HEAT VISION

Could 'Wonder Woman' Spinoff Build to an Amazons vs. Atlanteans Epic?

Wonder Woman by Phil Jimenez - DC Publicity - H 2020
Courtesy of Phil Jimenez/DC
Filmmaker Patty Jenkins is speaking out about the planned film, which could bow before 'Wonder Woman 3.'

Although the release of Wonder Woman 1984 has been pushed back from its original June release date to August amid the COVID-19 pandemic, that hasn’t stopped director Patty Jenkins from thinking about the future, and more immediately, the past concerning the mythology surrounding DC Comics’ iconic Amazon Princess. During December’s Comic Con Experience in São Paulo, Brazil, Jenkins mentioned that along with thinking about a third Wonder Woman feature, she was also interested in a potential spinoff centered on the Amazons. While the spinoff seemed to be something in the very early stages of discussion late last year, a recent interview with Total Film suggests that the project is steadily moving forward, and may even arrive before the third Wonder Woman film. So what would a spinoff focused on the Amazons, and presumably not featuring Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince in any significant role, be about?

Wonder Woman, much like Aquaman, is backed by a massive amount of comic book lore that extends far beyond its title character. There’s a deep history when it comes to both the Amazons and Atlanteans in DC Comics. Thus, it makes sense that the Amazons project is the second film of this kind in the DC movie universe in the works, following the news of Aquaman spinoff The Trench. Much like James Wan’s spinoff, Jenkins envisions herself taking on the role of producer rather than the director for the Amazons-centric film, though she admitted that not directing is going to be a challenge for her, given her investment in this world. The story, which Jenkins says she’s already planned out alongside comics scribe and Wonder Woman 1984 co-writer Geoff Johns, would form a four-picture arc following Wonder Woman (2017) and Wonder Woman 1984 and preceding the release of a third Wonder Woman film. It’s unknown if Jenkins’ comments suggest that the Amazons spinoff will follow 1984 in terms of continuity with a 20th or 21st century-set story or if she’s simply talking about release schedule and thematic ties. But if the Amazons film serves as a prequel to Wonder Woman, there’s fascinating comics history concerning the Amazons’ war with man and the gods that could certainly benefit from Jenkins and Johns’ touches.

Both the Pre-Crisis and Post-Crisis versions of the origin of the Amazons and the founding of Themyscira, or Paradise Island, hinged on the sins of Hercules. The most detailed account of the history of the Amazons came in George Perez’s Post-Crisis reboot in Wonder Woman No. 1 (1987). In the DC film universe, the Amazons were created by the Olympian gods to influence the hearts of man and create peace on Earth against the ever-present threat of Ares. But the Amazons were enslaved by men, until Hippolyta and her sister Antiope led a rebellion. In order to protect the Amazons, Zeus fathered a child with Hipplolyta, imbuing her with his power, and created a secret island where the Amazons could thrive away from the threat of man.

This origin story is an almost beat-for-beat retelling of Perez’s origin of the Amazons, but the film leaves a few aspects present in the comics unexplored. In Perez’s telling, Ares convinces his half-brother Hercules to seduce Hippolyta. This encounter ends with her and the Amazons enslaved by Hercules and his army. The goddess Athena freed the Amazons under the condition that the Amazons not seek revenge against Hercules, and anger Zeus. This led to a split between the Amazons, with Antiope leading half the Amazons into war against Hercules and Hippolyta leading the remainder to Themyscira, where they were tasked to guard Doom’s Doorway, a gateway into Hades that housed the gods’ greatest enemies. Because of the failure in their mission of peace, the Amazons of Themyscira essentially became prison guards, while Antiope’s Amazons escaped punishment by the Olympian gods and made their way to Egypt and placed their belief in new gods, Isis, Mammitu and Bast, becoming the Amazons of Bana-Mighdall.

Although Antiope (Robin Wright) and Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) are on good terms, and both are on Themyscira in Wonder Woman, that doesn’t mean that a version of Perez’s story couldn’t fit somewhere in their long history for the purposes of an Amazons spinoff film. Given Wonder Woman’s theme of love and its world-saving power, it would be interesting to see the inverse of that, and how the presence of a man’s lust and greed resulted in a split between the Amazons and an initial failure in their mission. There’s always been an inherent contradiction between the peaceful mission of the Amazons and their seeming warrior’s nature, and the spinoff could be the opportunity to explore that complication through two sisters who take very different paths but ultimately reunite to create the unified Amazons that Diana (Gal Gadot) is born into.

Hercules could make for an interesting villain for the spinoff, given how often we see him depicted as a hero in media. But perhaps that character is a bit overly familiar, and there is speculation that Marvel’s version of Hercules could play a role in an upcoming MCU project. Given Johns’ role in the Amazons spinoff, perhaps there’s a way that elements of his story Flashpoint could be incorporated without the time-travel and Flash aspects. Within Flashpoint, there’s a very simple yet compelling subplot centered on the Amazons being at war with the Atlanteans, with Diana/Wonder Woman and Arthur/Aquaman leading either side. Rather than an alternate reality war between Wonder Woman and Aquaman (Jason Momoa), perhaps a more efficient way to incorporate an aspect of that story is to set the war between the Amazons and the Atlanteans within the canonical past of the DC film universe. In Aquaman (2018), Vulko (Willem Dafoe) tells Arthur how Atlan’s ambition and hunger for power led to Atlantis’ sinking. Atlan could easily be substituted for Hercules within the Amazons’ history, and Atlan’s experiment with the Trident could have been an attempt to create a weapon to defeat the Amazons, leading to the sinking of Atlantis.

There’s a possibility that Jenkins and Johns’ plans for the spinoff could become clearer through Wonder Woman 1984. But in terms of comic book history and speculation, there’s an opportunity with the Amazons spinoff to not just expand one franchise, but two, and establish the historical foundations for the entire DC film universe. As these adaptations move further and further away from established superhero movie formulas, the idea of a historical fantasy-epic born out of the DC's biggest success stories, Wonder Woman and Aquaman, sounds like comic book paradise.

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