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 between 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, putting studios off) and the middle of this decade, when they began to crop up again. The Hunger Games exploded (2012), and was followed up by its mega-budgeted sequels (2013, 2014, 2015), the initially cautious but later bigger-budgeted Divergent films (2013, 2014, 2015) and the $150 million Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) (with the low-budget but high-grossing Lucy in 2014) reinforcing the trend. Still, even if this makes clear what an exaggeration the claims for Wonder Woman as something unprecedented are (both by the studios, and the sycophantic entertainment press), it has some claim to looking like a watershed moment.

That said, the question 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 in the early 2000s. What do you think?

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