Thursday, June 24, 2010

Who should be the villain in a Wonder Woman movie?

Cross-posted from my personal blog.

I've mostly been ignoring Jennifer Love Hewitt's campaign to star in a Wonder Woman movie. Just like I've blown off the rumors and campaigns of people like Jessica Biel, Megan Fox, and Beyonce. It's just not worth having an opinion about until it looks like it might actually happen.

But Nicolas Winding Refn's interest in directing a Wonder Woman is different because he's talking about the kind of story he'd like to tell. I always find it interesting to hear people's takes on what makes Wonder Woman tick and what a good story about her should include.

Refn says that his take would be non-violent (in contrast to the recent, animated Wonder Woman film) and would start from "the whole idea of a woman who is basically more powerful than any man - and who will always be that, and comes from a society of women who are more powerful than men." He adds that that's "an interesting theme that I think can be very contemporary." Absolutely it can, and I'm interested in seeing him explore it.

I also agree with him that one of the biggest challenges in making a Wonder Woman movie is finding the right villain. He thinks a lot about Christopher Nolan's Batman movies and what made them successful:
You need a great, extravagant, marketable action film — and everything that comes with it. But I think that when Christopher Nolan did the Batman movies, I think he very cleverly went back to the source material and took themes that had maybe not been exercised. And he was able to make very good and successful films with them. So I think the audience is very much out there. It’s just how you do it. And I think that some of the films that have worked over the years have worked for different reasons than people sometimes think they do.

And where Wonder Woman on one hand is a great female character who can be included in many great fight scenes, she doesn’t have great villains against her. OK, so you create some. She doesn’t have a Joker or those classic Batman kinds of guys. have to create a great countervillain to her ... The trick with Wonder Woman is to find that antagonist who worked so well in the Batman concept — his villains are equally if not more exciting than Batman himself. Here, it’s basically coming up with who would be a great counterpart to Wonder Woman. Is it her mother who’s the real enemy? Something that’s biblical in a sense.
I'm nervous about the idea of creating a villain specifically for the movie. It could be awesome or completely lame. Maybe it's the way to go, but I'd feel more comfortable knowing that the bad guy was tethered to the comics in some way. The question is: what kind of bad guy does a Wonder Woman movie need and is there anyone in the comics who fits that role?

If I was writing the movie, I'd want to focus on Wonder Woman's status as a role-model for women. Since the defeat of the Nazis, her most potent mission in Man's World has been demonstrating the potential that women have to be powerful and confident. Not shoving her power down male throats, because frankly that's not going to teach anyone anything. Wonder Woman's greatest power is to inspire women to find the power in themselves.

So Wonder Woman's villain needs to be someone who threatens her ability to do that. I'm not sure who that is - and that's where I'd love to hear some thoughts from you guys - but it needs to happen in a way that's personal to Wonder Woman and grounded in the real world.

Or am I completely off base? Should Wonder Woman instead be trying to prevent Ares' starting WWIII? Should she defend Paradise Island against a contemporary Hercules? Should she try to prevent an Amazon invasion of Man's World? Should she just battle giant robot scorpions? Or is Circe or Cheetah or Dr. Poison the way to go? (Ooh, Cheetah... I just gave myself a chill thinking about how cool a movie version of Cheetah could be.) What do you think?


  1. I really like the idea Diana's mother could be her worst enemy, but Circe could be an interesting choice too. Or maybe a group of enemies, involving a god, like Poseidon.... Queen Hippolyta, Circe, Cheetah... and Adolf Hitler lol... a complicated script but maybe a solid story ! Something turning around the balance between good and evil, and the importance of the women like you said. With mythology elements of course, and if it's possible, Greg Rucka as one of the writers !

    Concerning the choice of an actress, my crazy french mind would suggest..... Lake Bell !

    Maybe a surprising choice at first, I'm sure no one would think of her, but Lake has something strong, confident, and even a little something masculine in her personality, which fits to an amazon, and at the same time, she has those beautiful eyes and this sunshining smile, and a kind of softness and humor in her look. And she's beautiful ! So she could be my Wonder Woman :) )

    Okay, I can't be totally objective when I talk about Lake Bell, I must confess since Surface, I have a big big crush on her..... :) )

  2. I am up for Circe, but I am not sure she is perfect.

    Cheetah on the other hand is sort of the best Wonder Woman villain we have. Obviously her background would need to be tweaked a bit.

    I think Cheetah is the way to go.

  3. Ares is the only choice, based on Refn's interests. People outside comics know who Ares is through the mythology, he embodies everything Wonder Woman struggles against (including patriarchy,) and there isn't a single interpretation that would suffocate Refn's ability to reshape the villain as needed. Circe is a good second movie choice, pitting two visions of female power against one another, but that muddies the message on an initial outing. Cheetah, Dr. Psycho and the rest would have to wait until the second sequel, or run the risk of laying a Schumacher.

    Also, this director really intrigues me, and the DTV cartoon was truly, offensively, lame.

  4. I'm torn. Ares would be the logical choice ("Circe? Dr. Psycho? The Cheetah? Who are they?"-- average mainstream viewer), but then you're left with trying to top him in the sequels. Circe would be a letdown after Ares, and that goes double for even a proper Barbara Minerva Cheetah.

    What I would do is have Ares as a presence but not a direct villain in the first film. He would back a champion just as Athena does, and he'd only attack himself in the last film. This allows Ares to be a villain without the producers to worry about following him up with something bigger.

    1. That could work as long as they don't pull a Mandarin

  5. "But I think that when Christopher Nolan did the Batman movies, I think he very cleverly went back to the source material and took themes that had maybe not been exercised."

    Really. Finding a character's core themes to tell a story. Going back to the source material. Wow. Who knew that could be a foundation of good storytelling?

    Honestly...why are these Hollywood directors so DENSE? They just don't get it. This is basic stuff, people. The fans get it. Why don't you? Then, when they give an interview like this, it makes you think they get it, when they really don't.

    This is why I have absolutely zero faith in any of the upcoming DC movies being anywhere near remotely good (Green Lantern, Flash, and now Wonder Woman.) Those buzzwords "great, extravagant, marketable action film" are the clue to the how what we can expect from this film. Batman Begins wasn't primarily an action film, nor was it (that) big and extravagant. It was a human drama first and an action film second. The "woman" needs to be a big part of the Wonder Woman film, but I doubt Hollywood thinks a personal drama is neither "marketable" nor "extravagant."

    Sorry to be so ranty. I'm feeling very anti-Hollywood today for whatever reason, and in the wake of the Jonah Hex movie, I'm tired of respected comic book heroes being stepped on by the movie industry.

  6. The answer is as simple as it is epic: Wonder Woman is at odds with Superman, Batman or the entirety of the Justice League over some personal moral decision that forces the factions to take sides. It would be easy to find the dark side of any one the DC heroes without having to manufacture it.