Well, the verdict is in and it is overwhelmingly positive. If there were any lingering doubts about Patty Jenkins’ film adaptation of Wonder Woman, they were dashed over the weekend. Wonder Woman cruised to a record-breaking opening weekend, becoming the highest-grossing film helmed by a female director, raking in a startling $103.3 million in its opening weekend. After decades of waiting, the world finally got the great female-led superhero movie it deserved. In fact, the movie did so well both, garnering universal praise from both fans and critics alike, we couldn’t help but think that it eclipsed its comic book source material in several key ways.
Ever since her debut in 1941’s All-Star Comics #8, Wonder Woman’s superhero career has enjoyed its peaks and valleys. Creator William Moulton Marston’s vision of a strong, empowered female superhero has been tweaked, twisted and expanded upon in surprising (and sometimes grossly misguided) ways over the years. The end result is a character suffocating under the weight of her own convoluted history — a deficiency the Jenkins film avoids neatly. By streamlining Diana’s origin and remaining true to her core values, Jenkins, Gadot and company have fashioned a truly inspiring take on DC’s premiere hero. Most of the time, movies pale in comparison to their source material but with Wonder Woman, we’ve come up with 15 ways the film surpasses the comic.
SPOILER ALERT! Spoilers ahead for both the Wonder Woman film produced by Warner Bros. and the Wonder Woman comic published by DC Comics.
15 STAR POWER
One of the most refreshing characteristics of Jenkins’ movie is that the spotlight is firmly on Wonder Woman. Her ties to the wider DCEU are only hinted at in the film’s framing sequences with a reference to her relationship with Bruce Wayne. Unfettered by the character’s bonds to the Justice League, Jenkins wisely spends her time building Wonder Woman’s heroic mythology, giving star Gal Gadot ample opportunity to bring the young Amazon warrior to life.
Gadot herself takes full advantage of the freedom Jenkins built into the film, showing incredible range as Diana matures from a naïve do-gooder into a battle-tested warrior who refuses to compromise her morals. It is Wonder Woman’s altruism that drives every aspect of the plot, finally giving fans a strong, fully-realized heroine they can believe in.
14 YOUTH MOVEMENT
In the comics, glimpses of Princess Diana’s youth come infrequently. In Wonder Woman, Jenkins provides her audience with additional insight into Diana’s heroic quest by starting her story of in the character’s childhood on Themyscira. From her cloistered childhood as Hippolyta’s beloved daughter, through her secret training sessions with General Antiope, to her final emergence as true champion of the Amazons, Diana’s journey deepens our understanding of her morals.
By increasing viewers’ frame of reference, Jenkins forces us to double down on our investment in Wonder Woman’s onscreen birth as one of the very pillars of the DCEU. By following Diana on her journey from headstrong child to empowered adult, we get a real sense of why she does what she does. By walking with Diana along her path to heroism, we rally behind her all the more strongly.
13 DIANA PRINCE, HISTORIAN
Over the years, the alter ego of Diana Prince has only been used relatively inconsistently. In recent years, Wonder Woman’s secret identity has been all but abandoned, typically used only when she needed to help protect the identities of her colleagues in the Justice League. Before Crisis on Infinite Earths erased the need for an alter ego, Diana Prince held various occupations, including spy, nurse, businesswoman, advice columnist and astronaut. All were temporary and never seemed to fit with either her background or mission.
In Wonder Woman, we’re introduced to a Diana Prince who continues to learn about the world outside of Themyscira through its history. As an employee of the Louvre’s antiquities department, she can put her knowledge of history and myth to good use, while broadening her own understanding of the people she’s sworn to protect.
12 STRENGTH OF CHARACTER
Separate and distinct from her growth into a capable fighter and hero, Jenkins also provides her audience with new insight into Wonder Woman’s emotional journey. At the beginning of the film, we’re presented with a naïve young woman, who believes she can end World War I (or at least prevent its escalation) by defeating one man. During her travels in “man’s world,” she witnesses unspeakable atrocities, as the brutality of war is truly brought home for her. Her anti-climactic battle with General Ludendorff almost breaks her, until she witnesses the sacrifice of Steve Trevor. Spurred to action by his love and heroism, Diana is able to break through the emotional turmoil her harrowing journey has wrought to finally confront and defeat her real adversary, Ares god of war.
11 THE WAR TO END ALL WARS
Jenkins chooses to set her film during the final days of World War I, a fitting background for a quest to bring peace to the world. The Great War is still considered one of the most brutal, deadly conflicts in all of human history, costing several million civilian and combatant lives. It is through this unrelenting gauntlet of mud, death and calamity that Diana is forged into the hero she’s destined to become. It’s a bold move considering Wonder Woman’s debut during World War II but makes perfect sense.
Although it couldn’t possibly live up to its unrealistic label as the War to End All Wars, the conflict lacks the Hollywood gloss burnishing World War II for subsequent generations, showing war at its dirtiest, most vicious worst. Jenkins' historic setting also has the added benefit of further distinguishing Wonder Woman chronologically as the first active hero in the DCEU.
10 GENDER EQUALITY
Another area in which Jenkins’ film outpaces its comic book source material is in the realm of gender equality. In recent years, the comic has justifiably focused on loading Wonder Woman’s supporting cast with strong female members and villains. Due to comics’ well-documented divide between strong male and female characters, this is entirely understandable. And while the case could be made that Hollywood still has a long ways to go in this regard itself, it’s better positioned to strike a more even balance between the genders.
This is best illustrated in Chris Pine’s portrayal of Steve Trevor. In the movie, Trevor isn’t simply relegated to the role of a romantic interest. Rather he is an equal partner in the action and plot, fighting alongside Diana, while helping her navigate the war. His admitted flaws and willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good prove to Diana that humankind is worth saving.
9 THE SUPPORT CREW
Spinning out of the exquisite balance Jenkins achieves between the genders is Diana’s stellar supporting cast. Trevor’s ragtag band of misfits is diverse and distinctive, with each member serving as a foil for Diana’s strong personality. Sameer’s sense of humor and big heart immediately endears him to both the audience and Diana. Chief’s innate sense of honor amplifies Diana’s altruism, casting it in a more human light. Even Charlie’s struggle with post-traumatic stress syndrome teaches our hero that despite the best of intentions, war can break even the most accomplished warriors.
And then there are the Amazons, whose naiveté and closeted society illustrates just how much Diana has to grow and mature to complete her mission in “man’s world.” In the comics, Wonder Woman’s supporting cast rarely emerges from her shadow in quite the same way, never truly approaching the depth and diversity of the families surrounding her male counterparts like Batman.
8 TRUE ROMANCE
Romance plays a big role in Wonder Woman. Historically, though, the comic book version of Diana’s relationship with Steve Trevor has either felt like the stuff of fairy tales, or in the case of one of the lowest points in the character's history during the Silver Age, overwhelmed Wonder Woman’s heroic status. There was a time she gave up her powers just to marry Trevor, an editorial decision that subverted Marston's original vision of an independent, empowered superheroine the equal of her robust male counterparts.
In the film version, Diana and Steve’s romance unfolds organically (and with no little humor), arising out of their mutual respect for one another rather than a superficial physical attraction. There is no fairy tale Hollywood ending for the budding love birds, either. Rather than riding off into the sunset in each other’s arms, their wartime romance ends under tragic, if more realistic circumstances.
7 EPIC SCORE
One of the most obvious ways Jenkins’ movie outstrips the comic book stems from a tool traditional comics don't have in their arsenal. Music plays a huge role in Wonder Woman, helping fans to fully submerge themselves in the onscreen adventure. Composers and musicians Rupert Gregson-Williams, Tom Howe, Paul Mounsey and Andrew Kawczynski provide an emotionally-charged soundtrack that feels both epic and intimate. The score acts as an additional storytelling device, punctuating the movie’s high-octane action sequences, while underscoring the plot’s emotional beats.
The music of Wonder Woman draws the audience into Diana’s story, providing a vehicle with which they accompany her on her quest. And like all great artists, Gregson-Williams and company do their jobs so well, we aren’t even fully aware of how they’ve tugged on our heartstrings until somebody in the know brings it to our attention.
6 THE FIGHT SCENES ROPE YOU IN
Believe it or not, there were more than a few fans who were concerned with Gal Gadot’s casting as Princess Diana. Considered by some detractors to be too slender and lithe to truly embody Wonder Woman’s sheer physical power and fighting abilities, many fans hoped for a more physically imposing actress in the role. However, Gadot’s undeniable athleticism and dynamism proved her naysayers wrong in scene after scene of well-choreographed action.
Bolstered by superior special effects and Gadot’s past as a member of her native Israel’s military (she served as a combat instructor), her skill wielding both the Lasso of Truth and her trademark bracelets brought Wonder Woman’s combat prowess to life in a way the two-dimensional world of comics could only hint at. Never before had we seen Wonder Woman wield sword, shield, bracelets and lasso with such vibrancy, traits of the character featured all-too briefly in Batman v. Superman.
5 AMAZONIAN CULTURE
Although the Amazon culture has been explored and expanded upon in the comics — especially in recent years thanks to creators like Greg Rucka, George Perez and Brian Azzarello — it wasn’t until Jenkins’ live-action adaptation that these warrior women truly came to life in all of the glory they deserved. From the film’s opening sequences set against a breath-taking Mediterranean island backdrop boasting classical Greek architecture to the heart-stopping displays of archery, swordplay and horsemanship (horse-womanship?), Jenkins drew her audience into the world of Themyscira in ways the comics could never approach.
Under her guidance, and thanks to the exceptional abilities of the real-life athletes and stuntwomen, the Amazons exploded, catapulted and swung off of the big screen with vibrant energy and undeniable strength. For the first time in a long time, the Amazons’ reputation as the most accomplished warriors in the DC Universe felt well-deserved and inarguable.
4 STRONGER VILLAINS, HIGHER STAKES
In the comics, Wonder Woman has never boasted a rogues gallery that even comes close to the villains that plague heroes like Batman, Superman and the Flash. Aside from Cheetah, Circe and various greek gods such as Ares, her adversaries have always felt a little over-matched. For her film adaptation, Jenkins and screenwriter Allan Heinberg cleverly drew upon villains both from Wonder Woman’s recent history and Golden Age origins. Dr. Poison is a villain created by Marston early in Diana’s career, while Ares came to the fore as her arch-nemesis during George Perez’s classic run.
In the movie, both villains feel more dangerous than they ever did in the comics, because they not only threaten Wonder Woman's or the Amazons’ existence but that of the entire world. Their plans to propagate a truly never-ending war through massacre and manipulation increase the stakes to levels rarely seen in the comics.
3 HEROIC LAUGHS
In the comics, Wonder Woman is typically known for her sense of humor. Don’t get us wrong, there are instances humor occurs in her books, usually thanks to her supporting cast but it’s never been a priority. Screenwriter Allan Heinberg and his collaborators Zack Snyder, Joss Whedon and Jason Fuchs took great pains to infuse Jenkins’ film with a well-grounded sense of humor. The movie never takes itself too seriously, thanks in large part to supporting cast members Sameer and Etta Candy.
More surprising is the comedic chemistry that exists between Gadot and Pine, who genuinely seem to click during the film’s lighter moments. Pine in particular delivers his punchlines with just the right amount of self-deprecation. His expressiveness rarely feels like over-exaggerated mugging and Steve Trevor never feels like the butt of a private Amazonian joke. He walks a fine comedic line with a subtle yet nuanced performance.
2 A SENSE OF WONDER
There’s an undeniable purity of vision infused in Wonder Woman that manages to eclipse its source material due to the film’s ability to stand on its own apart from the convoluted history of its protagonist. Unfettered by multiple reboots and revamps, Jenkins’ film returns Wonder Woman to her origins as an empowered female emissary to “Patriarch’s World,” bearing the message of peace, hope and love, with which Marston infused his iconic heroine. All too often in the comics, Diana’s qualities as a fierce warrior take precedence over her limitless capacity for compassion and tolerance.
Gadot’s strong performance in the lead role captures these core characteristics with a combination of strength, elegance and vulnerability. Whether she’s distracted by a random baby in the teeming streets of London or leading the charge across the blood and mud of No Man’s Land, Wonder Woman remains a champion of truth and hope from beginning to end.
1 IT’S A BIGGER BLOCKBUSTER THAN THE COMIC WILL EVER BE
If ever the time was right for Wonder Woman to go over with the mainstream movie-going audience, it is now. One might even say it was fated by the gods themselves. With an opening weekend that garnered a well-deserved $103.3 million gross, there can be no denying that Gadot’s Wonder Woman will reach a wider audience than the comic book version ever did — or likely ever will. We’re not saying it’s right; after all, without the comics there would never be a movie. But the movie’s success is a testament to how badly Wonder Woman has been treated over the years at DC. But let’s not look this particular gift horse in the mouth. The movie’s success will no doubt result in a substantial increase in the comic’s readership, which means we’ll likely see more of Wonder Woman in print than we’ve ever seen before. Let's just hope the creative teams can capitalize on that success!
Why do you like the Wonder Woman movie better than the comic? Let us know in the Comments!