Katniss Lights A Fire For Wonder Woman

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If rumors are true, Wonder Woman is headed to the big screen for the first time ever in 2015, sitting third chair behind the pairing of icons Batman and Superman in Warner Bros.’ upcoming MAN OF STEEL sequel. If those same rumors prove to be false, the Amazon Princess will probably still debut in a film prominently featuring her male counterparts in DC Entertainment’s Trinity. Warner Bros.’ lack of confidence in the character’s ability to carry her own film has allowed a brand new heroine to usurp Wonder Woman’s place in pop culture- Katniss Everdeen of THE HUNGER GAMES, a character rapidly ascending to an iconic status of her own. There is much Wonder Woman’s handlers can learn from “The Girl On Fire.”

Conventional Hollywood wisdom maintains women are not reliable leads for action-heavy franchises, which most superhero properties tend to be. ELEKTRA, CATWOMAN, and SUCKER PUNCH are popular examples used to uphold this idea, but there’s little talk of how the quality of those films, all of which were panned by critics and general audiences, had a far bigger adverse impact on box office results than the gender of their respective stars. Whether or not the success of THE HUNGER GAMES, now having posted back-to-back domestic openings in excess of $150 million, disproves that theory is a matter for debate. Even if such a rule exists, we now know there are exceptions at the very least.

Wonder Woman is certainly not a sure box office bet. Most superhero properties are not. The harder truth that longtime fans do not see, or would rather not acknowledge, is that Wonder Woman’s mainstream relevance has lapsed. She is an image, a mascot even, but her character and the ideals she represents have long been forgotten by those who do not make trips to the comic shop a weekly errand on Wednesdays. A great many people who actually make those Wednesday trips and cry out for a movie end up leaving Wonder Woman comics off of their pull list. Warner Bros. must think this is the case, if casting rumors are to be believed. Gal Gadot and Elodie Yung are supposed finalists who offer supermodel beauty and action movie experience, but have nothing in their filmographies that hints at representing a strong, feminine ideal that women of all ages can and should be able to rally behind.

Many of the inspiring qualities for which audiences might look to Wonder Woman can already be found in Katniss Everdeen, as written by Suzanne Collins in her young adult novels and portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence on screen. She is strong, fierce, protective, caring, and independent. When needed, Katniss Everdeen is also lethal. For a generation of young adult readers and moviegoers, she is Wonder Woman. That’s not to say Wonder Woman should hang up her Lasso of Truth and call it a career before she ever gets started on the silver screen, as there is certainly room for more than one female action hero on film. Rather, Warner Bros. should study Katniss’ rapid rise in relevance to see what lessons can be mined and then applied to make Princess Diana’s cinematic debut as culturally and financially impactful as possible.

Given that Warner Bros. has shown remarkable patience in developing a modern, live-action Wonder Woman, there ought to be no need to rush her into a MAN OF STEEL sequel that will inevitably spend the majority of its focus establishing a new Batman and his rivalry with the Superman we just met last June. There are so many critical elements that should factor into the casting, characterization, and handling of Wonder Woman. The importance of all those elements is fixed, not varying at all based on the amount of screen time the character will receive. Even if Wonder Woman only has a cameo in the MAN OF STEEL sequel, the actress Warner Bros. casts is obviously intended to play the character in more robust on-screen appearances including a third film in the crossover series and, Hippolyta willing, a solo adventure.

Warner Bros. has one shot to get this right in the foreseeable future. If that means taking even more time to setup a proper debut now that the studio knows what cinematic universe Wonder Woman will call home, so be it. Waiting is not necessary, but it would probably help if Warner Bros. gave DC Entertainment the time to get Wonder Woman back in the public conversation by reaching out to an untapped audience of young women who prefer their stories without pictures. Katniss, along with Bella Swan (TWILIGHT) and Beatrice Prior (DIVERGENT) are the superheroes of a new generation. DC Entertainment, with the support of Warner Bros., should be trying to introduce Wonder Woman to that generation in their medium of choice.

Marvel has already made such an attempt, publishing THE SHE-HULK DIARIES and ROGUE TOUCH earlier this year. DC could make this look like a toe being dipped in the water by jumping all the way in with a series of young adult novels introducing Diana to girls in that genre’s targeted demographic while also passing the smell test for adults, like Katniss in THE HUNGER GAMES. While I’m giving out free product ideas, title first book THEMYSCIRA and make that the banner for the whole series. Earn the love and admiration of new fans ahead of time instead of just dropping a name that may or may not matter to them. Do not expect the world to swoon at a costumed image on that inevitable Entertainment Weekly cover.

Of course, none of that is likely to happen. Warner Bros. could take a shortcut, however, and arrive at a similar destination via effective casting. The smartest thing to do, as Mark Hughes of Forbes has brilliantly suggested, is to wait for Jennifer Lawrence to finish saving Panem and then offer whatever it takes to get her to come over to Themyscira. Lawrence, already an Academy Award winner, is building a rabid fan following and already has a high level of credibility with moviegoers of both genders and all ages. The news of her being cast as Wonder Woman would generate more immediate buy-in than any other actress Warner Bros. could pursue. Regardless of how the mainstream audience feels about Wonder Woman, they would eagerly lineup to watch Jennifer Lawrence show them why they should care.

Assuming Lawrence would not be available or interested, Warner Bros. still needs to make sure the actress they cast understands the responsibility that comes with the role and is able to gain advanced support of people other than horny men. Case in point, when Olga Kurylenko (OBLIVION) emerged as a rumored favorite for the role last month, many of the articles on the subject commented on how hot she was while using near-nude photos from her modeling career instead of shots from her movie appearances and an analysis of her acting ability. In the process, some female fans already felt alienated and questioned the motivation behind the potential casting. None of that is Olga’s fault, obviously, but it is something Warner Bros. has to be sensitive to when making this casting decision and announcing it to the public.

Jaime Alexander (THOR) is a good choice to solve this equation, having already played the Wonder Woman-like Sif in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What she currently lacks in general audience awareness can be compensated for with her genuine passion for the character and all that Wonder Woman represents. It is interesting to wonder if any actress alive would care more about getting it right than Alexander.

The field of potentially great candidates to play Wonder Woman is certainly larger than two. To its credit, Warner Bros. has a fairly good track record in the superhero genre by way of the aforementioned Batman and Superman. Similar success with Wonder Woman cannot be assumed, though, and has to be earned. The journey begins with preparation and study of what it takes for a female character to succeed in an arena presumably built by and for men. Katniss has shown the way. Now, Wonder Woman can start a fire of her own.

  • Adrian Edmondson

    While watching the latest HG , I could not it help envision JL as WW mainly due to her acting ability . Some are caught up on WW having a muscular build and big chest , but we need a actress that has PRESENCE as well , that looks creditable standing next to Henry and Ben . It’s a shame the actress that played Foara couldn’t also play WW , but my vote is for JL

  • MrDean245 .

    Would be great to get JL in the JL :)
    Seriously though this would be a great move by WB And almost guarantee an Avengers sized box office return. She may not look like the ideal choice, but the girl can act is is loved by everyone. WB should think of a number, double it and throw it at her.

  • oliver_chang

    Jennifer Lawrence has my vote. She does X-men which means she’s interested in comic book movies, and she does HG which similar to WW.
    Give her RDJ money and get the HG scribes over, lure her with the opportunity to revive WW and become a pop culture icon, and the chance to work with Chris Nolan and Ben Affleck =P

  • insideguy

    If marvel can pull off Thor there is no reason DC cannot pull off Wonder Women. Her brand is more familiar, her mythos is more familiar,ect. They could do it with the right actress and make it huge. If they immerse her in the Greek mythology the way Thor has done with the Norse mythology it would be massive. And then place her in the trinity? The sky is the limit.

  • JW Thompson

    No one ever seems to address the elephant in the room when it comes to Wonder Woman. There isn’t much evidence that people would actually support the Character. I mean, her solo book right now is in the middle of a fantastic run, and it isn’t selling. When Batman’s good, people buy the books. When Superman’s good, people buy the book. Hell, when Aquaman’s good, people buy the book. But Wonder Woman? Not so much. So it looks like to me (and I’m willing to bet a lot of decision makers at WB) that people *talk* about supporting Wonder Woman but don’t *do* anything that would support the character.

    • insideguy

      No one buys Iron Man or Captain America or Thor books either. And sure as hell didnt before their respective movies.

    • http://www.modernmythmedia.com/ Sean Gerber

      I’m pretty sure I addressed that exact elephant in the article.

  • blkyank

    Sean,

    Another part of the adult “buy in” with The Hunger Games is its ability the present a strong female lead character to attract young women,while at the same time presenting male supporting characters that are heroic,funny and interesting that present the message that while the target demographic are young women,the franchise is still welcoming to men.

    My two sons sneered at the first film but wanted to go with me to see the second one last week. That shows me how much this franchise has expanded beyond its young female base thanks to Jennifer Lawrence.

    Wonder Woman has the same ability to inspire women while remaining accessible to men because in the new 52,the comic has a lot of bad ass male characters ranging from Steve Trevor,to Orion,to the various greek gods coming in and out of Diana’s life.

  • stock

    I don’t know. I think the audience here at MMM is far more interested in a WW movie than your average young girl or woman will ever be. I’m not even sure she was ever created with the ideals you have for her now. Its my understanding she was created out of a writer’s vivid imagination regarding S & M. When the T.V. show was on there was only one reason to watch it, (well, two reasons actually), and they belonged to Linda Carter. But not even that could sustain interest for too long.

    I also think there are plenty of strong role models on television and the movies for young women. There is no void that really needs to be filled there. Greys Anatomy, CSI, Hunger Games, etc. The female role model is in your face all the time. Some of it is junk, sure, but its there.

    So, whether WW is in the new (can you even call it a Superman movie?) or not, I don’t see a round the corner line-up to see it. Could be wrong, or you could be all, to quote Pete Townshend, “Dreaming, from the waist on down.”

  • Pallas Brenna

    Unless Warner Bros. is ready to put the most iconic superheroine on
    the big screen, I doubt the likes of Jennifer Lawrence or whoever is the
    current “it” girl can entice them. Look at Sandra Bullock who wanted
    the role during her prime, WB didn’t budge.. And don’t forget about the
    biggest star to date… Angelina Jolie. In 2004, she was becoming
    larger than her partner, Brad Pitt. No activity from WB back then.

    The good news is that Wonder Woman will make an appearance alongside Batman
    vs. Superman or whatever they are calling it. Yes, WB has an actress
    already picked out. Those rumored actresses ( Olga, Gal, etc.) are
    testing for Bruce Wayne’s partner/love interest, not the role of Diana.

  • mrhenry24

    Wonder Woman is ridiculous. The only way Wonder Woman works on screen is by embracing everything ridiculous thing about her. The comment about how if Marvel can make Thor work, then WW can work is spot on, but it ha to done in a similar way. WW doesn’t work in this “hyper realism” world that DC is trying to create. They need to stop going against the Marvel way and realize that it isn’t so much the “marvel way” as it is the “right way” or the “comic book way.”

    Embrace it and celebrate what it is. Put her in that f-ing invisible jet and play it for all it’s worth. It will work, people will love it the way they love the Marvel stuff. DC is too busy trying to make Diana (and Superman for that matter) something she isn’t. They need to stop worrying about making it “cool” and start thinking about making it the right way. If they do it right, it will be cool.

    The other problem is what is the goal with a WW film? Are they thinking she needs to be a $300 million hero? That’s ridiculous. If Captain America and Thor can work, then anything can work, but not at that silly a dollar figure. If they shoot for something that will gross in the $150 (domestic) range, it will absolutely work. Just as Cap and Thor did.

    Trust the character, but sadly, DC doesn’t trust any of it.

  • T.T.

    On one hand I think DC and WB should be ashamed of themselves
    for never getting a Wonder Woman movie on the big screen, but on the other hand
    I completely understand the character is a time bomb of political correctness….
    It’s hard enough to make a comic book movie that everybody likes in general, regardless how well received Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker was there are those who adamantly believe the Joker should be “prema-white”, but when your main character is considered to be, a feminist icon, a sex symbol,and some who should be a role model to women of all ages, that seems like a rather tricky character to adapt for a summer blockbuster that needs to play around the world.

    Wonder Woman may have a lot in common with Thor, but she
    also has a lot of the same problems as Captain America. They were both born out
    of World War II era politics which not everybody relates too anymore, and when
    the Captain America films play over-seas they take his name off of them. The
    image of a woman in a star spangled bustier chopping people’s heads off with a
    sword may be really cool to present day comics fan, but I don’t think it’d play
    real well in theaters with everybody in this country and probably not so good
    over-seas either.

    But if her character isn’t enough trouble her story is even more
    of a problem because every 5 to 10 years a new writer has come along and
    completely reinvented who WW is. Batman and Superman have fairly simple
    motivations, basically they are both orphans and that’s what drives them to be
    heroes, with WW you need to explain, her mother’s story, Greek mythology, how
    her magic island stays invisible… and a whole lot of stuff that is tough to
    fit into a 120 page screenplay, which apparently Joss Whedon tried to figure out
    for a few years but never got there.

    All that aside, as far as I can tell there are really only 2
    ways to make a successful action movie with a female lead, the first way is to
    hire a woman named Angelina Jolie to be the star, the second way is make it an
    R rated movie where the woman fights some kind of monsters either Aliens,
    Werewolves, or Zombies (Alien, Underworld, Resident Evil respectively). A big
    part of the reason Hunger Games is hit is, like Harry Potter, and Twilight,
    there is a huge built in audience from the very popular books

    I have to agree though, that between Jenifer Lawrence’s
    Katniss, and Jamie Alexander’s Lady Sif, there seems to be some vague possibility
    as to how you could make WW into a movie star, but as much as I hate this
    “cop-out” cameo in the Man of Steel sequel idea, it does seem like
    the least risky way to introduce Wonder Woman to the film going public

  • Michael Lalaian

    Well… WB just went against pretty much everything you wrote here :-/

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