This article has been delayed a few times for different reasons; but, with all the information we’re learning about David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman television series, it certainly seems like the time to post this. I once said that, if the new WW series isn’t successful, it would further delay the production of a WW movie. However, the more we learn about the new TV show, the more convinced I am of two things: one, that the TV series is intentionally distancing itself as far as it can from the graphic novels; and two, the prospects for a successful faithful Wonder Woman feature film are much brighter because of it (assuming the TV show fails; which would be bittersweet, because no one wants Wonder Woman to fail, ever).
The problem with creating a faithful Wonder Woman movie are the multiple revisions her history, and the history of her people, the Amazons, have undergone throughout the decades. To create a modern Wonder Woman (not the modern one Kelley has envisioned, but one who has endured as a character in spite of the changes and challenges of the modern world), a writer needs to be willing to forge a new path that, perhaps paradoxically, adheres to the original mythology and elements. An example of this process would be Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan demonstrated that you can make something new without discarding the old.
He also showed that it’s no sin to adapt storylines from actual graphic novels, something that comic book movies seem reluctant to do. In the case of Wonder Woman, I would adapt the Gods and Mortals storyline. It was originally published in the 1980’s in the wake of the Crisis on Infinite Earths event, when all the major DC characters were being “rebooted”. Wonder Woman was shown leaving Themyscira, aka Paradise Island, the home of the Amazons, to be an ambassador to the outside world. She meets Steve Trevor, Etta Candy, and all of her human friends. It delves into Greek mythology and the history of the Amazons themselves. In the hands of artist George Perez, it is considered one of the best chapters in Princess Diana’s history.
It also introduces the Greek God Ares as a villain in the Wonderverse. The God of War left Olympus to live in Areopagus, a realm he created for himself. He has three children, Phobos, Deimos, and Eris, and has attacked the Amazons before. Ares is perfect as a villain, a link to the Greek mythology that is at the heart of the Wonder Woman mythos, and for underscoring/highlighting Diana’s twin roles as a warrior and an ambassador for peace. In Gods and Mortals, she had to prevent him from starting a nuclear holocaust, a storyline that could easily be adapted for the modern world. Theirs would be the perfect topical hero/villain dynamic, just as Batman and the Joker in The Dark Knight were perfect for exploring the effects of terrorism and the lengths to which some would go to fight it.
To play Wonder Woman, an actress must be intelligent, beautiful, talented, and capable of kicking all kinds of butt. To me, that suggests exactly one woman: Emily Deschanel of the TV series Bones. Her character on the show is a forensic scientist, one who is used to being highly logical; and highly literal. It’s a character that I could easily see translated into a woman who is sent to live in and defend a world about which she knows very little. Paradise Island has been isolated from Earth for thousands of years, and Diana’s desire and determination to see this world for herself are traits that, again, are reflected in Ms. Deschanel’s character. Plus, just look at them:
It’s like the artist who drew her had a picture of Emily Deschanel clipped to his drawing board. We know she can do action, as her character on Bones is often seen in physical situations, such as climbing, scaling, and yes, even fighting. She stands at just under six feet, which also gives her an advantage over most other actresses who would be considered for the role.
There are, of course, other roles that need to be filled, especially the two people who matter the most to Princess Diana: Steve Trevor and her mother, Queen Hippolyta. My choices for these important characters are Diane Kruger and Bradley Cooper. Both are popular actors, and both can handle a wide range of roles. For the role of Etta, her closest human friend, and for her fellow Amazons, I would be comfortable casting new, “unknown” actors, as long as they realized they were there for more than just window dressing. Every character in the Wonder Woman movie would be an important one. As for Ares, I’m not exactly sure who I would pick. Obviously, a character of his stature deserves someone who can be menacing both physically and mentally. Someone handsome (this is a Greek god, after all), with either a warrior’s build or the potential to attain it.
Let me be perfectly clear: this would be a war movie. No crimefighting, no secret identities, and none of the other superhero “conventions”. Diana is a warrior princess, from a warrior culture; however, her mandate is to preserve peace. Again, that may be a bit of a paradox, but it can certainly make for a compelling story. As an Amazon isolated from the rest of the world, she could immediately cut through/disregard/rise above political correctness and anything else that would cause a “modern man” to hesitate when it comes time to make necessary decisions. That doesn’t mean, of course, that she can’t respect other people’s viewpoints, cultures, or even their lives. It does mean that she can be what she’s always been: an icon; an example to the world.