It wasn’t long ago that the superhero genre flooded the marketplace with testosterone-fueled action extravaganzas that almost always became successful and profitable adaptations of historic comic books. Men in spandex being directed by men and marketed to a male audience; the three main ingredients to blockbuster filmmaking. This weekend we have Wonder Woman, a $100+ million budgeted superhero movie about a woman in a skirt, directed by a woman and marketed to everyone on the planet. How could this be anything less than a massive equal opportunity achievement?
5 Ways to Prep: Wonder Woman
By George Rose
June 1, 2017
A decade ago, we were introduced to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). It teamed up Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Hulk. They each got their own movie before leading up to the mega mash-up, The Avengers. All individual appearances led to moderate success, but together they blew up the box office and broke the opening weekend record in 2012 with over $200 million, eventually earning over $600 million domestically and $1.5 billion worldwide. And with great power comes… DC’s attempt to replicate the same success. Granted, DC Comics movies were the original superhero blockbusters, with Superman and Batman dominating the 1970s through the 1990s. Then, Marvel changed all that in the 2000s by properly planning a cohesive connection between all of their properties before bringing them together. DC, on the other hand, threw a bunch of shit at the wall and hoped some of it would stick.
With Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy over and Disney’s MCU taking over the galaxy, Warner Bros. announced their own DCEU (DC Extended Universe). First up was Man of Steel, the Superman reboot released in 2013, one year after The Avengers. The natural assumption would be the DCEU following this up with maybe a Batman, Flash and Aquaman movie before releasing their superhero mash-up, Justice League. Oh no, no no no. If they did that, it would be totally copying the same idea. Plus, Disney’s MCU was well beyond the mash-up idea and were actively working towards bigger ideas like pitting their superhero brothers and sisters against each other in their Civil War.
So, the DCEU goes, “Let’s rush the mashup, skip right over the first time everyone works together and go right into… what’s the not-copyrighted version of Civil War?... right into the Dawn of Justice, because dawn comes before daylight and maybe conflict comes before teamwork… so yeah, let’s do that and nobody will notice we’re rushing things! GENIUS!” In 2015 we got Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, aaaaaaaand we all remember how that went. Not a Superman sequel, not a Batman introduction and barely a platform for Wonder Woman, it was a disastrous film that didn’t just throw shit at the wall; it threw three kinds of shit at the wall, they merged into one mega doomsday dump and that collective pile of wasted opportunity fell flat on the floor without even momentarily sticking to the wall.
But hey, it cost $250 million to make and earned $873 million worldwide so it was profitable. That’s more to produce and less of an earnings than Avengers but it made some money and the DCEU had plans for several future films, so the show must go on. Next up was Suicide Squad, and everyone was so pumped. Marvel never did a supervillain movie, so DC finally had something original to talk about. Fans were super excited until the reviews came out. For such an “original” property, it performed very similarly to the other two DCEU films. It opened well, made a few dollars by DC standards and was HORRIBLE. Just a total waste of time, money and opportunity.
Which brings us to the present. We now have over a dozen MCU movies, all of which have received positive reviews and profitability. On the DCEU front, we are only three films in, all of which have barely crossed the threshold into profitability territory and none of which received any bit of acclaim. The DCEU may have made a few extra dollars for the studio but they haven’t done themselves any favors. For their fourth feature, it was already time to mix things up again.
What the MCU is famous for, aside from mega blockbusters and boatloads of cash, is their lack of diversity. For all the hits they have released, none have focused on anything other than a white guy. Sure, the Avengers have had women and minorities, but none of the solo character movies have featured anything other than a white dude. Black guys finally have their day in 2018 when the Black Panther movie is set for release, but outside of the occasional appearance of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow character within these films, we haven’t gotten a female spinoff yet and the earliest we can expect one is in 2019 when the MCU attempts bringing Captain Marvel to the big screen. For all the DCEU has done wrong, the one thing they have done right is include their sister superhero into the lineup.
So yeah, the male dominated superhero subgenre has been uber-successful and uber-sexist all at the same time. It’s a shining moment in Hollywood that ladies finally have their moment to shine in spandex suits and it’s surprising the DCEU, for all their faults and failings, is the studio smart enough to start the inclusion of non-white-male lead characters. Even more surprising is that after all three prior DCEU disappointed critically (Man of Steel 55%, BvS 28%, and Suicide Squad 25% on Rotten Tomatoes) the early word on Wonder Woman is incredible (currently 97% positive reviews). However, even less surprising is that budgets for the three male-dominated DCEU films have ranged from $175-250 million a piece while Wonder Woman started off with a “measly” $100 million budget. Even in a world of progress where a woman can headline a comic book movie with a woman also directing that movie, we still can’t trust all those women with anything more than $100 million. It’s just “too risky.”
While nothing makes me happier than watching the superior MCU completely dominate over the DCEU’s struggling success, it still makes me happy to see the first of these Cinematic Universe female movies being so well received, even if it was the product of the DCEU. It’s the DCEU’s first time doing something the MCU hasn’t done and, surprisingly, is the first time the DCEU seems to have produced something even remotely watchable. It pleases me greatly to see Wonder Woman have such positivity surrounding its release. For many months leading up to the release I have seen analysts predict around an $85 million opening weekend with a $230 million domestic finish somewhere in sights; however, in the last week as reviews have begun to pour in, I’ve seen projections increase to a $110 million debut with a $300 million total possible.
I never thought I’d say this, but 2017’s first truly surprising summer hit movie might be released by the DCEU and actually stars a female lead. For all that is wonderful about this news, it still saddens me that all the MCU and DCEU movies will gamble anything north of $150 million on their productions but Wonder Woman was given only a $100 million shot at success. Despite this backhanded blockbuster budget, it seems the women of Hollywood have made that money work and we have a feature film worthy of attention and ticket sales.
If it wasn’t for Philadelphia Comic Con this weekend, I’d be going to see Wonder Woman at the Thursday sneak preview. Instead, I have tickets set for Sunday and will be feverishly waiting for my chance to watch the movie. For now, I can tell you two things; the first is that I now plan on looking for cool Wonder Woman merchandise at Comic Con since my excitement level has skyrocketed after the positive reviews have come in; and the second is that I have a few movies to recommend you watch to best prep you for Wonder Woman’s triumphant debut.
1) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
The first recommendation is also the most obvious. If I’m only going to pick one movie from the prior franchise (and I’m considering the DCEU one mega franchise), then BvS would be it since it’s the only one to include the Wonder Woman character. Granted, Wonder Woman is set during the first World War and prior to the events of any/all DCEU films so technically none are needed. However, it is a great introduction to the character and is the only bright spot in the BvS film.
The premise is simple despite the film’s over-complication of it. Superman has recently saved the world but at great emotional and financial cost. Many buildings have crumbled and innocent people have died after Superman defeated General Zod in the Man of Steel movie. Bruce Wayne lost many of his employees in that battle, so he’s kind of pissed at Superman. They start to bicker, they fight a little, they realize both their mothers are named Martha, they become friends and they team up with Wonder Woman to defeat their newest and biggest foe yet. It’s a textbook example of how not to bring together several of your favorite heroes. It is barely watchable without laughing in disappointment but special effects and Wonder Woman save the day and make this a passable entry in the otherwise completely boring DCEU films to date.
2) Catwoman (2004)
Surprisingly, Wonder Woman isn’t actually the first female-led superhero movie. Before the DCEU and the MCU were formed, Warner Bros. beat Marvel to the punch again and tried launching a female superhero movie before their arch enemy could. DC spent $100 million bringing Halle Berry and Catwoman to the big screen. The results were… historic. The film only earned $82 million worldwide and a 9% positive review score on Rotten Tomatoes. It was widely accepted as one of the worst superhero movies ever and brought shame to everyone involved.
However, most lovers of movies don’t just love good movies. I often find joy in train wrecks. Halle Berry is horrible yet stunning to look at, Sharon Stone as the big bad boss of a cosmetics company is perfectly campy, the action is cringe-worthy and the plot is beyond bananas… but I CAN’T STOP WATCHING! Sometimes bad sex is better than no sex, and Catwoman is a great example of how I’d rather watch a woman kick butt in a terrible movie rather than not watch a woman headline a movie at all. It’s a very, VERY low bar to set for strong women in cinema and it’s a great way to guarantee you enjoy yourself during Wonder Woman.
3) Elektra (2005)
Not only did the DCEU beat the MCU to the punch with Wonder Woman kicking butt as the first cinematic universe superwoman, DC comics beat Marvel when they released Catwoman a year earlier than Elektra. This was, however, years before Disney purchased Marvel so technically Elektra doesn’t fall under the Marvel umbrella. 20th Century Fox is solely to blame. Where Catwoman is “so bad it’s good, at least to a gay man who would kill for a torn up leather outfit and diamond claws,” Elektra finds itself in the “so bad it’s… bad, like really, really awful” territory.
Most people hated Daredevil when it came out in 2003. I didn’t. I quite enjoyed it because it was during the birth of the Marvel movie movement and they could do no wrong in my book. However, after Daredevil received a critical lashing, it came as a great surprise that a spinoff starring his love interest was announced. I won’t even summarize the movie because it’s so freaking bad. This recommendation isn’t like Catwoman, where the camp-factor can barely keep it alive. This recommendation is solely because I believe in checking out the competition. Since the MCU has no female-led movies yet, Elektra is the closing thing we have to a Marvel heroine leading her own feature. It’s so God-awful bad but watching it is sure to help enhance your Wonder Woman enjoyment level.
4) Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
There are a few things I hate more than sexism in Hollywood. One of those things is homophobia in Hollywood. Another thing I hate is when women complain about not being equal in Hollywood, because gays probably have it worse than women sooooooooo yeah, there’s that. Lastly, I hate historic cinema. I hate World War 1 and 2 movies because real war is tragic and sad and boring and where are the aliens?!?! Since Wonder Woman is 3,000 years old, it’s no surprise they took her back in time for her origin story. While she may be the first heroine to grace us on screen, she isn’t the first to go back in time.
Marvel has not only done the impossible by creating a cohesive cinematic universe that others may envy forever; they also made history interesting. Since Captain America was frozen in the past and wakes up in the present, it made sense to have his origin story start things off during World War 2. Marvel took their least interesting hero with the least interesting powers and stuck them in the least interesting time period I could imagine… and it was AMAZING!!! It proved that with the right amount of superpowers and action set pieces, even my least favorite genre can become entertaining. Despite its lack of estrogen, it is the closest film in the MCU to compare to Wonder Woman and a good way to prep for how these stories can successfully go back in time.
5) Monster (2003)
No, Monster is not the villain that one of the MCU or DCEU heroes has defeated. In fact, it’s not a superhero movie at all. Shocking, right? Sure, Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot gets major points for being the one bright spot of BvS, and everyone is pumped to see her star in her own movie; and sure, the DCEU gets credit for allowing a woman to star in her own superhero movie and for hiring a woman to direct it. Everyone gets their credit where it is deserved but nobody will deserve more of the credit for the critical and box office success than its director, Patty Jenkins.
The DCEU has made nothing but crap movies, so when I noticed that Wonder Woman was sitting at 93% positive reviews online I immediately turned my head to Jenkins as the most likely reason for this unexpected reaction. It makes sense since her prior works include Monster, which Jenkins wrote and directed. It won the Best Actress Oscar for Charlize Theron, who transformed herself to become Aileen Wuornos, a white trash serial killing lesbian that killed the men who hired her for prostitution. It’s a dark movie, for sure, and a big departure from the lighthearted action surrounding Wonder Woman, but it’s a great movie and a good way to introduce yourself to the directing talents that Jenkins brings to the already well-reviewed Wonder Woman.
And with that, my friends, you are ready for the girl power that’s about to take control of the world this weekend with the release of Wonder Woman. Check back next week to see how you can best prepare yourself for The Mummy. If you can’t wait that long, follow me on Instagram (RoseByAnyName) to check out pics of me at the movies watching Wonder Woman or the many exciting pictures I plan on taking at Philly Comic Con.