Wonder Woman is a guaranteed event. After seventy-six years in print (and a stint on the small screen), Patty Jenkins’ film marks the first cinematic solo outing for Diana Prince. With female-led superhero movies an absolute rarity – the last one was Elektra, which was itself a spinoff of Daredevil – that’s a big deal, especially as DC’s rival Marvel are still two years away from Captain Marvel, which will be the studios’ 21st entry.
But that’s not all Wonder Woman is; it comes as part of the DC Extended Universe, and that lumbers this origin story with a lot of franchise baggage. The shared universe started on shaky ground with Man of Steel and in 2016 released two movies that, despite box office success, were critically slaughtered and remain derided by vast swathes of the fanbase: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. The problems this raises for Wonder Woman are twofold; obviously there’s a lot of weight on Diana to right the ship, but there’s also a fear of it just continuing the previous mistakes. Whether it will or not has been unclear from the previous trailers, which showed promise but retained much of what we’ve come to expect from the series.
Screen Rant recently visited the Wonder Woman edit bay to talk with Patty Jenkins about the film and got to see about ten minutes worth of footage; there were two scenes, highlighting the chemistry between Gal Gadot’s Diana and Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor and showing one of the key action beats. The clips weren’t finished, with a few stand-in shots and temp music, but it gave a good impression of what we can expect from the full film in June. And the main takeaway was that it looks nothing like Batman v Superman.
Wonder Woman Footage Description
Before diving into the discussion, first here’s a breakdown of the footage we saw. The first scene takes place at the end of the film’s first act (which is set mostly on Themyscira). After learning the backstory of the Amazonians and witnessing Diana grow-up, the film is kicked into action by the arrival of Steve Trevor. Bringing with him a chasing party of Germans trying to recapture information he’s stolen, the Amazonians learn of the Great War, leading Diana to believe this will lead her to God of War and Amazonian nemesis Ares.
The scene begins with Diana and Steve leaving Themyscira on a boat. They pass through its protective shield and we cut back to Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nelson), Diana’s mother. She and another Amazonian discuss whether they should have told her the truth – either something to do with Ares or that in leaving her home she’ll no longer be able to return.
On the boat, Diana and Steve discuss their plan; figuring that Ares will want to be at the center of conflict, Diana requests Steve take her there. The pair then settle in for the night, leading to some awkwardness – Steve plans to sleep well away from Diana, but she doesn’t understand the problem with a man laying with a woman. Realizing his world’s rules are impossible to explain, Steve lays down next to her anyway and the conversation turns saucy – Diana reveals she does understand why he’s been so sheepish and discusses having read Aphrodite’s books of love. Steve says he’d like to read them, but Diana shoots that down, saying they state men rarely understand it – that’s right, a female orgasm joke.
We then cut to Germany. The film’s villain, General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) is introduced arriving at a military facility. He kills one of his men before walking into a rundown research lab and talks to chief scientist Maru (Elena Anaya). They are trying to create a dangerous gas that will win the war, but with peace on the horizon it looks like time is running out. Ludendorff commands her to keep working and Maru gives him some of a mysterious serum. He inhales a small amount of the substance and something very weird happens – his skin begins to glow orange and his becomes super-strengthed, crushing a gun with his bare hands.
We cut back to Diana and Steve, who are arriving into London as she wakes up. They sail under Tower Bridge and Diana comments on how ugly the Big Smoke looks. When they’re on land, Diana learns that Steve has been somewhat tricking her, taking her to the British capital to complete his mission rather than the front where she can find Ares. She reminds him of his promise, causing Trevor to pause. This thread is interrupted when Diana begins to derobe, almost revealing her revealing (for the time) Amazonian armor. Steve stops her and after a brief exchange about conventional women get up they vow to go get clothes. The scene ends with Diana excitedly walking towards a baby – she’s never seen one before.
The second clip comes later in the film, when Diana and Steve have formed a misfit team – Charlie (Ewan Bremner), Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui) and Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) – and was seen in part in the second trailer.
The quintet make their way through a ravaged French town on the British front, walking to the trenches. Diana talks to a French refugee and learns her village is being holed up by the Germans and believes it is her duty to save them. Steve – much sterner in the field that he was earlier – tells her they have to keep moving, but Diana refuses; in slow-mo she puts on her tiara and drops her robes to reveal the classic Wonder Woman outfit.
She climbs out of the trench and walks into No Man’s Land. The Germans fire on her and she uses her gauntlets to block bullets. As she moves forward, the fire intensity increases and she uses her shield to protect herself. Realizing this works as a distraction, Steve and co. begin to make their way across the battlefield on her flanks. While Diana deflects, Steve takes out soldiers (bloodlessly), and then Wonder Woman dives into the enemy trench to take on the German’s physically. The group then run into the occupied village and come under fire from a machine gun.
How It’s Different
It should be immediately apparent that there are some major differences between Wonder Woman and Batman v Superman. For starters, there’s a female orgasm joke – Snyder’s women are barely even two-dimensional – but what stands out most is the approach and focus on character, especially the relationship between Diana Prince and Steve Trevor.
There’s not a scene in Batman v Superman where the characters just sit and talk. Every dialogue moment is loaded with obvious subtext or desperately trying to move the plot along, and that’s doubly true with the romance – Lois Lane is Kal-El’s main link to Earth, yet they share a handful of short beats, during which he’s moping about an easy to prove court case and she’s chasing a MacGuffin bullet. Here there’s a genuine concern for developing characters, at least for a couple of moments, which results in a scene that feels natural and unconventional for the genre.
The standout element in this regard is Pine. There was always something strange about him signing on to play a typical love interest – Jane Foster to Gal Gadot’s Thor – but from what’s shown here he’s a fully rounded, conversational combatant who has differing states of emotion depending on if he’s in soldier or civilian mode – a big deal in the DCEU. The effortless, semi-awkward flirting between Pine and Gadot is the highlight of what we’ve seen, showing who the characters are in an entertaining way without beelining to the main story or simply having the point explained.
Of course, that much is to be expected from the director behind Monster, but the question is whether on a large scale Wonder Woman will repeat the DCEU’s more overriding issues. After all, Diana did debut in Batman v Superman, so there’s a presumption of some influence. However, Jenkins stated that due to how Wonder Woman’s production came together, it wasn’t beholden to what Snyder was doing in Dawn of Justice beyond casting and costume design:
“They’d cast this wonderful person, they’ve made this incredible costume, but that’s it really. They had, like, laid the story out of like, we could tell this version of the story, we’re taking this from the original comic and we’re mixing a little [George] Pérez… But besides that we were completely left on our own. [Batman V Superman] wasn’t even done, so nobody had seen it, nobody knew anything… I didn’t see that movie until I was halfway through this… They were super supportive. They’ve been great at being like, you’re the director we’ve picked, this is how you want to go about it.”
Aside from that theme tune – which really won’t fit in a World War I setting – there’s not much to overtly define the character in that film – she’s “killed things from other worlds before,” and that’s pretty much all Batman v Superman offers in its teasing of the character; it appears the photograph is a retroactive inclusion following the story of the prequel origin. This means that the film’s characterization – even its modern day bookends – can hopefully sidestep from that at best divisive outing.
The more promising word in this vein, though, is the wider DCEU approach. Put simply, the direction of the franchise is incredibly uncertain. In contrast to Marvel, it was cited early on cited that Warner Bros. wanted a “director-led” franchise, but as time has worn on that’s been challenged. Suicide Squad was famously subjected to conflicting edits, the studio has taken increased involvement in Justice League and The Flash has been through two directors. It’s at the point where negotiations with new directors reportedly hinge on creative freedom.
Jenkins didn’t discuss the freedom aspect directly – although did make a point of how her and the studio’s visions aligned – but she did talk about how, contrary to the feeling by some fans, there isn’t a dominating filmmaking style being imposed by the studio:
“From my point of view, there is no mandate on tone that I experienced. So I think every filmmaker is making their own movies in the tone that they see right for that movie and I had no pressure on me to not do the same. […] I don’t think there is one tone. Chris Nolan had a serious tone and Zack has a different tone that’s also serious in a different way, so I think it became a perception there was one tone, but that’s not what I’ve heard encouraged.”
This chimes with the footage shown, which offered an altogether lighter tone and lack of comic book constructed images full of moody contrast seem with Larry Fong’s cinematography (which is reportedly being recreated for Justice League).
All this said, there does appear to still be a unique visual approach underpinning what was shown. Putting Snyder’s films, Suicide Squad and what we’ve seen of Wonder Woman alongside each other, the overall best way to describe the style is as “heightened reality.” Again, the Wonder Woman footage wasn’t finished, so it’s not clear how enhanced the final version will be, but the film isn’t attempting realism. Even for a CGI period city, London looks exaggerated and the action had some overblown elements – complete with slow-mo. In the full movie, it could end up being a case of “toned down,” rather than “completely different.’
Which brings us to the No Man’s Land scene. It’s sure to be a marketing centerpiece – a plotless beat that manages to convey the character’s discovery, the period setting and give a bevy of unique shots – presumably marking as it does the first time chronologically we see Wonder Woman in action wearing her full costume. And it’s effective; the setup with her whipping her hair back to reveal the tiara is pure cheese and the linear staging feels a tad hokey, but it’s still a visceral tease that makes full use of its Flanders setting.
What works is that it’s character-driven, and that the character is someone you want to follow. Whereas Superman was racked with an identity crisis of who to protect, Batman a vigilante pushed to brutal means over a twenty-year career and the Suicide Squad a gaggle of anti-heroes, there’s something classically and earnestly heroic about this Wonder Woman. No doubt some introversion elements will be introduced, especially given how closed-off she becomes in Dawn of Justice, but this scene felt representative of a wider attempt to get to the core of her ideology without post-modern exploration.
And that’s what the movie is setting out to be. If there was one buzzword we took away from the edit bay visit it was “origin story.” As Jenkins told it, the purpose of the film is in no way to expand on Batman v Superman or set up Justice League, but to give Wonder Woman her deserved big screen treatment. To really hammer that, she repeatedly cited her inspiration fell back to Superman: The Movie. Man of Steel and Batman v Superman were purposely trying to distance themselves from the Reeve-era by embracing Nolan’s mood and a high fantasy sheen, but Wonder Woman hopes to take us back to that simpler time. The elements inspired by this appear to be the film’s most intriguing prospects; a lengthy introduction to the Amazonian’s creation, an idealistic, wide-eyed hero learning the ills of their new world and a greater focus on their real-world relationships.
Whether Diana Prince’s first ever solo outing can right the DCEU is still up in the air. There ares definitely a fair few question marks – the villain scene felt very early-2000s – but it does look like Jenkins and co. are trying to make something to a degree distanced from what has come before. And, at the very worst, Wonder Woman still has a female orgasm joke.