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Thanks to a long run of comics and a popular television show, Wonder Woman had already been an icon and role model to millions of people by the time she made her long-awaited movie debut in 2017. Since then, she’s only gone on to garner more fans, with that first film smashing many box office records worldwide — on top of proving there’s a broad audience for female-led superhero movies.
Wonder Woman 1984, which arrives later this month, takes it one step further. If the first movie was the origin story of the character of Wonder Woman (and her alter ego, Diana Prince) on the big screen, the second one works to cement what it is about her that fans connect with, and why she’s inspired so many people.
“What Wonder Woman goes on to stand for in the world is that she’s really just trying to teach everyone she encounters to be their better self and trying to help mankind be better,” said director Patty Jenkins during a press conference, which SYFY WIRE attended, before pointing out that Diana has her own hurdles to overcome — something this movie works to highlight. “She’s not perfect, either. So [it’s about] her own struggles and journey to do the right thing, which is so universal to all of us. Being a hero is not an easy thing. It’s actually a super difficult thing.”
It’s this desire to help mankind that is keeping Diana going when WW 1984 catches up with her. Now working at the Smithsonian, Diana's life in 1984 is nothing like fans might have imagined for her, with Diana lying low as she hides behind her secret identity in isolation — a far cry from the friendly Amazonian princess of the first film.
“She lost all of her team members,” explained star Gal Gadot. “She’s very lonely. She doesn’t want to engage and make new friends because then they’re going to realize she doesn’t age and they’re going to die and she’s going to have to let go. So she’s kind of isolated from the world, and the only goal is to just help and better mankind and be there for them and guide them to do good.”
Chris Pine (Star Trek Beyond), who played ill-fated World War II pilot (and Diana's paramour) Steve Trevor in the first movie and mysteriously returns for WW 1984, thinks it’s this faith in people and their potential for good that draws people to the character. After all, it’s what made his character fall in love with her.
“It’s Diana’s belief in the better parts of human nature, her belief in a world that’s better, in ideals, beauty, and love, and her ability to lean into compassion that brings in this man who’s been so jaded and hurt and scarred by the trauma that can be the modern world that he’s closed himself off,” explained Pine. “She opens his heart to vulnerability again, and that’s what that romance is.”
He added, “In some ways, Steve was the audience. He’s the guy that’s experiencing this Wonder Woman who can fly with the lasso and do loads of crazy stuff and is stunning and loving. He begins to believe, just like we all as audience members begin to believe. We remember what it’s like to be compassionate and loving in a world that oftentimes we’re not asked to do that.”
It’s not just Diana’s nature that proved inspiring the first time around. It was also the island of Themyscira, where she was raised by the Amazons, a race of warrior women who live shut off from the rest of the human world. In WW 1984, the Amazons return again — this time in an opening sequence that shows off the ease with which they carry out feats of Olympic-level athleticism (you can spot bits of it in the movie’s trailers). Young Diana is among them, eager to display her own skills.
“When I saw the opening sequence, the reaction I had I just didn’t expect to have. I got so emotional,” said Gadot. “For the first time, I didn’t feel like I was Gal the actress or Gal the woman. I felt like Gal the 8-year-old watching another 8-year-old do something otherworldly and being so good at it and she’s doing it in her own way… It moved me so deeply.”
She continued, “I realized 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 have all these strong female characters and now seeing it and seeing how it attracts my daughters, but also by the way, boys and men and all different kinds of people, it’s so powerful and so strong and I feel very, very grateful that I have the opportunity to be a part of this.”
Producer Charles Roven (Uncharted) thinks the character — and the movies’ success — lies both in who she is and in Jenkins’ skill at translating that to the big screen.
“The last time that Wonder Woman was really viewed by some sizeable audience was back when it was a TV show," Roven noted, "and so we hadn’t really had a character like this, be given the worldwide audience that this Wonder Woman had the opportunity to be seen by. It was the exact right time and the exact right moment in the culture of the world, for someone who was courageous and strong, but also empathetic and truthful and loving. What’s there not to embrace in that?”
Wonder Woman 1984 flies into cinemas and onto HBO Max on Dec. 25.