By Joss Whedon
Unspecified Draft - August 2006
Comedy/Action, 115 pages
"An Amazon kills in battle, not in a bloodless negotiation." - Diana
In 2006, Joss Whedon wrote a screenplay for a Wonder Woman film. This is not the same movie that was released this past year. They are two separate entities, and to compare them wouldn't be fair.
Whedon's Wonder Woman is a homage for fans, and it often reads as comedy. This is evident from the get go with Steve's - we meet him before we meet Diana - plane crash. First, his code name is "Lame Duck," but, more importantly he's hit a storm and communications are spotty at best. In his words, "I got a force gazillion hurricane in my face!" Yet, not even half a page later:
Ben (on radio): Steve! Be advised, there may be a weather pattern heading --
Ben (on radio): There may be a little weather!
Steve: Okay, I'll be on the look out for that then.
Ben (on radio): -- can barely read you, what's your bearing?
Suffice it to say, Steve crashes onto Diana's island, and we know we're in for a fun ride.
Whedon's a master of creating characters at odds with themselves, and, rather than tell us how they're feeling in the action lines, brings their emotions to life through their dialogue. One of my favorites, after being asked if he felt safer now, was this response from Steve, "Nnnyeaabye....."
Steve and Diana banter from the beginning, and there's no question that they'll be together by the end of the film. The most interesting relationship to me, however, was the relationship between Diana and her mother, Hippolyte. Diana literally challenges her mother to battle so she can save Steve's life and leave with him. Quite the metaphor for a girl's first serious boyfriend, no? (If I had to choose, I'd say the target audience for this film skews young - 13-26, maybe - even though Baby Boomers are the ones most familiar with the property.)
Once in the real world, it seems Diana is off on her own. Except, this isn't our world. This is Gateway and, here, gods still walk the Earth. At least the ones that people still worship, like Bacchus. Athena's long dead.
While Whedon's voice keeps this an entertaining read - "His booth is the boothiest, his posse the scariest, his life the largest." - I felt the biggest weakness was the amount I was told instead of shown. Bacchus only appears once, and the whole 5+ page scene reads like exposition. Bacchus explains why Diana just did a weird dance (had to be worthy of him), points out that only some of the gods are dead, and, once he gets to the crux of the manner, tells Diana that she's here because Ares isn't playing by the rules and needs to be stopped. Namely, Diana has to take down "Spearhead," Ares' base. And Arabella Callas and Ares's nephew Strife (both of whom, admittedly, we're already met) are doing the dirty work. They also discuss Diana's love life and Steve's possibilities. It's talky, and the directive to go after Spearhead doesn't happen until page 73. We have the rest of the film laid out, but it doesn't feel earned. (In other scenes the lasso of truth was used a cover for the exposition, but those still felt a bit convenient overall.)
A nice twist was the low point. Strife, by threatening Steve's life, gets Diana to submit to a chain - the same chains that originally stripped the Amazons of their power. With them on, Diana's essentially human. She gets hungry, feels pain - everything hurts. And things get wonkier. Strife can teleport, so he drops Diana off in a jungle. She manages to make it to a village, and there realizes that her mother has been talking to her through others the whole time. She frees the village, breaks free of her cuffs, and picks up two gifts from her mother - a shinier superhero costume and an invisible jet. (Earlier, when Diana was breaking into Spearhead, there was another fan favorite inserted - "The camera pans up a pair of high heels, tight skirt -- tightly buttoned professional woman with her hair tied back and round glasses on. It's a classic look; in fact, it's Diana 'Prince.'")
Back in Gateway, Diana defeats Strife and Spearhead, and their pet monster - a one hundred foot mechanical Khimaera. The action is tight and fun with the battle spiraling up in the air, underground, and through buildings and whatever else gets in the way. It's a great sequence, and it highlights that Diana is now Wonder Woman.
While I was surprised that this version was so comedic, my read of it can't help but be colored by my recent viewing of the 2017 film. I obviously can't travel back in time - I'm not a superhero - but I can't help but wonder whether I would have felt differently about this script if I'd read it first.
Because I loved it and couldn't fit it anywhere else, here's an Act 1 exchange between Diana and Aethra, her Amazonian friend:
Diana: I am not what I should be. I can be more, I was meant to be more, I know it. I ask Athena what that is.
Aethra: And you think she's answered?
Diana: Can it be coincidence? That a man should drop straight from the sky after all this time?
Aethra: You really think you're the only woman on this island that thinks that was her prayer being answered?
This Wonder Woman isn't exactly a feminist manifesto, but it was funny and a good, easy read.