Well, Wonder Woman opens this weekend and I am not overly excited, based on the films DC has released in recent years. Advanced reviews are in, and maybe, just maybe, DC gets it right this time. I’ll be there (reluctantly) and if Wonder Woman can deliver these 5 things, I can consider it a success, and a turning point for the DCEU.
We at the Geekiverse often have spirited debates in our bull pen, as we are a diverse group of people with a huge range of likes and dislikes. I am the old guy in the group, and have been reading comics for a long, long time. The jump to cinema has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Sadly, for the most part, I have not been able to connect with the DC films. Particularly the new batch of DCEU films. Even the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy did not inspire me like it did many other fans, and the more that I watch them (which I generally do anytime they are on TV on a weekend, which is not infrequently) the less I like them. I have mentioned that I am not a fan of grit for the sake of grit, and darkness should be used sparingly. I have to go back to 1989 when Michael Keaton began his stint as the Caped Crusader in Batman to find a DC film that I really, really liked.
Comic books were campy when I was growing up. Most of the DC characters (Even Batman who was pre-Frank Miler then) were optimistic and there was an upbeat mood to the stories, at least as I recall. Hollywood, however, makes films based on what sold the last time. The gritty, darkly filmed, violent Dark Knight trilogy sold a lot of tickets (according to Wikipedia it’s grossed $2.46 billion so far) . It was dark. It was gritty, and Christian Bale’s bat voice was annoying. OK, Heath Ledger was amazing, but so was Jack Nicholson in my aforementioned favorite DC film.
Warner Brothers felt the need to replicate the Dark Knight’s tone in the DCEU. And so we get pretty dark, gritty stuff, as they seek to reproduce Marvel’s enormously successful shared universe concept. The problem is, DC is playing catch-up, and they want to try to do Nolanesque films without Nolan. And Superman is not Batman. Never has been. He’s always been an upbeat boy scouty character. Making him darker wasn’t a path I could abide. So, we have three films to date, and none really wowed me. This weekend, Wonder Woman becomes the 4th installment in the DCEU, and here’s 5 things that need to happen in order for me to finally be on board with the DCEU.
1. Set a new tone for the DCEU – It hasn’t worked so far. They weren’t engaging. I was looking at my watch the whole way through the films. Important to point out, I don’t want exactly the same thing as Marvel, who does comedies wrapped as superhero films. Not necessary, but, man, I don’t want to be counting the minutes until the film is over because the mood is so dark. As I said, the comics of the 1970’s and 80’s where campy and the characters were likable. You can move the DC films a few clicks closer to funny without suffering much. If dark is it. If it is all we got, I may be done with DC films.
2. Be great at being the first female lead superhero film – If this is done right DC scores massive points, because Marvel has dropped the ball on this big-time, and worse still, Disney, maker of princesses is the boss. You’d think Minnie would pull up her big mouse pants and demand this. There are so many great female characters and DC is doing female better. Well, if this movie is good, anyway. There are talks about another female led film starring Margot Robbie reprising her role as Harley Quinn (who is the best DCEU film character yet….by far). DC has a chance to really make real strides here. This film is being directed by a woman, starring a woman, in a role that is one of the most iconic women in history. I have enormously high expectations.
3. Be a good period piece – I wasn’t a fan of this decision. You don’t care, I know, but World War I? Really? Probably means Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is a one time deal. I am ready for Justice League to see how her character interacts with the team in a bigger way. I don’t want to step backwards a hundred years. Captain America: The First Avenger was a cool period piece partly because it came before we saw the character in the present day with the bigger group. I’m not sure it’s as effective if Wonder Woman is a two hour version of one of Oliver Queen’s flashbacks on Arrow.
4. Connect Wonder Woman to the present day DCEU – At the end of Captain America: The First Avenger there was some nice connective tissue that inserted Cap squarely in middle of the MCU. The DCEU doesn’t have the body of work that Marvel does, and you know what else they don’t have? Samuel L. Jackson. So, I am hoping there is some meaningful nod to the bigger picture here. This is going to be an origin story, and often those fall flat because we all already know the story, and it’s hard to make a story that we all know interesting. Connecting it to the larger universe is a good start.
5. Let Gal Gadot own this – She was the best thing in Batman v. Superman, by far. Well, other than that really cool, not contrived scene where Bruce finds out that he and Superman have mothers who share the same name. That was a cool piece of writing there. I really enjoyed getting to meet the supremely confident, sometimes playful, always intense Diana Prince and Wonder Woman, and that was all Gadot. Here’s hoping that director, Patty Jenkins can get the same performance (or wanted the same character) that Zack Snyder was able to.
Wonder Woman is a GREAT character. Gal Gadot is a great actor. DC has had three films, that by financial standards, have done pretty well. They are in the billions overall. From a critical standpoint, not as well. There are opportunities here to get guys like me back on board. If it is just another Dark Knight toned film, it will be a disappointment. Wonder Woman isn’t that character. I suppose Warner Brothers has little incentive to fix that, as it is making them money, but it would be nice if they recognize that going forward, there is nothing but potential.
What do you think? What does Wonder Woman have to do for you to be an unmitigated success? Leave me a comment below.
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Pete Herr is the author of “10 Things We Should Teach You In High School and Usually Don’t”. He is the oldest geek in the Geekiverse by a factor of two. Follow Pete Herr on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram . If you don’t he gets Grumpy. You don’t want to see him Grumpy.