While Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad both were among 2016’s biggest box-office hits, their relative underperformance (neither cracked the year’s Top 5 in earnings) and negative-to-hostile critical reception has left Warner Bros’ DC Extended Universe with a lot left to prove. Its next attempt to wow audiences is next summer’s Wonder Woman, in which Gal Gadot steps from BvS supporting player into the title role as the Amazonian warrior princess. In a lengthy new Time profile on the character‘s 75-year history, the film’s director points to the granddaddy of modern superhero movies — a film far less dystopian that DC’s latest — as one of her inspirations.
Writer Eliana Dockterman’s Time feature notes that Jenkins sought in Wonder Woman to channel Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman starring Christopher Reeve. Specifically, she says she wanted to fashion a larger-than-life adventure led by an iconic hero for everyone to look up to — and, in particular, present a Superman-like figure for young girls:
“We’ve spent years treating male heroes in certain ways. I just applied those same tropes to her, and all these incredible radical moments suddenly appear to an audience.”
It’s not the first time Jenkins has cited Donner’s film as inspiration. Last summer at San Diego Comic-Con’s Wonder Woman panel, The Hollywood Reporter quoted her saying:
“In 1978, when Superman came out, that movie made me have an experience that I had never before. I cried for Superman, I wanted to be Superman. That’s the most powerful artistic experience I had as a child.”
A Variety feature about Wonder Woman also pointed to the lasting effect of Donner’s Superman on Jenkins, “with Christopher Reeves’ aw-shucks protagonist and John Williams’ triumphal score, as an inspiration for her film.”
She elaborated to Variety that, in her view, “Wonder Woman’s not a dark character. I want to tell a very positive story. I feel like for years everything was leaning harder and darker. There was an expectation that Wonder Woman needed to be tougher or harder, too. But for me, the final victory is if she remains warm and loving.”
The filmmaker’s words on Donner’s Superman were backed up by a scene in Wonder Woman’s trailer, which, as we previously noted (via @ComicBookDebate), features a shot of Gadot’s heroine saving her suit-and-hat male compatriot Chris Pine from a gunman’s bullet — a moment that echoes, albeit in gender-reversed form, a nearly identical scene from Superman.
— ComicBook Debate (@ComicBookDebate) November 3, 2016
If DC is indeed harkening back to its first big-screen triumph for its upcoming venture, it’s a move that’s hard to argue with, if for no other reason than that Donner’s film remains one of the genre’s all-time greats. To read more from Gadot and Jenkins on their would-be blockbuster, as well as the long and controversial history of DC’s Amazonian heroine, check out Time’s Wonder Woman feature.
Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman arrives in theaters on June 2, 2017.
‘Wonder Woman’: Watch a trailer: