Wonder Woman‘s cinematographer says the film’s pivotal No Man’s Land scene is a nod to Batman Begins and Richard Donner’s Superman. More than 75 years after her character debuted in the comics, Wonder Woman finally has her own live-action solo movie – and a critically acclaimed and financially successful one, to boot. Of course, the DC icon had many predecessors who got their solo turns on the big screen, including Superman in 1978 starring Christopher Reeve, and Batman in 1989 starring Michael Keaton; and those films subsequently gave way to updates in DC movie franchise, including Christopher Nolan’s Dark Night Trilogy starting in 2005 and Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel in 2013.
Wonder Woman, of course, officially made her big screen debut in last year’s DCEU entry Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice – and as it turns out, two previous iterations of the Batman and Superman characters helped to shape the crucial No Man’s Land scene in Wonder Woman, where Diana (Gal Gadot) reveals her full Wonder Woman costume for the first time, as well as her superhero powers.
In an interview with THR, Wonder Woman cinematographer Matthew Jensen explains how he and director Patty Jenkins formulated the scene:
“From the very beginning, that that scene was kind of our equivalent of Christopher Reeve revealing his S for the first time and saving Lois Lane from the falling helicopter or the first time when Christian Bale is Batman and he’s moving so fast you can’t see him in Batman Begins. We knew the whole movie was building up to this whole moment when she first reveals herself as Wonder Woman. We knew we had to take the approach of Hitchcock in a certain way, you’re holding back, your holding back. You are creating anticipation for that moment. And then of course doing the moment justice by not only revealing her in the full costume, but also revealing her enormous and awesome abilities. That was a major sequence that was developed by Patty and the pre-vis artists and the stunt guys who did a lot of stunts through previsualization to show what was possible.
“When I came aboard, I sat in a lot of the previsualization meetings so I could try out a lot of the ideas about how Wonder Woman reveals herself out of the trench and how she blocks a bullet and then it became a process of breaking down the elements. What was going to be on our built set? What was going to be extreme slow-motion? What was going to be semi-slow motion? How were we going to get her to run across 300 yards of muddy field in her boots and also track with her with a camera? How were we going to rig that camera? All of these things were an enormous technical undertaking. Also there was knowledge in the back of our head that we were shooting this thing in February. We were going to have no light and our light would be gone in about eight hours, if not less than that. Gal would be out there in the Wonder Woman costume in the freezing cold. There were some many elements to this. But I think pulled it off.”
Apart from the film’s epic conclusion, there’s no question that the No Man’s Land scene is one of the most thrilling action-oriented scenes in Wonder Woman, and it’s exciting to find out where the scene essentially drew its inspiration from. Jenkins says she included an homage to Superman when German operatives attempt to mug Diana and Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) in an alleyway, but there’s previously been no mention of how the Donner classic, or for that matter, Batman Begins, influenced the No Man’s Land scene. Of course, all superhero origin movies have those key scenes that define the character, and it’s interesting to learn out of all the previous DC film offerings, why Donner and Nolan’s films stood out among the rest.
Interestingly enough, Jenkins recently revealed that the No Man’s Land scene was nearly cut from the movie, but Jenkins fought for what she calls her “favorite scene” by saying it’s was about Diana “becoming Wonder Woman.” Thankfully, Jenkins stuck to her convictions and had a talented cinematographer like Jensen to help guide her. Much in the way Jenkins looked back to Donner and Nolan’s movies for inspiration, there will no doubt be a director in the future looking back at Jenkins’ Wonder Woman for inspiration as well. Like Diana’s transformation in the scene, No Man’s Land will be seen as one of Jenkins’ defining moments as a director.