Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were two of the most popular movies released this year, but critics slammed them for being overly dark and joyless. That has some fans of Wonder Woman concerned that the Amazonian warrior will get the same pessimistic makeover. Rest assured. The film-making team behind next summer's Wonder Woman tells Variety that the superhero icon's first big screen adventure will be very different from the most recent DC Comics cinematic efforts.
"Wonder Woman is very different in tone and style than Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad," said Deborah Snyder, a producer on all of the films. "We pick directors who have their own points of view, so that each of our films will have their own personality."
Over her 75 years in the public eye, Wonder Woman has become a symbol of female empowerment, and a freedom fighter who journeyed to Earth from an island paradise to advocate for justice and peace. In short, she's very different in attitude and execution than, say, Batman, a vigilante who fights under the cloak of night.
"There's a misconception that DC or [parent studio] Warner Bros. has made a conscious decision for all our movies to be darker or edgier," said Diane Nelson, president of DC Entertainment and resident of Warner Bros. Consumer Products. "That's not the case. Fans of the DC universe know that there are characters, like Batman, who are darker, but there are others like Wonder Woman, who are hopeful, optimistic leaders, and the tone of this film represents that."
Patty Jenkins, the director of Wonder Woman, said that her inspiration for the movie is Richard Donner's 1978 smash, Superman, a rousing, patriotic tale that overflows with star-spangled goodwill.
"Superman was all about you," said Jenkins. "It was about you watching and realising what it would feel like to have great powers and do great things. It was full of love and emotion."
Wonder Woman finds the hero in the midst of World War I, and even though the overall tone is optimistic, the filmmakers stress that there are serious moments, as well. The movie is very much an origin story, explaining how this female warrior opted to leave her homeland behind to try to save humanity. Wonder Woman made a brief appearance in Batman v Superman, with Gal Gadot taking on the role, but she will be the main attraction in this adventure, the first time she's had a standalone movie. Chris Pine will play her love interest, Steve Trevor, and Connie Nielsen takes on the role of Wonder Woman's mother, Queen Hippolyta.
"Patty brought a beauty and a sense of lightness or humour, and a little romance to it," said Nelson. "It's a very aspirational movie."
Some of that tone has to do with Wonder Woman's approach to fighting.
"Her armour, the shield, the lasso, and so forth are what you could describe as defensive weapons as opposed to offensive weapons," said Nelson. "That's a pretty good way to think about the way she fights. She's not choosing to fight for the thrill of battle. She's fighting because she believes in something and she's quick to put down that sword when the opportunity is there."
Over the decades, comic book writers have cooked up different backgrounds for the character. In some instances, she's the daughter of Zeus. In others, she was sculpted out of clay. The film tries to pay homage to these many different conceptions.
"Patty has really taken a very inclusive approach and tried to weave a lot of these disparate elements into one cohesive whole," said Jim Lee, DC Comics publisher. "Fans who have been reading Wonder Woman for decades will be really blown away by how [the film] synthesises the origins and brings her into the modern era."
One aspect of the character that will remain front and center is her feminist zeal. Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston as a personification of gender equality – costumed proof that women can land a punch and strike a blow for the common good.
"It would be a mistake to not honour that legacy," said Snyder. "That's a part of her history. Her mission to empower women and people all over the world is what makes her very relatable."