DUBAI: Superhero movies are a bloody business. In the dozens that have been released this century, the one constant seems to be the body count. Heroes die saving the day. Villains die trying to take over the world. Worst of all, innocent bystanders die, too, often by the hundreds, trapped in the middle of a struggle they have no part in. “Wonder Woman 1984” may be the first to break that trend.
“Nobody dies. No one dies in the whole movie,” director Patty Jenkins says of her just-released feature. “It's so exciting to not kill people. That’s my message.”
For the Wonder Woman that Jenkins and star Gal Gadot have crafted, it’s not enough for her to help others, she wants to inspire others to become better too — even the worst of us.
“I love a lot of superhero movies, but the old model of good guy versus bad guy is so outdated,” says Jenkins. “There’s no Nazi group that is the clear bad guy. It's us. We're the ones causing the problems. People with forgivable weaknesses are the people doing terrible things. So how do we inspire people to find the superhero inside of them and be good people? That is what Wonder Woman stands for. At the end of the day, she’s about love.”
It took some work to get the character here, however. It’s her fourth on-screen appearance after “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016), “Wonder Woman” (2017) and “Justice League” (2017). Gadot has had to slowly shed the war-like aspects that other filmmakers had built into the character to become the love warrior she is in Jenkins’ stand-alone sequel.
“We got rid of the sword and the shield because we felt that they were just too aggressive. Wonder Woman is not for the killer, she’s a peace seeker. We really made a point about the sacredness of life,” Gadot tells Arab News.
Doing an action film without death was no easy task. In one high speed chase set on a highway in Egypt, Wonder Woman is in hot pursuit of the movie’s antagonist as his security shoots at her. Gadot points out that while she does rip the steering wheel out of the car, she makes sure to tell everyone inside that the brakes are still working so they can come to a safe stop before moving on to her target.
“I understand the DNA of the character better and better every time I shoot a movie of hers. I'm always looking for more ways to evolve and push her to new limits, or heights or experiences. (In this film), we just didn't want people to be killed. It happens too many times (in other movies),” Gadot continues.
For Jenkins, making a fundamentally compassionate superhero film was about more than just keeping everyone alive. She also decided she didn’t really need a true villain. Instead, the evil that Wonder Woman fights is the evil within us all, something that we must defeat for ourselves.
“I'm doing a bunch of things here that everybody said you can't do,” she says. “There are no bad guys. We call them villains, but they aren't at the end of the movie. And the final battle is won by conversation. With all of those things, I was like, ‘I'm going to pull this off.’”
Pedro Pascal, star of Disney’s smash hit “The Mandalorian,” plays the film’s ‘villain,’ a megalomaniacal businessman overcome by greed. While on paper the character is an Eighties cliché, Jenkins refuses to let the character stay one-dimensional.
“I call it the Patty Jenkins experience,” says Pascal. “You can't get away with something that is typical. It has to be complete. It has to have all the risks, all of the danger and ultimately, the humanity, no matter how dark of a character. I wasn't surprised by that because I’ve seen her films and the performances in them, but I definitely didn't know if I would be able to get there. If it worked, I owe it to my director.”
Jenkins was also surprised at how well her gambit turned out, while still fulfilling the requirements of a big-budget action blockbuster.
“Ironically, it ends up being the most screen time action of any of the DC movies,” says Jenkins. “Even I was like, ‘How did I end up with more action than I ever could have imagined?’”