Why 'Wonder Woman 3' Should Be Set in the Future
Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman sequel, Wonder Woman 1984, is still 18 months away from release, but the filmmaker already has an idea about where she wants to take the character next. It makes sense to think of Wonder Woman’s cinematic future as a sure thing, considering the $821.8 million Wonder Woman earned in 2017.
Wonder Woman 1984 sees Gal Gadot return in the titular role, alongside Chris Pine as the mysteriously returned pilot Steve Trevor and Kristen Wiig as Barbara Minerva, aka The Cheetah. 1984 was previously set for release on Nov. 1 of this year before it was pushed to June 2020 to capitalize on the same summer success the first film achieved. While Jenkins is currently promoting the Black Dahlia series I Am the Night, a third Wonder Woman installment surely isn’t too far off on her calendar.
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In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Jenkins said, “I have pretty clear plans for Wonder Woman 3. Whether I [direct] it or not, I see how her arc should end in my incarnation of Wonder Woman. I have great passion for that.” It's hard to imagine Jenkins not returning for a third, so while fans eagerly await Wonder Woman 1984, it's time to look at a few characters and stories from Wonder Woman’s mythos that Jenkins has the opportunity to utilize before she closes out her trilogy.
If what we’ve seen and heard about Wonder Woman 1984 thus far is true, Jenkins will once again show her prowess at giving the superhero narrative a unique identity by way of the period piece. Early concerns from fans about Wonder Woman’s WWI setting were quickly assuaged as Jenkins used the period to explore man’s capabilities for repeated horrors and the thematic weight of our interest in weapons at the expense of humanity, failings not limited to 1918. Jenkins expressed her enthusiasm for Wonder Woman 1984’s era at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con and discussed how '80s excess is both a romanticized aspect of the culture and directly responsible for a lot of the ugliness we see in today’s world. Jenkins considers 1984 to be a metaphor like the first film, making the nod to George Orwell’s famous novel surely intentional. So given that we’ll have seen Wonder Woman reflect our world in both the 1910s and the 1980s, where does the character go next?
There’s obviously a lot of desire and speculation that a third Wonder Woman film will find the character in the present day. After all, with the world so clearly in need of a moral center like Wonder Woman, what could be a more effective era for her to find herself in for a finale? But so many of our superhero movies are set in the present day. It’s a crowded landscape, and from listening to Jenkins speak both on the character and on her filmmaking process over the years, she seems like a director who wants to set her own course and work outside the boundaries that are so often placed on the superhero genre. Both Jenkins’ Wonder Woman films, her first feature, Monster (2003), and her television show, I Am the Night, have been period pieces. Perhaps the most effective space for Jenkins to carve out her final Wonder Woman tale isn’t in the '90s or the post 9/11 2000s but in the future.
If we consider it for a moment, Wonder Woman already has a place in the present, with her appearances in Batman v Superman (2016) and Justice League (2017). There will surely be another Justice League film eventually, once Warner Bros. gets enough distance from the first, and Wonder Woman will likely be at the center. Rather than having to navigate the interconnectivity of the DC film universe, it seems fitting that Jenkins should have her own space to tell both Wonder Woman’s beginnings and her end. While Superman is often the one we see dealing with his immortality in the comics, Wonder Woman is just as fitting a character to set foot in the DC future. What does our world look like 50 or 100 years from now, and how does that experience change Diana? Has she saved the world, or did mankind undo itself? Wonder Woman 3 doesn’t have to go full on Threads (1984) with a nuclear holocaust, but it would be very interesting to see Wonder Woman as both diplomat and warrior in a world on the brink, whether that world be technology-driven, like Joe Haldeman’s sci-fi war novel The Forever War, or something more akin to Mad Max’s Wastelands.
But of course, no tale of the future is complete without a compelling villain. Unlike Batman, Superman, or The Flash, Wonder Woman doesn’t have a wealth of great villains. She’s faced plenty of adversaries over the years, but only a few have reached an iconic status worthy of decades-spanning conflict. In this way, Wonder Woman’s rogues are similar to Aquaman’s, where we see a core group of villains return time and again. Wonder Woman’s oft-used foe Ares (David Thewlis) and the lesser-known Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya) served as the antagonists in the first film, while equally oft-used Cheetah is in the sequel. Perhaps the biggest question fans are wondering about concerning Wonder Woman 3 is which character or characters will give Diana her final battle, at least for Jenkins’ iteration of the story. Doctor Psycho, Giganta and Doctor Cyber are all possibilities. Angle Man, a thief who can alter angles and distort balance, and Blue Snowman, a woman disguised as a man who freezes people with a telescope, seem…less likely.
I'd love to see Wonder Woman go up against Veronica Cale, a manipulative bio-engineer and pharmaceutical CEO who considers herself, a self-made woman, to be Earth’s real wonder woman. Cale, who presented herself to Diana under the guise of friendship, has become one of Wonder Woman’s greatest nemeses in recent years, believing Diana’s message to be one that undermines her own success. Through the organization Godwatch, Cale hired several of Wonder Woman’s villains to find Themyscira. Cale would also be the perfect role for Charlize Theron, and I'd love to see Jenkins reunite with her Monster star.
Cale isn’t a physical threat, though, so for that role, Silver Swan would be perfect.
In modern continuity, Vanessa Kapatelis was a ballerina whom Wonder Woman saved and developed a friendship with, telling her stories of the gods and Paradise Island. But as Wonder Woman’s duties took her away more and more often, the paralyzed girl grew into a bitter young woman, more so when she began to believe that Wonder Woman treated everyone she saved the same way – that she wasn’t special. An experimental nanite treatment allowed her to walk again, but it also drove her mad. Fashioning wings and claws from the nanites in her bloodstream, Kapatelis attacked Wonder Woman for abandoning her. Cale’s penchant for medical research and manipulation could easily create a narrative shorthand for Kapatelis’ turn to Silver Swan on film, and would also allow the film to make use of the future setting. Perhaps Cale’s search for Themyscira could also play off in the future, as she sets her sights on the world’s last-known cradle of medical resources with god-obsessed Silver Swan in tow. Giving Diana her final battle on Themyscira would provide a perfectly circular end and a conclusion both emotional and spectacular.
It also seems like a sure thing that gods will play some role in Wonder Woman’s future. Pedro Pascal is playing a villainous role in Wonder Woman 1984, and while many suspect he’s playing DC Comics’ ally turned enemy Maxwell Lord, it seems equally possible that he’s playing a god, maybe even Diana’s father, Zeus. With the Greek Pantheon of gods frequently weaving in and out of Diana’s life, it’s likely they would make their presence known in a third film, maybe as a result of this future world beginning to forget about them, even as pagan deities. Wonder Woman has also become a god herself in the comics on several occasions. While she’s already a demigod, perhaps Diana’s story ends with her saving the world one final time and joining the Pantheon to become a better god than those before her.
Wherever Jenkins decides to go with Wonder Woman 3, she’s surely earned our confidence. Only some short years ago a Wonder Woman movie seemed like a long shot, and now she’s become one of our most needed and celebrated cinematic icons. If Wonder Woman 1984 is as great as we believe it will be, Wonder Woman 3 should have no trouble cementing both Jenkins and Diana Prince in the pantheon of superhero movie greats.
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