The ‘Wonder Woman’ pilot is hilariously awful (Part 1)
I was having a bad day. So oh man. It’s a good thing tonight was the night I decided to track down that Wonder Woman pilot that NBC passed on.
Tracked down…oh, I’ve grown wistful of the days you’d actually have to dig around comic-cons for a bootleg VHS of that awful Justice League pilot, or hope to catch a screening of Roger Corman’s low-budget Fantastic Four movie. Now, failure is so easily accessible.
The geek-kids today have it too easy, is what I’m saying.
Anyway, yes, there is no greater pick-me-up than the Wonder Woman pilot, which almost plays as a parody of superhero TV shows in how Totally Wrong-Headed it all is. And while there are many, many problems, and oh, I will get to them, but the biggest one is this:
David E. Kelley seems to think Wonder Woman is Batman, if Batman was an attractive young woman in a shiny halter-top.
The show opens in what will later be referred to literally as The Ghetto, where a hopeful African-American teen runs home to his mama and siblings (screaming “Mama! Mamaaa!”) to tell them he got into college. When they are group-hugging over his good fortune, he starts to convulse and bleed out of his eyes and ears.
So Wonder Woman starts exactly as your typical episode of House would.
Next scene is Wonder Woman chasing after a Perp exhibiting what the reporter (who is presumably in the helicopter following the whole chase, which…sure, whatever) notes is “superhuman” strength and speed. Then, during the chase through stand-still traffic, Wonder Woman is hit by a car and falls down, which is only the first time the audience realizes, “Holy hell, Adrianne Palicki must’ve popped out of that corset a dozen times during the filming.”
Finally, she catches up to the Perp, lassos him around the neck, and plunges a syringe into his neck to draw blood, at which point a cop respectfully asks her, “Ma’am? Give him up.”
Wonder Woman’s response: “If I give him to you? He’ll lawyer up!”
This is the first thing Wonder Woman says. It’s only the first of many times the audience gets to see that Wonder Woman Does Not Give Two Shits About Your Stupid Notions of Due Process, And she will take your blood whether you like it or not. But give him up she does, grudgingly.
Then there’s a series of talking heads – Alan Derschewitz, Nancy Grace, Dr. Phil – talking about her, well, like the talking heads in Dark Knight Returns talked about Batman, while other news reporters offer exposition about how Wonder Woman, also known as Diana Themyscira, runs Themyscira Industries, which makes its money in part from licensing her likeness.
This will come up again later.
(Oh, and a reporter notes her “lasso of truth shooting out to Abu Ghraib her quarry.” Direct quote, and I’m still not entirely clear what the hell this means.)
Now we’re introduced to her supporting staff – her assistant Etta, and her…I guess CFO, or whatever, Cary Elwes. They’re both meant to be her Voices of Reason, and we’ll get to them again a little later, too.
(At this point the screener lets us know that VFX are missing and Wonder Woman’s pants will be made less shiny later.)
And now, Wonder Woman AKA Diana Themyscira dons her street clothes and Clark Kent glasses to be Diana Prince, who goes home to have a “normal life,” which in this case means – I Am Not Making This Up – eating a bag of chips with her cat while watching The Notebook and moping over her breakup with Steve Trevor.
As I understand it, this scene was originally a slumber party with ice cream and full-on weeping, so…yay?
OK, next morning, Diana shows up at the office, where she talks with Mama, who says, “I wish you’d killed” the Perp. To which she replies, “I know you want vengeance, but let’s leave that to me, okay? I’m kinda good at it.”
WONDER WOMAN. Is good at vengeance.
Cut to: Diana holding a press conference where she tells reporters that she believes pharmaceutical magnate and fellow tight-dress-enthusiast Veronica Cale (Elizabeth Hurley, if you were curious what happened to her in the last few years) is concocting illegal super-steroids that are killing young black men from The Ghetto, and THAT is why Diana illegally obtained a blood sample from the Perp.
By the by, this blood has not yet yielded any actual evidence. Cale in turn makes a snide remark about Wonder Woman being an action figure, which Diana takes offense to, despite creating her Wonder Woman image specifically to sell action figures, and at this point I realized this is the ONLY thing Themyscira Industries is apparently known for.
Which is when Diana learns the blood sample turned up no evidence.
But now we are at probably the most talked-about scene, the one where Diana sits in on a meeting about the “new” Wonder Woman doll, where she objects to the Barbie-shaped model complaining, “I NEVER SAID TO MERCHANDISE MY TITS!”
Three problems here:
1) The table is littered with previous merchandise (statues, Ame-Comi models, and other things you can buy from DC Direct) that not only have about the same boob size, but have her in the swimsuit version of the costume, not the pants version from the show (so far)
2) Adrianne Palicki’s breasts actually do appear distractingly large in every non-costumed scene (a padded bra or something’s going on here) – something Megan pointed out before I did – so the Barbie doll’s actually not that far off, and
3) If Themyscira Industries is basically a Wonder Woman-exclusive toy merch manufacturer, other toys and dolls have already been sold (and at great quantity, to afford the crime lab and mini-jets Wonder Woman apparently uses the money to pay for)…but this is the first toy she’s got a problem with? They’ve been slowly but deliberately growing the breast size on the toys so that it took her a while to notice, I guess?
Anyway. The whole scene’s to make you think, “Oh, see, she’s a symbol, but she’s also a woman, with feelings about her body, and that makes her relatable to me, the (maybe even female!) audience.” Instead, it makes you wonder (sorry) just how the hell this company gets run.
I’m giving full credit to Cary Elwes, who does his superior-WASP routine without ever seeming misogynistic. A little condescending, maybe, but hey. Cary Elwes is equal-opportunity condescending.
Which leads us to a heart-to-heart between Diana and Cary Elwes in her office, where she seethes and broods and he asks if she’s lonely, and hey, whatever happened with her and Steve Trevor, anyway?
A flashback reveals: She broke up with him in order to move out west, found Themyscira Industries and become the very public Wonder Woman. But Wonder Woman can’t have loved ones and he’d just be in danger.
Now…let’s just stop here a second.
I realize it’s hard to humanize Wonder Woman, and giving her a breakup to brood over is a way to make her seem more down-to-earth, but this is among the dumbest fucking things I’ve ever heard of. And not wanting them to get hurt by some enemy in an act of revenge…well hell, that’s why Spider-Man keeps the mask on and ruins all his relationships.
But it’s also why Spider-Man doesn’t reveal his identity and start a well-known company called Parker-Co. (Except for that one time he did reveal his identity and it screwed things up so badly that 20 years of stories had to be magically tweaked.)
Wonder Woman’s enemies wouldn’t know about Steve Trevor. But they would PROBABLY get the idea that daily raids on Themyscira Industries (again, plural? What are they making besides dolls?!) and attacking her employees, like good ol’ Cary Elwes, would evoke a similar response though, right?
(This is my major problem with Grant Morrison’s Batman, Inc. story, too, where Bruce Wayne revealed he’d been funding Batman’s war on crime and was going to take it global – I mean, surely there’d at least be lawsuits? But on the other hand, Grant Morrison’s Batman is pretty awesome.)
But before we can give much more thought to this subject, Veronica Cale comes in to Elizabeth Hurley all over the place, and have a “This is because I’m prettier than you, isn’t it?” threat, and not long after Diana threatens to kill her (Wonder Woman!), both ladies in their dresses that are so tight you can see their navels get close enough to make out so that Cale can deliver THIS astonishing line:
“The pharmaceutical industry has congress by the balls. And as I’m sure you can imagine, their balls come particularly easy to me.”
And that seems like a solid place to stop. Come on back tomorrow for Part II of Batman With Pretty Brown Hair and Boy Problems Wonder Woman!