It’s been nearly 40 years since Superman: The Movie first appeared on the big screen. Since then, we’ve gotten six more from Supes, eight from Batman (nine if you count the animated Mask of the Phantasm), and, until now, none from the most iconic female superhero of all time.
Director Patty Jenkins is the one who finally changed that. And it’s something she’d been trying to change for over a decade.
“I told them I wanted to do this 12 years ago. I believe in a great superhero movie.”
But after numerous non-Jenkins-led Wonder Woman projects for both the big and small screens were started and then abandoned, 12 years later, Jenkins finally made the film she always intended to make. Thus far, the response around the world has been hugely positive.
“I’m stunned, and so touched and grateful for that. I can’t tell you. But we also strived for exactly that, so it just makes me so happy.”
Not every superhero film has gotten the near-universal support from both critics and fans that Wonder Woman has. Often, when a project doesn’t get a positive critical response, the line from either the filmmaker or the fan community is that the movie is not aimed at critics—it is ‘for the fans’. Jenkins thinks that the line between the two is blurrier than some have made it out to be.
“I feel equally torn. It’s hard to know because, in an ideal world, critics are film lovers. And particularly when it comes to superhero movies, definitely a lot of the sites writing about them are superhero fan sites writing about them. So I have a very hard time distinguishing between the two, as I definitely think there is a place for both. There’s a place for movies that aren’t great to write about and have a big hit with the fan base and vice versa.”
Jenkins did perhaps worry that long-time fans of the comic book would get bogged down in the weeds of the adaptation, rather than look at the overall intent, which was, in Jenkins words, “to make straight-up Wonder Woman.”
“I think I would worry that some people would want to talk about the details and others would want to see the spirit. But I think way more people are seeing the spirit than I thought would or could. Realizing that [something is from] ‘issue 75 versus issue 85 which you could have referenced’ I thought that would be more of a topic, but it really has not been in a really wonderful way.”
Not that she didn’t feel the responsibility to make a film that served the fans that have kept Wonder Woman so enduringly popular since her creation in 1941.
“I think you have a huge onus to live up to the superhero that people love. That’s something I take very seriously. I love Wonder Woman. Sometimes people ask questions, before people knew that I did, like, ‘did you love Wonder Woman?’ I would always think, ‘I sure should hope so!’ You know?
“It would be very weird to try to make my own film. That’s not what these are all about. I take very seriously the idea of making a great Wonder Woman film that lives up to the Wonder Woman and the heart and soul of all of the fans. But also, now the job is that whoever takes that job on, the job is to make a great film for Wonder Woman. So then, you become a filmmaker who has to use your own judgment and really try to make a great film, so the two things go hand in hand.”
Wonder Woman has endured over the decades as a feminist icon, but with a few notable exceptions, the character was written by men. But Jenkins didn’t have to reinvent the character to capture the female experience more accurately—whether written by men or women, in Jenkins’ view, Wonder Woman as a character has always remained a great role model.
“Even at her development, there were a lot of women involved also from the start. She’s never felt to me to be super skewed to a male perspective. She felt very universal from her inception because she was trying to be a grand version of all women, and I think that’s why she’s had the longevity she’s had amongst women. Her greatest fan base has been among women. So that whole spirit was working and I tried to stay true to it, and I had all the influence I needed.”
Patty Jenkins may be the first woman to have directed a studio superhero movie, but she’s far the first deserving director. By breaking through the glass ceiling, Jenkins hopes this realigns the expectations that Hollywood has of women filmmakers.
“I hope this movie is successful because I’m a filmmaker and I want my films to be successful, but I also hope it’s successful because I do think it will be part of a change towards realizing how ridiculous that is to think that one gender would be better at handling one gender or another. That concept is lingering in so many other areas of business in this world. So for whatever reason, I hope that changes in film. I’m not sure why ‘women directors’ has been such a thing.”
While Jenkins may have fulfilled her initial vision for what a Wonder Woman film should be, that does not mean she’s finished exploring the character and her world.
“I’ve said some of what I want to say. I definitely have more to say and I’m definitely interested in continuing to go forward. We’re not really talking about any of it yet, but I feel like I got the first message through that I would love to say for sure, and I think she stands for so many wonderful things I’d love to say.”
-Wonder Woman is in cinemas now-