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Patty Jenkins wasn’t even finished making “ Wonder Woman ” when she started dreaming up a sequel for her and star Gal Gadot. The first film had the weight of both female-fronted superhero films and female-directed blockbusters on its shoulders and had yet to prove the skeptics wrong. But Jenkins had a hunch it was going to be a success.

Besides, she thought, she hadn’t technically gotten to make a “Wonder Woman” film yet.

“That first film was a birth of a hero,” Jenkins said. “Now I wanted to do something with that hero.”

There was never a specific threshold that the first had to meet, but producer Charles Roven said a follow-up was “undeniable.” “Wonder Woman” was not only a critical and box office success, making $821 million globally, but it also hit a cultural nerve. It became the event film that everyone had dreamed and Jenkins knew that it was time to ask for what she wanted and deserved.

On the sequel’s long journey to audiences, Jenkins would secure an historic and equitable raise for herself, figure out a way to resurrect Chris Pine’s character from the dead and agree to a release plan that even a few months ago would have been unthinkable: Putting the $200 million film in theaters and on HBO Max, for free, on Christmas Day.

“Wonder Woman 1984,” a poppy, maximalist fast-forward in Diana Prince’s journey set in an age of excess, ups the ante with action, practical effects and globe-trotting that even James Bond would find grueling. Over the course of the eight-month shoot, the stunt and effects teams — and often Gadot — were put to the test executing wildly ambitious sequences including an Amazonian games with 242 stunt women, a difficult mid-air rescue requiring complex wire rig work in a real mall’s atrium and a 360-degree aerial truck flip that had never been done before.

“I don’t believe that sequels always have to be bigger. And I think you can get in a lot of trouble doing that,” Jenkins said. “But in this case, I was actually aiming for a very specific thing, which is the type of ’80s movies that I saw that were colossal extravaganzas for the whole family and joyful on every level.”

The film, which plops audiences into the neon-hued 1980s, introduces two villains from the comics in the insecure scientist Barbara Minerva turned rival, Cheetah, played by Kristen Wiig, and the ambitious businessman Maxwell Lord, played by “The Mandalorian’s” Pedro Pascal. Both put a changed Diana to the test.

(more at apnews.com)