2017’s Wonder Woman became an instant landmark film the moment it was released this time last year.
The fourth instalment in the DC Extended Universe, directed by Patty Jenkins, was the first female superhero film by a major studio this entire decade, and the first after a 12-year drought that started after 20th Century Fox’s Elektra in 2005. But exactly one year later, how has this one movie changed the industry?
The movie followed the story of the Amazonian warrior Diana Prince, portrayed for the first time in a major studio film by Israeli actress Gal Gadot. It was the former Miss Israel’s lead role in a major Hollywood film. Before Wonder Woman, people only knew her as a supporting character in the Fast & Furious movies. Gadot has since become Hollywood’s new It girl; even though Wonder Woman garnered no nominations at the 90th Oscar ceremony back in February, Gadot was one of the most featured actresses during the broadcast.
On its own, the movie was both critically acclaimed as well as a financial success. It has a Rotten Tomato score of 92% by 374 reviews, the highest-rated superhero film at the time until bested earlier this year by Marvel’s Black Panther.
At over $821 million raked, Wonder Woman was the 10th highest-grossing film of 2017. It Man of Steel and Suicide Squad to become the second highest-grossing film in the DCEU, topped only by Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, which everyone hated and only watched because they pitted DC’s biggest icons against each other.
The commercial success of Wonder Woman proved to the world that superhero films helmed by a female figure can turn a sizeable profit… if done correctly. After all, Elektra and 2004’s Catwoman incurred huge losses for their film studios because they were simply bad movies.
I don’t think Wonder Woman is a perfect film. In fact, it’s honestly not one of my favorites among superhero flicks, but I couldn’t be happier that the film has opened doors for movie studios to make more films starring previously unexplored female superheroes.
DC’s victorious rival Marvel has always been criticized for a lack of female lead characters in its now 19-film series. Its only two recurring femme fatales, Black Widow and Scarlet Witch, are usually anchored and shadowed by a male character. The success of Wonder Woman now assures film studios like Marvel, who is poised to release Captain Marvel in 2019.
Captain Marvel will mark Marvel’s first superhero film with a female as the main character. Development on the film reportedly started in 2013, so you can’t credit Wonder Woman for igniting this, but Wonder Woman has surely elevated its significance.
Marvel’s filmmakers have already revealed that Captain Marvel will play an instrumental role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially since the ending of Avengers: Infinity War has left half the universe decimated. The post-credit scene of Infinity War even teased the logo of Captain Marvel instead of referencing Marvel’s next movie, Ant-Man and the Wasp. I don’t believe Captain Marvel would’ve been this important if not for Wonder Woman’s success last year.
Wonder Woman is also the DC’s only saving grace, and one of the only few reasons why DC and Warner Bros can’t exactly hit a master reboot button and start their film universe entirely from scratch. When Justice League, intended to be DC’s biggest film, finished its box office run as the lowest-grossing film in the DCEU, film executives were mortified. Everyone had ripped the movie apart for its inconsistent tone thanks to the change in directors midway through filming.
I on the other hand, couldn’t help but notice Wonder Woman’s elevated position in her male-dominated superhero team. During the final battle, Superman plays a supporting role to Wonder Woman in the film’s most climactic moment: Superman’s arctic breath turns the villain Steppenwolf’s axe to ice, before Diana strikes the axe with her sword.
The entire climax, one of the many scenes reshot by Justice League’s replacement director Joss Whedon, was only filmed in July 2017, after Wonder Woman had already premiered.
When the film’s Blu Ray came out earlier this year, the product designers put the world’s most beloved DC character at the front of the team lineup:
Who would’ve thought that a female figure would now helm the marketing material of a traditionally male-dominated product? I could never imagine Black Widow, Scarlet Witch or even Captain Marvel ever standing at the forefront with Iron Man, Captain America and Thor behind her.
A sequel to Wonder Woman is currently in the works, with Jenkins returning to the director’s chair. In the meantime, DC is reportedly also developing a Batgirl film and a all-female superhero team titled Birds of Prey, which includes Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn (this means that the DCEU has yet to hit restart.) Across studios, Marvel is looking to explore a solo film for Black Widow, whom Scarlett Johansson has played in 2010.
If Wonder Woman had done moderately at the box office, all of these developments would have been halted, because Hollywood is merciless and abides strictly by the numbers. Thanks to the movie, studio executives can increase these films’ budgets confidently.
So while people have raved about the superhero film from the moment it was released in theaters last June, we can really look back an entire year later and realize how much Wonder Woman has done for the industry since. Gone are the days of Catwoman and Elektra. Welcome home, female badasses.