Like most superheroes, Wonder Woman has saved the world countless times and the multiverse on several occasions, but come June 2nd she faces her toughest challenge yet, saving the DC Extended Universe. The young franchise has gotten off to a rocky start to say the least and at this point it seems like a total collapse is only one box office failure away. The upcoming release of Wonder Woman will be a proving ground for the long-term viability of the franchise, especially in preparation for the November release of Justice League and in the face of underwhelming box office returns for Batman v Superman last year.
The titular heroine compromises the third part of DC’s “trinity” and has been around since the Golden Age of Comics, but despite that has always occupied a strange place in the DC pantheon. Created by psychologist William Moulton Marston in 1941 amid circumstances that I was told AP2HYC isn’t the place to discuss at length (but you should totally google, it’s incredible), Diana of Themyscira quickly became a feminist icon and was a founding member of the Justice League.
Easily the most famous female character in comics (and one of the few major ones that is not a distaff counterpart to a male character, i.e. Batgirl and Supergirl), Wonder Woman has remained one of the most prominent superheroes since her creation. Despite such a storied legacy, Wonder Woman has never seen the level of exposure as the other two members of the trinity, Batman and Superman, and has only appeared in a handful of solo projects over the years, most famously Lynda Carter‘s portrayal as the Amazon princess in the ’70’s live-action show. In the 90’s Batman and Superman both had solo animated series in the DC Animated Universe, but Wonder Woman did not, although she did appear in a main role during the Justice League cartoons. All that is to say, while basically everyone knows who Wonder Woman is, the majority of the general movie-going audiences are unfamiliar with the details of her stories.
For Gal Gadot‘s portrayal of the hero, it creates tremendous opportunity, especially in rebuilding the DCEU. The best use of the film is as a chance to reset the tone of the universe and create a new jumping off point. The first DCEU film, Man of Steel, was the superhero film equivalent of mediocre goth slam poetry, and that tone led to Batman v Superman, the superhero movie equivalent of self-indulgent screamo music produced by whiny teenagers (if you were curious, Suicide Squad was an overhyped Hot Topic commercial). With Wonder Woman, DC has a chance to reset the tone back to the more hopeful one generally associated with guys like, for instance, Superman. DC screwed up big time by starting their franchise with a gritty deconstruction of the DCU (instead of you know, just making the DCU), and with Wonder Woman the chance exists to begin a reconstruction instead.
Now, that is dependent on the film actually being good, which so far it looks like it is. Personally, I’m okay with DC shifting the story to the First World War instead of the comic-accurate WWII. It makes sense for a character known for her pacifism, as the First World War is remembered as being far more morally ambiguous than the good vs. evil narrative that surrounds WWII. From what the trailers have shown, it looks like it’ll be a good time and I’m optimistic about how it will turn out.
The real question is whether or not it can reverse the disastrous course the rest of the DCEU has been on since day one. For the record, as far as I’m concerned every single decision made regarding the DCEU has been the wrong one (yes, I am looking at you not-Grant Gustin Flash actor; no, I won’t be learning your real name) and I think Wonder Woman would be a delightful place to begin pretending none of it happened. I just don’t think they’ll be smart enough to actually do that.
Nothing the Warner Bros. executives calling the shots have done thus far suggests any sort of reverence for the characters, mythology, or history for the DCU and I don’t expect them to begin now. Wonder Woman looks good. I hope it is good (though I’d be a fool to think they couldn’t screw it up). The problem is that no matter how good the movie, it’s one part of a larger mega-franchise that thus far has produced nothing worth watching. Wonder Woman might be able to save the world, but she can’t save Warner Bros. from itself.
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