My Wonder Woman Pitch


[I started this post way back when Gal Godot was first cast and I’m blowing the dust off it because what the hell.]

So we’re getting Wonder Woman in a movie, but not a Wonder Woman movie.

Christopher Bird has an interesting post about the difficulties the character faces. I’m not sure I agree that Wonder Woman has never had a “definitive” run: while I’m not a WW expert by any means, William Marston created the basics of the character, and Greg Rucka’s stint where she was the ambassador from Themyscira is pretty awesome.

I’m not sure the U.N. is a place to start a franchise, though. It might work for a TV series, but movies would need more setup and a greater willingness to break status quo.

(BTW, supposedly WB seems to have a pretty good version of The Flash coming up. Hopefully it’ll be a step above the ’90’s version.)

Unfortunately, it seems WW is going to be a supporting role in the new Man of Steel movie. Gal Gadot has been cast. People are already complaining about her: she’s too this, she’s too that, but I’ll reserve judgement. Yes, she is a former Miss Israel and a Miss Universe contestant (her “National Costume” is disappointingly non-bonkers) and yes, she served two years in the Israeli military (as a “sports trainer”?). Yes, it’s fun to speculate.

But I remember when people were complaining about Daniel Craig being cast as James Bond (“A blond Bond? What are they thinking?”). I remember when they griped about Tom Cruise playing Lestat. Both actors were terrific in those roles. The truth is, if the script is good, we will love Gadot in the part. If the script sucks, we’ll blame her for screwing it all up.

Anyway, this is how I would pitch a Wonder Woman movie if they were going to make one, which they should:

It opens during the climax of MAN OF STEEL (to tie the films together). The Kryptonians are moving their big drill blasting machine over India, and Superman hasn’t yet gone to destroy it. However, there’s a US aircraft carrier nearby, which desperately scrambles jets to intercept.

One of the pilots is Steve Trevor, who is not so gung ho as the other pilots. What hope do humans have against an advanced civilization? Still, he takes off with all due speed and joins the other jets to attack the ship as it moves into position.

The jets’ missiles have tremendous range, but they don’t even get close enough to launch them. The unmanned drill (it was unmanned, iirc) blasts them them with a Crazy Beam(tm) which stops the jets in space as though they’ve collided with a mountainside. Only Trevor manages to make a defensive maneuver, losing part of his plane.

His plane has become nearly impossible to keep in the air, alarms going off like crazy, but he keeps flying, trying to get close enough to launch a missile. He dodges two more beams, but it’s clear he’s not going to make it. His commander orders him to eject, and he does.

Moments later, the beam strikes his plane, smashing it and holding it in the air like a crumpled piece of burning metal, same as the others.

As he floats toward the water below, he radios that he can see sharp rocks, crashing waves and sharks swimming between them. There’s no safe place for him to set down and he doesn’t expect to survive. “Tell my mother that I loved her and that she was right. Again.”

Then, as he comes nearer the water, the view changes as though he’s passing through a mirage. Suddenly there’s a gorgeous island below him. It’s Themyscira: verdant green woods, white sand beaches, gorgeous waterfalls, and white marble buildings that show no evidence of a keystone and arch.

His radio sparks and goes dead. The beams above him stop, and the jets begin to fall out of the sky. Only Trevor’s is above the island, falling toward a beach where a bunch of little girls no older than 8 are playing. All Trevor can do is redirect his chute out of the path of the wreckage.

An athletic woman, backlit by the sun so she can’t be clearly seen, charges out of the forest onto the beach. She sprints toward those little girls, who have noticed the danger and begun to scream in terror. The woman leaps into the air, fist drawn back, and soars upward, directly into the falling wreckage. She throws that punch.

A massive CRUNCH, and the clump of metal is redirected out into the water, the woman splashing down into the waves with the burning jet.

And that’s the first appearance of Wonder Woman.

Trevor realizes his parachute is on fire, and redirects toward the beach. He hits very hard, but basically okay. He sees the little girls fleeing into the forest, shepherded by some 14 year old girls, and tries to wave to them in a friendly way. They keep running; they’re terrified of him.

There’s no one around, so he follows them up the only path in the forest. Hey, there’s a woman in some sort of tunic. Is that a bow and arrow she’s pointing at him?

He ducks just as the arrow flies by his head, then flees, drawing his pistol. Crashing through the forest, he stumbles on a group of teenage girls gathering herbs, frightening them. He quickly holsters his weapon again, then keeps running. On a nearby trail, a woman warrior with shield and spear charges at him. He aims the pistol at her but she won’t stop, so at the last moment, he shoots her in the foot.

Crashing through the forest, Trevor barely manages to escape a few more attacks through a combination of blundering and dumb luck. In fact, he begins to suspect they’re toying with him. Then he comes face to face with a tall strong woman with a commanding presence: DIANA. She snatches the gun from his hand as if he’s a child, then backhands him unconscious.

The other women who hunted him through the woods circle around, including the injured one. They look down at him with disgust, except for Diana, who seems puzzled. The teenagers come close, herbs still in their arms. Why didn’t he kill them when he could?

Diana and her friends drag Trevor before the queen, who is landing on the roof of their temple on the back of a huge eagle-like creature that is completely see-through, as though it’s made of water; it’s very difficult to see. The queen compliments her daughter on her skill and the loyalty she commands from her friends. The circle of five women Diana has around her are deadly and admirable warriors. Still, why did they wait for him to leave the beach? Why stalk and observe him before their attack? Diana should be more bold. More willing to take risks. The princess is chastened.

Then the queen immediately declares a death sentence on Trevor. Diana asks for a delay; yes, men are forbidden on Themyscira, but this one had a chance to harm young women or take them hostage, but he didn’t. He also chose to wound Elena when he could have killed her. Could the outside world have changed?

No, the queen says. He will be healed and then executed at dawn.

Steve is thrown into a cell. The walls are decorated with the history of the Amazons in convenient graphic novel exposition form: A floating mountain, monsters streaming out of it, Amazons attacking, the mountain falling out of the sky.

Elena and Diana’s other groupies confirm with her that they’re going to meet later–they have something special planned. Diana returns to the beach to examine Trevor’s gear. It’s so alien to her. XANTHIPPE, one of her circle, approaches. Diana is troubled by Trevor’s equipment; it’s so advanced. If Men were to attack Themyscira, how could they hold out against such advanced weapons?

Xanthippe tells Diana the sun has nearly gone down, and they must meet their friends. They run together to the base of a mountain, and the five of them, minus the injured Elena, run through the forest, leaping gorges, shimmying up cliffs, bounding from tree to tree… it’s forest parkour in the magic-hour light, and they are gorgeous and impressive. Too bad Elena couldn’t be here.

Xanthippe leads them to a secret temple, hidden away in the mountains. Diana tells they they shouldn’t be here, it’s forbidden, but the other young women tease her about her constant dedication to duty. Can’t she have a little fun once in a while? Besides, inside the temple are the relics of the great heroines of the Amazonian past. That’s something they would all like to see, and because Diana is of royal blood, only she can open the doors. Diana still resists, but the others make a crack about her mother’s words. Lead us. Be bold. Take a risk.

Sure. Let’s do it. Diana lays her hand on the doors and they open.

The inside of the temple is very like a museum. The young women enter and kneel in prayer, devout before the gods above all else. Then they move through the building, looking at the statues around them. One statue has The Bracelets. One wears The Tiara. Another holds a shield. Another bears an enchanted sword. A cuirass. Everything is covered in dust, but not these items. They’re enchanted. They come from That Other Place.

Diana tells her friends to look but not touch. Xanthippe immediately blows a powder in the princess’s face.

It’s a drug. Anyone else would have fallen asleep immediately, but not Diana. Her “groupies” attack her, kicking and punching her while she’s disoriented. Still, she’s too much for them, even drugged, and it’s only when Xanthippe throws the tiara like a discus, knocking her out, that the princess falls.

Diana wakes to find the statues shattered and the magic implements stolen. She runs through the forest at night and confronts Elena, who is still being healed. At first she doesn’t want to talk, but she finally admits that Xanthippe has found a way to bring back the gods. The relics on Themyscira aren’t the only relics in the world. Once the last one is collected from its hiding place in the world of men, the real Mount Olympus will appear in the sky again. The Amazons will no longer have to live without their gods.

There’s only one way off Themyscira. Diana races to the bay just as her four former friends escape in a huge living creature–see-through like the queen’s riding eagle, but shaped like a whale. There’s a big fight scene as they escape, and the Amazonians use the relics to injure the other creatures living in the pen and block the bay.

The sun is about to rise. Diana rushes to her mother’s house and steals her ride. She flies the eagle–which is hard to control because it’s used to the queen’s hand–right out of the palace.

Meanwhile Steve Trevor is being led into the town square by a squad of beautiful Amazons. He thinks he’s died and gone to heaven. As he passes an old woman, she reaches out and smears some kind of weird paste on his forehead while saying something unintelligible.

He’s brought before the queen, who demands his name. He’s astonished that they speak English, and the queen says they just put a spell on him so that he would understand their language, all the better to inform him of what was about to happen.

The crowd parts and there’s the biggest Amazon of all, wearing a hood and holding a headsman’s axe.

Steve tries to break free, but the Amazons were expecting that. He makes some sort of courageous last remark then Diana swoops down on the back of the giant bird and rescues him from the crowd. She circles the square long enough to tell her mother that the relics have been stolen and that she needs Trevor to help navigate the World of Men so she can retrieve them. Then flies away.

That’s the setup. Here are the story beats that would be included.

– Amazonian friends: Xanthippe is the smart, calculating one, a leader. Another will be a huge brute who loves to fight (steals sword relic, thinking it’s most powerful). The third is conflicted about betraying Diana but devoutly wishes for the return of the gods. The fourth feels unfairly passed over (although she wasn’t) for some sign of status.

– Diana’s astonishment at the way the world has changed, mirrored by the astonishment of her Amazonian sisters. In fact, they would both “come ashore” in different places and have very different experiences.

– Steve transfers a bit of the goop on his forehead to Diana’s and he repeats the old Amazon’s incantation from memory, allowing her to understand every language in the world.

– The groupies meet up with U.S. forces. They’re intrigued with each other. The weaponry of the world of men has advanced a great deal, and the invisible ship technology would be damned intriguing for U.S. forces.

– One thing that rarely works in movies is the “magic ritual that must be stopped”. Better to have the ritual start early, the good guys try to stop it, and then fail. So, Xanthippe collects the relics, uses them to find the lasso, and knows that’s the place where Mt Olympus fell: somewhere in the U.S. or right next to a U.S. airbase, where Steve Trevor can do his soldier thing.

– Diana fights her former friends, who are much more formidable now that they have the relics. Trevor wants her to wait for support troops or whatever, but the princess wants to do what her mother told her. Take chances. Be bold. She loses the fight against them, and the ritual finishes, raising Mt. Olympus.

– The whole planet is being invaded by pseudo-mythological Greek monsters. They have weapons and armor that is either magical or so advanced it might as well be magic, but the whole deal plays like an alien attack. The various monsters are like alien races with incredibly powerful giants commanding them (the gods, basically).

– Diana and Steve are having strong feelings for each other, but it could never work between them. She’s of royal blood and he’s a commoner. He makes a joke about all Americans being royalty because they all rule together.

– Diana needs to reclaim the relics and goes after the groupies. One fight should take place in a construction site with a lot of scaffolding, to mirror the forest parkour scene.

– Hey, there are other superheroes? Mix up something to occupy them while Diana takes the lead against Olympus. Mention casually that Superman is fighting a big dude wearing a lion skin.

– The climax takes place on the face of Mt. Olympus. She infiltrates the stronghold with an invisible “plane”, bringing Trevor and a small squad. She’s learned to lead others, but instead of being bold and rushing ahead, she gathers intelligence. The other gods are sleeping–only Ares is awake and active.

– Big fight, impossible odds, Diana leads the fight against Ares, fighting on the outside of the flying mountain, and with the other soldiers’ assistance, finally defeats him.

– Finally, injured and exhausted by the massive battle, the other gods awaken. Oh no! If one god was so tough, how can she beat all of them? But the “gods” thank her for releasing them and withdraw. Diana is welcomed back to U.S. territory as a hero, then returns to Themyscira with her defeated groupies. The queen demands she remain safely at home, live like a true princess among her people, but Diana is determined to return to the world at large and see as much of it as she can. To take a chance on it.

As for the tone, it should be less gritty than DC fare so far. Filled with action, yes. Attraction between her and Steve Trevor, absolutely. Monsters and people dying, sure. But there will be young girls in the audience, because superhero princess, so the story will have to be interesting enough for adults but free of the nastiness that will make it unsuitable for younger viewers. So, rated PG.