Wonder Woman/Captain America - Same space, different films
With the release of Wonder Woman onto Blu-Ray this month, it’s safe to say the first outing of our favourite Amazon has been a stellar success. Not only is it the biggest hit of the US box office this year, it has also become the all-time highest grossing film with a female director since Fifty Shades of Grey. Wonder Woman has shattered the notion a female-led superhero is doomed to failure. After the lambasting Batman vs Superman and Suicide Squad received critically, Wonder Woman was the palette cleanser the DC Extended Universe sorely needed to get audiences ready for the Justice League film due in November.
Despite its success, Wonder Woman isn’t perfect. It does have its flaws but all in all, the film delivered for a generation of young women who grew up on the comics and Lynda Carter’s iconic portrayal of the Princess. While I agree the third act does have its problems, fanboys (there is really no difference whether they’re Marvel or DC in this case) have been quick to allege Wonder Woman owes her success to ripping off Captain America: The First Avenger.
Now I adore Chris Evan’s Captain America. His portrayal of Cap is so perfect, it almost rivals Christopher Reeve’s Superman. Of all the Phase 1 Marvel films, Captain America: First Avenger is the one I enjoy the most. So, you can imagine my surprise when the subject of Wonder Woman appears on a genre news site, to see fanboys claiming the DCEU’s first critical success was won off the back of a Marvel film.
Of course, there are similarities, most notably the World War setting. Both characters were created within a year of each other during a time in American history where heroes were needed for inspiration. Cap arrived before Pearl Harbour, while Diana made her debut in October 1941. War is such an ingrained part of both characters’ origins, there is simply no way to excise it just to avoid comparisons with each other.
Ironically, some of Diana’s fans were unhappy the setting of her story was shifted to World War I but I don't want to imagine how fierce the claims of plagiarism would have been if the movie was kept in World War II.
There are other similarities too, most notably a male lead named Steve, played by an actor also named Chris. The Howling Commandos and Trevor’s band of mercenaries, the presence of two scientists, Zola and Doctor Poison and of course the tragic end of both their relationships.
As a fan of both films, I must admit, I never watched Wonder Woman thinking I was watching a rehash of Captain America: The First Avenger, mostly because they are tonally two very different movies.
While Captain America; The First Avenger is an adventure story about a young man who unleashes the superhero inside of him, Wonder Woman is really a love story with a female lead that just so happens to be a superhero.
Even though Peggy Carter became a better developed character post Captain America: The First Avenger, there’s no denying she spends most of the time in the film being either Steve’s crush and then ardent supporter. When she isn’t necessary for the plot, she gets sidelined and it’s only after Steve’s journey into the ice, does she come into her own as a hero. Also, considering the events in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Civil War, it’s really a toss-up who is Steve’s real love, Peggy or Bucky?
In Wonder Woman, the relationship between Diana and Steve is a core element of the film. Steve is not merely Diana’s guide in the Patriarch’s world, he’s her first introduction to men beyond the tales told by the Amazons. It’s a credit to Patty Jenkins that at no time Steve feels like a sidekick or a romantic interest, they’re both warriors fighting a common cause.
Throughout the film, Steve is at Diana’s side every step of the way and never feels threatened by her power. If anything, he uses it. For instance, the scene in which he sets up the shield manoeuvre after watching Antiope doing the same on Themyscira is simply glorious.
Steve is more than just a participant in Diana’s adventures, he’s her key to understanding mankind.
By the climax of the film, Diana learns that man started World War I without any help from the god of war. It’s a highly demoralising moment because Diana was operating under the assumption man was being influenced by Ares, despite Steve’s best efforts to convince her otherwise. It is Steve who teaches Diana man is flawed; capable of committing heinous acts of cruelty while at the same time, aspiring to nobility and compassion.
Where Wonder Woman is most accused of stealing from Captain America, is undoubtedly the death of Steve Trevor which mirrors Steve Rogers journey into the ice. Honestly, I didn’t think about the similarities until it was all over and even then, it’s like comparing apples and oranges that just happen to have the same bucket.
Anyone who’s ever read Captain America comics, knows the journey into the ice was inevitable. Cap simply must be frozen to end up in the present day. Not to mention Marvel’s Phase 1 has been touting the inclusion of Captain America in The Avengers since the very beginning. You went into the film knowing Steve was going to be frozen. If not, stop reading this and go away, this article isn’t for you. (I kid).
For those who saw Batman vs Superman, the foreshadowing of Steve Trevor’s fate does not equal to knowing for sure what happens to him in Wonder Woman. While it’s reasonable to assume that Steve is dead by 2016 since photographic evidence placed him in WWI, what audiences did not expect was him to die during Diana’s first movie outing! In fact, it’s a pretty ballsy move to kill him off so soon, considering how much weight is given to the relationship.
After all, with Diana being immortal, there’s more than enough opportunity for Steve to remain at Diana’s side for several years until he passes of old age. Especially when sequels intend on exploring Diana’s time in man’s world, post WW1. For those who considered Steve Trevor to be Wonder Woman’s Lois Lane throughout her 75-year publication history, his death is a punch to the gut, depicted beautifully in the last great moment of the film before it descends into its CGI basted fight scene.
While Peggy spends the rest of her life mourning Steve Rogers and forges a new life for herself as the founder of SHIELD, Diana is nourished by her loss and learns hatred can be trumped by love and hope. Steve's death touches Diana's life long after his death. It the reason why she chooses not to pack her bags and go home to Themyscira after World War 1. Ultimately, it’s his sacrifice that convinces Diana man is worth fighting for.
Meanwhile, Steve Rogers is kissing Sharon Carter. Really Marvel????