The origins of the character – whether the initial version or modern – make the difficulties in adaptation fairly clear: trying to make a mystical society of warrior women tracing back to the Olympian gods seem realistic, grounded, or in any way plausible is a challenge – no matter how you cut it.
It’s true that many skeptics leveled that same charge against Superman, claiming that there was simply no way that Krypton’s last son could exist within Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight universe. Seriously, a flying alien with superhuman powers that could share the tone of the gritty, grounded Batman films? Inconceivable!
In the end, David S. Goyer and Zack Snyder managed to pull off the task better than many thought possible (read our review), with one of the most common criticisms being that Man of Steel ended up too much like Nolan’s film; not fantastic, optimistic, or lighthearted enough. So if the duo managed to ground a fantastic fiction once, wouldn’t it be just as easy to do the same for Wonder Woman and the Amazons?
To be blunt: we don’t think so. As difficult as it might seem to make Superman and his powers plausible in our own world, Snyder and Goyer had to first ask audiences to accept one fact in order to suspend disbelief: that human beings are not alone in the universe. Since much of the scientific community would agree with that assertion, and modern science fiction takes that as a given, the filmmakers had a great deal of wiggle room (even if the resulting action stretched plausibility).
In the case of Wonder Woman, that initial hurdle isn’t so easy to clear. In order for audiences to buy into Diana’s powers and upbringing, they don’t need to accept the existence of extraterrestrial life, but that the gods and goddesses of Olympus were – and are – similarly plausible. Azzarello’s recent reboot has proven that pill may be worth swallowing, but if Wonder Woman is going to be placed squarely into the Batman vs. Superman universe, armor and all (as seems to be the case), the implications of those origins are too massive to ignore.
It may have been risky to introduce General Zod and the rest of Krypton’s survivors, but the closing moments of Man of Steel removed most, if not all, of the ensuing complications; Kal-El is the only being with his powers, as his home planet and its inhabitants are long gone, freeing him to become the hero he chooses to be. But bring in Themyscira and the Amazons, and things aren’t so neat and tidy.
Unlike Man of Steel, the core premise of Wonder Woman’s fiction is based on a myth that a modern audiences recognizes as dated. Yet once that myth – a mysterious island of warrior women related to mythical deities – is introduced, it is irrevocably part of the world that Henry Cavill’s Superman and Ben Affleck’s Batman inhabit.
Given just how nit-picky the comic book movie crowd has proven to be, they’ve got a variety of nagging questions to choose from: how can an island be completely hidden given modern technology? How can a society consisting only of women possibly endure? How can a movie universe modeled after our own include Zeus and Hades strolling down Main Street? There are answers of course, but each one stretches believability even farther.
Fans could point to the existence of Thor and Asgard in Marvel’s cinematic universe as evidence that human and supernatural heroes can coexist onscreen, but it’s not as if Themyscira exists in some far-off realm, able to be ignored entirely if the plot requires it. And, as we’ve said before, Marvel isn’t aiming for the level of realism DC and Warner Bros. are after.
The only certainty, then, is that Goyer and Snyder will have to twist Wonder Woman’s story somehow if they hope to make it work in their budding universe, otherwise they risk sacrificing the believability and tone they have established to date.
With that in mind, we can’t help but think a Kryptonian heritage may solve most problems.