WONDER WOMAN 01.01 PILOT

Posted: July 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

Every few years comic creators take a look at their characters and ask themselves “Are we relevant?”

The answers they come up with have given us the Adams revitalization of the 70’s, and Miller’s gritty The Dark Night Returns. It’s given us Byrne’s The Man of Steel, Waid’s Superman: Birthright and John’s Superman: Secret Origin. It’s led to characters such as the Flash and Green Lantern being revamped almost completely, with whole new characters created to carry on the name.

Outside of comics it’s given us the campy Batman tv series of the 60’s, the Tim Burton reboot of the 80’s and the critically acclaimed Dark Night Trilogy from Chris Nolan. It’s lead to Christopher Reeves as Superman, Brandon Routh as Superman, and soon Henry Cavill. It’s meant there was a Flash tv series which didn’t quite work, and a Justice League Pilot that most definitely didn’t. And for a brief time, it looked like there was going to be a modern Wonder Woman tv series.

The classic Linda Carter series is fondly remembered, even though the second season wasn’t anywhere as good as the first. Surely enough time had passed that a new tv series with a new take on the character would find an audience? A strong female lead, a character who could go head to head with Superman, a literal Amazon with ties to the gods and goddesses of Greek Myth? A real Princess, a warrior, a force for peace in a man’s world?

Ah, if only that’s what they done here. For the whole saga of how this series crashed and burned, well, it’s easy enough to find much to read about it online. But what about the episode itself?

It’s a shame really. Adrianne Palicki certainly looks the part: tall, beautiful, athletic, when she’s playing the warrior she makes it work for the most part. Did I say tall? She stands 5’11” and in heels she towers over her costars, very Amazonian indeed. And she’s got talent as an actress. She’s built up a respectable following through her performance on FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, and for good reason. Unfortunately she’s given the wrong character to play. Because, you see, this isn’t Wonder Woman.

Oh, I can hear it now… “But we’re making her accessible! We’re making her real! We’re making her a modern woman!”

Nope. Sorry. First of all, Diana, Princess of Themyscira, Wonder Woman, ISN’T ALLY McBEAL. This is a warrior princess, who earned the right to be the Amazon emissary to the outside world through combat. She’s regal, she’s majestic, she’s dangerous as all hell to those who would harm others.  It’s only the last part they got right here, and it’s part of what I did like about the pilot… more on that in a bit. But regal? Not here.

Here is the owner of Themyscira Industries, which apparently sells action figures since that’s the only thing we see that they produce, and there’s even a line about Wonder Women toys financing her crime-fighting efforts. Here is a love-lorn heroine who pines for the man she left behind to fight crime. Here is a woman who creates a secret identity so she can build a Facebook page for herself. Here is a woman who complains about the action figure objectifying her by having too large of a chest and “marketing my tits!” And while this is true, and a really good point about the appearance of women in comics, it’s out of character, by a wide margin. Not that Wonder Woman is ok with being objectified, of course not, but this character ISN’T Wonder Woman. This character is an angst-ridden lonely heart who complains that she is constantly expected to be perfect, who can’t be allowed to be human. This is a character who shortly after complaining about being objectified uses her chest to try an influence a police officer. And then she tortures an injured man, in a hospital, to get information. This isn’t Wonder Woman.

What else is wrong here? Well there’s the villain of the story, Veronica Cale, played by Elizabeth Hurley, as an evil pharmaceutical company CEO, and really? Surely we can come up with a better bad guy than the drug companies? I mean as easy a target as they are, it’s cliched isn’t it? At least Hurley is having fun being evil. Her henchmen though, are really cliched, although it’s good i suppose that so many body-builders can get day work on a tv set. And hiding your secret lab and infirmary in a room off the main corridor of your building? Not the best of plans.

Then there’s Diana’s relationship with the police, which seems to change from scene to scene, which, given her penchant for torturing criminals seems a little problematic. It does lead to a couple of interesting scenes, one of which involves a senator looking into her questionable behavior, which then is resolved in a pretty ridiculous manner. In fact, pretty much everything involving the law and law enforcement is dealt with here in a completely unrealistic way. Odd that, considering David E. Kelley is behind this, and really, he should know better.

And then there’s the little annoyances, the kind of things that get shook out as a series progresses. Cary Elwes’ Henry Demeter, Diana’s CEO, who chews the scenery a little too much. The Lasso of Truth, which shoots out straight to loop around villain’s necks. The far from invisible plane. The reappearance of the old boyfriend at the oh so convenient time.

So what does work? Well, it may come as a surprise, but I didn’t mind the costume. Yes, there were scores of complaints about the leggings, and aside from a shot that hadn’t been digitally corrected, the shiny ones were gone. Is it about as close to the comics as one can get and still have it be Wonder Woman’s costume? Pretty much, especially when she loses them for the classic pants-less ones. Is it still an impractical, overly revealing outfit to fight in? Yes, yes it is. But again, Palicki does have the look to make it work. And speaking of fights, the main fight scene here is really pretty good, with Diana coming across as clearly the equal of any man in strength and training in fighting, and it’s shot very well indeed. Honestly it’s the best part of the show. And when Diana kills, and she does here, she moves on to the next enemy without a backward glance.

Which brings me to the real problem of the show. Is this the comic’s Wonder Woman? No. Is it a variation on that character that might have worked, and might have gained an audience? Maybe. But not with this pilot. It’s poorly written and really standard storytelling. And it’s schizophrenic. Is it about a lonely stranger to the world who feels as though she’s held to an impossible standard or is it about a warrior who will kill to avenge the death of innocents? Is it about a business magnate who fights crime or a vigilante who gives press conferences? And I really think this schizophrenia did it in with the tv execs. What’s your demographic here? Teenage boys? Young men? They’re traditionally the audience for superhero shows. Not sure the women’s issue heavy themes are going to appeal. Women? Perhaps the torture and killing is a bit much? Then there’s the language, with “tits” and “prick”…Look. I know as well as you that using men and women demographic models is a really poor way to break these things down. Many men enjoy stories about women, if they are well written. Many women enjoy stories that are full of violence, if they are well written. Even breaking things down into those two categories is fairly ridiculous, but I do it because tv studios do it. But no matter the demographic they were aiming for, the fact is this: it’s just a bad story.

Bad story, a take on the character that frankly flies in the face of the character, cliched villains… the reason this pilot didn’t get picked up is that it really isn’t very good.

And it is a shame. Because I think Adrianne Palicki could play Wonder Woman. Maybe someday someone will let her.

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