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Why a Wonder Woman movie should probably never exist.

September 2, 2010

I’m sure the title of this post alone is a head-scratcher for those of you who know me and know that I am a huge fan of the Amazing Amazon. But truth be told, I’ve pretty much felt this way since murmurs of a Wonder Woman film started floating around more than a decade ago. At first, when word got out that movie studios were considering the idea, I got really excited! I thought it would be thrilling to see my iconic heroine on the silver screen. I’ve been a huge fan of the TV show since I was a wee lad, so this would be the chance to see Princess Diana taken to the next level, right? With big budget special effects and an a-list squad of Hollywood folks bringing it all together! And they would really know how to do it up, right? Because Hollywood has made some really spectacular films based on comics books! And they totally know how to do right by iconic heroines, don’t they?

Oh.

Crap.

Exactly. See, Hollywood definitely has done some really great comic book adaptations. Hell, I never gave two flying fucks about Iron Man but I totally dug the movie and had a blast watching it. But they really tend to misstep big time when it comes to how they handle their comic book heroines. My first memory of such misdeeds was the tragicomedy that was  Supergirl. It was 1984, I was a big fan of the Maid of Might’s solo comic (Yes, they called her “The Maid of Might”. Also, the Girl of Steel) and I was super-psyched for the silver screen version of the high flying teenage cousin of Superman. But instead I got a giant ball of Cheese-Whiz that would give even the most lactose-tolerant among us a case of the trots. Helen Slater did her best but she really just couldn’t carry off the role without seeming like she was overacting every time she went into hero mode.  The script was balls, they made her seem like a total weak-ass compared to Superman and tried to distract us all with the campy antics of an admittedly yet unintentionally hilarious Faye Dunaway. And the only thing I truly remember being of any worth was this brief moment with the eternally raspy-voiced Brenda Vacarro:

Ms. Vacaro is always who I reference whenever someone is losing his or her voice. But otherwise? Total pile of crap. And it was a major flop at the box office. Supposedly the American version of the film had 20 minutes cut from it that would have made it the success it was overseas. But I am doubtful. And Hollywood was too. They really laid off of female heroes for quite some time. Until the X-Men franchise came along. Now don’t get me wrong, the first two X-movies were pretty great, especially the second one which is still my all-time favorite comic book-based movie. And Bryan Singer and co. really got Jean Grey right, especially in the second one. (What Brett Rattner and his merry band of dickwads did to her in the third movie is unforgivable and something I still would like to kick him in the junk for. Repeatedly.) But what all three of the movies did was to totally shit the bed on two of the most badass heroines in the Marvel universe: Storm and Rogue.

Storm is a weather-manipulating mutant who was worshiped as a goddess in Africa until she was recruited by Charles Xavier to join his merry band of mutant heroes. She was regal and strong and powerful and surprisingly tough. She was leader of the X-Men at various points in time including a brief period when, in spite of being de-powered, she fought and won the title from Cyclops. And at one point, in struggling with shedding her Earth-mother/goddess identity, she shaved her hair into a fabulous white mohawk and started fighting crime in some totally punk rock leather outfits. Rogue was a sassy Southern belle whose brash outward demeanor hid the fact that her powers forbade her from touching the skin of another. Early on in her super-powered career she sided with the bad guys and fought Ms. Marvel, a member of the Avengers, and accidentally but permanently absorbed her powers of flight, super-strength and near invulnerability. She tossed tanks around like baseballs and would often plant a big wet one on her opponents as a way to absorb their powers and knock them out of the fight. But instead of either of these two totally fantastic powerhouses we got the bland, boring and generally beige Halle Berry and the barely-acting-her-way-out-of-a-paper-bag Anna Paquin. Storm was weak, seemed to feel the need to tilt her head to the side quizzically when she used her powers and she had horribly hackneyed lines like “Do you know what happens to a toad when it’s struck by lightning? Same thing that happens to everything else.” And Rogue, while they couldn’t maybe include her whole back story, did not have any of her fabulous extra powers or attitude and instead moped, whined and generally emo-ed her way through the franchise doing little else but filling the screen with bad acting. That’s two stupendous Marvel heroines wasted!

Add to these the avoided-by-me car crashes that were Catwoman and Elektra and you can see why my trust in Hollywood to treat my most beloved superhero icon is less than strong. And despite what I may have indicated with this post so far, I don’t need my comic book movies to be 100% faithful replications of the source materials. But it’s so frustrating when filmmakers ignore the many things that make a character great in exchange for their half-baked interpretations. Especially when it comes to casting. I mean, how is that Storm couldn’t have been portrayed by the far more suitable Angela Basset? (According to an IMDb message board you may not be able to see without a login Basset was on deck for the role and then backed out when she saw how diminished Storm’s role was in the first film. But I see this as total failure on the part of the filmmakers, especially when it was alleged that Berry had to be coerced into being a part of the third X-film.) I don’t trust Hollywood to cast the right actress for the role of Wonder Woman. And honestly, not to sound like the biggest fanboy in the entire universe, but I think it’s because the perfect Wonder Woman was cast over thirty years ago and she was so indelible in the role that it’s kind of cursed for all time as unplayable by any other actress. It’s funny, I don’t actually think Lynda Carter has remarkable acting chops. But she managed to take a role that could have been campy, exploitative and over-the-top and humanized it and helped create a beloved character. And Hera help me, she could walk around in that outlandish costume as comfortably as the rest of us walk around in jeans and t-shirts. That is a feat in and of itself. And part of why she worked so well was because she was totally unknown. We got to accept her completely in the role because we had no other reference point for her. There have been rumors of various actresses considered for the role – from Katie Holmes to Carmen Electra, Megan Fox to Lucy Lawless and dozens in between – but it’s somehow impossible to imagine them embodying this character as effortlessly as Carter did.

So maybe a movie will come out. Maybe it won’t. And maybe I’d go see it, I don’t really know. I already had my heart broken by not getting to see Jean Grey surrounded by a massive bird of fire, I don’t know if I could actually handle having the mythos of my most beloved heroine shat on by a bunch of clueless Hollywood dipwads. But at the same time, the fantasy of seeing her larger than life in the darkness of a movie theater is still a thrilling prospect. And maybe, just maybe, it will be half as majestic as this well-edited, surprisingly poignant, fan-made trailer for such a film.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 2, 2010 9:14 am

    You know who could do this – bear with me – Hope Davis. I am kind of feeling her as Wonder Woman. If the ideal is finding someone to inhabit the role (I know she’s too old or whatever) then she’s exceptional at that and the rest is costuming. It still takes me a minute to realize she’s playing Joyce in American Splendor!

    • September 2, 2010 9:40 am

      I actually think my problem with her is she’s too white. Not the blonde part, that can be handled. But Lynda Carter is half-Mexican and I think that is part of why she was so visually right for the role. Wonder Woman’s back story has been tweaked here and there but she’s generally portrayed as being of Greek or less-specific Mediterranean origins. So I feel like someone needs to have a little more non-white ethnicity to their appearance. When Joss Whedon was briefly attached as writer/director he was considering Indian actress Priyanka Chopra for the role. I think she would have been perfect visually! But I do agree that Hope Davis has the acting chops to pull it off for sure.

      • Darrell permalink
        September 2, 2010 2:39 pm

        In that case, what about Morena Baccarin? She actually looks kind of like Lynda Carter.

      • September 2, 2010 6:43 pm

        @Darrell: I could see her in the role visually for sure. I haven’t seen her in anything but she has the look for sure. Although I just went to her IMDb page and someone needs to tell her the white-blonde color does not work on her otherwise rockin’ pixie cut.

  2. September 4, 2010 8:30 am

    The main visual difference between the older and newer interpretations of Wonder Woman is that Wonder Woman needs to look like an athlete, not just a babe. She needs to look strong, not just be strong. Though superpowered, she is trained and has earned her fighting skills – she needs to appear that way.

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