It will be one of many “summer blockbusters”. It will be one of a slew of “Superhero Movies”. It will, most assuredly, be met with the typical scrutiny of comic book purists across the globe. Sounds pretty typical for this time of year, so why should we care? The answer is simple, when Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot hits theaters on June 2nd, it will be carrying the weight of the world on its shoulders.
As a matter of history, Superhero films with female leads have not been anywhere near as successful as their male led counterparts. The track record is clear. In 1984, Supergirl, earned a less than projected $14 million. In 1995, Tank Girl garnered a paltry $4 million. In 2002, the abysmal Catwoman made $82 million and couldn’t even be salvaged by Halle Berry’s star power. The next year Elektra, starring Jennifer Garner, brought in a disappointing $56 million. In addition to their failures at the box office, each of these films also met almost universal critical derision. Theories for why these films didn’t succeed abound, but the fact is that female Superheroes are viewed by Hollywood as unable to carry films independently. As part of a group, sure, The Avengers’ Black Widow and Scarlet Witch are dynamic and compelling. Yet, are they featured prominently in their films’ marketing? Not a chance. Parents who were looking to score toys depicting their daughters’ favorite female heroes have been met with a plethora of Iron Man and Captain America action figures. In some instances, female Superheroes were even excluded from promotional posters and other marketing materials. The message is that women are supporting characters. Wonder Woman is the film industry’s opportunity to change that perception. Source
With 75 years of history behind her, Wonder Woman is arguably the most enduring female Superhero. She has stood toe to toe against formidable threats and side by side with the greatest heroes. She is considered part of DC’s “Trinity” consisting of herself, Superman and Batman. For fans of the comic book version of Wonder Woman, she’s always been a diplomat, ambassador to the world of man from her island home of Themyscira. Her Amazonian creed forbade her from lifting a hand in violence before it was extended in friendship. She is a symbol of fairness, equality and justice. She’s never been a cookie cutter heroine. Her hair is dark, her skin is olive, and her native customs are foreign to most of the world she defends. You might say she’s the quintessential immigrant Superhero. In fact, she is so beloved that in 2016, the United Nations named Wonder Woman a UN Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls. Source
Even for those who never read a comic book in their lives, the Amazon Princess has served as a role model. Ask any woman in her 40’s about the Wonder Woman television series which starred Lynda Carter and aired from 1975-1977 and chances are you’ll see a sparkle in her eye and hear about how she loved to watch the show in her Wonder Woman Underoos as a child. These fans, along with a whole new generation of young Superhero junkies will be watching intently on June 2nd to make sure that the Wonder Woman who inhabits the big screen lives up to the standards that her predecessors have set. Source
As if the Wonder Woman film didn’t have enough to live up to, it also will serve as a showcase for the very first woman to direct a Superhero film, Patty Jenkins. Jenkins is best known for directing the Oscar winning film, Monster which starred Charlize Theron. Being at the helm of the most important female led Superhero movie to date will be no easy task, however according to Jenkins, it’s something she’s always wanted to do;
“When I made Monster and they asked me what I wanted to do [next], I immediately said, ‘I want to make Wonder Woman’. Everybody knew I wanted to make a superhero movie.” Source
So, to recap, Wonder Woman will not only have to do right by the 75 year legacy of its comic book origins and the legions of girls the character has inspired, but it must also prove that a female led Superhero film, directed by a female director, can end Hollywood’s streak of female failures that began in 1984. Oh, and there’s just one other thing…the very future of the DC Cinematic Universe also rests on its shoulders. Although both Batman v. Superman and last year’s Suicide Squad were box office successes, both were savaged by critics. The viability of DC’s movie brand going forward rests on turning out a film that doesn’t just rake in big dollars but that also can compete with Marvel for critical acclaim.
That’s a pretty tall order for one tiara wearing warrior. Yet, if film is to serve as a mirror to society, Wonder Woman’s honor, integrity and sense of justice will stand in contrast to our current political climate that seems increasingly mired in corruption and controversy. Perhaps, Wonder Woman may be in a prime position to remind us of the importance of adhering to our virtues, thereby winning the hearts and minds of audiences and critics alike. If not, well, at least we get to see Gal Gadot wield one pretty bad ass lasso.
Girl Power, indeed.