Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Wonder Woman
With the arrival of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, audiences of all ages have been enjoying the story of a superhero going to war – including the stunning No Man’s Land battle sequence in which Diana liberates the Belgian town of Veld from the German army. Those glorious moments, and indeed most of Wonder Woman, are set in Diana’s past, a century ago. However, Wonder Woman is also set in the present day of the DC Extended Universe, in the world without Superman post-Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The modern day framing sequences are much more than just a convenient filmmaking device to open and close Wonder Woman – they have a huge and vital significance, both to the Justice League and to the very future of the DCEU. Though he is never sighted in Wonder Woman, Batman’s presence is imminently felt, and his influence turns out to be all-important. Thanks to Batman, these modern day scenes are what bring Wonder Woman back to the world when it needs her most.
Wonder Woman begins and ends in present day Paris, France, with Diana Prince at her place of work, the Louvre Museum. In the opening moments of the film, a Wayne Security truck arrives at the Louvre with a special delivery for Diana: a briefcase containing a note from Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and the original photo of Diana with Steve Trevor and their friends Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui), Charlie (Ewen Bremner), and Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) taken soon after they liberated Veld in 1918. (A digital copy of this photo is something both Bruce and Diana stole from Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman.) “Maybe one day you’ll tell me your story,” reads the note Bruce attached, and the movie goes on to share Diana’s story with the audience.
Why did Bruce Wayne send Diana this photograph? Was it merely a thoughtful gesture to the new friend he made in Metropolis during the events chronicled in Batman v Superman? Possibly, but this is the Batman we are talking about – he has an ulterior motive. The Batman always has a plan, and the original photo he no doubt went to great lengths and expense to acquire carries a greater significance than just a sweet gift to the powerful woman whom he fought Doomsday and attended Superman’s funeral with. The photo wasn’t just a callback to Batman v Superman, or a way for Bruce to again disprove Diana’s assessment of him as “a boy with no inclination to share.” Batman sought a specific result: he was trying to stir Diana to action.
“I used to want to save the world. This beautiful place…” These are the first words Diana utters in Wonder Woman, and the operative part of her words is “used to.” This harkens back to the words Diana spoke to Bruce at Clark Kent’s funeral in Smallville at the conclusion of Batman v Superman: “A hundred years ago I walked away from Mankind… from a century of horrors. Man made a world where standing together is impossible.”
Standing together is the foremost thing on Bruce’s mind. At the funeral, Bruce was a changed man. He had spent two years mired in a personal downward spiral of hating Superman and plotting his demise so he could save the world from the Kryptonian whom he dreaded was a threat. When Superman sacrificed himself to stop Doomsday, the error of Bruce’s ways dawned on him. He shared with Diana his fears that there is an enemy coming whom they would have to fight. He asked Diana to help him find the other metahumans like her (Bruce was unaware that Diana is a god, not a metahuman) so they could stand together and meet this enemy. Diana was skeptical, and she never actually gave Bruce an answer. She just walked away.