Rant Warning: Wonder Woman and the Problems of Deconstruction (Before Construction)

This came out today:

In any rational world, this would be way up my alley. Already a clearly strong lead with an inventive setting (how many WW1 movies are there, especially big-ass blockbusters?) and there’s been a need for a Wonder Woman movie for god knows how long. 75 years?

Yet, despite the well-put together trailer, I’m not feeling it just yet.

It’s not what you’d think. Yes, my feelings on the current DCEU are fairly clear and yes, I’ve been burned twice now on these movies. I think it’s fair to urge caution with these DCEU films, the trailers have looked incredible basically every time (Man of Steel #3, BvS Comic-Con, Suicide Squad Bohemian Rhapsody) and have each time turned out nowhere near living up to the promise.

But a good trailer shouldn’t set me on edge. After all, it’s fully possible a good trailer could be cut from a good movie. That is sometimes how that works.

Nor is it necessarily the credits, though that may be our intro. Despite Zack Snyder not directing this one, he’s got a “Story By” credit and he is still producing. Moreover, this film by necessity follows up out of the creative decisions that he made with the character in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

And there’s the rub.

The intro to this trailer seems to be set in the modern day, my guess is that we get a frame of Wonder Woman flashing back to her past. As the trailer sets it up, this ultimately becomes the story of how she turns her back on humanity, overwhelmed by the darkness within it.

For those of you unfamiliar, Wonder Woman as a character is a diplomat. The emissary from Themyscira to Man’s World always intended to broker peace before resorting to war. That’s why her primary weapons have always been a lasso and a pair of deflecting bracelets. Weapons of defense, not offense.

Now, why was Wonder Woman chosen as that emissary? Because of her good nature. Because she fundamentally believes in the goodness of humanity, it’s a core aspect of her character. In other words, making a Wonder Woman who doesn’t believe in humanity is a BIG FUCKING DEAL.

Not that it hasn’t been done before. In fact, Kingdom Come, one of the greatest DC stories ever told, does feature a Wonder Woman that has ultimately grown distant from humanity.

But besides the fact that Kingdom Come is an alternate universe story rather than the main DC line, the conception of that character builds out of years of stories about the character. Much like Superman withdrawing from the world and Batman becoming totally alone, the intention is to ask “What brought her to this point?” as it is so unusual.

In other words, they didn’t start off asking this question. They had a construction of the character before they broke her down and analyzed her. Which is the biggest concern I have about Wonder Woman. We already know where this character is going to end up, as a deconstruction of a character we didn’t know. The whole trajectory of this film is to break down the character and ask what could make her turn her back on humanity. Without us ever really having the room to understand why she initially embraces it.

The DCEU is a deconstructionist comic book work. For those of you unfamiliar, comic book deconstructionism is a movement that began in the 80s with the works of writers like Alan Moore and Frank Miller. These were works that sought to apply more complex human psychology to superheroes. Works like Watchmen, Miracleman, and The Dark Knight Returns took the iconography and actions of these superheroes and asked who the real people willing to put themselves in those situations would be. Deconstructionist writers found that those people might not be mentally all together. Batman might have deep-seated parental issues, Nite Owl might use crime-fighting as a sublimation for his own impotence, and someone like Miracleman might be a mad god.

The extreme popularity of these books (credited with reviving the comics industry) had a huge effect on those who followed. This included Zack Snyder, who has repeatedly credited The Dark Knight Returns for inspiring Batman v. Superman and who panel for panel adapted Watchmen. Hell, we’ve heard Snyder and his producing partner Deborah Snyder say they were deconstructing the heroes.

Fundamentally, there’s something wrong about breaking these characters down without ever having created them. The first big screen creation of Wonder Woman is starting off what should be years into her. We have no idea who she is, but we’re already being asked to question her. That’s a weird place for a character to be.

Am I willing to be wrong? Absolutely. I hope this is everything we need and that Justice League puts it all back together. But my teeth got set on edge, seeing the same attitude time and time again with these films.

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One thought on “Rant Warning: Wonder Woman and the Problems of Deconstruction (Before Construction)”

  1. I am not sure if you’ve seen 2009’s animated Wonder Woman movie, but thie new trailler reminded me so much of that one, for better or for worse.

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