WW Poster

Lately I’ve noticed a trend in many of the blogs and writers I follow. In the last few weeks, and especially since SDCC, I’ve heard a number of complaints from some very smart people about the insistence that Wonder Woman is a tricky or difficult character to bring to the screen.

I actually agree with this. I think that Wonder Woman’s profile actually hurts her chances of receiving a movie. After all, the average movie-goer knows surprisingly little about her, and yet she’s so famous that she has to sell tickets (and therefore is unlikely to buck hollywood trends). Likewise, she has the entirety of the feminist movement on her shoulders. Women as a whole are subjected to such high and conflicting standards in our society, and Wonder Woman’s struggle to find her way to the box office mirrors this perfectly.

But, I’m just one person. In fact, I am a male person. What’s more, I’m a male person who, while he generally likes Wonder Woman comics, isn’t a die-hard fan of the character like many of those disagreeing with me are. So, on Saturday, I decided to put my money where my mouth was and see how hard it would be to write a treatment for a Wonder Woman movie.

I still strongly advocate for a Justice League movie starring Diana, but if Wondy were to have her own stand-alone picture, I would do it like this:

Long ago, in the midst of the Peloponnesian Wars, the Olympian, Aphrodite, grew weary of her lover, Ares’, hatred and violence. Unsure of how to uncouple Love from Violence, she sought the advice of Ares’ sister Athena, who put forth a bold solution.

Forming an alliance of like-minded Olympians, Athena and Aphrodite created a paradise, Themyscera. Demeter raised it from the sea and covered it in lush beauty. Artemis filled it with all manner of animals from her private collection. Hestia carved out the most beautiful spots to lay the hearth and build dwellings. Hermes dove deep into the underworld and retrieved the spirits of those whose lives were cut short by those who claimed to love them. Athena established their temples and named them Amazones. And Aphrodite erected powerful barriers against her mad lover and his influence.

But while the amazons flourished in isolation, Ares fanned the flames of war and sullied their names, until they were remembered as nothing but an ugly myth. In the centuries that followed, the Olympians fell out of favor, no longer worshiped, but Ares remained strong, drinking deep on the hate of mankind.

Open on flashes of desert war. U.S. Troops battle local militias. As the scenes of carnage die down we are left at a small US camp. COLONEL STEVE TREVOR mans a turret. When an unknown child appears outside the base, Trevor is forced to choose between the child’s life and potentially his entire unit’s, as well as the units depending on them. Caught between two impossible choices, Trevor panics and pulls the trigger.

Steve awakes in a cold sweat, his screaming has been keeping his unit awake. We discover that they’re an advanced unit sent to restore peace to a middle eastern nation which has recently schismed into two nations, with the newcomer calling itself Quraq.

Meanwhile, on Themyscera, we meet PRINCESS DEINIA. Deinia is smart, athletic, competitive, and possesses a sharp wit. She is the youngest of the amazons and well-loved. We learn a bit about Themyscera; their dedication to the six Olympians who saved them, their abiding love for one another, their dedication to the martial arts, and the delicate balance the keeps their martial pursuits in line with Athena and not Ares.

Soon the six patrons of Themyscera hold an audience with their subjects through Menalippe, the oracle of the amazons. They inform their children that Ares is plotting something and that they fear the fire he intends to start will consume the whole world. To counter-act Ares, they command that a champion be selected from among the amazons to be a representative to the outside world and mediate the conflict.

QUEEN HIPPOLYTA, Deinia’s mother, institutes a tournament of strength, speed, and intelligence to determine who will make the journey. Though Deinia is eager to participate, her mother forbids it, worrying for her safety in the outside world. Deinia storms out, informing her mother that she is a citizen and has the right to compete, leaving the queen to pray that her daughter will not win.

The tournament commences the next day, with each of the amazons identically armored to preserve and decrease the influence of friendships. Though the tests are brutal, Deinia emerges victorious.

Hippolyta, knowing that she cannot keep her daughter from going, prays again for her daughter’s safety, and the Olympians respond by each giving Deinia a gift. Demeter granted her strength like the earth itself. Aphrodite gifted her the power to open a person’s heart and safeguard love. From Pallas Athena she received the capacity for great wisdom. Artemis gave her the eye of the hunter and unity with all life. Hermes granted her speed and the power of flight. And Hestia bestowed Deinia sisterhood with fire, that it might light the truth for her. In addition to these, they presented her armor forged from the girdle of her mother, the shield of Achilleus, and the sword of Perseus.

Thus adorned, Deinia is taken to Quraq by Hermes.

Deinia arrives just in time to save a militia member from the army, but she speaks only ancient Greek and they mistake her for an enemy. Deinia holds off the army while the survivor escapes, demonstrating her ability to deflect bullets with her bracers.

Deinia deals with all her foes non-lethally. The last one standing is Colonel Trevor who puts up the best fight, but is still hopelessly outmatched. In the end, Deinia captures him in HESTIA’S LASSO OF FIRE, which enables them to understand each other. Deinia tries to get Trevor to stand down and end hostilities, but it’s out of his control. While they talk the other troops surround her. She tells Steve that she will talk to his commanding officer and surrenders in an act of good faith.

At the command post, Deinia is interrogated by BRIGADIER GENERAL WADE EILING, a dedicated soldier whose insistence on protecting his country has clouded his mind. When Eiling cannot get any information out of her (largely due to his Arabic translator having no idea what she’s saying), he has her locked up.

That night Steve sets Deinia free, realizing afterwards that she could have escaped whenever. He tells her that she’ll need a translator if she’s going to make a difference, and tells her that his girlfriend knows an archeologist who might be able to help.

Using Aphrodite’s gift, Deinia follows the connection between Steve and his girlfriend ETTA CANDY, to America and then follows the bond of friendship to the archeologist. An exhausted Deinia lands at the home of DR. HELENA SANDSMARK, much to the Doctor’s surprise.

Deinia becomes fast friends with the doctor, an old soul, in love with ancient Greece. Likewise she swiftly becomes an idol to Dr. Sandsmark’s daughter, CASSIE, a geeky fourteen year-old enamored with her mother’s work. Over the course of the night, Deinia begins to show a basic understanding of English, a result of Athena’s wisdom.

Before retiring for the night, Deinia reveals that she is a princess. Cassie jokes that that makes her Princess Di, though Deinia does not understand. Cassie dubs her DIANA, a name that the amazon princess accepts upon hearing it’s meaning. As Diana heads upstairs to sleep, Dr. Sandsmark mentions that appropriate at Diana is, Deinia suits her too. Cassie is confused, as she translates it as “one who is fearfully awesome”, but Helena points out that, while that too is fitting, Deinia could also translate as “she who inspires wonder”.

As Steve’s unit continues to fight the Quraqi resistance, Diana learns about the conflict and the modern world from Dr. Sandsmark. As Diana’s understanding and English improve, Steve’s PTSD worsens.

Eventually Diana determines to return to Quraq. In order to avoid fatigue, as she had on her last trip, Helena enlists Etta Candy, currently a civilian pilot, to fly her to the war zone.

Partway into the trip, it is revealed that Cassie has stowed away on board. At one point, Etta tells Diana that she’s a very beautiful woman. Diana replies, without missing a beat, that Etta is too. Etta is taken aback and feels great, but Cassie seems upset. Her idolization of Diana has started to come at her own expense and she feels increasingly inadequate beside the amazon princess.

On the ground in Quraq, Diana confronts General Eiling again and tries to sue for peace. Eiling is steadfast in his hawkish policies. Diana cannot understand what has set him on conflict. Eventually she discovers that Eiling is being manipulated by PHOBOS, one of the sons of Ares. Phobos’ power transforms Eiling into a hulking monster called THE GENERAL. Diana does battle with The General and defeats him several times, but his rapid healing makes him an unstoppable force. Diana proves victorious when she taunts Phobos into abandoning Eiling’s body and kills the stronger but less resilient Phobos.

With Eiling in a coma and the command post in shambles, the American forces find themselves at a distinct disadvantage and Diana sets out to negotiate with QUEEN BIALYA OF QURAQ. Diana find that the Quraqis are making up for their lack of numbers with tanks and construction equipment. Defeating these, she comes face to face with Queen Bialya. The queen’s success is partially due to a gift of suggestion that she received from DEIMOS, Ares’ other son.

Using her mind-controlled soldiers, Queen Bialya attacks Wonder Woman, who cannot bring herself to kill them given the chance of their recovery. Diana discovers that Deimos has not possessed Bialya but merely whispered in her ear and provided the power she needed to start her rebellion. As such, she cannot end the threat by killing Deimos.

Diana defeats Bialya’s guards and convinces her to overcome her fear. The defeated Deimos flees. Bialya agrees to negotiate with the United States, but, realizing that the war is over, panics when she realizes that there is a missile strike headed for the Americans.

Diana races to save the Americans and succeeds, but one of the rogue missiles hits Etta’s transport, badly injuring Etta and Cassie.

Steve convinces Diana to fly back on a military transport so they can be looked at by a service doctor as Diana doesn’t know where to take them. When they land Diana is swarmed by reporters but she insists on tending to Etta and Cassie first. Etta’s wounds are severe but will easily heal, but Cassie is in far worse shape.

In apology for his behavior in Quraq, General Eiling uses his connections to have Dr. EDUARDO SISCO from S.T.A.R. LABS tend to Cassie. Dr. Sisco is an accomplished doctor with a specialty in dealing with amputations and muscle damage.

Diana, unable to hold off inquiries any longer, relents and goes to Washington to introduce herself and her mission of peace. Steve stays behind in Boston to take care of the girls. Ares, however, has plans for Dr. Sisco.

Diana becomes an instant celebrity. At S.T.A.R. a recovering Cassie watches it all, feeling a growing resentment for Diana’s apparent perfection.

When Dr. Sandsmark berates Cassie for her foolhardiness, the young girl snaps. Seeing Diana as taking even her mother’s love away, she sets out to take her revenge.

Under Ares’ manipulations, Dr. Sisco has healed Cassie with synthetic muscle fibers and an artificial larynx. Stealing a prototype flight unit that Sisco had been unable to test without a subject with compatible enhancements, Cassie becomes THE SILVER SWAN.

Cassie ambushes Diana at a public appearance and the two do battle. Diana is stronger, but Cassie’s sonic cries and the safety of civilians make it a nearly even fight. Eventually, Diana has no choice but to render her unconscious and she apologizes and restates her love for her fainting ‘sister’.

Finally, Ares reveals himself to Diana. When Diana demands to know why Ares is doing this, he admits that he’s making good on a bet with his uncle, HADES. Ares speculates that his uncle is trying to teach him a lesson in futility to end his warmongering, for just as all men face death, no matter Ares’ accomplishments all he will do is strengthen the kingdom of death. Ares, however, feels the Hades misses the point, that war is not death but life.

Ares points out that even the sad wretch he sent against Diana knew the name of Achilleus, where every housewife through history died quietly and unknown. His disdain for Cassie spurs Diana to attack, but Ares is an Olympian and even Wonder Woman is no match for him.

All around the world, soldiers go mad with battle fury. Steve Trevor is affected and begins to live out a fantasy of shooting his comrades and sparing the child, crying in apology the entire time.

As Ares batters Diana, he tells her that her mission is pointless, that all humans, even amazons, are programmed for war. He cites how easy it was to set Quraq and the US against each other with nothing more than fear and how even Cassie was easily made to hate her.

Cassie, however, disagrees. She refuses to play the pawn any longer and turns her sonic cry on Ares. As Ares is distracted, Diana catches him in Hestia’s Lasso. She tells him that he is wrong, that mankind is designed to love and forgive and that she will protect them against those who would tell them that they are weak.

Back at S.T.A.R., Etta Candy, forces herself out of bed and approaches Steve. She pauses when he turns the gun on her, but, remembering Diana’s faith in her, continues and takes him into an embrace, snapping him out of his flashback.

Hestia’s Lasso forces Ares to confront the truth of Diana’s words: Lives are not lived in the memories of strangers but in the love of brothers and sisters and friends.

Aphrodite appears before the cowed Ares and begs him to return to Olympos in peace. Ares tells her that he still loves her, but Aphrodite tells him that he never did. She says, though, that now he has the chance to love and the two ascend to Olympos, the threat ended.

Diana, Helena, and Cassie reconcile and Diana bids them a tearful farewell. Her mission complete, she returns to Themyscera. Hippolyta is overjoyed to have her daughter back, but even she can see that Diana has grown up.

The film ends with the announcement of Themyscera’s petition for entry into the United Nations and the announcement of the Ambassadors to and from the island nation: Etta Candy (with her aide, General Steve Trevor) and Princess Diana.

 

 

So what was easy and what were the challenges? Well, one thing Wonder Woman has in her corner is one of the best introductions of any superhero. People rave about Batman: Year One, but while it certainly set the tone for much of Batman to come afterwards, as a story itself, I could take it or leave it. The opening arc of Wonder Woman vol. 2, however, is kind of a masterpiece.

There are things wrong with George Perez’ run on Wonder Woman, but overall it’s an exceptional take on a character famous for lacking traction with her writers.

Though the story had been modified into the Wonder Woman animated film from 2009, I felt that it was definitely the place to start.

Looking back, my biggest concern about this treatment is that it’s very long. Depending on who wrote the script, this could easily end up being an epic three-hour affair. I understand that people aren’t quite as willing to take a chance and gamble three hours of their day away, but I had trouble cutting it down without losing anything essential.

Part of the reason that the movie would be long is that we have to establish Diana on Themyscera. Wonder Woman is distinct from Batman in that there isn’t a single moment that defines her. Batman has his parents’ murder, Superman usually get saddled with an over emphasis on the destruction of Krypton (see The Man of Steel), and Wondy’s origin is usually given as her being formed from clay and blessed by the gods.

The problem with that is that it’s fairly irrelevant. Unless you want to have a plot point about how she’s actually a golem, it doesn’t seem important that Diana was born that way. The other moment, more important but less mentioned, is winning the right to be the ambassador to Man’s World. Despite the drama of the mother/daughter relationship inherent in this tale, I’ve only seen a handful of takes on the character that make it feel like an important part of her story.

I chose to keep the contest in because it allowed us some time to get a sense of Themyscera and because it’s classic, but I recognize that that section would be fairly superfluous to the film as a whole, at least as it stands now.

I made my choice about that issue, however, I put forward that Diana is defined, not be any one moment, but by an entire life of kindness and empathy. Traditional storytelling conventions look for what is abnormal in a character’s life, which might be why we see so many moments of Diana succumbing to and then retreating from violence, as if it proves that this is an important moment. Without the singular event to define her, Diana’s story lacks strong direction for a writer to grab onto. It’s like that hopelessly annoying essay question that’s so vague you don’t know what to write about.

Some will quickly cite her mission to promote peace among mankind, but given the sheer complexity of the issues of warfare and discrimination, I don’t blame a writer who can’t find a way to make a specific story out of that.

On the other hand, I made my decision to focus on Diana’s opposition to Ares and the intermingling of love and violence, and from there the story started to unfold, so it’s kind of preposterous to say that the options are too many to make a successful Wonder Woman film.

In terms of choosing Diana’s antagonists, I started with Ares and built out from there. Ares is too powerful an opponent to get a sense of Diana’s strength so we needed a secondary villain. Greg Rucka did some fascinating things with resentment in his run on Wonder Woman, so I tried to bring some of that into the story by casting the Silver Swan as my primary threat; however that left the middle acts of the film woefully empty.

Wonder Woman’s rogues’ gallery is an unfortunately small one. She has a couple of serious villains but not many who can believably go toe-to-toe with her, with writers usually calling in random figures from Greek myth for that purpose. The Cheetah is the only one that I can think of off the top of my head, but she deserves better than mid-boss status. As for the others, I had already taken one of the big players off the table and I didn’t think of Giganta, though I’m not terribly upset about that. Once I determined that I wanted there to be a war story, it only made sense to try to devise how to tie these new villains into that plotline. Young Justice made the choice to set Diana up in opposition to Queen Bee, and I followed suit, but that didn’t address the need for a physical threat. Wanting to give weight to both sides of the conflict and show how insidious Ares could be I decided to have another threat on the American side. Wade Eiling was perfect for this.

Though he’s usually a foe for Captain Atom, Eiling has frequently shown up when a vaguely untrustworthy military officer is needed. His transformation into The General made him a fine choice to serve two roles, and so I started looking for a way to include the General without killing off Eiling.

The answer was Phobos, sharing the role his brother played in the source material. Deimos was almost mandated, and his subtler focus made him an excellent benefactor for Queen Bee, who I thought would be better renamed after her country in the comics.

Luckily Eiling and Queen Bialya didn’t need particularly complex motivations to be believable, nor did Phobos or Deimos. That just left the Silver Swan, inspired heavily by Greg Rucka’s take on the character and Veronica Cale, and Ares, whose grandiose nature makes him easy to write for.

While I’m happy with who I cast as my villains and how, I’m curious what other options people feel would work. As I said, I’m drawing from a somewhat shallow pool and, especially now that I’ve been working on this, I’m not sure I see another way. The Silver Swan plotline is really the thing that makes the film work for me and without calling on that character, I’m not sure how you would do this story.

I made a couple of changes to the Wonder Woman mythology that I felt were helpful, but tried to stay true to the spirit of things. Probably the most notable is the difference in where Diana gets her powers. I know that it shows infinite arrogance, but I think the story is more interesting if Diana gains her powers as a prize for winning the contest, rather than being born with them. The animated Wonder Woman used the tagline “some heroes are made, this one was born.” I cannot say how uninteresting that concept is to me. While there’s something cool about Diana being a custom designed weapon of love, created to fight Ares, I think that it’s dramatically weaker.

Fans of Diana know that she’s a pretty amazing character, but no one congratulates Wolverine on his stamina, it’s his superpower. Likewise, being kind and wise are two of Diana’s superpowers. Given that it allowed us to skip a section explaining Diana’s birth, I thought it made sense to have Diana gain her powers when she becomes Wonder Woman. This lets us see how deserving of them she was before-hand, and makes it seem like she earned the right to be Themyscera’s champion based on her wits and tactics, rather than super-strength.

Obviously this required some changes to the gifts she was given, but this allowed me to do some fun things with her powers. After all, it would be a little weird if Diana suddenly became beautiful at age 20. My favorite change was to her lasso, which now isn’t a physical object. I thought that the new gifts were effective, but if you disagree, I’m interested to know what bothered you.

The other huge change was Diana’s amazon name. Since we obviously didn’t have time to handle the entire Diana Trevor storyline from Perez’ second arc (especially since it reeks of deus ex machina), I was bothered by Wonder Woman being from an isolationist society which split before the founding of Rome but still being named after a Roman goddess. I did a little digging and wasn’t sure what to name her or if it was worth it, but once I realized that the closest Greek word I knew could translate as ‘causing wonder’, I knew I had to go through with it.

Conceiving of this plot was something that happened very organically. I started from the blueprint that Perez laid out for me and the rest kind of fell into place. In that respect, it wasn’t very hard at all to write a Wonder Woman movie. Whether I gave the character a fair portrayal is something that I leave to my readers, but I hope that I did her some justice.

That said, I kind of handled the easy part. I didn’t try to fill these scenes with believable dialogue or understand the precise pacing of the film. When I was less clear on how a scene would play out, I could just write the broad strokes of what happened and kick the can down to a hypothetical screenwriter. Wonder Woman also doesn’t suit the Marvel mold all that well. Diana has a subtler humor than many other heroes, and one bad line could color the whole movie badly. I don’t envy whoever has that job.

Diana’s unique outlook did prove difficult to write for at times, but generally led to another equally strong option. Many of the problems I worried about remain hurdles for any writer to take on the character, but I managed to tell a complete story with a cast of interesting characters and even set up Wonder Girl and Dr. Psycho for any inevitable sequels.

Whether or not I did a good job is something that I can’t answer myself but, given the level of talent out there, someone should be able to put an idea together that’s better than I did in five days. If you have objections or questions (preferably constructive ones), I’d be happy to discuss this further.

Wonder Woman has faced many challenges in her quest for a big screen debut and I’m afraid it will only be harder for her now that Thor and Captain America have given us such popular renditions of the mythic and WWII superhero movies, respectively. Still, for all the things that make Wonder Woman difficult to adapt, there remain the countless fans for which she is truly special. It is technically possible that she merely speaks to something unique to this group, but I seriously doubt it. Wonder Woman has been around for over seventy years and published continuously throughout that time (barring a few months just before the launch of Wonder Woman vol. 2). Consider that for a moment, and then consider that Batman and Detective Comics were both nearly canceled at least once. With things as they are now, Wonder Woman will get a movie, it’s just a matter of doing her justice when she does.

Advertisements