Published May 26, 2017There is a heck of a lot riding on the success of the upcoming Wonder Woman (out June 2). Much has been made of the fact Wonder Woman is the first tent-pole superhero film directed by a woman, and how Jenkins is the first woman to direct a superhero film with a female protagonist. And not only does the enjoyable summer flick aim to (re-)introduce Wonder Woman as a superhero and further establish the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) as a cinematic force to be reckoned with — something last summer's uneven Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice hoped to accomplish — it also has to do battle with the archaic notion that an action blockbuster starring a female lead is destined to underperform.
To accomplish this, Jenkins (the writer/director best known for her Charlize Theron-starring crime drama debut Monster) simply set out to create a "kick-ass" action film that presents Wonder Woman to a new generation, drawing on her own childhood love of the iconic DC Comics character and comic book and her affinity for Lynda Carter's portrayal in the classic '70s TV series, along with a resilient sense of what it means to believe in heroes in today's world.
The movie stars Gal Gadot (the Israeli actor best known for her role in the Fast and the Furious franchise) as the statuesque Amazonian champion and founding Justice League team member, along with a strong cast that includes Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen and David Thewlis. Speaking with Exclaim!, Jenkins shared a few thoughts on why Wonder Woman was a movie she needed to make — and all genders need to see.
Jenkins' mindset and creative approach in directing "Wonder Woman" revolves around making a strong origin story set in World War I.
"I was actually very free, in a most wonderful way, to tell her origin story as long as I was aware where she would go 100 years later to tell the story as I believed it to be true," she says. "I happen to be a big fan of Wonder Woman and her lore, so the one thing that I came in passionate about was telling it as an origin story and having a great love story in [Chris Pine's character] Steve Trevor. [It was about] having very much the spirit of Wonder Woman that I grew up knowing and loving."
Jenkins grew up reading Wonder Woman comics as a child, which informed the archetypical direction she wanted to take the film.
"She stands for an idealized version of a hero that, in this case, is from a point of view of a woman. What Superman is to boys, I feel that Wonder Woman is to girls. It's the clean superhero," she says. "You trust them, you like them, you wish you could be them, and you wish you could look like them. It's exactly that fantasy that struck me so hard as a little kid. I loved what was established in the original William Moulton Marsden's comic book, it felt very carried forth in the TV show. I felt it was my job to be a continuation of the original spirit of Wonder Woman."
Filmmaker Zack Synder — who recently stepped down from directing the upcoming Justice League following the death of his daughter — was extremely supportive in enabling Jenkins to create the film in her vision
"Over the years, the movie was talked about in many different ways. And I was pretty clear in that I really believed in it being this kind of movie. And even though I think Zack had looked at other ways of doing it, when push came to shove it was Zack who was able to steer in back into the direction of doing the origin story and do it in this really clear way. I was able to come back to the process after that decision was already made," she says. "So I'm hugely grateful to Zack and that decision being made and that direction being possible. The great thing about Zack is he really was so respectful in not dictating anything to me about anything that I had to do. We are all working in a different way and he was trying to make space for [me] as much as possible."
Jenkins felt that it was important to ensure Wonder Woman was a memorable action movie first and foremost.
"I really felt that making a great Wonder Woman superseded everything. So I already knew that I was doing everything I could. It already had to be great and I did everything I can to make it kick-ass in every way. But I do feel it in advance of taking a project, which is a very different experience than it is I think it is for a white male director," she says. "Even though taking on Wonder Woman is this massive task… I do feel I'm as good of a director as anybody to try, and I believe that it could be great, so maybe I am a good choice for it. I'll do the best that I can. It's a lot of weight: I know that I'm a woman director and whatever I do there will be a trickle-down effect."
Jenkins ultimately wanted to make Wonder Woman a film character everyone could understand and believe in.
"I keep trying to remind [Gadot] that no matter what happens June 2nd, step one is to make a movie that we believe in. And we did: We successfully made a movie that we believe in. We feel it's the best we could possible do and the best that we had to give. Of course I don't feel that it's perfect, but I feel that is the best I can do in the circumstances we were in," she says. "I care so much that other people see the movie that I was going for – and that's been wonderfully been trickling in, as people come back to me and say they love the spirit and joy of Wonder Woman. Fans tell me that it felt like their Wonder Woman and it moved them or it made them cry. And that's what I was trying and hoping would stay. And also what it means for my point of view in the world being embraced – that a woman superhero and a beloved character like Wonder Woman is as financial viable as I thought she would be. So that will be a big deal, not only for me personally but symbolically. The world does want to see different kinds of giant, tent-pole characters. That's what I'm hoping."