Warning: there are spoilers ahead for Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman! Read at your own risk!
By now you have probably heard that Wonder Woman is great. The film has garnered massive critical acclaim, and its box office performance proves that fans are flocking to it. Patty Jenkins' origin story for Diana Prince is brilliant from top to bottom, but some of the movie's best creative flourishes are even more ingenious than you likely realized upon first viewing. Specifically, Wonder Woman's use of a real life historical figure, Erich Ludendorff, as a villain is an inspired idea, and it's a storytelling element that future DCEU films should consider embracing as well.
Erich Ludendorff is already a great villain in his own right, but his use in Wonder Woman is even more impressive when we consider the fact that a real German general of the same name inspires him. Patty Jenkins has taken some significant liberties with the creation of the character, but the real Ludendorff's own ideology about the nature of humanity and the concept of perpetual war lines up incredibly well with the thinking of the fictionalized man. This was a real man who believed that war was humankind's natural state and that peace was merely a period of calm in between the current war and the next war. Beyond that, the ideologies of both versions of Ludendorff line up perfectly with the personality and modus operandi of DC's Ares -- making the real life German general a perfect foil for a darker and more sinister form of evil.
The weight of a real life figure such as Erich Ludendorff meeting someone as powerful as Diana Prince was not lost on actor Danny Huston, who recently opened up to CinemaBlend's own Eric Eisenberg about the dynamic. Huston explained:
If DC does opt to continue embracing real life historical figures and events in the way Wonder Woman has, it will adopt a precedent established by other superhero franchises in recent memory. There are obvious comparisons that we can make between Wonder Woman and Captain America: The First Avenger, but the X-Men franchise is the current crown jewel when it comes to blending history with fiction. Over the last few films in the franchise, the X-Men movies have seamlessly blended that kind of action. From the Cuban Missile Crisis to the bombing of Nagasaki to the end of the Vietnam War, the X-Men films have paved the way for superhero movies that do their homework and understand how real life events can inform fictional stories.
However, what DC has done with Erich Ludendorff could allow the DCEU to go even further than the X-Men films. By incorporating real life historical figures into its stories (and by enabling those figures to mingle with classic DC characters), the DCEU can create a fascinating sense of mythology that feels equal parts realistic and faithful to the source material. The similarities between Ludendorff and Ares help contextualize the latter villain, and the acknowledgment that someone really could hold (and really has held) those beliefs about war makes Ares feel like less of a cartoonish monster in the grand scheme of the DCEU.
The real beauty is that DC and Warner Bros. don't have to stop at Ludendorff and Ares to make these juxtapositions. For as long as comic books have existed, real life figures have inspired heroes and villains alike. Justice League is coming, and the possibility of Darkseid making an appearance becomes more and more likely the more we learn about the film. The ruler of Apokolips was directly inspired by the tyrannical rule of Adolph Hitler during World War II; there's no reason for the DCEU not to lean into those comparisons and hold the ideologies of these individuals alongside one another. In the end, it will make Darkseid feel far more real if we can find a real human being to hold him up against as a parallel.