We speak to director Patty Jenkins about rolling up those sleeves to the elbows and diving into the Eighties with Wonder Woman 1984…
“What is so interesting to me about the Eighties and us right now is that we are living in a period of time of the greatest success of – probably not the greatest – but the greatest contemporary success of really getting everything you thought you ever wanted. So what does one do when they’re faced with that kind of dilemma?” Patty Jenkins explains to us when we ask her about the time period her new movie, Wonder Woman 1984 (or WW84), is set. “That was something that I was really thinking about while I was making the last movie. You know, [with] truth being a big part of Gal and Wonder Woman I thought it was an interesting thing to explore with this movie, [the idea of] what is the truth? What’s the truth behind what’s possible? What’s the truth behind what you want in this world?”
This theme of the dilemma one faces when they get everything they want fits in with the movie’s new adversary, Barbara Minerva, played by the brilliant Kristin Wiig: “Barbara is a new person faced with those dilemmas of the contemporary world of, you know, dreams. She gets the job of her dreams and everything, but then who do you become?”
WW84 reunites audiences with Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), and also surprisingly reunites Diana with her former love Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) who seemingly died in the first movie. Unsurprisingly, however, given the title, the film is set 1984, which is a very different era to when the first film was set during the First World War.
Being a teenager during the Eighties, the music of the time had a big impact on Jenkins. “[Laughs] It’s funny how the music of that most romantic time in your life when you come to like all of those emotions for the first time is crystallised forever! I actually lived in England for six months when I was in the 4th or 5th grade so I very influenced by the punk scene and the New Romantic scene that was happening. So my first loves were Gary Numan and Adam Ant. Probably pretty quickly thereafter it was Michael Jackson but yeah all different kinds of things before I got into the more obscure stuff!”
Wonder Woman was a success for DC, taking over $800 million at the box office. It was also the first studio superhero movie directed by a woman (no offence to Lexi Alexander’s Punisher: War Zone, but Frank Castle really stretches that definition). It may have lassoed Jenkins’ career into the stratosphere but she has been in the industry for many years, taking on various roles, and it’s that experience that has shaped these movies.
“I started working in this industry in 1993. I was a camera person for ten years, and then [I started] writing and doing short films. Then I wrote and directed Monster and I really feel like all the years of accumulated experience is the secret [to success]. That’s what’s so interesting. Many people who I know who are my favourites didn’t start out as the most gifted people necessarily but it turned out to be tenacity. The long period of time of learning makes you able to engage with many different aspects of the politics and the technical and the emotional and also what you want out of it.
“I feel, certainly, those years helped me hone into what I was looking for. I don’t care about being a huge director, I may make big movies, I may not, but I really care about making movies that I believe in and that I engage with emotionally. That’s a great thing to know going in because you can always get something out of it in that way, successful or not.”
So does she feel more confident after the success of the first Wonder Woman movie? “No, never [laughs]. Every movie is its own struggle to touch people and make a difference. [The first] Wonder Woman surprised a lot of people so [with the sequel] you’re walking into a situation where they’re waiting for you to fail more than ever. So it’s no different because making the first movie was the same in that everybody thought ‘Wonder Woman, come on, you can’t’. There’s a history of these movies tanking and so it was a lot of pressure to be the person to take on trying to bring that movie to life. It’s a lot of pressure again to try to make this one live up to what it could be, so in both cases, I’ve simply focused on ‘I love Wonder Woman and I love this genre of film at its best and so I’m just trying to make a great film’.”
Now that WW84 is completed, what about a Wonder Woman 3? “Wonder Woman 3? Oh, wow! I’m trying to make myself not think about that because every movie has to be taken on its own but there’s definitely final things for me that I haven’t got to explore with Wonder Woman that we’ll see if we decide to go and explore…”
Wonder Woman will be released in cinemas on 16 December.