It’s one thing for Bleeding Cool’s Richard and Brendon to look at David Kelley’s TV pilot script for Wonder Woman picked up byNBC and pass judgment. It’s a whole other thing for Sue, writer for mega-popular blog DC Women Kicking Ass to review it.
We’re talking investment in character, investment in the comic, investment in what Wonder Woman actually means as an icon, a role model and an inspiration. She writes;
Any film or TV show based on a well known comic character has a hard job. It must engage viewers who may not be that familiar with the character while also satisfying the character’s fans. How does David E. Kelley’s script for Wonder Woman do?
First the good. Kelley’s Wonder Woman is very likable. She has passion, she cares about her co-workers and friends, she has a sense of humor and she’s presented as the very modern model of a very modern woman. I could do without the Sex and the City vibe though, it would have been nice to have Diana have one conversation with her friend that wasn’t about men.
And while she’s likable, they’re trying a bit too hard to take the stuffing out of the claim some have made about the character is stuffy. As a result, we get Diana using expressions like “bidness” for business and using the expression “Lucy got some ‘splaining to do”. And there are at least three scenes of Diana rocking out in the car or plane. We get it; she’s not stuffy.
As you’ve probably read, Kelley is returning to the “Diana Prince” secret identity in addition to her identity as Diana Themyscira CEO/Wonder Woman. It’s part of an never ending cycle with Wonder Woman. Some writers are fine with the idea that she’s just Wonder Woman, warrior and ambassador of peace. And others feel the need to make her “more human” and give her a normal identity as well.
Kelley has everyone refer to Diana as “Di” and I can’t help but think he’s connecting her to Princess Di. This Amazon Princess also yearns to be the people’s princess. She’s wants to revel in the everyday minutia of “man’s world” longing to be with her research team “the Animals” (think X-Files “Lone Gunmen crossed with CSI) who drink, swear and dance to Kanye West. While she runs a huge company and has a luxurious penthouse, she also keeps a small, humble West LA apartment in her guise as Diana Prince. It’s endearing that she wants to be one of the on the “normal” people but the third ID seems a silly plot point that leads to same question it does when done in the comic — why? Do we really need a “who is Wonder Woman?” story. There’s already hints of it in the script and it could not interest me less.
And now to the biggest problem of the show — communicating what her motivation and mission is. In comics Wonder Woman fights for justice on a global scale and has a mission of peace. Here, she’s reduced to a street level vigilante and fighting crime in concert with the LA police. This small scope combined with an unclear mission makes it hard to understand what this Wonder Woman stands for other then just chasing bad guys. Literally. The show opens with her chasing down a guy by foot. She may go by the name Wonder Woman, but all Kelley’s version has in common with Wonder Woman of recent years is that’s she’s strong, from an island of all women, once wore a star-spangled bathing suit and fights for good.
Kelley cherry picks Diana’s mythos. If you’re looking for a Wonder Woman who worships and gets her powers from the Gods, she’s not here. Diana has some powers — we’re told she can outrun a car and lift a truck but she’s also seen doing physical training. In a montage she boxes takes a spin class (to Lady GaGa’s “Bad Romance”) this is intercut with Amazons training on the Island by swinging through trees. She still has the bracelets, but wears a bullet proof vest, too. She’s tough, but still gets black eyes. And she has the lasso, which is dramatically wielded as an instrument of fear to gain information from a criminal. There’s no real explanation of what these things mean or where they come from. They are just there because, well, they’re Wonder Woman’s. Perhaps that’s for episode 2, if there is one.
At least he keeps her kick ass. His Wonder Woman is fearless. She walks into a fight where she’s clearly outnumbered. She calls some Senators in a congressional hearing “wind bags” and lambastes Congress and Big Pharma. Both Greg Rucka and Phil Jimenez wrote Wonder Woman as someone who openly spoke about the world’s injustices so it was good to see that this part of the recent comic book Wonder Woman was retained.
The smartest choice Kelley made is to make her main nemesis Veronica Cale. Cale comes from the comic, Greg Rucka created her for his run, and it’s a good choice. While Diana has deadlier rogues, Cheetah for example, Cale has no powers other than being a high-powered business women so she’s the perfect foil for CEO Diana. Cale essentially acts as Wonder Woman’s Lex Luthor— a driven, powerful envious villain. With Cale it’s a battle of wits which fits the smaller scope of the show’s world.
Kelly has plucked a variety of supporting characters from various Wonder Woman runs. It’s a eclectic mix. Myndi Mayer and Ed Indelicato from the Perez run, a pre-crisis version of Etta Candy and a very pre-Crisis Steve Trevor. Myndi is softer than the comic version. While she’s still a publicist she’s also a feisty and loyal friend for Diana.
Steve Trevor is a major factor in Diana’s life. Trevor is also the key motivator for her not only leaving the island, but coming to LA. He’s the LOVE of her life. It’s great to see Wonder Woman with a love interest. My concern is it’s just such a big part of her story. That and that she moons like a teenager (She’s supposed to be early 30s) over him. This love has kicked her ass according to Kelley’s script. She’s “Like a deer in the headlights” when she sees him. “Death” it says in the script as she hears his romantic status. Why can’t we just have a fun Diana who is like a female Bruce Wayne dating a new guy or girl every week? Having her so attached to one person is another example of the small scope of the show.
The pining for Steve is a little silly when you remember that Diana is supposed to be one of the most beautiful women in the world. But here she’s been turned in just another body conscious female. Sitting in a meeting (where the script in a bit of WTF’ry says she “suffers a bit from ADHD) Wonder Woman declares she wants smaller boobs on her licensed dolls because when someone says her boobs aren’t as big or thought they would be larger. “It’s hurtful” she says. A body-conscious Wonder Woman? That’s painfully out of character.
If this were a show about a generic female crime fighter, it wouldn’t be bad. But it’s not. It’s about Wonder Woman and what Kelley has done, despite the character’s love of flying, is to bring her down to earth and not in a good way. He underplays her origin, reduces her scope and waters down her motivation. Wonder Woman is a bigger than life character who should inspire awe. And there are moments where he writes her that way but for the most part it just feels like Diana Themyscira is a wonderful woman but hardly a Wonder.