My apologies in advance. I try very hard to keep these entries PG-rated and curb my natural inclinations to swear like the sweary-person I am. But watching this cinematic atrocity has stripped my resolve bare. If you find, shall we say, salty language offensive, please feel free to read any of my other posts, which will likely be more to your taste. If, however, your delicate sensibilities can stand a cuss or two, please feel free to come along with me and join me in the pain of the experience that is Wonder Woman (2011).
After lovely Lynda left the airwaves in 1978, the world would go many years without another attempt to bring a live action Wonder Woman to the small screen. Oh we’d get our animated fix, our Super Friends, our Justice Leagues, even our slightly silly The Brave and the Bolds (which revived both the theme song and the lectures to Nazis on sisterhood); but as far as real live ladies goes, for 33 years the cathode tube went dark.
Enter NBC. With much fanfare they announced that they would be reviving Wonder Woman as a big-budget live action series. Publicity shots and stills were splashed all over the internet and, despite the inevitable bitching when it was seen that the newest version of the costume would have *gasp* pants, there was a general air of anticipation surrounding the project online. The pilot was completed, (minus a few effects shots) preview copies were distributed to at least one affiliate station, then, suddenly, it was announced that the project was being shelved. What had happened?
What had happened was that it sucked and wasn’t Wonder Woman.
For anyone foolish enough to wish to search this out without being immunized against the pain to come, *spoilers ahead*.
WONDER WOMAN (2011)
[NOTE 1: For the world’s easiest drinking game, just take a drink for every felony committed by our ‘heroine’. Your liver will never forgive you. NOTE 2: I am not even vaguely a lawyer, so I have likely 1) missed a criminal offense or two, 2) misidentified a serious misdemeanor as a felony, or 3) misidentified a civil offense as the same.]
We open with Willis, (B.J. Britt, who would later share the screen with our
heroine violent sociopath on the much superior Marvel’s Agents of Shield) a nice minority kid from the wrong side of the tracks, getting his acceptance letter for college. Clearly, something bad is coming. Oh, the bad thing is bleeding from his eyes and ears. Gross. We do manage to establish from the first 30 seconds that this is not your mother’s Wonder Woman. This turns out not to be a good thing.
Cut to Diana (Adrianne Palicki, and I just flatly refuse to refer to this criminal as Wonder Woman) chasing a bad guy through Los Angeles on foot. I just feel the need to point out that I’m not bothered that she’s wearing pants, I’m bothered by her reckless disregard for traffic laws, (she’s the direct cause of at least one serious collision) for life and limb, (other folks’, not hers) and by her felonious nature.
She pulls him to the ground with a lasso to the neck. Then holds him down, sticks a syringe in his neck and forcibly draws a vial of his blood. Let’s see, so far, at the minimum, we have assault, battery, leaving the scene of a traffic accident, and carrying out a medical procedure without informed consent. The LAPD show up about this time, but Diana doesn’t want the perp arrested because he’ll (rightfully) lawyer up. Way to uphold justice there, D. Of course she walks away to the cries of her fans, “We love you Wonder Woman!” I find this disturbing.
No funky theme song here, just a freeze frame on the logo and two musical booms.
Diana returns to her headquarters, where she is met by personal assistant Etta Candy (Tracie Thoms) and Henry Johns, (Cary Elwes, NO!!!) her business manager. OK, I have no issue with casting Etta as a Sassy Black Woman™, that totally works, but a skinny Sassy Black Woman™? That just seems wrong for Etta.
The cable news channels are playing throughout the place, Alan Dershowitz says that her actions as a vigilante violate the Constitution (maybe, criminal defendants do have rights, but she’s not a government entity, so her actions could simply be criminal rather than unconstitutional). That heinous bitch Nancy Grace is cheering her on however, which seems totally appropriate given that harridan’s real life lack of respect for the rule of law when there’s a victim to be exploited on TV.
“As we all know” (per the in-universe news anchor) Wonder Woman is Diana Themyscira, CEO of the multi-billion dollar Themiscyra Corporation that funds her crime fighting (So she’s Batman? Except not bothering with the secret identity part?). Did the news people really just say admiringly that she “Abu Ghraibed” the guy from the opening scene with the Lasso of Truth? That’s disgusting, one of the most scandalous abuses of power in recent US Army history and they are cheering this as a positive comparison? I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.
In light of the not quite finished effects shots, a fun note flashes on the screen here; VFX MISSING PANTS TO BE DARKENED.
Next up on TV, Dr. Phil thinks she’s nuts. It’s really not a good day when I agree wholeheartedly with that guy.
Now Diana is looking for her nerd glasses, so she can go to her ‘Diana Prince’ home (wha?). Because she has a third, pathetic (but, in this stupid thing’s defense, actually secret) identity, just so she has the privilege of leaving her nice comfortable mansion to hide in a crappy (by Hollywood standards, in real life super nice and probably really, really expensive, it is LA) apartment to hang out with her cat, eat chips and watch soaps. Fuck you show! Thanks for embarrassing women everywhere by making us out as pathetic whining stereotypes with no resilience or backbone whatsoever. If I ever give up living in my mansion so I can wallow in badly-disguised self-pity, please take me out back and shoot me dead as I clearly should not be allowed to live.
Oh, and while she is being sad and pathetic, we get a flashback to her breakup with Steve Trevor (Justin Bruening). This puts us in pure unadulterated info-dump territory, they’ve lived together for two years, but she has to leave to use her powers to do good, etc., etc. As, between the two, these actors have all the depth of a puddle of spilled Kool-Aid, nobody cares.
Diana returns to company headquarters the next morning for a press conference about the assault she committed the night before. But first Willis’s mother shows up to ask for answers. She wants to know if the guy Diana put in the hospital the night before was the person who pushed eye-bleeding drugs on her son. Mom wishes Diana had killed him. Diana assures her that she is going to take down whoever is responsible, “I know you want vengeance, but leave that to me, OK? I’m kinda good at it.” FUCK YOU, THIS IS NOT WONDER WOMAN! This is an imposter!! In pants!!! She is supposed to be an avatar of justice, not a spirit of vengeance.
Of course Diana knows who runs the drug network and is planning to use the press conference to make it public. She goes on TV to blame Veronica Kale (Elizabeth Hurley), pharmaceutical billionaire, and her supplements. They are supposedly some sort of super steroids and she has been testing them by pushing them on a street network to ghetto kids. Many of whom have now suffered heart failure. Because Big Pharma is eeeviil and of course that’s how they work. Diana makes these accusations while simultaneously admitting she can’t prove any of it (slander). Diana states that the guy she turned over to the LAPD was both a drug dealer and a user of said drugs and, tells everyone that she took his blood samples to prove it, (admits to a felony) then threatens to physically attack Ms. Kale (assault). On national television. Why is this woman still walking free?
As far as Diana’s accusation that Veronica is doing illegal testing to speed up FDA approval? That isn’t how the FDA works! Approval only comes after a long process of rigorous testing over many years and approval from a board after large scale clinical trials (one reason why new medications cost so much). Illegal testing would not speed up this process, especially as you couldn’t publish the results of your trials for approval. Seeking FDA oversight would also, by definition, require Veronica’s lab open be to government inspectors, which makes super-secret operations a bit of a challenge.
This show also doesn’t seem to know the difference between supplements and drugs, While the latter require approval through the process above, the former are minimally regulated by the FDA, and if Veronica is marketing them as such she doesn’t require any sort of approval at all, she could already be selling them hand over fist. She is mostly just responsible for making sure that they are not mislabeled as to their contents. (yes, I’ve oversimplified somewhat, do you want to be here all night?) Supplements do tend to eventually get pulled from shelves once folks start dying (*cough* ephedra) but this often takes years.
Ms. Kale responds on TV saying all of her manufacturing is in compliance with the law and denigrates Diana for being “an action figure” who is in the heroing business to promote her image and merchandising. Sadly, this is the most accurate and insightful assessment of character anyone has made in this thing yet, as we cut to the mansion to see Etta discussing…
How the costume was designed to make Diana look like an action figure to promote the company’s line of dolls. We also learn from Etta that the drug dealer’s blood was clean, nothing out of the ordinary was found (that slander suit keeps getting easier all the time). We enter a meeting about said dolls. Diana is unjustifiably pissed, because, despite having designed herself to be exploited and having approved the dolls months ago, she now believes the tits are too big and therefor objectifying. Yes, she uses the word tits, before being warned by Etta that “Wonder Woman is not vulgar”. This is supposed to be ‘funny’ and leads a whole bit with Diana moping about the pressures of always being perfect; perfect tits, perfect ass, perfect teeth, whine, whine, whine, whine, whine. I officially hate this character, I am now rooting for Veronica to win and kill Diana slowly and messily, maybe with the eye-bleeding drugs. That would be so much more gratifying than anything that actually happens in this show.
Since everything is funded by the merchandizing, Henry tries to talk her down. This somehow leads to him asking about if the tantrum has to do with her split from Steve. “Why did you leave the man you love?” Flashback: To keep him safe. For her to have loved ones or family means they will be targeted. So again, she’s Batman, except public, and with improperly merchandised tits. Henry thinks she’s lonely. I think she’s a psychopath and incapable of forming meaningful human relationships.
Veronica shows up at Diana’s office. She’s feeling misunderstood and she uses the supplements herself, so they must be safe. She’s here to try to make peace. All Diana cares about is seeing the lab, but, being a violent nutjob, instead of asking, tells Veronica that if she gets to see it “[she] won’t kill [her]” (criminal threat, coercion). Veronica laughs her off with the assertion that this all about envy and fear that her athletes will rival Diana’s strength and she won’t be special anymore (given Diana’s general level of pathological insecurity…). Lest we forget who the real villains are, she also reminds Diana that Big Pharma has Congress by the balls, so Washington will make Ms. Themyscira’s life difficult if she doesn’t back off.
To remind herself of what she’s fighting for, Diana goes to see Willis, who is recovering in the hospital. I bet the actors don’t discuss this scene when they’re on the set of Agents of Shield. Because we haven’t mixed her up enough, he quotes the old Truth, Justice, and the American Way bit at her (that’s Superman, you dumbfuck).
The LAPD doesn’t want her interfering and screwing up their case, so of course she goes straight down the hall from Willis’s room and tries using her tits to get past the uniform guarding the room of the dealer she beat the crap out of. A detective (no, I never picked up his name, despite suspecting he was intended to be Diana’s romantic false lead as the show went on) comes up and bitches at her that the civil libertarians are up in arms (I sure hope so!) and that the Justice Department wants to know whether she is following LAPD orders. Because if she is seen as their de facto agent, they’ll start losing convictions do to her complete disregard for those pesky things like laws and constitutional rights of the accused.
For some stupid reason (tits?) he nevertheless lets her see the perp for 5 minutes. This is the point at which I actually got a bit physically ill, you see she TORTURES the guy, despite the fact that she has the fucking lasso of truth!!! Which Diana shows him, and sets on his chest, but forgoes using in favor of breaking his fingers. We get to hear the screaming from the hall as she breaks his bones to get him to tell her where Veronica’s secret lab is. And I am done. There is not a damn thing that could induce me to watch this show again. But since I’ve committed to writing about this one…
According to the illegally gathered information, Veronica is making super soldiers that she can sell to military, but some are deformed by the drugs and kept in a secret infirmary under the lab. Damnit, does anyone involved in this show know how pharmaceutical labs work? Legitimate labs (and no-one has suggested this is anything but a legitimate company) are regularly inspected, there is no way Veronica has a “secret lab” much less a “secret infirmary” alongside it. Anyway, Diana wants the LAPD to storm the lab with her, but the detective says no as she got her information from torture. Not that he gives a damn about that, but if they worked together any evidence gathered would be inadmissible. And he can’t go in alone as they don’t have a warrant, which, again, they can’t get because it would be based on evidence gathered through torture. Can’t anyone think of the children?
When Diana returns to her headquarters she finds out that some senator wants to take her to dinner. He just happens to be both the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and a friend of Veronica’s. Now Henry is worried that the government can bring her up on RICO charges as by selling her dolls she is profiting from criminal activity. That’s probably true, but certainly the first anyone has cared. It’s also probably supposed to be funny. Three guesses how that turns out and the first two don’t count.
At dinner, Diana keeps reiterating to the senator (Edward Herrmann) that she does not work with the police, it’s just caseloads coinciding. Washington (um, legitimately) has concerns about her criminal conduct and the lack of prosecutions against her. Her response is that that with two wars and a recession going on there are better things to do than go after her. That is officially the stupidest argument in favor of felonious assault I’ve ever heard. The senator makes vague threats, I look at my watch and wonder how 44 minutes could go on forever.
Diana is stressing after the dinner because there’s still no warrant yet. But then she gets the call. Willis is dead! We must no longer wait to commit our one woman rampage of roaring revenge. Ooh, a getting dressed montage, this time she wears the granny panties of (in)justice instead of the pants.
She flies off (in her totally not-invisible plane) and Etta warns Detective Alternate Love Interest that she has left. Another fun VFX note here (anything to distract from this crap) ADD POLICE CARS, they do have sirens though. He decides that if Diana breaks into the lab first, it becomes a crime scene and they can legally go in without a warrant to respond to the break-in. What the unholy fuck?!? What about the part where they arrest Diana when they get there?
Veronica knows that if Diana or the police find the infirmary that she’ll go to jail. So she sends 20 of her personal ‘roid monkeys to stop her from getting into quarantine. Her lawyers say that they are entitled to respond with deadly force if Diana breaks in and uses the same against them (first decent legal advice I’ve heard during this mess). She breaks down the door, enters the room, (breaking and entering) and attacks multiple enhanced guards, mostly by grabbing them around the neck with her lasso and then throwing them down from the tops of the Conexes that this pharmaceutical lab is inexplicably full of (assault and battery, attempted murder. Possibly actual murder). She uses one guard as a human shield who gets full of bullets, then impales the shooter through the throat with a pipe (definitely actual murder).
This is the one part of the program where the lack of finished effects really shows. Many effects failures here, I suppose due to NBC realizing that quitting while they were ahead was better part of valor. It all leads up to what looks to be a big showdown between her and Veronica (who has everything on tape and threatens Diana with the American criminal justice system, oh how I wish) but instead the fight is over before it begins with one more damned lasso to the neck. At least that must mean this is almost over, right? Diana finds the secret infirmary and tells everyone she’s one of the good guys before the LAPD show up and arrest Veronica. They take the patients to a hospital, where they’ll make a full recovery (unlike poor Willis). They were all human trafficked from third world countries, of course. Although I’m not sure why, since I thought Veronica was testing all this crap out on ghetto kids earlier.
As she leaves the lab, everyone cheers “We love you Wonder Woman!” It’s still disturbing. Henry is “incredibly proud” instead of properly appalled, but a Justice Department lawyer has shown up at the Thymiscyra Corporation. Fortunately for our multiple felon, it turns out to be Steve Trevor, who’s gotten himself assigned to her case (can you say conflict of interest?). He concludes the investigation and finds no official relationship between her and the LAPD, any work on the same cases is purely coincidental. Yes, he settles it right then, that’s how the DOJ works, right? It turns out that he was transferred to Los Angeles six months ago, he just hadn’t told her yet. Also he’s married. So she goes off to her sad apartment to pet her sad cat and set up a sad Facebook account because fuck you women everywhere. She sits there sadly, watching the news about how great she is.
I feel like I owe everyone a picture of a cat or something for putting y’all through this.
I’m not even sure where to start with all the ways this went wrong.The casting is just plain weird; Cary Elwes, Elizabeth Hurley, Edward Herrman? These are, not quite movie stars, but certainly solid film actors, with respectable careers. Who at NBC had the negatives? Because blackmail is the only explanation I’m coming up with for why they appeared in this.
Adrianne Palicki, on the other hand, just isn’t much of an actress (and no, I don’t think much of her as Bobbi on AOS right now either, though there’s more to that than just her complete stone-faced lack of expression). She has the dramatic range of cabbage. Even Cathy Lee Crosby could at least pull off a winsome smile. Palicki can almost manage constipated and bored. The same is true of her male romantic interests, who were so bland I couldn’t tell Steve from the Detective.
The character of Diana may be the vilest Designated Hero I’ve ever seen. She commits assault and murder on a near daily basis and we are expected to cheer her on because she’s doing it to bad guys. Of course she has no regard for the rights of the accused, doesn’t want the police to handle them-specifically because the cops will respect their civil rights, and wouldn’t know due process if it bit her on her perfect ass. I don’t think I want to live in a world where I can be arbitrarily beaten or killed just because a so-called heroine is convinced I did something bad, despite not having actual proof (and yes, I recognize that there are real-life regimes like that, all the more reason to be appalled when this is held up as an ideal).
And just don’t get me started about her whiny, pathetic double life. It did not make me feel like I shared her struggle, it made me feel like she needed to grow the fuck up already, put her big girl pants on and get on with her (rich, privileged) life.
Clearly, no matter how much time and money NBC had invested in this, pulling it at the last minute was the right thing to do. This is one of the toughest pieces I’ve ever written as I so loathed living in that world, even in my head, that I could only tackle it in small chunks. Look, I watch a lot of crap, but mostly it’s out of love. There can be great joy in sitting down to something so crazy-bad, that you can’t imagine how it got greenlit. And I make fun of that stuff, but only out of a sense of affection and a hope that someone else will want to seek it out too. There is none of that here, I hated every second of this show and hope instead that this serves as bitter warning.
Verdict: This one’s gonna hurt.
I promise something silly for next week. I have some fabulous pet B-Flicks I’ve been dying to introduce you to, and any of them will be a palate cleanser after this.