The original intention for the 2020 DCEU film Wonder Woman 1984 was vastly different from the final product, according to a source who provided images and testimony on the condition of anonymity. The sequel as it currently exists pits the founding member of the Justice League against her longtime nemesis Cheetah during a neon-soaked version of the Yuppie Decade.
The original vision drew from 1984, the 1949 novel by George Orwell, as indicated by the film’s title. It put the Amazon warrior in a crumbling surveillance state that is endlessly at war with enemies abroad as well as its own citizens. The leaker, who has been confirmed to be one of the original concept artists, there were initial misgivings about the project.
“I had never read the book. All I knew about it was the memes when Edward Snowden leaked all that stuff about the NSA that the book wasn’t supposed to be an instruction manual. Then I read a passage online where someone named Winston was welcomed to Tiny Train World, and I was like “no thanks.” It wasn’t until I was hired that I decided to read the book for myself. Then I totally got it. ”
The source claims that reading the novel not only changed the vision for the project but also had deep personal influence on their views and philosophy.
“I understood immediately why (studio executive name withheld) wanted to incorporate the themes of Orwell’s book in his sequel without them even needing to tell me. Diana, the secret identity of (name withheld), lives in a world of constant war due to a manipulative god named Ares. It’s just like Winston Smith. But she’s woman, like Julia. So combining the characters and making the combo a superhero was the only logical decision. I mean, if you combined an average man and woman, the result would clearly be as strong as the two of them put together and would wear bracelets. It seems so obvious now but it’s likely that literally never would have occurred to me if it weren’t for this job. The writers room turned down my idea to change the character’s name to ‘Wonder Winston.’ Oh, and we kept Ares in from the first movie because he tested well.”
According to the source, the development process for the film’s original vision was plagued with conflict:
“There was constant disagreement in the writer’s room whether it should turn out Themyscira had always been at war with Eurasia and allied with Eastasia or at war with Eastasia and allied with Eurasia. The breakthrough was when (name withheld) pitched that Themyscira had always been both allied and at war with both of them. (Head writer) said that was exactly the kind of thinking we needed on the project, and they got promoted the next day. Then the day after they got escorted out by security and all record of them was destroyed”
The general consensus was that at the beginning of the third act for the film, Wonder Woman’s story would follow the general parameters of Winston Smith’s and that the superhero would fall into the clutches of the Thought Police and be taken to the Ministry of Love (changed to the “Ministry of Doom” to better fit established Justice League canon.)
One aspect that there was universal agreement on was that the nature of the ending would need to be vastly different from that of the book. Or so it initially seemed.
“While we all respected Orwell’s vision and skill with turning a phrase, we found his attitude towards the proletariat misguided. In the book the most organic passion they’re ever portrayed as having is a fight over a pot. Smith buys beer for one of them and despite clear, direct questions the old fellow mistakes Smith’s intent in ways that strain credulity. Well, it’s not a surprising conclusion for a disappointed old revolutionary like Orwell was when he was writing the book to arrive at.”
“Management was very clear that Wonder Woman was not allowed to die in a café loving Big Brother, but what many people don’t understand is that the book doesn’t end with that. In the epilogue, Big Brother and his party are described as a thing of the past, an institution that fell. Newspeak is dissected in an academic tone, not as if it’s a current threat. That meant if people complained that we were giving the book a happy ending, we could call them out for having not really read it.”
Furthermore, it was also clear to everyone involved that it couldn’t be solely Wonder Woman’s achievement that Big Brother/Ares was defeated.
“As Winston Smith says in the book ‘if there is hope, it lies with the Proles.’ The Party was too full of ‘beetle men’ at all levels and would liquidate too many of its own most loyal adherents for a revolution to emerge from people always in front of a telescreen.”
“We found it more than an audience-pleasing happy ending. We felt obliged to change it. The people were waking up to how their privacy was being taken away, that their governments was lying to them about the wars, and how income inequality was only growing. When Joker came out with its proletariat uprising and it resonated with audiences, we all felt vindicated. So Wonder Woman was at least as reliant on the people to save the day as they were on her. Even if it did feel at the time like a ripoff of the climax for Sam Raimi’s first Spiderman movie.”
Eventually, the writers and artists were ready to pitch their vision to Warner Brothers executives, and that’s where the trouble started.
“When we showed the executives our vision, they didn’t say a word or move a muscle the whole time. We thought that was a good sign. ‘We got ’em riveted,’ ya know? But when we were done, they began slowly explaining that they wanted 1984 more in the VHS, neon, Stranger Things sense instead of the Orwellian one. Then they got mad. We were really worried for awhile. Fortunately most of us just needed to gang up and denounce a few people, well, unpeople now and they got all the blame while the rest of us kept our jobs. Then we got back to work, and this time we developed the movie down the path they wanted. Though for this round of rewrites management kept webcams on us at all times to make sure we didn’t get off track again.”
While we wait for the final version of Wonder Woman 1984 to come out on June 4, 2020, we can at least take a little time to imagine a vision of a boot stamping on Wonder Woman’s face, forever.
Drawings for this article were provided by Kokamugithu. More of her art is available here.