out of the mainstream spotlight. Now that she's in Batman vs. Superman, her limelight has never been brighter.
There may be further evidence in the fact that the Wonder Woman comic book is selling better now than it has in a long time. And the creative team — writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang — hasn't shied away from any of the character's mythology, even the complicated gods themselves.
"A Wonder Woman movie?" Azzarello told Newsarama of the idea. "Haven't Cliff and I been working on one the past two years?"
Although comic sales don't always indicate movie success, it doesn't hurt. Warner was probably somewhat motivated to try out Green Lantern after its comic franchise hit upon success. And Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort told Newsarama that the success of Avengers comic books over the last 10 years wasn't "lost on" the guys controlling the Marvel film slate in recent years.
And while we're on the subject of Marvel's film slate — timing a Wonder Woman solo project right after her appearance in the Superman/Batman film would also be a bit of a coup for Warner Bros., who has been playing second fiddle lately in the film arena to Marvel/Disney.
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige recently announced that they won't get around to making a female-centered superhero movie until at least 2016 or 2017.
With Batman vs. Superman coming out in 2015, that sure sounds like opportunity knocking at Warner's door. With high-octane, female-centered movies doing well right now, Warner has the opportunity to capitalize on their female superhero before anyone else. She'll be like Harry Potter is to everyone else's magic-teen movies. Wonder Woman will be first.