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From small screen to silver screen: the evolution of the iconic Wonder Woman

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Wonder Woman makes screen history this June as the first summer blockbuster superhero film directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins. And about time, too! Here's how the comic book icon has gone from small screen to big.

Patty Jenkins' vision

Jenkins is most famous for making Monster, the 2003 fact-based thriller that won Charlize Theron the Best Actress Oscar for playing serial killer Aileen Wuornos. 

Jenkins says: "I, as a woman, want Wonder Woman to be hot as hell, fight badass, and look great at the same time – the same way men want Superman to have huge pecs and an impractically big body. That makes them feel like the hero they want to be. And my hero, in my head, has really long legs."


Who is Wonder Woman?

So the long-legged Wonder Woman now takes her place as the heroine of the fourth movie in the DC Comics Extended Universe.

She is an Amazon princess, the daughter of Hippolyta and an immortal warrior, which must come in quite handy while fighting bad guys and possibly bad girls. She is played by 32-year-old Israeli actress and model Gal Gadot, who won the title role over screen-tested Élodie Yung and Olga Kurylenko. Bad luck, by the way, Élodie and Olga!

Gadot is definitely the woman for the job, as, on the one hand, she is one of the highest earning models in Israel and the face of Gucci's Bamboo perfume. On the other she's a former Israel Defense Forces soldier who served for two years in the Israeli military. She's a beauty and a beast.


Gal on the character

Last year Gadot made history as the first person ever to play Wonder Woman in a live-action cinema film, in 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But now, times have changed, literally as Wonder Woman now leads her first-ever solo blockbuster.

Gadot explains: "We go back 100 years to when she's more naive. She's this young idealist. She's pure. Very different to the experienced, super-confident, grown-up woman you've seen in Batman v Superman." Gadot adds that Wonder Woman has "many strengths and powers, but at the end of the day she's a woman with a lot of emotional intelligence."


Big screen wonder

Allan Heinberg and Geoff Johns's screenplay makes some changes, moving Wonder Woman's original comic book origins in World War II to World War I. It also follows the DC Comics' origin changes in The New 52 reboot, where Diana is Zeus's daughter rather than being created out of clay by the gods.

Chris Pine is cast in the sidekick role as American pilot Steve Trevor. In the story, Steve crashes on the island of Themyscira and prompts Diana Prince to leave her home to try to stop about World War One and become Wonder Woman.

Gadot underwent diet and training, practised martial arts and gained 17 lb of muscle for the role. But Wonder Woman wasn't always like this...


Small screen origins

In her famous 70s TV incarnation Wonder Woman confirmed much more to the all-American apple pie stereotype.

She was played by beauty queen Lynda Carter, who was crowned Miss World America 1972 and starred in three seasons of the TV show from 1975 to 1979. Carter has a lot more curves than Gadot, and of course bigger hair – after all it was that era!

Carter invented her ballerina-style spinning transformation into Wonder Woman, iconic to the TV show, but we imagine that won't be in the movie.


Lynda Carter's impact

Carter's WW was a pin-up but she later complained: "I never meant to be a sexual object for anyone but my husband. I never thought a picture of my body would be tacked up in men's bathrooms. I hate men looking at me and thinking what they think. And I know what they think. They write and tell me."

The show's first season was screened on the ABC TV network and is set in the 1940s during World War Two. Seasons two and three aired on CBS and are set in the 1970s, with the title changed to The New Adventures of Wonder Woman, plus a total cast change, apart from Carter and Lyle Waggoner, as Steve Trevor Jr, the son of his original character.

With low ratings, it fizzled out after a surprisingly short three seasons. After all, this was the blokey era of The Incredible Hulk and The Dukes of Hazzard.


The first Wonder Woman...

But Lynda Carter didn't get there first. Linda Harrison played Wonder Woman in a 1967 five-minute test film, never shown on TV though it circulates on the internet (see below).

Then in 1974 a TV movie was shot for ABC with Cathy Lee Crosby as a blonde Wonder Woman and the character updated. The ratings were moderate and no series followed.

No disrespect to Harrison or Crosby, but it is only Carter that anyone remembers. She defines the era, voted in 1978 'The Most Beautiful Woman in the World'.


Wonder Woman for the 21st century

The new Wonder Woman film aims to be more inclusive of both men and women, as director Jenkins also plans to keep female superhero fans thrilled.

The success of the superhero TV show Supergirl in 2015 finally sparked the possibility of a Wonder Woman movie. Everybody in film production has long been nervous of female superhero films, especially since the failure of Catwoman and Elektra, but a lot of time has gone by.

Certainly Gadot deserves her shot at the superfame, as she was arguably the best thing in Batman v Superman. Gadot has signed a three-picture deal, so more is to come and the heat is on her. She probably hears this a lot, but she is our kind of Gal.

Wonder Woman arrives on 2nd June. Let us know @Cineworld why you think it'll give the superhero genre a kick in the pants.

Derek Winnert is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.