Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
A lot has been said about Patty Jenkins’ movie Wonder Woman, pretty much all of it by people smarter and more qualified than I.
Superhero movies are what they are.
Super-villains and their fevered motivations
They all have to come to terms with the conceits of the form: the vigilantism and violence as a solution, the weakness of societal structures of justice, super-powers, secret-identities, and the fevered motivations of the villains, and occasionally the heroes.
I really enjoyed Wonder Woman as a superhero movie.
It had action, cool weapons and costumes, a heroic lead doing admirable things, real romantic chemistry between Diana and Steve Trevor, explosive special effects, and most importantly, it had a lot of heart. Real emotion was on the screen.
I put Wonder Woman squarely in the first tier of my list of superhero movies.
But Wonder Woman is a whole lot more than that. Meta factors that are being carried into Wonder Woman the movie, justifiably so, and no one can say with intellectual honesty that Wonder Woman is just another summer blockbuster.
The superhero genre continues to struggle (and occasionally, in Neanderthal pride, embrace) its history of sexism. Wonder Woman is one of the most recognizable superhero properties in the world, and yet it took 75 years after her first appearance for her to reach the big screen.
Patty Jenkins directs Wonder Woman
At least one previous superhero film led the leading lady to say “I’d like to thank the director for casting me in this shitty movie.” And the number of women directors, much less summer blockbuster women directors, isn’t hard to count on fingers.
So this film was being seen by many as the a risk-filled chance to make some progress at equality or to set the march of movie equality off for another decade. And I would venture to say all of North America at least was aware of the stakes, and rooting for its success.
Variety notes that Wonder Woman was the most tweeted movie of 2017 with 2.19 million tweets as of the weekend after its opening.
The New York Times covered it in a couple of articles like Wonder Woman is a Blockbuster that Let’s Itself Have Fun, The Triumph of Wonder Woman, and The Woman Behind Wonder Woman. Vox called Wonder Woman the best DCU movie since Dark Knight. Even the New Yorker got on the Wonder Woman train.
The numbers supported the attention. On opening weekend, Wonder Woman was riding as high as 95% in Rotten Tomatoes (compared to ratings in the 50s and 20s for Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman). And with its $223 opening weekend, it beat the opening weekend of a bunch of very successful movies including Iron Man and Dr. Strange.
And its second Friday only dropped 59%, which is less of a week-over-week drop than Dark Knight, The Avengers, or Iron Man.
As of this writing (8 days post-opening), the headlines are along the lines of Wonder Woman Charges to $420+ Million to Become the 8th Biggest Movie of 2017 possibly putting it on track to take the #5 spot for the year. That’s after 8 days in theaters… Patty Jenkins directed the whole movie for $150 million, so the return is going to make investors happy.
The enthusiasm went far beyond just the box office numbers. Twitter was filled with threads of little girls dressing up for Wonder Woman screenings.
The metafictional threads run well beyond the numbers though too. Social media and press articles went on about Robin Wright, the actress who played the agency-free princess in the The Princess Bride who in Wonder Woman was a bad-ass, kick-ass Amazon general, complete with muscles and wrinkles and attitude.
It was a giant feminist statement.
And a friend was discussing with others this week what it meant to her and her children that Wonder Woman was played by an Israeli actress. The director was having fun with both the form and the metafictional messages too, with one of the scenes harkening back to the famous Clark Kent/Lois Lane bullet scene in the alley from the 1978 Superman motion picture.
All these things got together to produce a perfect example of a good movie that appealed to everyone, but also, through real representation energized a lot of people. I read on Twitter (and I paraphrase) “no wonder men always feel confident — I just watched a single female-led superhero movie and I feel like I could do anything!”
I asked my ex-wife what she thought of it. She is very open about her allergy to exercise, but after seeing the movie, she said she’s really interested in taking self-defense classes.
I liked Wonder Woman, would see it again, and so would my son. And all of what I’ve been seeing as society’s reaction to the movie makes me wonder if Wonder Woman is the 1977 Star Wars inflection point for a new generation, or perhaps even for a whole gender.
Derek Künsken writes science fiction and fantasy in Gatineau, Québec. He tweets from @derekkunsken. His next publication will be his Asimov’s story “Flight From the Ages” which will appear in Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 34 in July.