Wonder Woman is the third head of DC’s supergroup the Justice League, behind Batman and Superman, respectively. She’s one of the strongest heroes in the DC Universe, even able to hold her own against the Man of Steel himself. And yet, her origin and general history isn’t a part of the pop culture lexicon as much as her male counterparts.
Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot, seeks to shed light on the heroine and bring relevance to her rich legacy. But what if you want to approach the film with a little more knowledge and context to the character, not only in terms of her comic book counterpart, but her placement in the DCEU overall? Here’s a brief rundown of the powerhouse Amazon herself.
(Potential spoilers ahead)
The Film Takes Place Before Batman v Superman
If you were wondering why Wonder Woman looks so young in Batman v Superman despite her solo film taking place during World War I, it’s because she’s an immortal Amazonian demigod. Wonder Woman will take place before the events of 2016’s Batman v Superman, and will explore the aforementioned heroine’s place of origin, the Amazonian island of Themyscira — also known as Paradise Island — where she resides, and her introduction to mankind. In the comics, Wonder Woman was sculpted from clay by her mother Queen Hippolyta and given life by Aphrodite, along with superhuman powers as gifts by other Greek gods. Before that, she was an Amazonian warrior with her powers having no ties to the gods at all. However, a more modern take on her origin from DC Comics’ New 52 reboot — which altered the history of many characters – has been implemented instead. It depicts her as the daughter of Zeus, jointly raised by her mother Hippolyta and her aunts Antiope and Menalippethe, which the film will be adapting.
The director also made a bold move to step away from Greek architecture, used to depict the island in past incarnations in favor of a civilization that embraces nature instead. Production designer Aline Bonetto was quoted in the LA Times saying, “The island was a gift from the gods, they don’t cut into the stone, they use an open cave. They decide to live with nature, using what nature gives to them.” Their reverence for nature isn’t primitive, mind you. What remains the same between the comics and the film is United States intelligence officer Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine in the film) crashing on the island, and being escorted back to civilization by Wonder Woman during war time, with the latter vowing to bring the violence to its end. The one difference between both mediums is the war taking place at the time.
The Story Is Set in World War I Instead of World War II
Princess Diana, also known as Wonder Woman, was conceptualized during the 1940s in the midst of World War II. The comics were used as propaganda for the war, amongst other things, and saw the titular hero battling it out with Nazis and thwarting the plans of the Axis powers. In an EW interview, the director goes on to explain why they decided to alter the setting for the film. “World War I is the first time that civilization as we know it was finding its roots, but it’s not something that we really know the history of.” She continues, “Even the way that it was unclear who was in the right of WWI is a really interesting parallel to this time. Then you take a god with a moral compass and a moral belief system, and you drop them into this world, there are questions about women’s rights, about a mechanized war where you don’t see who you are killing. It’s such a cool time.”
This being Diana’s first time off her island, it seems a lot of the movie will see her learning the ways of humanity, but at one of the worst moments in human history. It will shape the sort of hero she will become, and may delve into why she was hesitant to jump into the fight with Doomsday during BvS.
Ares Will Serve as the Film’s “Big Bad”
David Thewlis will be portraying the Greek god of war Ares in the film, son of Zeus and half brother to Diana. In the comics, the character usually acts as the princess’s main antagonist with the goal of everlasting war amongst civilization. During the early days of the Wonder Woman comics, his vision of constant conflict was opposed by Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who naturally had a contrary vision of love and peace on Earth. Due to men who worshiped Ares, killing and selling women under his name, Aphrodite molded Amazons from clay, and built an island state called Amazonia (now Themyscira) where women ruled and followed the way of the goddess.
Given his casting and the setting of the movie, expect him to be partly, if not wholly, responsible for most of the conflict in the film.
Flashbacks Within the Movie May Tie Things Together
Even though Wonder Woman is set before the events of BvS and even Man of Steel, the movie will have to tie into the overarching universe somehow. It’s speculated this will be done via flashback in either the beginning or end of the film. Especially given the fact DC movies have yet to have post credit scenes the way Marvel flicks do. It’s possible the plot of the film as a whole is a flashback of Wonder Woman reminiscing on her first contact with mankind, and that it will set up her character arc for Justice League, set to release later this year.
Wonder Woman Will Kill If Necessary
One of the defining traits of Wonder Woman that sets her apart from other members of the Justice League like Bats or Supes is her willingness to kill if the situation calls for it. Footage in the trailers even show Wonder Woman causing fatal damage to her enemies. It’s a big deal given fan response to Superman’s body count in Man of Steel, which gained backlash from fans who deemed it unheroic during its initial release. So much so, following movies like BvS have gone out of their way to inform audience members that no civilians are hurt during these big superhero battles. Diana is a warrior from a warrior race, first and foremost. She wields a sword and shield (in some incarnations) and is always the first person ready to scrap. But what keeps her grounded despite her goddess status is her moral compass and innate desire to see the best in people. And given the fact that in this film we’ll see her first interaction with people outside her culture, her boundaries will be challenged against the boundaries of the average citizen.
Comics to Get You Prepared for the Movie
For one of the best Wonder Woman stories told to date, check out Gail Simone’s The Circle, with illustrations by Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson. Simone in this single story was able to revive the status of the character during a time where her fanbase was divided in the direction she was being written. She was also able to introduce new characters that served to make Wonder Woman’s rouge gallery more respectable, given the fact she’s been battling the same handful of enemies since her inception.
If you’d like to delve deeper into the origin story of which the film will draw influence, pick up Brain Azzarello’s Wonder Woman, Vol. 1: Blood. The art by Cliff Chiang and Tony Akins beautifully illustrates the setting of Themyscira and the cast of characters. Paired with the sharp dialogue of Azzarello, Blood delivers a sophisticated approach to superhero storytelling.