“I used to want to save the world, this beautiful place, but the closer you get, the more you see the great darkness within.”
So goes the thesis of the new trailer for Wonder Woman that lays out a lot of the story, the main beats of which will be recognizable to anyone familiar with basic Wonder Woman lore. In the period piece set during the First World War, U.S. military man Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) finds himself stranded on the Aegean island of Themyscira, home of the Amazons. There, in a scene that feels deliberately evocative of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign, the Amazons get a firsthand look at the most destructive conflict humanity had seen (up to that point). This glimpse of “the war to end all wars” appears to hit Diana (Gal Gadot) — the future Wonder Woman — particularly hard, and so it is that the princess agrees to help Trevor get home and, while she’s at it, help Trevor stop the creations of “weapons far deadlier than you can ever imagine.”
The World War I setting is a slight diversion from the comics, where canonically it was World War II that sparked Wonder Woman’s entrance into the world of mortals. In addition to giving Wonder Woman a reason for the disillusionment she exhibited in her Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice debut, it also helps the film avoid comparisons with Marvel’s Captain America, whose World War II service is an important plot point. Kinetic battles, slow-motion bullets and one “very good secretary” ensue. Along with some pretty decent quips — and what looks to be an examination of the period when feminism was on the cusp of transforming society.
The DC Extended Universe has, so far, been a mixed success. Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad raked in money but received outright critical drubbings, with the reaction to the former film prompting Warner Bros to completely overhaul its approach to the nascent super hero meta franchise. Wonder Woman is widely assumed to be the first real test run for that amended approach, and while it’s impossible to know for sure, at the very least Wonder Woman looks like it’s aiming for something a bit more lofty than we’ve yet seen.
Warner Bros has long insisted that its superhero films are “director driven,” the implication being that this approach is opposite the one pursued by Marvel Studios. While that characterization isn’t entirely fair (Marvel has enjoyed its biggest successes letting directors put their stamps on franchise entries), tapping Patty Jenkins to helm Wonder Woman is a great test of WB’s commitment to that oft-stated ideal.
Jenkins, famously, was set to direct Thor: The Dark World for Marvel, but left over creative differences early on. Her exit now is seen by many as an early sign of problems at Marvel that climaxed in 2014 when Edgar Wright bailed on directing Ant-Man less than a month before the film was set to go into production. In the wake of that PR black eye, a serious shakeup mirroring the later one at DC happened behind the scenes, culminating last summer with Marvel’s film division being taken away from Marvel COO Ike Perlmutter and placed under the purview of Alan Horn. (And, firmly establishing a freer hand for directors at Marvel.)
Which is to say, Warners is putting its money where its mouth is giving Jenkins the reins to its third-most famous hero. Given that she helped get Charlize Theron her Oscar with 2003’s Monster, it’s likely this is a very smart decision.
Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Lisa Loven Kongsli and Lucy Davis co-star in the pic, with Jenkins directing from a script by Allan Heinberg and Geoff Johns. It bows in theaters June 2, with Gadot set to reprise the role in the Zack Snyder-directed Justice League five months later.