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Patty Jenkins Wanted Gold Armor As a Secret

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Diana stands ready to fight, in glimmering fashion.
Gif: Warner Bros.

In the initial lead up to Wonder Woman 1984, there were rumors that Diana would ride into action with a new costume. Then we got our first still image and, well, she looked like Wonder Woman, albeit a little sparklier. Was that really it? Well, for Patty Jenkins, she’s glad that was what we thought.

While the Wonder Woman regalia we know and love from the first movie was tweaked a little for 1984, eventually it was revealed—first teased in a kaleidoscopic poster, and then seen in all its glory in the film’s first trailer—that Diana would be indeed getting a shiny upgrade in her ‘80s adventure. And not just any upgrade, but perhaps her most famous alternate costume from DC Comics: the gleaming, winged armor she wears in Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ iconic Elseworlds tale, Kingdom Come.

“Oh my god, it’s super complicated,” Jenkins told us on set, of the process she faced bringing the Kingdom Come armor into Wonder Woman 1984. “So I love that costume, and always have. We could have changed the original costume and [left it at that].”

It wasn’t integrating it into the story that was complicated though, according to Jenkins. It was keeping the armors’ appearance a secret, even as rumors began swirling that Diana would get a major outfit change in her sequel. “I thought it was so funny that the press sort of ran away [with it],” Jenkins reminisced. “There was some leaked rumor that we had a new costume—you guys now know that we do!—but then they thought that the more colorful Wonder Woman costume was it. And it was all this debate about like, ‘Well it’s not that different!’”

As weird as the debate was, Jenkins appreciated that it meant she and her team got to reveal Diana’s armor on their own terms. “I was like, ‘First of all, I never even said that we were doing that,’” the director continued. “‘It’s rumor upon rumor upon murmur.’ But yeah, I felt like it would be super exciting to have a new costume, that’s a costume that I love so much.” Logistically speaking though, Jenkins had to balance her excitement to add an iconic look to her sequel with the timeline of the movie itself. How could Diana get such a radical new look that she then, say, forgets to use when fighting Doomsday in Batman v Superman or Steppenwolf in Justice League?

“Because Wonder Woman’s timeline is so horned in between different movies, it felt weird to suddenly give her a new Wonder Woman costume, and then she puts [her brighter costume] back on, and [then in] BvS she puts on the old and, it’s even more…it just didn’t quite make sense,” Jenkins admitted. But when she realized that Cheetah would be one of Diana’s major foes in the movie, Diana using a specialized armor to specifically fight her meant a new costume made sense for the plot. “This was a fun way that actually is intrinsic to the storyline that she needs a different style of armor to fight Cheetah, because Cheetah can get you on all of your limbs,” Jenkins continued. “So it was something that came very naturally of like, ‘How are you going to get into it with Cheetah, and how is that fight going to go?’ And so it just becomes a part of the early storyline, that that’s figured out.”

With a story reason sorted, then came an entirely separate issue for Jenkins and her crew to face. How do you even begin to bring that ginormous, winged suit of metallic armor to life in any practical way?

“Stop a bullet cold, make the Axis fold—change their minds, and change the wooooorld!”
Gif: Warner Bros.

It was an immense challenge for returning costume designer Lindy Hemming, even just starting with a material that could evoke what had come before in Diana’s design while glimmering gold. “You get, slightly, the Superman effect—where, if the lights are on it, there’s a sort of gleam which will come from the fabric, between the pieces,” Hemming said of creating the undersuit Diana’s golden armor is hung on. “It just gives extra dimension to everything.”

As well as considering material, Hemming had to contend with how to make battle armor that Gal Gadot could physically walk around and fight in. “The suit itself has been a long time in development,” Hemming said of the process. “In the end, you try to make her not masculine, but as we did [with her original costume], a feminine shape—[but still] strong, physically strong—and actually, a beautiful piece of armor rather than a clunky piece of armor. The challenge has been a lot.”

Part of that was Jenkins’ insistence that the costume be made and shot practically, as much as it feasibly could, instead of relying on special effects. “Oh yeah, and it’s articulated wings! It’s a whole real costume with articulated wings,” Jenkins enthused. “You’re not going to have a practical fight in the entire suit, but actually, we are building the entire suit, so it’ll be worn at different times.”

“It moves rather like an armadillo or something,” Hemming said of the armors’ myriad layers. “It’s really hard, complicated to do that—so she doesn’t get the usual volume [that] armor has. Which is where her body goes, so you can move.” Sorting out the bodysuit and the armor atop it was one design challenge for Hemming and her team. There was another they had to face though: the wings that make the Kingdom Come armor so iconic in the first place. “In the comic book, there’s always some sort of wings,” Hemming said. “So…there’s been miles and miles of debate about ‘do wings really go with this?’”

But it led to the designer having to think just why Diana would have wings on this armor in the first place—and it turns out that the hero won’t just use them to soar into action against Cheetah, but to protect herself. “The wings have become a shield, where, [they’re] almost like paragliding wings,” Hemming said, before audibly demonstrating that Diana can lock the parts of them rigidly after gliding. “And so, at a clunk and a clunk, they become like Roman shields. So, she’s protected. Basically her fighting style is with the shields.”

For Hemming, realizing that use was a boon, giving her a logistical reason to actually design a pair of wings on the armor. “I’m really pleased now because I think that there was no logic for it to be a pair of wings, really,” she added. “But there is a logic to be something she can glide in on.”

For Jenkins though, it was just to bring such a notable comics look to life that was the real joy, practicality be damned. “I was so excited about that,” the director concluded. “I love that costume in the lore and I was like, ‘We’ve got to do it.’”


Wonder Woman 1984 is currently set to release in theaters October 2, 2020. Stay tuned to io9 for more from the film later this week, when we get another glimpse of the movie at DC Fandome on August 22.


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