One of the major problems facing DC in adapting their characters to the screen is just how many times they have completely overhauled some of them. Case in point: there is some controversy this week after producer Charles Roven explained which version of the origin story of Wonder Woman will be featured when the character makes her debut in next year's “Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice.”
Basically, they're making her Thor. This is the version of the character who is part of what's called the DC New 52 Universe. She is a demigod, and her father is Zeus. That's pretty much it.
What makes the decision frustrating to many fans is that Wonder Woman isn't just a superpowered girl as originally imagined. She was a being shaped from the righteous fury of murdered women. There's something great and primal about the idea that the Amazons were all created from the souls of every woman who had been murdered by a man. Right away, that's not Superman. That's not Batman. That's not a simple gender inversion of an existing character. Her creation is about a larger, real, ongoing idea. Diana was a lump of clay, shaped by Hippolyta, who was the first woman murdered by a man, who died with an unborn child still inside her. That child's soul was transferred to that clay, given life, and raised to become Wonder Woman.
Is that a big bite of mythology to carve off for a movie? Yep. But I've read enough different drafts of earlier DC attempts to know that they've tried a number of interpretations, and they always dance around this issue. There are some drafts that lean real heavy on the way George Perez wrote her. There are drafts that play like they really liked the TV show. There are drafts that try to reinvent things completely to varying effect.
In general, it seems like they are adamant that they not use the original version. I'm curious to see how they treat her powers. Is she Superman's equal? Is she a more vulnerable version as she is in many of the New 52 stories? If they've de-powered her, that's part of why they chose this version, and it's a choice that means more than whether or not Gal Gadot's wrist is a certain thickness or her costume is cut a certain way.
Those choices all stack up, though, and there is a good deal of well-earned anxiety about how Wonder Woman's going to play in this new film incarnation. It's interesting to see just how much love was showered on the upcoming comic series “Wonder Woman '77,” which will tell stories set in the Lynda Carter-verse, with glorious art celebrating one of the most beautiful women in '70s TV. There's a big nostalgia button that can be pushed using Wonder Woman, but for a version that didn't really try to dig deeper than a surface level romp. If they're going to turn her into a complex, credible character worth giving a series of films to, it's going to take some smart writing. It's going to take writers who are excited about the opportunities that her character embodies, not constantly working to downplay all the things that define her.
I'm not a fan of much of what DC publishes these days. I try reading trades or certain arcs, and I'm just not onboard with a lot of the interpretations of what I think are some fairly big and bold archetypes. I'm not sure just how closely Warner Bros. plans to hew to all of this as they start making these movies. But I'd imagine they are feeling so much pressure right now, and there is so much scrutiny on them, so I'm not making some grand declaration about whether they're doing something right or wrong.
There is a Wonder Woman problem at the studio historically, though, so it's worth asking some questions as we wait for Zack Snyder and his cast and crew to wrap up what may well be the highest-priority film the studio is making right now.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is in theaters March 25, 2016.