This week, Wonder Woman fans were focused on this photo from the coming sequel, causing another image — one of Gal Gadot’s Diana standing in front of a wall of TVs — to fly under the radar, but the photo could have large implications for Wonder Woman 1984, the name of the sequel.
The photo (below) is framed just like an iconic image from one of the most influential comics of all time: Watchmen. If Wonder Woman 1984 — the sequel title that director Patty Jenkins revealed this week — is borrowing inspiration from one of DC’s most celebrated comics from the ‘80s to promote this sequel, it says something big about the sequel.
The photo, which came out on Wednesday, features TVs broadcasting recognizable images from the ‘80s — there’s the J.R. Ewing from the soap opera Dallas and Christie Brinkley driving a Ferrari in National Lampoon’s Vacation. The context is unclear, as is the meaning behind the pensive look we see on the face of actress Gadot in the reflection.
There’s a strong resemblance between this promo photo for the Wonder Woman sequel and and Ozymandias’ wall of TVs in his Antarctic hideout. He needs to keep an eye on all the world’s news, because that way he can monitor the situation and see how the world reacts to his plan to foster world peace by destroying New York City.
Wonder Woman is, almost certainly, not about to unleash a giant squid-alien upon New York. The sequel’s villain, Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah, likely won’t be doing that either. The similarity one of tone and aesthetic, not of plot, but that could still be very telling.
The ‘80s were when comic books got mature, for better or worse. Legendary comics author and full-time curmudgeon Alan Moore deconstructed superheroes in Watchmen and 1988’s Batman: The Killing Joke. Frank Miller made Batman into a grizzled old man in the gloomy The Dark Knight Returns. These were comics that closely examined, and in many cases, stripped away the optimism of earlier superhero tales. These comics were great, although later creators and many fans seemed to miss the nuance, equating “dark and edgy” with a higher level of quality. There’s a case to be made that a lot of the woes that currently plague the DC Cinematic Universe stem from this misguided view.
What does this mean for Wonder Woman 1984, a film that was beloved especially because it wasn’t dark and edgy the way Batman v Superman and its ilk? Wonder Woman is the optimistic one — the good hero. Given how Jenkins soared with the first film, it seems unlikely that she’s forgotten or abandoned what made Wonder Woman such an interesting character in the first place. More likely she’s aiming to use the ‘80s comics imagery and engage with the themes from those graphic novel greats.
Wold War I Europe was worse than America in the ‘80s. However, that decade saw a late revival of the Cold War, an uneasy feeling of malaise, and the sense that America was losing its way. Comics like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns grappled with that reality and were largely pessimistic.
Wonder Woman 1984 is going to place Diana in that setting and see how she fares. Hopefully, it’ll be a little brighter.
Wonder Woman 2 hits theaters on November 1, 2019.