What we want from the Wonder Woman sequel
Woman Woman was without doubt a deific success. It satiated critics and fans alike. It obliterated the box office and even crossed the $800 million worldwide mark recently – elevating it to the position of highest-grossing superhero origin story of all time. The limits of Diana’s future seem boundless.
In the wake of that knee-high boot print, we all know that a sequel is coming. Patty Jenkins was recently in talks to secure her directorial return for that second instalment. No doubt Jenkins and DC will want to adhere to the same formula that earned their success the first time around, but I think this sequel is a great opportunity to implement some changes.
It’s the perfect time to remove what didn’t work and to bring the franchise closer to the comics (Rebirth and otherwise). I put forth all of the things that I’d love to see in the sequel – suggestions that are intended to improve upon what was already a strong starting-point.
Expect spoilers for the first Wonder Woman film and for the Wonder Woman Rebirth comics.
Make Cheetah the primary villain
I’m not the first to suggest this (Kevin Smith is a big champion of this idea, for one) – Cheetah is a popular and well-known Wonder Woman villain. She’s been through several iterations over the decades, with multiple women taking up the mantle.
Priscilla Rich was the original, during the Golden Age. Following her, in the Silver Age, was Deborah Domaine. In the modern comics, it’s Barbara Ann Minerva. Along the way a male Cheetah named Sebastian Ballesteros also reared his head, but typically the character is known as a female antagonist.
William Moulton Marsten himself (the man behind Wonder Woman) created the character, along with Harry G. Peter. Cheetah first appeared in Wonder Woman #6, in 1943, in which she grew viciously jealous of Wonder Woman’s popularity, to the point where a repressed personality comes forth, taking her over – a wild, animalistic side with villainous tendencies.
In the Rebirth comics Cheetah is depicted marvellously. Like the other incarnations of Barbara, her origin story reveals that she was once an archaeologist, but there is also a strong focus on the fact that she was a good friend of Diana’s before she discovered the Cult of Urzkartaga (the direct cause of her transformation).
Importantly, Diana is still shown to care dearly for her former-friend and the two ultimately strike a deal to help one anther, despite their adversarial relationship. It’s precisely the kind of delicate duality that we need in the Wonder Woman sequel. The first film showcased Diana’s enormous heart really well (much of which was down to Gal Gadot’s performance). This would be another ideal opportunity for Diana to exhibit her loving, caring nature.
The DCEU on the whole is very fond of adapting newer comic arcs (Injustice, Flashpoint), so it’s perfectly reasonable that the Wonder Woman sequel could draw from the Rebirth run, if DC wanted it to. However, it’s been reported by some that the Wonder Woman sequel will be set in the 80s, pitting Diana against the forces of the Soviet Union in the closing days of the Cold War.
This doesn’t rule out Cheetah. Diana could easily have formed their friendship in the 60s or 70s (which could be shown via flashback). And placing a lethal, animalistic villain in the snows of Russia is not as crazy as it might sound. Imagine a Soviet Soldier wading through a snow storm, only to be set upon by tooth and claw – not those of a wolf or a bear, but of an animal wildly out of place. A beast normally found in the hot climate of sub-Saharan Africa.
The primary narrative could centre upon Diana and Barbara’s feud, which could be tinged beautifully with the ghost of their prior friendship. Just like with Dr Poison in the first film, Cheetah doesn’t have to be the sole villain, which leaves room for the Soviets or for other rogues.
Set it far from man’s world
Setting is everything when it comes to adapting Cheetah. If we place the notion of Soviet Russia aside for a moment, Africa is the setting is where Cheetah truly thrives. Here she becomes a lethal and unpredictable creature, waiting to pounce out from the thick camouflage of nature, claws extended, teeth bared.
We spent much of the first film watching Diana try to find her way in the unfamiliarity of man’s cities and battlefields. I think it’s time to place Diana in a more familiar setting – something a little closer to her home. A rainforest would be ideal. It would bear some semblance to the paradisal Themyscira, making it much closer to the kind of territory that she grew up around.
Make sure to cast Cheetah well
One of the worst things about Jenkins’ film was the casting of David Thewlis as Ares. Thewlis is a strong actor, but he simply doesn’t suit Ares in the slightest. This ill-fit was hammered home when we saw his face showing through the full Ares suit and when we saw a flashback of his past. Thewlis simply looked wrong – the God of War should be young and strong, not a frail older man with a 70s-style moustache.
It’s crucial, then, that the same mistake isn’t made with Barbara. Whoever plays her (ideally an unknown) needs to be a youthful actress who can convincingly come across as an intellectual and who can also convey the barbaric primality that’s required for Cheetah’s vicious temperament.
Don’t bring Ares back
Despite his apparent ruin, it’s always possible that Jenkins might try to bring Ares back for the sequel. He is a deity after all, so it wouldn’t be that big of a stretch if Jenkins found a way to resurrect him. He’s also Diana’s arch nemesis, so it makes sense that Diana might not be rid of him yet.
I don’t think I’m alone when I say I really don’t want to see his return, unless he’s recast and reimagined. A much more sensible option would be to leave the character alone, for now. If they want to return to the Gods in a future Wonder Woman film, then they can reconsider him then. It’s time to focus on the smaller villains instead – Cheetah is somone closer to Diana’s level, who is just as alien to man’s world as she is. And importantly: she’s a woman, not a man.
Avoid a CGI-heavy climax
One of the worst things about the first film (which some other DCEU films are also guilty of) is the way it ends in a big, cliche CGI-brawl. It feels like the writers go on autopilot, letting gimmickry take over instead and it’s not needed.
It’s true that a hero needs to face-off against her nemesis, but I would argue that it needn’t be so CGI-orientated, nor does it need to be so grand in scale. Smaller, but well-choreographed fights often work much better (just look at the quality of the fights depicted in Marvel’s Netflix shows – it’s television, not film, but it highlights that this can work).
Alternatively, a non-violent conclusion could work just as well. If we get our fix of Diana battling Cheetah throughout the second act, then the third act could be a climax of dialogue and heart – where Cheetah and Diana bridge their differences and rebuild their friendship.
Give us the Invisible Jet
This is something that Jenkins has already mentioned will probably feature in future Wonder Woman films. She has said this on the matter:
“The invisible jet is very important and ultimately we have to have the invisible jet. That’s a very big part of Wonder Woman.”
That’s as clear an indication as any that it’s going to happen. As long as it’s done tastefully, I’m all for it. Like Jenkins said – it’s an important part of Diana’s mythos.
Make Chris Pine a descendant of Steve Trevor’s
As great a Chris Pine was as Steve Trevor, personally, I’d rather not have him back at all. Even though he’s crucial to the comics, it would serve his character far better if his sacrifice was respected and he was left alone. But Pine has been confirmed to be returning and there’s one popular theory that might just work.
This is that Pine is coming back not as Steve but as a descendant of Steve’s (most likely his grandson, if the 80s rumours are accurate). Coming back as Steve wouldn’t work anyway, if the film jumps forward in time, unless some supernatural force brings him back (which I don’t condone).
If you aren’t convinced that Steve might have had a child, Pine himself believes the contrary:
“With Steve, I always viewed it that he probably had been in love before and he probably did have a lady, maybe even had a family, and lost that to this awful conflict. The thought of falling in love is so painful for him that he could not allow himself to do it. It had to be about a mission, it had to be God and country, but it could not be him and what he wanted.”
This is the best of both worlds. It would remove the need for any supernatural resurrection and it would respect the significance of Steve’s sacrifice. But we’d still get Pine back, along with all of his charm, in a role that would probably be almost identical to Steve Trevor anyway (like grandfather, like grandson). It’s the smarter choice.
I fear for the sequel because I worry it will fall into the same trappings as the first film. Diana deserves the brightest future and I hope that Jenkins won’t seek to recycle what’s come before.
When you make as much money as this film did, it’s certainly tempting to stick to the formula that worked the first time around. I just hope DC are daring enough to risk a different direction.
Do you want to see all of these things in the sequel? Is there anything you’d love to see that isn’t covered above? Let us know in the comments section below.
Image credits: DC, Warner Bros.