It was a story about love, hope and faith and Wonder Woman was a breath of fresh air that resonated with fans across the globe, bringing in over US$821 million at the global box office in 2017. A departure of the grim and gritty that marked the earlier outings from the DC Extended Universe, Patty Jenkins’ inclusion, and Gal Gadot’s portrayal, was a tale of inspiration that won the hearts of many, so what can the duo do for the sequel?
More of the same, and it just so happens that everyone is in need of the same, more so than ever.
Strongly sending a message of hope, the highly anticipated sequel, Wonder Woman 1984, which has been delayed twice this year due to the pandemic, is not only a timely piece of joy and wonder, but it also spotlights the true essence of Wonder Woman as a superhero – humanity, truth and empathy.
Once again, Gal Gadot brings on a performance that matches that of Robert Downey Jr and Christopher Reeve, that the actor and the character are one and the same, in a production enhanced by Jenkins’ passionate sensibilities.
Earlier this week, Geek Culture had the opportunity to attend a press conference with director Patty Jenkins, producer Charles Roven and cast members Gal Gadot, Kristen Wiig, Chris Pine and Pedro Pascal to discuss the upcoming movie, and how it differs from other superhero films before it.
If you ask Jenkins, the first movie, though titled after the most famous female superhero in the world, wasn’t really about Wonder Woman. It was about a journey of a princess who slowly discovered her role as Wonder Woman.
“I’m genuinely frustrated by what I didn’t get to do with Wonder Woman and this whole great group of people,” acknowledges Jenkins. “We spent the entire first film making Wonder Woman, creating Wonder Woman and she’s only Wonder Woman in the last scene of the movie, so I found myself really craving doing a movie about full-blown Wonder Woman.”
And a full blown Wonder Woman is what fans will see in Wonder Woman 1984. Whilst the first film looked at the birth of the female icon, and what she stands for in the world, this sequel looks at Diana Prince decades later, living with humanity and her own struggles to do the right thing. The film sheds more light on Diana’s history and her own humanity, of being an immortal who has lost friends, love and so much more, easily making her a hero that is universal and personable.
“We discussed a lot about the history of Diana and how her life had been since we last saw her in 1918. She’s lost all of her team members, she’s been very lonely, she doesn’t really want to engage and make new friends because then they’re gonna realise she doesn’t age and they’re gonna die and she has to let go,” shared Gadot, in her fourth outing as the Amazonian warrior.
“She’s kind of isolated herself from the world and her only goal is just to help and better mankind and be there for them and guide them and try to do good.”
The isolation and the loneliness that plagues Diana is apparent, as she operates in the open but in secrecy, as opposed to the superheroes we often see in film today who are adored, recognised and surrounded by friends and family.
Of course, the biggest surprise, as teased in the early trailers, is the return of Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine, who died in the first movie. His return, while not a secret, is not just an attempt by the filmmakers to bring back Diana’s love life but reflects another of Jenkins’ attempts at breaking free of stereotypes.
“The most interesting thing to explore [was] the fun of the idea of the man playing the proverbial fish out of water that’s usually played by the woman. We played with these tropes in the second [film] and it was a bit harder than I expected it to be,” said Pine of his mysterious return.
So how does he come back, and is it really him? You’ll have to catch the movie to find out but just as Trevor was Diana’s introduction to mankind in the first film, Trevor continues in his role of anchoring Diana in the modern world.
“The greatest actor challenge of all time is to pretend to be a baby. Everything became a moment for excitement or exploration or fear, and then trying to figure out how would I engage with this object or this experience that I’ve never seen before,” Pine continued.
Speaking of never seen before, new to the Wonder Woman cast are Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal who bring DC Comics villains Cheetah and Maxwell Lord to the big screen. As one of Wonder Woman’s biggest archenemies, Wiig’s Cheetah and Wonder Woman’s action scenes were arguably some of the best action sequences to come out of DC in recent years.
From mid-air fights that are comparable to Cirque du Soleil, to spars that are beautifully shot, Cheetah’s and Wonder Woman’s fight scenes were carefully planned out and intentional to provide an experience that is unique to the film.
“There were quite a few scenes that were unbelievably complex. This was one of them because we had to build that entire space. There was no stage big enough in the world and then we have Cirque du Soleil performers, practising them and showing us what things are going to look like, and then these guys have to end up doing it,” said Patty pointing towards Wiig and Gadot.
“However they would fight, it would be completely different – and they’re friends, right? It’s not about punching in the face as they’re both trying to literally get the other one under control. Narratively, it was fascinating. How it would work spatially was fascinating, and then executing it was long and laborious, and wild but also exciting because you would see the moves and be like, Whoa, that’s so awesome,” said Jenkins.
Wiig chimed in, “And everything was very planned out too. It’s like, oh this is where this happens and this is here because someone’s going up there and it was all completely intentional and like everything was so beautifully formed.”
The movie was filmed in various locations, expanding the cast’s global footprint across Washington DC to Virginia, the United Kingdom and Spain, and to the Canary Islands.
The final sequence between Cheetah and Wonder Woman was originally planned to be shot outdoors during the summer, but because filming took a long time and winter came, the crew had to build their own massive facility for the final act. Producer Charles Roven recalls facing multiple challenges with lighting and how it interfered with wires in the scene.
“I would have to say, and I’ve been doing this for a while, that it was one of the most complex, if not the most complex film I’ve ever had to produce. But I have an amazing team, both in front of the camera and behind the camera,” claimed Roven.
Believe it or not, the movie has minimum use of CGI so most of the action you see on screen are of real actors and stuntmen doing them, whether it’s Gadot and Wiig or their stunt doubles. The facial expressions, the weight and movement of their bodies and the speed of the action, is all happening in real time. It took a much longer time to prep and rehearse, according to Gadot, but the final product of it is undoubtedly incredible.
“The wire work that we’ve done at the mall and the fight with Cheetah was like, I don’t think it was ever done before just because people don’t do these type of wire rigs anymore. They just do CGI,” recall Gadot. “It’s the hardest movie I ever got to shoot by far but it was worth it. There was just no way we’re going to take any shortcuts. We’re just going to raise the bar and give everything we have because we knew people were so invested with the character and cared so much about her.”
Whilst Pascal didn’t have plenty of fight scenes, his portrayal of Maxwell Lord was impactful, because as it turns out, Jenkins wanted a lot of expression, which is the opposite of his mask covered character in Disney +’s The Mandalorian.
“I call it the Patty Jenkins experience. You can’t get away with something that is typical. No matter how dark of a character, it is to make the experience as honest as possible. I definitely didn’t know if I would be able to get there and I completely owe it to my director,” noted Pascal.
“The scariest thing about this movie for me was to do something that is a lot closer to me, at least energetically, like just to kind of expose desperation. Instead of brood with a moustache, it was expose, expose, expose and I had to use a lot of myself to do what Patti wanted,” revealed Pascal. “It was really scary and thrilling. It was completely new as far as professional experience is concerned, but completely closer to me.”
From the get go, it is obvious that Wonder Woman 1984 attempts to break stereotypes ever so present in many superhero films that have come before it, and given how this is Jenkins’ second rodeo, the director received much more conviction and support in putting out the Wonder woman film she’s always wanted.
“The last one was her discovery of humanity. Now, how does she live within humanity? And by the way, she’s not perfect either. So her own struggles and journey to do the right thing, which is so universal to all of us, like, being a hero is not an easy thing. It’s actually a super difficult thing. So that I was really interested in, ‘What does it feel like’ ?” said Jenkins.
The biggest trope that Wonder Woman 1984 cast away is that superhero role models need not only be male and that traits such as empathy and humanity are universally shared across all humans, regardless of their gender identity. The icon that she is, Wonder Woman provides young girls the opportunity to see a strong woman lead and a message so powerful for young boys and men too.
For Gadot, playing such a character was an emotional experience and watching the movie, despite acting in it and seeing all the drafts, still leaves an impact on the 35-year old actress.
“I wasn’t lucky enough to see so many Wonder Woman type characters when I was growing up. When I saw the opening sequence, I got so emotional. And for the first time, I didn’t feel like I was Gal the actress, I felt like Gal the eight year old, watching another eight year old doing something out of the world, and being so good at it, and she’s doing it in her way,” shared Gadot.
“Then I realised, like the power of these movies. I’m a big believer that when you see it, you think you can be it, and then you become it. I didn’t have the opportunity to see all of these strong female characters and now seeing it and seeing the way that it affects my daughters – by the way, also boys and men and like all different types of people – it’s so powerful, and it’s so strong, and I feel very grateful that I have the opportunity to be a part of this.”
Wonder Woman 1984 starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal is slated to release 17 December 2020 in cinemas, and 25 December 2020 on HBO Max for US viewers.