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Waiting for Wonder Woman: Why Warner Bros needs to pick up its game

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The rivalry between Warner Bros and Marvel means Warner Bros is fast-tracking the Wonder Woman movie for all the wrong reasons.

Marvel and DC have been rivals for decades. Jostling for position on newsstands and in comic book stores for the market share, they have attempted to one up each other with crazier characters and more outrageous storylines since the 60s. Now this rivalry is playing out on the big screen, as Marvel Studios runs rings around Warner Bros (DC Comics’ parent company) in the conversion of their intellectual property into box office returns. While Christopher Nolan’s Bat-Trilogy and Marvel’s The Avengers are terrific films that push all the right nerd buttons, one question remains: Where are the ladies?

For years, Warner Bros has been trying to launch a Wonder Woman film and failing. Why does Diana of Themyscira remain so elusive?

Rumours are circulating that there is a major solo female superhero movie in development at Marvel and that there is going to be a Wonder Woman cameo in the upcoming Batman vs Superman at Warner Bros. Marvel has proven it can bring strong female characters to the screen and it will be exciting to see what it can come up with (Elektra notwithstanding. Ditto, Warner Bros’ Supergirl), but what appears to be a new race to get a female superhero up on the screen does not bode well for Wonder Woman. If her film is being fast tracked, it is for the wrong reasons.

Over the years, Warner Bros has been trying to launch a Wonder Woman film and failing. Joss Whedon wrote a script when the studio was hoping to capitalise on the success of its Batman reboot (and to wash the taste of Superman Returns out of its mouth), but Warner Bros canned the script and Whedon was snapped up by Marvel. David E. Kelley was brought on to produce an updated TV series, which was cancelled after the pilot failed to impress. With the success of Arrow and an upcoming Flash series, there is talk again of a Wonder Woman show, this time called Amazon, but reports from the network say the script is still not right. So what is the problem? Why does Diana of Themyscira remain so elusive?

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Surely Wonder Woman cannot be a difficult character to base a film around. She has a very similar set-up to Marvel’s Thor. Wonder Woman has god-like powers, is based on mythology and struggles to understand humanity: Like Thor, she grows to love this world and vows to protect it. It is baffling that this seems to be a difficult story to get right and the idea of a strong woman, from a society of female warriors, coming to our world and setting it to rights is an extremely powerful and contemporary one. Nicolas Winding Refn mentioned this approach when he brought up his interest in directing the film with Christina Hendricks as his star. Alas, this was merely the director throwing out ideas during an interview – it never held much traction.

Going by its track record so far, Marvel would create a fresh and exciting debut for its first major female superhero

Meanwhile, at Marvel, strong female characters are growing exponentially. Black Widow’s role in Captain America: The Winter Soldier is touted as her biggest yet. Agent Carter from the first film starred in her own short (with rumours she may get a series of her own) and Pepper Potts was able to step in and perform some of her own heroics in Iron Man 3. However, these are still supporting roles. What could Marvel have up its sleeves for its first major solo female superhero outing? Odds are the honour will go to Ms. Marvel.

Not only does she have the word ‘Marvel’ in her name, but she is also an Avenger, has super strength and the ability to fly – powers resembling Wonder Woman’s. While not a god or a mythological character, some of the same concerns a Wonder Woman film would address are still relevant in this context (also Ms. Marvel is human, which could draw the audience even closer to her as a character). Going by its track record so far, Marvel would create a fresh and exciting debut for its first major female superhero.

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This is why the idea of a fast-tracked Wonder Woman film is horrifying. The last time Warner Bros fast-tracked a property to beat Marvel, it was Justice League: Mortal, which execs hoped would make it to the screen before The Avengers. The idea was eventually abandoned, but this competitive nature remains, with Batman vs Superman acting as an attempt to get any kind of team-up film out of the starting gate for Warner Bros.

Batman vs Superman is Warners’ attempt to get any kind of team-up film out of the starting gate

Whereas Marvel appears to want to take time in developing properties in the hopes that it can get it right the first time, Warner Bros is trying to level the playing field. If this means putting a Wonder Woman film out into the world too quickly just to trump Marvel, instead of taking the time to develop not only the first major solo female superhero blockbuster, but a worthy one, then the biggest loser in this rivalry will be the audience.

 

Featured image: Sharyn Morrow (via Flickr Commons)

Inset images: Marvel; Marvel

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