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For decades, one of the core contradictions about DC Entertainment’s Wonder Woman is that she’s a warrior who fights for peace. As is obvious from the new trailer for Patty Jenkins’ 2017 Wonder Woman, the first solo cinematic outing for the character doesn’t just refuse to shy away from that paradox — it embraces it fully.
The new trailer demonstrates that the changes to the core Wonder Woman comic mythology go further than just placing the character in a World War I setting — the earliest she has appeared in comics continuity is the Second World War, the era in which she was first published. Instead, the movie Wonder Woman not only has more reason to leave the so-called “Paradise Island” of Themyscira than returning Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) home, but the audience might know that her mission is doomed before it even starts.
That the movie features a version of the classic Wonder Woman origin story — Steve Trevor accidentally ends up on Themyscira, the home of the Amazons, becoming the first man to set foot on the island in living memory and, not coincidentally, the first man Diana has ever seen — is no surprise, having been glimpsed in the teaser footage from San Diego Comic-Con this summer. The trailer reveals that subsequent events don’t follow the comic book storyline, as we see the “Great War” following Trevor to the shores of the island, bringing conflict to paradise in a way that isn’t part of comic book canon.
It’s a shift that’s meaningful. Comic mythology sees Diana leaving her home in part as an ambassador for a more enlightened way of life, mixed with the responsibility of returning Steve Trevor home and also, perhaps, being in love with him and wanting to follow him wherever he goes. By bringing the full scope of the First World War to her homeland, Diana has a better idea of just what she’s getting into, and she’s not doing it for the sake of a man — when she enters the wider world, she does it, as she says at the start of the trailer, to “save the world” from itself. What could be more heroic than that?
Yet the trailer opens with an older Diana clearly saying that she no longer wants to save the world, and saying that “this beautiful place” is, she now knows, filled with a “great darkness.” It’s a note that adds a sense of foreboding to everything that follows, even as it plays into the larger DC cinematic storyline (Superman’s sacrifice in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice being the inciting incident that will change her mind, and re-awaken her need to embrace her destiny): What went wrong to make her give up? Will we find out in this movie? Is Steve Trevor going to die?
That latter option feels curiously fitting, on a number of levels. Ignoring the amusement in seeing a male love interest killed off to motivate the female lead, gender-flipping the norm for action movies, the death of Trevor (or someone else close to Diana; hopefully not Lucy Davis’ none-more-charming Etta Candy, who continues her post-credit comedy run with this second trailer) would underscore the seriousness of the World War I setting alluded to in the trailer itself. Thematically, it fits — and brings a great darkness to a story that could otherwise feel like light-hearted derring-do.
On the evidence of this new trailer, Wonder Woman looks set not only to be one of the most exciting superhero movies in recent years, but one of the most thought-provoking, as well. Audiences will find out if it lives up to its promise June 2, 2017.
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