It’s only appropriate that there would be a “Wonder Woman” panel at WonderCon, especially with the film just about two months away. Fittingly, director Patty Jenkins was at WonderCon to preview the upcoming “Wonder Woman” movie as part of Warner Bros.’ presentation on Saturday afternoon at the Anaheim Convention Center’s arena.
The panel started with a screening of the recently released “Justice League” trailer, which debuted online last week. That was quickly followed by a quick look at “Wonder Woman,” focused on the character’s decision to leave Themyscira to help man’s world during World War I.
DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer (and long-time comic book writer) Geoff Johns joined the panel, along with Jenkins, who said she “really shared a vision” with Johns.
Johns, serving as moderator, asked why Jenkins was excited to tell Wonder Woman’s origin story. “I love a superhero origin story, just because I think the birth of superheroes, for many of us, is the idea of being a child, or being a person, who connects with these kinds of characters, who can make a different in the world and be powerful,” Jenkins replied. The director shared her enthusiasm for the original “Superman” film, which she’s expressed multiple times while talking the film.
“When it comes to ‘Wonder Woman’ — it’s Wonder Woman,” Jenkins continued. “She is one of the biggest, most well-known, classic superheroes of the genre, and the fact that nobody had gotten to make her origin story — which is beautiful.”
Johns asked what made Wonder Woman’s training important. “Diana is a special character,” Jenkins answered, saying that the character needed skills “not just to be a superpowered person,” but to understand the rules of fight. “She’s a trained fighter. She’s not just a superpowered person.” Johns said he thinks Wonder Woman is “the best fighter in the DC Universe.”
Next topic was the Amazons on Themyscira. “There’s a collision as far as what they should be doing and how they should be approaching the world, and Diana gets caught in the middle of the crossfire,” Jenkins told the crowd. “Watching that storyline play out is a classic coming of age story.”
Johns asked Jenkins for her take on what makes Wonder Woman unique from other superheroes. “She’s not the only character who has a strong moral compass, but what I like about her is, that’s her mission,” Jenkins said. “I feel there are a lot of superheroes who are chosen and find themselves in these positions, but she’s one of the very few who believes in kindness and justice and love, and comes to our world to bring that — but is willing to use force if it comes to that.”
Up next: More footage from the film, which Johns said is one of his favorite parts of the whole film. It’s an early encounter between Diana and Steve Trevor — as upon arriving in man’s world, “She has to have her fun fish out of water period of time,” Jenkins said.
In the brief clip, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and a disguised Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) walk through the streets of World War I-era London, and are accosted by a group of criminals. Trevor attempts to fight them off, but soon finds out that Wonder Woman is more equipped — as she dispatched them quickly, including stopping multiple bullets with her bracelets. One attempts to flee, but it stopped by Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) and her umbrella — and is then ensared by Wonder Woman’s lasso.
“We had so much fun doing that,” Jenkins said of the scene. “Super-fun to do.” Jenkins said the filmmakers wanted the “best possible version” of Steve Trevor, who she compared to Indiana Jones — a “super-tough guy” who was also self-deprecating and world weary.
“He brings a performance that I think is stunning to this film,” Jenkins said of Pine’s performance. “He brings the comic relief, and an incredible love story, but he also symbolizes all the depth of man.” “It’s unbelievable nuanced,” Johns said of Pine’s role in “Wonder Woman.”
Johns said that not only did the 1978 “Superman” film inspire “Wonder Woman,” so did a movie you might not expect — “Casablanca.” Jenkins said the fact that the movie is a love story set in a specific point of time is what makes it “Casablanca”-esque.
Another clip was shown to the audience — a stylized action scene where Wonder Woman enters a structure and takes on several armed soldiers, dispatching them with her fighting style highlighted via a liberal use of slow-motion; accompanied by the same musical riff from Wonder Woman’s arrival in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
First fan question asked what type of “pressure” Jenkins felt making the first Wonder Woman feature film. Jenkins said she took the job “incredibly seriously,” but as a filmmaker and a major fan of Wonder Woman, “I want to make great films in my lifetime, and I really want to make a great film about Wonder Woman.”
“It’s really a responsibility to the character,” Johns said. “But when you work with people like Patty, who love the character, then you just worry about making a great film.”
Next question: What made producers confident in Jenkins’ direction of the story, when previous attempts at developing a Wonder Woman movie didn’t take hold? “Nobody ever said, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t do a Wonder Woman movie,'” Johns said, of his time at Warner Bros. and DC. Johns said he recalls reading articles in the ’90s saying that a woman-led superhero movie wouldn’t work, which he thought was ridiculous, and “this movie proves it wrong.”
The last question of the panel asked about staying true to the source material. “I think it’s incredibly important to stay true to the lore, particularly the original story,” Jenkins answered. “However, that was a comic book, and that was a small story in a comic, so you have to make changes, especially as time marches on. You have to expand and make changes.” Jenkins said that movie is taking the best of all the different versions of Wonder Woman from over the years. “We’ve really pulled from all the comics, obviously the original ones,” Johns added. “George Pérez, all of his books. That was a big influence. New 52. Greg Rucka. Phil Jimenez. We look at all those comics — you’re panning for gold, and you’re just getting gold every time.” Jenkins also credited former “Wonder Woman” comic book writer Allan Heinberg, who co-wrote the movie’s script.
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