WARNING: This article contains MASSIVE SPOILERS for Wonder Woman.
The success of Wonder Woman means a sequel is guaranteed… even if Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor won’t be able to return. But can a death off-screen truly end the chemistry between Chris Pine and star Gal Gadot when their romance had only begun to blossom? If fans take the film and Wonder Woman‘s larger DCEU connections at face value, then Diana’s jump to the modern world make it a pointless question, since Steve Trevor would be dead for decades. So why is it that director Patty Jenkins isn’t stating outright that Steve Trevor won’t return? Could she know something that the average fan doesn’t or is she just keeping her options open?
With the villainous Doctor Poison able to return, and even the possibility of introducing Diana’s enemy Cheetah in Wonder Woman 2, it may be fair to say that the time has come and gone when Wonder Woman truly needed Steve Trevor (either as a budding heroine or a superhero franchise). Still, we can’t help but wonder if Chris Pine’s time in the series is only getting started. And just how the creators at DC Films could pull off the trick…
Why Steve’s Return Poses a Problem
The biggest hurdle between Steve Trevor’s story and a potential continuation in a Wonder Woman sequel is simple enough: the climax of the first film hinges almost entirely on his death. As Diana heads into battle with Ares, having realized almost all of her demigoddess abilities, Steve heads off to solve the problem of Dr. Maru and Ludendorff’s new breed of mustard gas. And by “solve” we mean “pilot the bomber to a high altitude, and detonate the combustible gas before it can spread to harm thousands of innocents. Steve ascends behind the yoke, aims his pistol, and Diana watches as the massive fireball erupts above the clouds. And Steve Trevor’s death saves thousands.
Both the loss of Steve Trevor and the sacrifice he gave push Diana to extremes, losing herself in a rage for failing to stop the death of good men and women in the face of Ares’s master plan. Not to mention she was presumably falling in love with Steve, and he had only wound up on the plane after they parted ways due to her losing resolve. That anger drives the action of the Diana/Ares showdown to its climax, but it’s Steve’s sacrifice that snaps Diana out of her crisis of faith. Steve believed in mankind, and gave his life for it. The least she could do was get the message, realize she believed the same, and save the day.
That she did, but for obvious reasons, any decision to see Steve Trevor or Chris Pine share scenes with Diana is going to be tricky. One answer is clear enough. The other… well, let’s start with the obvious solution.
Steve Didn’t Die in The Explosion
The simplest path to keeping Steve Trevor in the Wonder Woman series may be the best one, since the audience doesn’t actually see Steve die before their very eyes. He takes his final moments to consider… whatever individual viewer wants to believe, before opening his eyes– the next anyone sees is the explosion. It’s impossible to tell how much time has passed between the two moments, since his and Diana’s storylines are staggered throughout the final act. One might ask: if neither DC nor Patty Jenkins intended to make Steve’s death a question mark, why leave the possibility of his survival? The answer might simply be that Jenkins (or the ratings board) might find it less tasteful, but uncertainty may be the better conclusion.
That is, uncertainty on whether or not Steve Trevor will return. Honestly, the studio had enough of a challenge getting Wonder Woman to be an unqualified smash success to worry about a sequel (arguably the way these franchises should be built). The story requires Steve’s death, but there’s no question the franchise would benefit from Chris Pine’s presence in it. When all else fails, rely on poignant imagery and editing to give Steve Trevor a sendoff… while leaving a note of ambiguity so his return wouldn’t be a complete fake-out. We have to believe a parachute wouldn’t be that hard to find.
Of course, you would be sacrificing a serious amount of the emotional weight of the film, and the meaning behind Diana’s story. Showing Steve to have survived, perhaps wounded or missing after the explosion would be a thrill to fans, but stands completely at odds with Diana’s connection to his death (touching his photo, thanking Bruce Wayne for returning him to her, etc.). Give fans enough time, and it may be a compromise worth making… but we wouldn’t bet on it.
A Descendant of Steve Trevor, Perhaps?
It was floated as nothing more than a rumor or even a conversation topic before the Wonder Woman film entered production: if the film was going to be split between World War I and the modern day, could Chris Pine be cast to play Diana’s love interest Steve Trevor in… both? Don’t worry, Marvel fans, it’s not a case of putting Steve Trevor on ice to be thawed out decades later. Instead, the plot could adopt the same strategy used when Lynda Carter’s original Wonder Woman TV series jumped from ABC to CBS. Where the first season was a period caper series set during World War II, the second shifted into the modern day – with actor Lyle Waggoner now playing the son of his former character, Steve Trevor, Jr.. In the show Diana made a point of her former partner never even mentioning his son… but could a similar twist in the DCEU actually work?
It’s inherently a wink to the audience, but given the reaction to Wonder Woman, it’s hard to imagine Patty Jenkins couldn’t pull off the magical wave of her hand to keep Gal Gadot and Chris Pine in the spotlight (even if the romance isn’t carried over, since that would just be… weird). Still, it’s fairly clear that the movie Steve doesn’t have a family or children to speak of. But fans might want to pump their brakes on that assumption, and listen to Pine’s own vision of Steve’s backstory – pulled straight from Wonder Woman: The Art and Making of The Film by Sharon Gosling:
“With Steve, I always viewed it that he probably had been in love before and he probably did have a lady, maybe even had a family, and lost that to this awful conflict. The thought of falling in love is so painful for him that he could not allow himself to do it. It had to be about a mission, it had to be God and country, but it could not be him and what he wanted. He’s got a mission that, up until the very last, is his driving force. Along the way he happens to fall madly in love with a goddess. And he just holds off and holds off and holds off until he can’t bear to let her go.”
There’s a big difference between an actor’s mental background for their character and what the studio or director deems ‘canon,’ let alone concrete plans for a sequel. But Pine has opened the door to the question, at the very least.
Which leaves fans to ask themselves: would a missing grandchild of Steve Trevor blessed with his father’s good looks, but likely little knowledge of his time with Wonder Woman be a worthwhile path to pursue for Wonder Woman 2? Or would a surprise return from Trevor in another period sequel be worth losing the emotional core of Diana’s character?