Why DC, And Hollywood, Is Struggling With Wonder Woman

You’d think it would be a chip shot; Wonder Woman is one of DCs biggest properties, after all. And yet, Wonder Woman’s first appearance on the big screen courtesy of Hollywood will be… as a Lego minifig. And she might show up for ten seconds in Batman/Superman. So, why can’t Hollywood, and DC for that matter, get the Amazon on the screen?

Hollywood Stinks

First, let’s be honest here: Hollywood’s been terrible at this for forever, and probably in some ways always will be. And right now, we’re in the middle of a film industry meltdown; attendance is dropping like a stone, fads are dying off, and movies that should be huge hits are instead dropping like flies. The Lone Ranger cost $215 million and made $244 million at the box office, for example, and it was far from the only disaster this summer. And all of this, mind you, is building to the summer of 2015, which promising to be a gut-wrenching trainwreck that will probably destroy several franchises for good. So a lot of film types are panicking, and as a result, they default to what they “know” makes money: Action movies starring dudes, because it’s still the 1980s and Angelina Jolie doesn’t exist.

Hollywood is a numbers game, and they’ll tell you repeatedly that the numbers just don’t support anything other than gigantic movies starring dudes. Of course, eventually somebody will take a risk, and all that will change; expect an absolute flood of cheap horror movies this time next year, for example. But until then, anybody who wants to make a Wonder Woman movie is fighting very dumb people with lots of money who think they’re really smart; that’s a hard fight to win.

Previous Attempts Have Been Terrible

To their credit, DC and Warner Brothers have been trying for years to get a Wonder Woman movie or TV series off the ground. The last go-round, they got David E. Kelley to write a pilot, they filmed it…and then they buried it like it was radioactive waste. And for, we might add, excellent reason, as by all accounts radioactive waste was more fun to watch.

The good news is, they know they mishandled the property. The bad news is, that has seemingly scared them into timidity even more.

Wonder Woman Has A Difficult History At DC

You ask somebody for the best Batman stories, they’ll pull out The Dark Knight Returns, or Batman: Year One. You ask for the best Superman stories, they’ll pull out, say, Superman: Red Son or For All Seasons. Ask for the best Wonder Woman stories and you’ll generally get mumble mumble something something George Perez, or a few issues out of Greg Rucka’s run where he was fighting editorial like Leonidas at the pass. Even a list on sites like Newsarama can’t come up with ten books where Wonder Woman is actually the solo star in a list of great stories about Wonder Woman.

Granted that Brian Azzarello has a killer run going with Wonder Woman right now, but the reality is, the character has a rough history at DC. She’s never had more than one book at a time, that book has sometimes had a spotty publication history, and let’s not even get into Amazons Attack!. This is a problem both because movies are generally built on the comics as a starting point, and if DC is uncertain how to treat one of their most popular characters, that uncertainty will echo up the line.

Casting Is Everything, And Insanely Difficult

There’s a pretty surefire way to know that a studio can’t figure out how to cast a role; every single actor remotely recognizable is being ‘considered’ for it. And so it is with Wonder Woman: Name an actress, no matter how laughably inappropriate, and she’s probably been rumored for the role.

True, they could cast an unknown, and they’re trending towards that with superhero movies, but, well, see above about Hollywood stinking. And to be fair, Wonder Woman is a tough, tough role: It’s both physically and emotionally demanding in a way that Hollywood is scared to ask of actresses in the first place, and is hard to find period. The number of actors who have perfectly captured a superhero (or supervillain) onscreen are few in number; Christopher Reeve, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack. That hates needles.

Will they make a Wonder Woman movie? Eventually. The demand is there. But it’s going to require both a shakeup in Hollywood, and for the character to get a lot more respect from the people who publish her adventures.