The world has welcomed Wonder Woman with open arms and with love in our hearts. Director Patty Jenkins’ superhero blockbuster starring Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is the first certified win for the DC Extended Universe, boasting the highest Rotten Tomatoes score of any DC film since The Dark Knight, as well as garnering widespread critical and audience acclaim. While Wonder Woman will next be seen as part of the Justice League this November, plans for a sequel to her solo film endeavor are, naturally, already under way. Fans can breathe a sigh of relief that Patty Jenkins is returning to helm the next cinematic chapter of Diana Prince’s story, and the sequel is planned to take take things forward in time to a contemporary setting.
Luckily, plans can change. Producer Charles Roven has stated that in this early stage of planning Wonder Woman 2, “nothing has been written” yet. While the modern-day framing sequence at the Louvre and the final moment of Wonder Woman beg for a continuation, it seems like that the answer to those questions will and would best be found in Justice League and its sequels. In terms of Wonder Woman‘s sequels, the best idea for her and her story is to continue looking backward: Wonder Woman‘s sequels should be set in the past.
Whether they intended to or not when the decision was made to set Wonder Woman in World War I, the brain trust at DC Films created a golden opportunity for themselves. Between Wonder Woman‘s 1918 setting and the emergence of Superman (Henry Cavill) in the Black Zero event that introduced Kryptonians to the world in 2013’s Man of Steel, that’s nearly a hundred years of unanswered questions about the history of the DCEU. And by designing Wonder Woman as an immortal goddess who is thousands of years old, they created the ideal character to chart that veritable playground of history. Wonder Woman literally has the entire 20th century of the DCEU to explore.
The end of Wonder Woman’s World War I adventure opened up a bevy of questions. What did Diana do next? Where did she go? She couldn’t return to Themyscira – by choosing to accompany Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) to the outside world, her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) banished Diana from Paradise Island. Or did she attempt to return to Themyscira at some point? How did she ultimately get a job at the Louvre? How was she able to pretend to be “Diana Prince” for a hundred years without people noticing Diana Prince never ages? Or did people notice?
What’s more, the very fact that Wonder Woman involved herself in World War I, and that her actions against General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and against Ares (David Thewlis) helped end the Great War, changed history. General Ludendorff was an actual historical German leader who wasn’t killed by an Amazon princess in Belgium in the real world. Wonder Woman remaining in the world must have continued to have a butterfly effect on history, by her very existence, not to mention any actions she undertook. It’s hard to believe that after World War I, Diana simply did nothing, went into hiding, and didn’t involve herself in the affairs of mankind in any way since 1918.
However, this is just what Diana claimed at the conclusion of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. At Clark Kent’s Smallville funeral, Diana told Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), “A hundred years ago I walked away from Mankind… from a century of horrors.” Yet that does not seem to be the lesson the woman who defeated Ares and mourned for Steve Trevor learned at the conclusion of the more optimistic Wonder Woman. Diana learned life-changing lessons, both about herself and her godly nature and about Mankind and our nature. Yes, Diana was plunged into the horrors of war that Mankind was capable of, but she learned Man is also good, that we are complex beings, and we are worth saving, even if we sometimes don’t deserve it. Bitterness about humanity isn’t what Diana learned from World War I, or from the sacrifice of Steve Trevor. This makes what she says to Bruce Wayne all the more jarring – and all the more worth exploring.
In the same way that FOX’s X-Men movies have found rich stories around how mutants have affected history since the 1960s, Wonder Woman is in a prime position to not just explore but define how the 20th century happened in the DCEU. It’s already been established that Wonder Woman has been active almost 80 years before Bruce Wayne became the Batman and almost a hundred years before the debut of Superman. Wonder Woman’s exploits throughout the century are stories that not only begs to be told, but they would actually help cement her as the most important hero in the DCEU’s history. As an immortal Amazon demigoddess, being able to walk through history and be a major player in the course of the 20th century is a trait that uniquely belongs to Wonder Woman in the DCEU.
In addition, charting Wonder Woman’s exploits for the last hundred years would be a prime opportunity for the sequels to homage the various ways in which Wonder Woman has evolved in the comics and from her popular television series. A movie set in World War II would be a natural direction to go in, which is where Wonder Woman made her first big impact in the comics and it was the setting of the first season of the show starring Lynda Carter. However, it’s understandable that repeating a World War setting may not be creatively ideal.
What about the 1950’s – Wonder Woman in the midst of Cold War paranoia? Or Wonder Woman in the 1960’s and 1970’s, in the era of Vietnam, the Women’s Liberation movement, and free love? (This was the era in the comics where Wonder Woman lost her Amazon powers and became a martial artist under the tutelage of a sensei named I-Ching.) In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Magneto was imprisoned for 10 years because he was blamed for using his powers to ensure that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated (though he actually tried to prevent it). What if Wonder Woman was in Dallas on that fateful morning of November 22, 1963 – and what if she blocked the bullets with her gauntlets?
It would be a shame and a gigantic loss of potential story possibilities for DC Films to just leap over that missing century of Wonder Woman’s life, with all of its unanswered questions – only to pursue her modern day adventures, which are being charted in the Justice League films anyway. It’s true that creating period films is challenging; having to constantly be historically accurate with costumes and production design is a difficult form of filmmaking. It’s also challenging for Gal Gadot play a younger, still naive version of her character and then have to leap to playing Diana as more worldly and experienced in the Justice League films. At the very least, perhaps Wonder Woman‘s sequels can explore aspects of her missing century in flashbacks, even if the main story is set in modern day.
The most important thing is Wonder Woman’s sequels shouldn’t gloss over and ignore her past and how she affected the DCEU’s past. We now know Wonder Woman has been with us since 1918, and her adventures up until she found herself standing shoulder to shoulder with Batman and Superman facing off against Doomsday need to be told. Wonder Woman could, and rightly should be established as the most important superhero in the DCEU. She is the longest tenured, the most experienced hero in the Justice League. We know where she came from and how she helped change the world in 1918. Wonder Woman must have kept on changing the DECU from that point on. These are stories that demand to be told, to help define Wonder Woman as the true legend she is.
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