Friday, June 16, 2017

Thoughts on the Wonder Woman Movie Actually Happening

As is well known by now to anyone who pays much attention to films of the type, DC got the Wonder Woman film made, and got it out this summer, and it has already pulled in enough money to be safely confirmed as a commercial success. (Its $460 million is just over half the $873 million the "disappointing" Superman vs. Batman made back in early 2016, and the final tally will probably fall well short of that figure--the Box Office Guru figuring something on the order $750 million. But it was not quite so big an investment, making it a very healthy return.)

In the process DC has realized what I described a few years ago as a longshot.

Of course, quite a lot has happened since--some of it, what seemed to me to be prerequisites for a Wonder Woman film. Warner Brothers firmly committed itself to a Justice League megafranchise comparable to the Marvel Comics Universe, and used the "backdoor" Justice League movie Superman vs. Batman: The Dawn of Justice to introduce new characters, Wonder Woman included.

There has, too, been something of a resurgence in big-budget action movies with female protagonists. Again, the female action hero didn't go away in the preceding years. There were still plenty of really high-profile, big-budget movies featuring action heroines--if as part of an ensemble, like the Black Widow (featured in five movies to date). There were still plenty of second-string action movies with female leads getting by on lower budgets and lower grosses--like the films of the Underworld and Resident Evil franchises (which have continued up to the present).

What there wasn't a lot of were movies combining a first-string production with a female lead after several commercial failures in the early 2000s (the underperformance of the Charlie's Angels and Tomb Raider sequels in the summer of 2003, Catwoman winding up a flop in 2004, Aeon Flux becoming another disappointment in 2005). This makes the shift a good deal less radical than some would have it (the PR for any movie doing anything tends to exaggerate what a big first it is, and an entertainment press usually eats it up, with this occasion no exception), but the change is there, the more so because the change had plenty of precedent, and that not from within the comics genre. Instead the impetus came first and foremost from the young adult dystopia--which saw the Katniss Everdeen-centered Hunger Games series explode (2012-2015), with the first two Divergent films (2014, 2015) also putting in respectable commercial performances. There was also Luc Besson's hit Lucy (2014), and Charlize Theron's turn in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).

The only question, then, would seem to be whether such films will now be a commonplace of the cinematic landscape, or prone to the kind of boom and bust seen over the past decade. What do you think?

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