It was a cold February afternoon in London (that was probably redundant), and I was carefully making my way through the muddy trenches of a seemingly endless battlefield. I’m not being metaphorical–I was on the set of Warner Bros’ Wonder Woman and exploring an outdoor set built to mimic the front lines of World War I. As I climbed a couple of rungs up a ladder used in the film to peer over the edge of the trench into No Man’s Land, the action was hot nearby. Behind us on another outdoor set was a shootout in the remnants of a small European village called Veld. Places for actors to fall as their characters were shot were marked on the ground. They would go down in the appointed spot and lie in the muck until it was time to start the scene again.
The time outside was a welcome, if freezing, break from observing indoor stages on the set. I was with a small group of journalists, and we spent upwards of an hour watching star Gal Gadot and a stand-in run in place on a treadmill in front of a green screen. Between takes, Gadot talked with director Patty Jenkins about the best positioning for her feet. They laughed over the exaggerated movement necessary to make the running read as badass against the faux battlefield.
But Gadot is doing far more than running in place with Wonder Woman. She’s poised to headline the next release in the DC Universe, and the film marks the first female-led comic book movie for either the DC or Marvel Comics universes. The story is a sprawling one, jumping from present day Paris, back in time to Themyscira, then to the world of humankind during World War I. It’s a story of Diana growing up and opening her eyes to see beyond the safe haven of her mystical home.
We discover the origins of the Amazon
The film begins in present day Paris, where we catch up with Wonder Woman after the events of Batman v Superman. The photo of early 20th century Diana that we saw in last year’s film has triggered a memory for the hero. We’re sent back to when she’s an eight-year-old girl, listening to Hippolyta read to her about the origins of Themyscira and the Amazons to Diana; we travel even further back to see their beginnings for ourselves. The Amazons were created by Aphrodite to restore peace in the world and love in the hearts of humankind after Zeus’ son Ares wreaked havoc among humans and started killing gods. Before Ares killed Zeus, the ruler of the gods made Themyscira as a haven for the Amazons–who, by the way, had to break free from the chains of humans before they could take refuge on their new island home.
Ares is the primary villain of the film
Zeus left behind a gift for the Amazons: the God Killer. Hippolyta, Diana’s mom, tells Diana the God Killer is a mystical sword and the only weapon capable of killing Ares. Granted, that’s a bit of a distortion of the truth: Diana is the real weapon of choice capable of slaying Ares. She’s the daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta and, thus, she’s a demigod. Duh.
When she’s pulled into the world of man and into World War I, Diana goes looking for Ares with the God Killer sword in hand. She believes he’s the cause of the conflict, and she’ll face him in the third act of the movie.
But he’s not the only foe! Dr. Maru, a.k.a. Doctor Poison, and General Ludendorffis are plotting to drop poisonous gas all over Europe and kill millions. Learning about the gas is what prompts Diana to leave Themyscira.
This is not the Wonder Woman you know
The Wonder Woman you know from Batman v Superman isn’t the same character you’ll encounter in this film. She’s at a different, earlier stage. As Gal Gadot said, “I feel like the character that I played in Batman v Superman was more realistic and a more mature woman. In this one, this is the coming of age of Diana. This is her story. She starts as a very naive girl–naive, positive, and happy. In Batman v Superman, she’s been through a lot. By then she already understands the complexity of humans.”
Producer Curt Kanemoto said, “We’ve never had a female lead for one of these comic book movies. There’s no better film to do that with than Wonder Woman. She has such a rich history and such a great story of compassion and humanity. We get to see her true hero’s journey coming to what we get to see in Batman v Superman–we get a very faint glimpse there. She’s already established in that film, and we get to understand why she is the way she is in that film.”
The final act of Wonder Woman will reveal why Diana’s been out of the world for so long prior to Batman v Superman.
But Batman v Superman informed some aspects of production
Diana’s hero costume from Batman v Superman, designed by Michael Wilkinson, guided costume designer Lindy Hemming’s work on Wonder Woman. “My idea was to use everything I could find about this costume design decision to inform my world of Amazons,” Hemming said. “I tried to put the idea of the lines into my world, all the time remembering that this costume here [the Wonder Woman ensemble] is the iconic one and everyone else except the queen shouldn’t really be as sophisticated as this one,” she said, “If you could imagine, this one might look a bit more metal and a bit more as though a jeweler had made it, whereas these ones are more leathery–they’re the troops.”
Hemming said there were some small changes since this film takes place primarily in the past. She explained, “We’re developing the world before Wonder Woman, so everything apart from this tries to inform you how she got to this stage.” They’re trying to make the unreality of Diana’s world merge with the reality of World War I.
Steve Trevor is, first and foremost, a love interest
Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine, stands on his own, but he’s not coming in and mansplaining the human world to Diana. Kanemoto said, “He’s her love interest. There’s no other way to shape it. He’s her connection to humanity, I guess you could say. He does it so eloquently and explains the shades of grey of in humanity and how not everything is a certainty.”
His knowledge is valuable to Diana, but she’s still in charge, if that makes sense. Production liaison Anna Obropta added, “She is the leader. She respects him. He has some skills and some strengths and a ruggedness and knowledge base that she absolutely needs. They rely on each other, and he really backs her. He [Chris Pine] owns the fact that his character is there to support and elevate her on the journey.”
But he’s got a team
Steve’s plane crashes onto Themyscira just as Diana learns she has powers reaching beyond the capability of her sisters. He brings the Germans on his tail, and after a clash between the Amazons and the enemy forces, Diana departs Themyscira with Steve on a mission of peace. She works closely with Steve and his team: Samir, a master of disguise; Chief, an opportunist and tradesman skilled at getting people across the front lines; and Charlie, a drunk sharpshooter who carries some post-traumatic stress.
Diana has a stronger Themysciran accent
Since Diana’s fresh out of her home in the film, her Themysciran accent, as compared to what we heard in Batman v Superman, is much heavier. Gadot explained that Wonder Woman “knows how to speak every language that we can think of.”
Wonder Woman is a feminist hero
Gadot admires Wonder Woman and said she always wished to play the character without even knowing it. During meetings with various producers and directors over her career, she said she wanted a role that showed the stronger side of women. “I feel there are not enough stories being told about strong women,” she said. “Independent women.” She explained she sees Wonder Woman as a feminist hero because she holds equality above all.
“She doesn’t see the difference between…gender,” she said. “It’s not even an issue. She comes from this point where men and women are equal and it’s not a thing to be a man or to be a woman. She feels that she can do everything. She will go for it. She’s at peace, she wouldn’t go and look to start a battle or fight. She would try to solve it any other different way. I think that what’s beautiful about Wonder Woman. She’s fierce, she’s proactive, she believes in herself, she believes she can do everything. That’s it.”
Making the Lasso of Truth was tough
Getting the right kind of dynamic for the light-up Lasso of Truth took some elbow grease. Set decorator Anna Lynch-Robinson said, “It was really difficult to find a material that we could actually use for the flexibility of it. In fact, we had to hand-weave it. It’s got this great texture and some natural movement to it, because that’s one the most important things–you have do lots and lots of tests to make sure it moves as fluidly as we wanted it to.”
Some physics was fudged in the name of style
One of the standout moments in the previews so far is Wonder Woman attending a gala with a sword placed in the back of her dress. If you suspected the sword wasn’t full size, you’d be right. Lynch-Robinson explained, “That’s definitely got a shorter blade. This is a big story point; it was quite important for us to make sure the handle and hilt were as beautiful as possible to be able to make this almost like a piece of jewelry so you weren’t really quite sure [if it was a weapon]. Unfortunately, there’s a little bit of artistic license there with the length of the blade.”
It’s a story for everyone
From a marketing standpoint, Gadot said they’re not trying to push the film towards any particular gender. When asked how she would sell this movie, she said, “This is such a universal story. It’s a beautiful story about a beautiful soul that tries to save the world and do better. She doesn’t know much of what she is getting into.”
Wonder Woman will be in theaters on June 2, 2017.
Images: Warner Bros., Giphy
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