Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
As you can see from the snippets shown in the WONDER WOMAN 1984 trailer, there’s an almost ballet-like quality to the fight choreography in the climactic face-off between Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Cheetah (Kristen Wiig). The friends-turned-foes fight out their feelings as their superhero identities, clashing over their warring ideals. Pulling off this intense choreography took a lot of preparation – and a few extra performers.
At the film’s recent virtual global press conference, Wiig said she felt a little daunted by the task of playing a villain.
“I don’t really get asked to do those things, to be honest. I was shocked and happy and felt extra pressure when I signed on and was talking to Patty about it. To know that I was going to be in it and that I got a chance to be a villain – and that Patty believed that I could do it – it was an amazing life experience for me.”
Director Patty Jenkins explained that the first step in constructing a massive and intense set piece was building a suitable location.
“There were quite a few scenes that were unbelievably complex. This was one of them. We had to build that entire space. We designed what we wanted something to feel like and look like and what the moods were. There was no stage big enough in the world. We had to build a stage.”
While the stage and set were being built, Jenkins had her two actresses practice with an elite team, who helped aid their expertise in making the movements in the sequence look as real as possible. She continued,
“We had Cirque du Soleil performers practicing and showing us what it was going to look like and then [Wiig and Gadot] have to do it. It was incredible but fun.”
Wiig was excited that the set was incorporated into the action.
“Everything was very planned out with the set. It was all intentional and everything was so beautifully choreographed.”
“It was a lot. Everything was planned ahead. You can tell and that it shows. Patty made a point of wanting to have the minimum amount of CGI in our movie. So most of the stuff you’re going to see is real people doing the real thing, whether it’s us, or the stunt people.”
The fight scene transcends the tired, basic “two women fighting” trope with its noteworthy thematic underpinnings. There are more motivating factors than purely superficial ones. Jenkins said,
“They were friends, or at least had this friendship in the past. It’s not about punching in the face. They’re both trying to get the other one under control. Cheetah probably has worse intentions than that.”
Gadot added that commitment to bringing a more realistic approach to the choreography allowed them to bring their A-games.
“It took much longer. You had to prep and rehearse much longer. The wire work that we did at the mall and for the fight with Cheetah, I don’t think it was ever done before. When you see the movie, you can just tell it’s the real deal. You can see by the facial expressions and the weight and the movement that it’s the real deal.”
She felt empowered by everyone’s drive to deliver on an awe-inducing experience.
“It was the hardest movie I ever got to shoot by far, but it was worth it.”
Jenkins loved the challenge of it all.
“Narratively and how it would work spatially was fascinating. Executing it was long and laborious and wild, but exciting.”
Gadot felt the responsibility to deliver the sense of excitement in a compelling way.
“The first movie was received in such an amazing way. There was just no way we were going to take any short cuts. We’re gonna raise the bar and give everything we have because we knew people were so invested with the character.”
WONDER WOMAN 1984 opens in select theaters and starts streaming on HBOMax on Christmas.