Earlier this month, “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins confirmed that she will return as director for the upcoming sequel, set to be released in 2019. It was the culmination of “Wonder Woman’s” four long months of breaking records, stereotypes and expectations. Although it’s hard now to remember a time when Wonder Woman was not considered a resounding success, the film existed in a no man’s land for years before getting the green light.
Aside from 2004’s “Catwoman,” starring Halle Berry, and 2005’s “Elektra,” starring Jennifer Garner, there had never been a large-budget Hollywood superhero movie with a female protagonist prior to “Wonder Woman.” (It’s a stretch to even call those superhero movies, because both Catwoman and Elektra are basically villains in their respective universes.) Although the Marvel cinematic universe has released 16 successful films, not one follows a female character.
In the film industry, if one version of a film flops, you don’t see that kind of film ever again. On the other hand, if a film is a success, it spawns countless copycats that follow a set of genre dos and don’ts, which become the template for success. This repetitive and formulaic process becomes hard for any filmmaker to bypass. A successful female superhero movie was unheard of and completely unanticipated.
So “Wonder Woman” had a lot riding on it. Anything less than a complete success would be interpreted as an utter failure. Before the movie even premiered, the internet was already lining up to tear it down, just as it decimated the all-female reboot of “Ghostbusters.” Just by existing, the movie made people angry. The actresses faced a severe backlash simply by being cast, and fans of the series expressed little faith in their talent and skill. “Wonder Woman’s” success or failure would determine whether female superhero movies would be put back in a box labeled “Do Not Touch” alongside “Black Widow.”
The story takes back the superhero narrative, instilling hope in the audience without capitalizing on the gritty, dark nature of war. These grim tones dominated “Man of Steel,” “Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and “Captain America: Civil War,” and were considered the critical failures of those films. By contrast, in “Wonder Woman,” the Amazon training scenes had audiences in awe because they directly contradicted the video game portrayal of female warriors. There was nary a thong, sexy breastplate or skimpy armour outfit in sight.
War’s savagery was not underplayed, but brutal conflict didn’t dominate the theme of the story as it did in “Batman Versus Superman,” which struggled to remain coherent between all the punching. The No-Man’s-Land scene filled audiences with excitement, because it defined the type of hero Diana was. This scene asked the audience to believe in Diana of Themyscira, and she did not let them down. Her decision to choose compassion in a time of insurmountable pain was just as huge as her final fight. She proved that a female superhero was for everyone.
Not only does “Wonder Woman” have a female lead, the film does not shy away from traditionally feminine themes. Hope and love set Wonder Woman apart from the other superhero movies. Hopefully, that beacon of love and hope will continue to prove the worth of female heroes.
Many movies act as warnings for the film industry. In an industry with such a long and active history, a set of dos and don’ts have become the template for successful films. It causes a repetitive and formulaic process that is hard for anyone to bypass.
Many might not remember the Daredevil movie that was made in 2003, and those who do might even deny that they saw it at all. However, everyone does remember the Spiderman movies, and riding the high of Spiderman’s success, “Daredevil” attempted to follow in those footsteps. Now, “Daredevil” is considered the worst superhero movie ever made and practically decimated the chance of any future comic-based films. Marvel’s live-action movies hit a brick wall until the first Iron Man movie released almost five years later. The new Wonder Woman movie was in a similar position to that of 2003’s “Daredevil” and was about to be put to the test and change the formula.
Wonder Woman is the highest-grossing film directed by women and the third-highest-grossing film of the year, as well as one of the few action movies with a female lead. Given the film’s many accolades, many may not realize that. Female-led movies are often believed to only appeal to the female demographic, while a male lead is seen as universal. The fate of female superheroes everywhere seemed to rest with Diana.
“Wonder Woman” had a lot riding on it.