Monday, November 21, 2011


Here’s what I wrote on my Facebook page last Friday night:

Instant Facebook poll. About an hour from now, which of these DVDs
should I watch? DESTROY ALL MONSTERS or the unaired TV pilot of
WONDER WOMAN? The voting starts now!

My Facebook friends kept the voting close, but, when the voting was
over, writer/producer David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman pilot was what
they wanted me to watch.  After watching it, I wasn’t certain they
were actually my friends.

My immediate response, which I posted on Facebook within moments of
watching the pilot was:

Holy crap! I'm not sure even I could fix that mess! It'll make for
an interesting blog.

So here we are...

Unbelievable. If I had to describe the Wonder Woman pilot in just
one word, that would be it.  If you gave me two words, I would add
“utterly” to the description.

Kelley’s script places Wonder Woman smack dab in the real world or
as real as Los Angeles ever gets.  The Patriot Act is mentioned at
one point, so we know we’re in an America that has sacrificed some
civil rights to achieve a false sense of security. We also have a
senator in the pocket of the pilot’s villain and that villain owns
a pharmaceutical company.

The pilot starts with a young black man bleeding from his eyes and
ears as a result of a super-steroid manufactured by Veronica Cale,
played by Elizabeth Hurley whose natural attractiveness is undone
by all the scenery she chews in this pilot.  Then we cut to Wonder
Woman chasing one of Cale’s enhanced henchman down a crowded
city street.  The henchmen has super-speed.

Wonder Woman catches the henchman by throwing her lasso around his
neck and pulling it.  Somehow, she doesn’t break his neck in doing
this.  Then, she takes a sample of his blood to test it for proof
of Cale’s nefarious business plan.

Wonder Woman is described as a vigilante, but everybody knows who
she is.  She’s “Diana Themyscira,” the head of a successful company
that makes Wonder Woman merchandise.  It’s not clear if people know
she’s an Amazon.  Heck, that wasn’t even made clear to the viewers.
In any case, the major concern seems to be that she’s working with
the police or other law-enforcement authorities because that would
be illegal.  Okay, you and I know the stuff Wonder Woman is doing
is already illegal, but she gets a pass on it.  Huh?

Wonder Woman is played by the gorgeous Adrianne Palicki...whose
acting ability isn't at all up to the all.  Which makes it so painful that the
pilot’s cast also includes the terrific Cary Elwes and Tracie Thoms.  Elwes
and Thoms are so much better than everyone else in the pilot that I
felt sorry for them.

It’s damning with faint praise but Palicki does look good in both
the bustier/pants costume and the classic costume.  I’m not sure
why she wore the first for most of the pilot and the second for the
pilot’s climatic fight scene, but both outfits worked for me.

The unbelievable keeps coming.  For no reason other than to include
the name “Diana Prince” in the show, it’s revealed that Themyscira
has a secret identity.  After a hard day of violating civil rights,
making slanderous statements to the news media, and bitching about
the size of her breasts on her action figure, she goes to a small
apartment to cuddle with her cat, a bag of potato chips, and some
weepy chick flick.  Oh, yeah, and there’s a flashback of her and a
Steve Trevor who bears no resemblance to any Steve Trevor we have
ever seen on the night when she breaks up with him so she can move
to Los Angeles and be utterly unbelievable.

Wonder Woman flies a small jet across the skies over Los Angeles.
How many laws does that break?

There are several tedious scenes of Cale threatening Diana with a
lawsuit, of Diana threatening to kill Cale and of the slimy senator
threatening Diana with a federal investigation.  They all blurred
together.  In and around these, Wonder Woman visits the young man
who was nearly killed by Cale’s drugs, learns the drugs are being
tested on other young men and on men kidnaped for experimentation.
Cale is trying to develop a super-soldier drug so she can become a
super-evil Blackwater. 

When the young black man of the opening scenes dies, Wonder Woman
goes to the hospital and tortures the super-speedster to learn the
location of Cale’s secret laboratory.  That’s where Cale tests the
drug, trains her super-soldiers, and imprisons those test subjects
who suffered horrific side effects.

Her friendly neighborhood police detective half-heartedly tries to
convince Diana to wait for a search warrant.  Then he explains what
she can do to make it legal for the cops to enter the place.  Then
he gets the back-up units in place.  Illegal much?  

Wonder Woman invades Cale’s hidden lab, conveniently located under
Cale’s corporate headquarters.  She proceeds to maim and even kill
a number of Cale’s security guards and super-soldiers.  No, really.
Besides lassoing thugs around the neck and pulling them across the
large area or off large freight containers, she yanks them between
the containers and then slams said containers together.  Were this
the 1960s Batman show, we’d see a big red SPLAT!

The worst moment of the climatic battle?  That would be when Wonder
Woman hurls a pipe through the neck of a non-super-powered security
guard.  After she successfully used her bracelets to deflect every
one of his shots.  That’s just wrong.

Wonder Woman bounces Veronica Cale off a wall, then rescues those
test subjects.  The police enter the lab.  The news media applauds
Wonder Woman’s success in bringing Cale down.  There’s a line about
how the unwilling test subjects can be cured. 

Enter the federal investigator.  Except it’s Steve Trevor.  And the
only question he asks about Diana working with the police is along
the lines of “You didn’t do that, did you?” 

Diana responds with something like “Of course not.  Our cases just
happened to overlap.” Which is good enough for Steve.  Because, you
know, toy companies investigate criminal cases all the time.  It’s
just that Mattel is better at keeping that sort of thing out of the
newspapers.  Sheesh!

How could I fix this mess?  If you’re going to have Wonder Woman as
a lawless vigilante, then she should probably not also be the face
of a public company.  And, if she’s going to be working with cops,
they should really do a better job of keeping that quiet.  Make a
show of trying to arrest her now and then or something.

Maybe you could have Wonder Woman as the ambassador from
Paradise Island, but I don’t know if I believe her illegal activities could
be covered by diplomatic immunity.  Unless Paradise Island has lots
of oil.  That’s why Saudi Arabia gets a pass on its participation
in terrorism. 

I’m not comfortable with either of these scenarios.  They stretch
my willing suspension of disbelief.  Not as much as this ridiculous
pilot maybe, but beyond what I find acceptable.  I don’t think this
mess could ever be fixed.

After Steve makes Diana’s federal problems go away, they make goo-
goo eyes at one another until Diana spots the wedding ring Steve’s
wearing.  Yep, he’s married.  Oh, the heartbreak.

Diana goes home to her apartment to cuddle with her cat.  Lucky in
murderous vigilantism, unlucky in love.  So sad.

Maybe Frank Castle should give her a call.

I’m taking a week off to deal with some personal matters, but I’ll
be back next Monday with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella


  1. I'd like to take this opportunity to remind you that I voted for DESTROY ALL MONSTERS

  2. You were too kind to this pilot.

    You left out the part where Wonder Woman uses another guard as a human shield -- thereby committing another acto of murder.

    And, given that you fixated on the many illegal acts committed by the characters, how could you not ponder the absolute illegality created by Wonder Woman's former boyfriend, who now works for the Department of Justice, basically assigning himself the job of conducting the Depatment's investigations of Themyscria? Can anyone say "conflict of interests?"

  3. Bob...

    You're right on all three counts, though I think the Steve Trevor conflict of interest was sort of implied. But I should have spelled it out.

    I forgot about the human shield. The pipe through the throat was so much more shocking to me that I forgot about the other.

    Just like I'm trying to forget this movie.

  4. I voted for you to watch Destroy all Monsters. Just saying.

  5. Terrible pilot, but I have to admit WW was pleasant on the eyes.

  6. On FB, I commented that the pilot was "unfocused." Was this supposed to be a scifi show? a crime show (ala Law and Order)? a weepy woman/empowered woman show (Ally McBeal?Sex and the City?)? I think it tried to cross so many genres it just ended up being a string of bad cliches. If her character had been narrowed so that she was a vigilante who went to her Diana Prince ID to get some peace/hide from authorities OR if she had only the Diana T/businesswoman ID that would have been a good first step. However, the core of the character just isn't really Wonder Woman - you could remove the costume entirely and called her The Huntress or something generic. If you are going to radically re-interpret a character, at some point, if it strays too far from the original concept, just change the whole thing and don't try to play off name recognition.

  7. Ray...good points. There was one identity too many for Wonder Woman. But, if they were going to make her a vigilante, the "civilian" identity really needed to be a secret one.

  8. How dare you even offer that as a choice, Destroy All Monsters is a trump card. It can not be defeated dammit.


    After reading this.... I.... uh....... wow.

    That's all I got.