Why Did It Take So Long For Wonder Woman To Get Made?

Wonder Woman is stronger than Hercules, wiser than Athena, and one of the longest-running comic book heroines of all time. So, why haven't studios leapt on the opportunity to bring her story to the big screen?

The first Wonder Woman comic came out in 1941, but it's taken 76 years for the Amazonian warrior princess to get her very own live-action film. Clearly, Wonder Woman's DC Comics compatriots didn't have to wait three quarters of a century for their big-screen debuts. I don't have enough fingers to count all of the Batman, Superman, and Batman vs. Superman films that have been released over the years. At last, it's Diana Prince's turn.

To understand the delay in bringing her to theaters, first we'll delve back into the origins of the comic book. When the Wonder Woman comic came out, it was nothing short of revolutionary. Over the years, TV adaptations and potential film scripts have attempted to harness Diana's initial spirit, to varying degrees of success. Given its glowing critical reception, this upcoming film would've delighted Wonder Woman's feminist creator.

Prepare to be surprised, delighted, and most of all, excited for the upcoming Wonder Woman film.

Wonder Woman premieres in theaters on Friday, June 2, 2017.

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Let's start with a brief summary of Wonder Woman's premise.

In the comics, Princess Diana is the daughter of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazon warriors. Diana comes of age on an island paradise called Themyscira, an all-woman colony the Amazonians founded after they fled Ancient Greece to escape the confines of male-dominated society.

When an American pilot named Steve Trevor crashes on Themyscira, Hippolyta concludes that he must leave the island, since no men are allowed. Diana is his escort back to the "World of Men."

If you're smelling a love interest brewing, think again. Though Steve proposed marriage multiple times, Diana always put saving the world before settling down.

Wonder Woman has a whole suite of powers, thanks to the Olympian gods. The goddess Demeter granted her a link to the Earth, giving her superhuman strength and durability. Hermes gave her flight, speed, and reflexes. She has heightened empathy from Athena, and the ability to communicate with animals from Artemis. Casual.
But first: the absolutely amazing origin story of the Wonder Woman comic.

First published in 1941, the Wonder Woman comic was the brainchild of an interesting figure named William Moulton Marston. Before writing Wonder Woman, Marston was the psychologist who invented the lie detector. He also lived with his wife and mistress in the same house — but DC comics didn’t know that when they hired him as a consultant in 1940.

Marston was brought on by Superman’s writer in an effort to convince wary parents that comic books weren’t harming their children. Marston’s biggest problem with comics? Their “bloodcurdling masculinity.”
Wonder Woman was the first feminist superhero.

Marston had ties to the feminist and birth control movements, long before feminism was a line used to hit on women in bars. When writing Wonder Woman, he imbued her character and Themyscira with his forward-thinking philosophies.

As Marston succinctly put it, “Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who, I believe, should rule the world.”

In 1942, another comic-book writer tried to cap Wonder Woman's feminist fury. Diana was written as the secretary for the Justice Society of America. Marston was irate, and demanded full control over his character, which he received.

Want to know more about Marston? You're in luck. A film about Marston and his partners, called Professor Marston & The Wonder Women, is coming out this year. Perfect timing.
Warner Bros TV/DC Comics/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock
This explains Wonder Woman’s kryptonite.

Wonder Woman loses her powers whenever her Amazon bracelets are chained together. As Wonder Woman explains in the comic, "It is Aphrodite's Law! When an Amazon girl permits a man to chain her bracelets of submission together she becomes weak as other women in a man-ruled world!"

So, most Wonder Woman comics in the '40s involved her struggling against chains. Prudish audiences thought this reeked of fetishism and sexuality — which, given Marston’s free-wheeling ways, was probably the case. But more significantly, the bondage represented all the typical constraints that tie women down. Diana frees herself every time.

Wonder Woman subversively showed that women could achieve anything, were the social constraints of domesticity and marriage to be lifted.
Wonder Woman's first small-screen attempt came in 1967.

William Dozier, the creator of the Batman show starring Adam West, wrote this short film in the hopes of selling Warner Brothers Studios on the idea of a Wonder Woman comedy series. The show was called Who's Afraid of Diana Prince?

The trailer is downright cheesy. While Wonder Woman (Ellie Wood Walker) poses in front of the mirror, the narrator condescends, "Wonder Woman, who knows she has the strength of Hercules. Who knows she has the wisdom of Athena. Who knows she has the speed of Mercury. And who thinks thinks she has the speech of Aphrodite."
In 1974, Wonder Woman got her first television film.

Superman and Batman both were in theaters in the ‘40s, but it took until the mid-’70s for the Wonder Woman film and TV show to get made.

In 1974, the painfully '70s Wonder Woman film starring Cathy Lee Crosby was aired on TV. Prior to Wonder Woman, Crosby Lee a tennis star. This was her first acting role. It shows.
In 1975, the Wonder Woman TV series began.

While playing Wonder Woman/Diana Prince in the classic show, Linda Carter solidified our modern conception of the character. Carter's signature move of spinning into Wonder Woman form was later incorporated in the comics. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Carter revealed she invented the spin herself.

In this gem of a scene, Diana is preparing to escort Steve back to America. Her mother Hippolyta, warily warns her, “There are many things you don’t know about the world of men. There are even some women there who are less than our Amazonian ideals.”

Diana responds, "I believe I can handle them, mother.”

Taken out of context, this could be any mother speaking to her daughter before her first date.
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The push towards the big screen began in 2001.

Producer Joel Silver was determined to make a Wonder Woman film, and enlisted the help of screenwriter Todd Alcott, whose most notable credit up until to date was, of all things, Antz.

The center of Alcott's script wasn't Wonder Woman, but a new character entirely: Donna Troy, Wonder Woman's daughter whose powers are suddenly awakened after Wonder Woman dies.

Unsurprisingly, Alcott's script was criticized for avoiding Wonder Woman's origin story, and for fitting an amalgamation of many different superhero tropes into one made-up character.

Even Sandra Bullock, the frontrunner to play Donna Troy, was lukewarm about the script. She reportedly told the film's team they'd have to rework the plot.
Carolyn Contino/BEI/REX/Shutterstock
Laeta Kalogridis took over the scriptwriting process.

Alcott's script was a flop, so another screenwriter was brought on board. In 2003, Silver tapped Laeta Kalogridis, who wrote the war epic Alexander, to take the reigns.

Improving upon Alcott's script, Kalogridis' version focused on Diana's roots in Themyscira. in this movie that never was, the god Ares is determined to plunge the world into total warfare. Diana is the last line of defense.
Chelsea Lauren/Variety/REX/Shutterstock
The Joss Whedon movie that never was.

In March 2005, Joss Whedon was hired to write and direct a Wonder Woman project. Whedon's vision was a departure from Wonder Woman's usual origin story. Set in the modern day, Diana left Themyscira to deal with problems like drug dealers in Gateway City — not the usual world war calamities. Cobie Smulders was tapped to play the Amazon warrior herself.

Whedon told Rookie Magazine that his version of Wonder Woman was perplexed by humanity, until a romance with Steve Trevor opened her eyes. Whedon explained, "Ultimately her romance with Steve was about him getting her to see what it’s like not to be a goddess, what it’s like when you are weak, when you do have all these forces controlling you and there’s nothing you can do about it. That was the sort of central concept of the thing. Him teaching her humanity and her saying, okay, great, but we can still do better.”

Long story short: Wonder Woman disdains humanity, Steve Trevor makes her feel empathy.

Warner Brothers passed in 2007, and the movie was never made. You can read the entire script here.
Wonder Woman almost got another TV show in 2011.

But given this pilot, we're happy she didn't. David E. Kelley was brought on to write a pilot starring Adrianna Palicki. Ultimately, NBC passed.

In Kelley's vision, Wonder Woman is an incredibly accomplished superhero — but something's missing. She yearns for a partner. She watches The Notebook with her cat. When she finds out Steve is engaged, she sets her Facebook profile to "single." Under the "friends" category, she fills in Sylvester, the name of her cat.
Wonder Woman almost got gritty.

In 2011, there was buzz that Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn was in talks with Warner Bros. about making a Wonder Woman film starring Christina Hendricks.

At 2011's Empire Big Screen convention, Refn said, "I think someone said to me in a meeting that if I get Logan’s Run right, then I’ll get Wonder Woman.”

While the director of Drive was eventually offered the opportunity to direct Wonder Woman, he turned it down.
A last-minute director switch-up.

It can't be a Wonder Woman movie without some drama during production, I guess. Finally, the Warner Bros. studio settled on Alan Heinberg to write the script — after versions from Jason Fuchs (Ice Age) and Zack Snyder (300) were passed over.

This time, the drama came with the director role. Michelle MacLaren was slated to direct, but she cut ties with Warner Bros. in 2015. Reportedly, she wanted to make the movie a historical epic, whereas the studio was hoping for more of a character-driven story.

Patty Jenkins was pulled aboard.

Pictured: Patty Jenkins
Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock
So, why has it taken 76 years for a Wonder Woman feature film?

Patty Jenkins, director of the 2017 film, weighed in with her best guess in an interview with CinemaBlend.

"The only thing I can think of is that the genre became synonymous with young men, and so I think there was a concern that they wouldn't be as interested in a female lead and it's taken years for that to sort itself out. That's all it comes down to," Jenkins said.

The critical panning of other women-led superhero films like Electra, Supergirl, and Catwoman certainly didn't help Wonder Woman's case.

Pictured: Halle Berry in Catwoman (2004)
Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock
A sea change cometh, and we might have The Hunger Games to thank.

Jenkins thinks we've never been more ready to receive a film about Wonder Woman.

“Things like The Hunger Games have already made a huge impact and I think they helped open the door for us,” Jenkins said. “It’s finally saying: ‘Look, there are people making these things with female leads that doesn’t become a chick’s film! It becomes a film for both genders!’ and so other people have opened the door, but I certainly hope that in the superhero genre this will change things.”
What's the word?

The word is good, people, the word is good! Early reviews are generally spectacular.

Once the embargo lifted, critics took to Twitter in droves.

Germain Lussier of Gizmodo said, "Wonder Woman is the DC movie I've been waiting for. It's exciting, inspiring, funny, and has some truly awe-inspiring action scenes."

Katie Erbland of IndieWire said, "WONDER WOMAN: Easily my favorite DCEU film. Has the humor and heart the franchise so desperately needs. Gadot and Pine are charming as hell."

The list goes on and on.

Maybe Wonder Woman was worth the wait.
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