The Inexplicable Wonder Woman Problem: The First Impressions Short Film Shows Us The Way
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The Inexplicable Wonder Woman Problem: The First Impressions Short Film Shows Us The Way

By TK | Think Pieces | July 17, 2013 | Comments ()


It’s sort of baffling, how difficult it is to get a viable Wonder Woman project off the ground. The character actually isn’t that hard to adapt. No, the Linda Carter version isn’t quite what we’re looking for, but the groundwork has been laid so easily. And yet, it keeps flailing in pre-production, or failing in its actual production. It’s a character with a rich comic book history, a strong, super-powered, take-no-sh*t woman who has her own peculiar set of vulnerabilities and quirks. She’s much more than just a female Superman, and she faces an entirely different set of challenges.

And the thing is, it’s been done successfully. All the producers and writers and director would need to do is follow in the footsteps of those successes. There’s the terrific animated film from a couple of years ago (click here for our review), and a short film from last year that had an excellent tone and feel to it (watch it here). There are even some amazing story elements to the current-gen video game, Injustice: Gods Among Us.

Now there’s yet another short film, one that I actually like even better. Directed by Leo Kei Angelos, it’s a simple setup - Diana (played capably by actress Hailey Bright) is on a date, it’s going well, and then is beset by a group of thugs led by a very creepy ringleader played by Doug Jones. And of course, she whups their asses, and does so with style and grace. It’s excellent. Take a look:

You see? A simple little snippet that could easily be expanded into something greater, without having to rewrite the character or make a mess of excessive changes (I’m looking at you, David E. Kelley). Stick to what’s been working for the last few decades, use the modern touches from the current stories, draw some inspiration from what’s out there. It’ll work.

It’s been working.

(h/t: Comic Book Movie)

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Morgan_LaFai

    That was a lovely vignette. My theory is that female led action / comic book films don't due as well on the international market and thus execs in Hollywood are afraid to produce the film at all. It is unfortunate, but I just don't see how Wonder Woman, no matter how good, could draw in the more conservative foreign views it would need. Maybe I am wrong and women led films make an equal amount of money, but I have a hunch that if I actually bothered to look at the numbers, Angelina Jolie films don't make nearly as much as those fronted by male action stars. Did Salt make as much as Borne something? Or how does Lara Croft stack up against, well I can't think of a good comparison right now, but I am sure one exists somewhere. The point is, bang for buck, and Wonder Woman ain't gonna bring in the dough the way Superman will.

  • Mike from NJ

    "But you're Doug Jones. How would an a-lister like you know little old me?" -- Ronnie Cordova

  • Green Lantern

    That was VERY "not bad". My biggest problem is with Hailey Bright though...I was okay with her "tee-hee-hee"ing a bit talking about the date, but that girl is too short to be Diana. Princess Diana is a TALL drink of water, even without her Hero Heel Boots.

    So yeah, for all the affable ass kicking Ms. Bright did her height took me right out of the character.

  • foolsage

    Agreed. She's small for an Amazon. I also would have preferred her to have had less trouble with ordinary muggers, though that was a minor complaint.

    Otherwise though, that film was very well done indeed.

  • John W

    I don't understand why they were able to do a decent WW show in the 70s and can't do one now. It can't be solely because they can't find the next Linda Carter.

  • BlackRabbit

    1) Casting 2) Costume 3) Recognizable super-baddie. 4) Fan approval

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Ok, this actually is really good. Whereas the fan trailer was decent, but did not blow me away.

    The actress is kickass in everything but vocal delivery. Get her some speech classes so she doesn't sound quite so modern teenager, and I'm sold.

    Great action. Cool boots, nicely evoked. Bad continuity on the lipstick (if you're gonna go that bold, you gotta reapply between takes). Very cute with the tiara in the purse and the final shots of the sky.

    Oh. She was a little late to step in to protect her date though. He could have gotten enough internal bleeding to kill him.

  • foolsage

    Yeah; why did she just let her date get knocked down and kicked repeatedly? She moves FASTER THAN BULLETS, people.

  • Salieri2

    Maybe the date wasn't going THAT well.

  • foolsage

    Hehehehe. So that was a bit of passive-aggressive acting out? That's cold. ;)

  • Bucky

    HOW IS THAT NOT CARLY POPE? That's pretty much all I got.

  • Mrcreosote

    Sooooo, no one is going to point out that The Crazy 88 was just a name, and there were not in fact 88 of them? Come on, someone has to be as pointlessly anal about that as me.
    I liked the relative simplicity of the fight scenes-simple moves well done. I'd be scared too if John Waters wanted my damn phone.

  • Pretty much everything I know about Wonder Woman I learned from this discussion (and the killer Wonder Woman shirt I bought in Provincetown in the 90's and wore religiously until the thing fell apart).

    That said - considering the current Nolanverse I think the way to introduce Wonder Woman is to basically re-make The Bourne Identity with Diana as Jason Bourne. The movie opens with her waking up in the middle of nowhere with no idea who she is or how she got there. As the film progresses she realizes that she's got some very extraordinary powers leading to a third act reveal of exactly who she is and why she is here all leading up to a showdown with the people/beings responsible for her banishment and her decision to stay and move forward as a hero in this world. So call her Jason Thorne, I guess. If you are into shitty puns.

    The point is, the fact that we're dealing with a character that has been retconned to death should be seen as a strength here instead of a weakness because she can essentially be invented for this reality. Just because the nerds won doesn't mean that Hollywood should have to contort itself into a pretzel to stick to canon that has been outdated for 50 years. The Mandarin reveal in Iron Man 3 was a perfect workaround for this sort of thing and for every step Man of Steel took in dealing with this same problem the right way, they took another one back.

    Wonder Woman could be the small, intimate, ass-kicking origin story that DC really needs to both separate itself from Marvel and ground their Justice League after Man of Steel set the stakes way too high for an ensemble piece. I doubt we'll ever get it, but it's nice to dream.

    All that said, I'm still of the belief that WB should completely shitcan any Justice League plans in favor of simplifying things with a World's Finest movie, because that is where their billion dollar franchise lies, not with Aquaman and Martian Manhunter.

  • foolsage

    That's not a bad idea. I still think it's fairly likely though that any film treatment of Wonder Woman will focus on the Greek mythology approach, and make her one of the "big guns" of the DC universe by having her literally fight against gods and/or monsters out of myth.

    There's no reason both approaches couldn't be used though; start her out as an amnesiac, have all sorts of odd signs and portents surround her as she starts to learn about the extent of her incredible powers... then ramp it up to 11 for the third act. It's imperative that at some point she fight with a sword or spear, because that's one of her only fairly unique qualities that's remained consistent for decades now; most superheroes brawl with their fists but Wonder Woman prefers to use weaponry whenever possible.

    Edit to add: the Nolanverse is unrelated to the DC movie-verse. "Man of Steel" did not take place in the same reality as the Nolan Bat-films. There will be a new and different Batman for this movie-verse.

  • Ryan Ambrose

    My only knowledge of WW comes from the beautifuly illustrated graphic novels by Alex Ross, so I may be wrong on this one but isn't Wonder Woman supposed to have Hulk-like levels of strength?

    Kinda seemed as if those common thugs were a bit of a challenge to put down when I originally believed her to be a character able to punch tanks into buildings.

    I don't mean to infer the director should have chosen another route, it is a swell short-film, I am just curious about how powerful she is supposed to be when compared to guys like Superman or Captain Marvel.

  • It is like what foolsage said in his comment: Wonder Woman's powers (and really, a lot of superheroes) vary a lot between portrayals. She was fairly above average (on par with Batman) for a long while, before she was upped to around-Superman level (I suspect because as the premiere male and female superheroes in comics, people insist they have to be able to hook up, and Larry Niven ruined Super-sex for everybody) if not quite to prevent her from making him redundant.

    It really just depends on which Wonder Woman you are experiencing.

  • Andrew J Moore

    Uh. At launch Wonder Woman was explicitly launched with a "if Superman can do it, she can do it" mentality. Her powers didn't expand as stupidly as his, but except for on the TV show and around it (when things were adjusted to match up), and the daft depowered time, she's always been well out of Batman's league.

  • Thanks for the correction. I know there was a fairly slow ebb and flow to her powers, and I wasn't sure if she started off that strong or not.

  • Andrew J Moore

    Heh. Considering that, at the time, Superman was a shadow of what he is now (Faster than a speeding bullet, stronger than a locomotive, able to leap - not fly over - a building in a single bound), that's sorta understandable.

  • foolsage

    Wonder Woman is so strong (in every sense) that she has super-breath, just like Superman. Actually, sorry, she only had that for a little while. ;)

  • Guest

    No. Hulk is a pansy little 100 weakling compared to Wonder Woman. Not even remotely in the same class. She's as strong as any of the biggest, nastiests in the DC Universe. Yes, Superman gets a free "teeny bit stronger than anyone else" card. But otherwise, she's at pull planets around in orbit levels.

    I don't if that's the best choice for the character, but there you go.

  • foolsage

    Erm, I can't agree I fear. While Wonder Woman's power levels have indeed fluctuated a great deal, she's never been more powerful than Superman. Superman and the Hulk are fairly well matched in raw strength, initially anyhow. The angrier Hulk gets, the stronger he gets, until he reaches the point where he is literally the strongest thing that exists in the Marvel Universe.

    All that is pointless of course since Superman can fly, has superspeed, and can fry Hulk to a crisp with heat vision from a geosynchronous orbit. That all comes down to the writers though, who will find endless excuses for Superman to be considerably less intelligent than his super-brains should warrant.

  • Andrew J Moore

    Sigh. I'm going to get depressingly comic geek here. The Hulk's big "strength" showing, is holding up part of a mountain. He's definitely the strongest in the Marvel universe. He's their capstone. But much as their speedster only goes 300 miles per hour or so (versus DC where the average Paragon goes near light speed) Marvel works at lower levels.

    Until recently the Hulk was seen as "capable of lifting 100 tons". Superman, Martain Manhunter and Wonder Woman collectively pulled the planet. THE PLANET. That's little more than a 100 tons. And fucking silly.

    I'm sorry for this break into nerding. But I'm essentially saying that comparisons of physical feats across universes is silly as they operate on completely different scales.

  • foolsage

    Hulk can move planets too once he's angry enough; he just needs somewhere to stand. That baseline of 100 tons is when Hulk is completely calm; he gets exponentially stronger as he gets angrier. Hulk does not technically have a top end to his strength, according to the old Marvel Super Heroes RPG, for that matter, which was canon for the Marvel Universe. Yeah, I went there. :D

    Also, Hulk didn't lift up "part of a mountain". He lifted an entire freaking mountain range during Secret Wars. For that matter, I fear you are drastically and dramatically underestimating the actual weight of a mountain; even a small mountain weighs hundreds of millions of tons. Look at it this way: granite has a density of 2691kg/m3. 1000kg = 1 metric ton, which is close to an imperial (American) ton, close enough for this anyhow. So roughly 38 cubic meters of granite would be 100 metric tons. 38 cubic meters can be broken down to 3 meters by 4 meters by 3 and 1/6 meters. That is a LOT smaller than a mountain, yes? Mountains are typically over 2,000' tall, or 610m.

    But never mind the math; Marvel TOLD us how much weight Hulk was lifting there. It's on the cover of that issue, man. Hulk was holding up 150 BILLION TONS.


    Comparisons between fictional universes are always problematic, granted. But then comparisons even within a given universe can be just as problematic, since power levels (as well as competence in general) will fluctuate wildly based on the writer's choices. Who'd win in a fight: Superman or Hulk? How about Superman or Batman? You're likely to get just as much argument for both questions.

    Batman would win though.

  • Andrew J Moore

    Damnit. Don't enga- too late.

    Uh. How much of the planet Earth's mass do you think that mountain range takes up?

    0.05%? 0.005%? Less.

    A quarter? A third? Because that's what we have Diana tugging. (Of course, it much easier to pull that lift, but still - the scale is dramatic).

    That said, the Hulk does get stronger, theoretically forever. Though, yeah, I don't he's even been seen that angry. Also, superhero pissing matches. Stupid. But I can't resist. Damn brain.

    Yup. Batman. The most superpowered entity in comics. Though he'd lose to Wonder Woman. :D

  • foolsage

    Sure, I hear ya. Planets are larger than mountains. My point remains though: Hulk's able to lift as much as he needs to, basically. His strength is a plot device with no limits.

    Depending on the version of the characters (e.g. the JLU cartoons), Bats might choose to let Diana win for various reasons. If it's just a straight-out brawl, then yeah, most writers would let her take him down. If he had time to plan, there's no contest.

    What's long amused me about Batman as a team member is how writers struggle to show his intelligence. Typically this is accomplished by making everyone else around him catastrophically stupid (what I like to call the "Batman Effect"). Arguably, this is the most potent ability in the DC universe, as it allows Bats to defeat more or less everyone.

  • the_wakeful

    That's quite the ass-shot in the youtube still.

  • Here the thing about a feature length movie, as opposed to the animated DVD film and the short films online: exposure.

    Sure, those adaptations may have been good, but they weren't under the scrutiny and pressure a major studio release would have to endure. Hell, look at Kelley's TV attempt. With the other adaptations, they have no studio pressure for broad appeal, not to mention being forced to take on the latest memetic feature from another popular film (aka Nolanizing).

    Another problem with the exposure is the problem with a lot of features with non-white, non-male leads: there is this overriding desire for the lead to be a representation of an entire community rather than a character in and of itself. There has to be some acknowledgement of WW as a feminist icon, and rather than have her develop as such through being a well-developed character, they will have to hamfistedly shove in shallow attempts at "strong womanhood" in order to hit as many demographics as they possibly can.

    It's nice to think that Hollywood can pull it off, but I am getting really cynical that it can, at least not in it's current "profits above everything else" form. WW is too big a potential film property for them to take too many chances on it. And if they aren't ready to take those chances, then they shouldn't bother.

    Let the online shorts and DVD movies continue if necessary, because I'd rather have that than another Green Lantern.

  • foolsage

    "Man of Steel" was overall a fun movie and a solid addition to the genre. I won't say it was one of my favorite comic book movies but I genuinely enjoyed it, and it was a hell of a lot better than "Superman Returns to Stalk His Baby Mama While Luthor Tries Exactly the Same Shit He Tried Before". It gave me hope that DC might be pulling together a cohesive vision for how to present their universe.

    That doesn't touch on the unique problems inherent in Wonder Woman as a film property, but hey, I think they're closer to being able to pull that off now than before. That's something anyhow.

  • Slash


  • CM Towns

    WW's "rich comic book history" is more like "we needed someone to write WW and because the last run wasn't a hit we need a completely new direction."

    Writer after writer, regime after regime, they keep changing WW identity, history, origin, supporting cast, the city she lives in. They stick to the same set of villains and when they want new ones they just go back to digging up mythological beasts and Gods. WW today is not the same as 5 year ago, 5 years ago isn't the same as 5 years before that and so on. The constant changes and tweaks (and characterizations) splintered the fanabse so even the well reviewed comics or the animated movie or Injustice game will still have hardcore WW fans who dislike that version or portrayal of the character.

    I'd love a good WW project, TV or film, but I seriously doubt Warner Bros. (DC's owners) will ever make it happen.

  • TK

    In all fairness, these same complaints could be made of dozens of comic book characters. Retconning and rebooting is one of the biggest gripes I have with Marvel and DC.

  • foolsage

    True, but then the characters that change the most tend not to be the central and most important ones. Superman's powers changed from Golden Age to Silver Age to Modern Age, but he's still essentially the same person. Batman used guns and killed villains when he first showed up, but for roughly 70 years he's been pretty much the same person. Wonder Woman though? Everything about her has changed multiple times, from her basic essential personality to her origin to her powers to her whole reason for being a hero.

    * She's an ambassador for peace. No, wait; she's a bloodthirsty warrior and the only major Justice League member who (still) regularly kills people. Maybe she's both? No, let's stick with the ambassador angle. But ok, yes, she still kills people. On second thought, forget the ambassador thing.

    * She literally loses her powers if a man ties her up. She's an antifeminist joke. No, skip that; her lasso is magical and men have to do what SHE wants when she ties THEM up. She's a feminist icon.

    * She's a stranger in man's world. No, that doesn't work; she's a CEO with a triple identity. Actually, let's go back to the stranger in man's world thing.

    * She's an army nurse named Diana Prince. No, forget it... she has no secret identity and never has had one.

    * Diana is the daughter of Queen Hippolyta. No, she was created by the gods themselves out of clay. No, no, skip that, she's the daughter of Queen Hippolyta and Zeus.

    * She can run quickly and jump far but can't fly. No, she can float on air currents. No, she can fly. Admittedly, power fluctuation isn't uncommon among superheroes but this is pretty core stuff and it's fluctuated back and forth.

    * Diana has bracelets that allow her to block bullets. No, she's actually bulletproof. Maybe she can block bullets but she doesn't need to? Sure, let's go with that. Ohhh, and maybe the bracelets can also be swords when she needs them to? Yeah, why not.

    * Removing the bracelets will drive her insane! Huh, that didn't work, let's pretend it never happened. OK, the bracelets suppress her divine powers. Right. Like we always planned.

    * Diana is telepathic and can speak every language ever spoken, including extraterrestrial ones. On second thought, no, let's forget all of that. She speaks Greek though. No, the gods gave her powers to speak many languages. No, they didn't. Sure, they did.

    * Invisible jet? Sure! No. Yes. No. It's back! It's gone. It's visible. It's invisible again.

    Wonder Woman has had a really hard time finding her place in comics, truth be told. It could be worse though; just look at poor Wonder Girl, who is quite possibly the most retconned character in comics history. That's not a coincidence, either.

  • Green Lantern

    You bring up a lot of good points about Diana's contradictory nature. Kinda makes me appreciate how (mostly) consistent Supes and Bats have been!

  • foolsage

    Your comrades have been pretty consistent too, with the notable exception of Alan Scott, I mean Green Lantern, I mean Sentinel, no wait actually I think I meant Green Lantern. You know, the old guy, who's young again, but that was just due to magic, which ended and left him old again, except that now he's always been young and is in a different dimension. Oh, and he's heterosexually married with two superpowered kids, but he's also gay with no children. You know. Alan. Tall guy, blonde hair. He's still blonde, right? Yeah, that's the one.

    I mean, ok, Hal went through some serious changes, but there was a clear character arc throughout.

  • ourobouros

    I agree with everything you said - although John Byrne did offer a plausible account why Wonder Girl was the most screwed up of all retconned characters ever 10 years ago or so.

  • foolsage

    Oh, it's all comprehensible, but the fact remains that "Wonder" continuity is and has long been a hot mess.

    Poor Donna Troy. Daaaaamn.

  • ourobouros

    It is not due to some sinister cabal hellbent on shredding the WW property, or some malicious god of comics hellbent on torturing the WW fanbase -- it's mostly due to marketing (read: demographics) and the zeitgeist (read: political direction)

  • foolsage

    Clearly the people publishing Wonder Woman comics want the character to be popular. There's no longterm incentive for them to make an unpopular character. The problems are thus due to factors other than malice. I don't think anyone suggested that a sinister cabal was involved here.

  • ourobouros

    Right, but I am saying that there is nobody to blame. After all the publishers all want their comics to sell or properties to be popular, and yet only Wonder Woman got this shitty treatment as opposed to the other established heroes.

  • foolsage

    I agree. It's worth noting though that a lot of other female superheroes have been treated pretty poorly by publishers, with multiple retcons and a LOT of objectification (e.g. Starfire, Power Girl). I think the comics industry has really struggled to figure out how to convey female superheroes, in general. Wonder Woman's just the biggest name in female superheroes, so she gets more attention.

    I do also agree that Wonder Woman's case is a bit unique, in that she's the first successful superhero intended to be a feminist role model, while at the same time having elements of disempowerment via BDSM (e.g. she originally lost her powers when tied up by men) and via her relationships with men in general (e.g. Wonder Woman was literally the secretary of the Justice Society). The contradictory elements have been there all along, to some extent.

    Wonder Woman can be a great character, but she's a terribly complicated one with a lot of baggage that would be best simplified and largely jettisoned.

  • You forgot:

    *Diana is romantically linked with Steve Trevor, the first man she encountered. No, she is a lesbian and was just using him as an excuse to get off the island. No, she is practically asexual, putting her mission before any personal attachments, so no love interest. No, she flirts with Batman. No, wait, she is a man-hating caricature who's secretly in love with Superman. No, she is back into Superman, because she is somehow the only woman who can handle his super seed for some reason.

    Trust me, I've been on those boards. It will sadly be that big of an issue.

  • Salieri2

    "Super seed." Bwah!

  • foolsage

    You're right. Diana's sexuality has changed dramatically and repeatedly.

    I eventually just stopped listing stuff because ALL the discontinuities would have probably taken me the rest of the morning to list. Her sexuality is a big one though and should be on the list.

    * coughs * We kinda know for a fact that Big Barda can handle the super-seed. Just quibblin'.

  • Oh God, the Sleez story. That was just...wrong.

  • foolsage

    Seriously; that was a Thing That Should Never Be.

  • ourobouros

    Action Comics? Superman and Big Barda? Brainwashed into a porno? Well, that certainly pushed the envelope. :)

  • foolsage

    It pushed something, to be sure.

  • JenVegas

    Economy of storytelling is sexy.

  • IngridToday

    If we have a Wonder Woman movie, can we ditch her idiotic, dated costume? I know that for most superheroes their costume is an iconic part of them. I hate her strapless one piece bathing suit. You can't realistically fight or fly in that thing out a boob popping out.

    Can't we have a female superhero without an skimpy revealing outfit?

  • DarthBetty

    I think a Greek inspired soldiers costume would fit her well. Plus, the designers could still put her in an armored skirt.

  • Conor

    I'm with you on ditching the bathing suit look. It's ridiculously impractical and would probably cause a lot of parents to not bring their kids to see the film if an attractive actress was going to be running around in what amounts to a corset and spangly pants for the duration.

    I always felt the coolest look for WW was more along the lines of her Greek hero origins. A properly armoured top, with a hoplite-style skirt (that male soldiers wore) would work well practically, look awesome and could be hot without over-sexualising it.

  • TK

    The character redesign for Injustice isn't bad.

  • Salieri2

    I am pro-pants.

  • Green Lantern

    No pants!

  • foolsage

    I like the look of that costume, but it has a serious design flaw.

    What's holding that bustier-like armor-thing up? It looks like it's made of metal and is resting over her red undergarment. There are no straps, and Diana has no tummy to hold it up. One big leap and that thing would be around her navel.

    Bustiers can work. Armor can work. Mixing the two is unlikely to work well.

  • Conor

    That's pretty cool. Never been a fan of the pants though and it looks less like combat gear.

  • NateMan

    Cue the 'But the male superheroes are objectified too!' crowd.

    Ha... I wrote that as 'superhoes' the first time. I think that works too.

  • foolsage

    There's a perfect response to that complaint:

  • pajiba

    I don't know nothing about Wonder Woman, but goddamn, that was fucking COOL.

  • Fredo

    May I make a suggestion? Whoever ends up as the producer for the WW project ought to hire George RR Martin to pen the script. I know that it would take him away from his ASoIaF duties, but given his abilities to write complex, capable female characters, he'd likely give us the Diana that'd work with audiences.

  • Frank

    And it would only take him 10 years to do it....

  • Andrew J Moore

    I love the idea of Diana using OKCupid. And watching Kill Bill.

    And this feels like a moment that could be out of a CW budget TV show.

  • qivucuzusywa

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    That was VERY "not bad". My biggest problem is with Hailey Bright
    though...I was okay with her "tee-hee-hee"ing a bit talking about the
    date, but that girl is too short to be Diana. Princess Diana is a TALL
    drink of water, even without her Hero Heel Boots.

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