Book Review: Wonder Woman: The Art and Making of the Film by Sharon Gosling

Like the film, this book is warm and inviting, strong and bold, and pretty damn awesome.
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With a history dating back to 1941 and a variety of interpretations in comics, prose, and television, Wonder Woman is something of a big deal. And when you’re a big deal, they eventually get around to making movies about you. Although, in the case of Wonder Woman, it took a whole lot longer than it probably should’ve. The good news though is that the collective patience of a devoted fanbase paid off in the form of a pretty damn awesome movie. And when you’re a big deal and they’ve made an awesome movie about you, it’s inevitable that there will also be a coffee-table book. So it was written and so it has come to pass in the form of Wonder Woman: The Art and Making of the Film by Sharon Gosling, with a foreword by director Patty Jenkins.

This gigantic tome, 192 pages long, standing at 12.2 x 0.9 x 11 inches and weighing in at 3.6 pounds, chronicles the myriad of artistic efforts that went in to making the movie. From the grand and sweeping cliffs of Themyscira to the tiniest stitches on Princess Diana’s cloak, readers are treated to early production sketches and paintings of every locale, every character, and even the weapons wielded by the Amazons who call Paradise Island their home, as well as images of the finished product for comparison.

If this book were simply a collection of images, it would already be worth the price. Readers are treated to enormous, full-page (and in some cases, two-page) spreads bursting with life and vibrant color. It’s packed with enormous images of each of the major players’ costumes, which can be studied in great detail (believe me, I did). The scuffs and scrapes on Wonder Woman’s gauntlets, the intricate detail of the Amazonian shields, the rich textures of the German military uniforms. We also get enormous images of the battle on the beaches of Themyscira, of the streets of London where Wonder Woman first encounters the rest of humanity, and of the bomb factory where Doctor Maru conducts her hideous experiments. Many of the images in this book fill the entire page, with no borders to confine them, creating a sensation of leaping right off the page.

But Wonder Woman: The Art and Making of the Film isn’t just a collection of images. Obviously. Why would I have opened that last paragraph with a statement like “If this book were simply a collection of images…” if that was the extent of its scope? Clearly, I was leading up to something and here it is.

As the title would suggest, this is not just an art book, but also a chronicling of the film’s production. We don’t simply get a picture of Robin Wright looking totally badass as General Antiope; we get interviews with the folks who worked on the film explaining that the costume had to be designed to give her a larger range of motion since she’s got such an action-packed role. We find out that as an older and more experienced warrior, Artemis’ armor was designed to resemble a tortoise shell in order to reflect the character’s strength. We are given a better understanding of how color and shape were used to add mood, depth, and character to each situation in the movie. We learn how and why each costume choice was made in order to create a group of unique individuals who are identifiable and relatable through visual shorthand.

And of course, there’s a whole lotta stuff about how CGI blends with reality to make modern movie magic.  We see gigantic set pieces surrounded by green screens turned into even more gigantic vistas and battlegrounds. We get concept art depicting maps of the geography of various scenes. And we even get some nice comic-book artwork to remind us of why this character even exists in the first place.

The book works in a sort of chronological order, introducing us to the characters and locales in more or less the same order we meet them in the film. Rather than try to collect them according to "what" or "who", they are organized by "when". It may seem simple or irrelevant, but it’s a nice touch that adds another layer to the book, allowing the reader to revisit the film’s story, along with the elements that made it so enjoyable in the first place. Like the film itself, Wonder Woman: The Art and Making of the Film is warm and inviting. It’s strong and bold and it’s pretty damn awesome. If you’ve got a fan of the film among your loved ones, this would make a great gift or maybe it could just be a gift for you. Go ahead, treat yourself. You deserve it. 

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