When the dust settled on Wonder Woman’s opening weekend, a $100.5 million domestic box office take and $122.5 million international take debunked once and for all the myth that female-driven superhero movies can’t be successful.
Driven by a career-defining performance by star Gal Gadot and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 93% fresh (and an audience score of 93%), Wonder Woman easily won the weekend, setting a record for director Patty Jenkins as the biggest opening by a female director of all time.
Wonder Woman’s domestic opening ranked #16 out of all 119 superhero movies ever made, ahead of the cinematic debuts of such heroes as Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Wolverine, and the Guardians of the Galaxy. Internationally, the film did even better, beating Iron Man 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Man of Steel. Wonder Woman‘s $223 global box office total for the weekend makes it the 41st biggest global opening of all time — for all movies, not just superhero ones.
For a concept that seems so obvious — that women, who represent roughly half of the population of the world, can both direct and star in successful big-budget superhero films — it took an embarrassingly long time for a Hollywood studio to give it a chance. Why did it take so long? Well, partly because the modern superhero movie era has been ruled by Marvel Studios, which was under the control of Marvel Chairman and Donald Trump advisor Ike Perlmutter until Kevin Feige wrested control in 2015. As a result of the Sony email hacks that same year, we were treated to a candid look at Perlmutter’s opinion of female superhero films in an email to Sony’s Michael Lynton:
As we discussed on the phone, below are just a few examples. There are more.
1. Electra (Marvel) – Very bad idea and the end result was very, very bad. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=elektra.htm
2. Catwoman (WB/DC) – Catwoman was one of the most important female character within the Batmanfranchise. This film was a disaster. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=catwoman.htm
3. Supergirl – (DC) Supergirl was one of the most important female super hero in Superman franchise. This Movie came out in 1984 and did $14 million total domestic with opening weekend of $5.5 million. Again, another disaster.
Even still, as head of Marvel Studios, Feige did wield some influence, and yet, despite his proclamations of support for diversity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel has made fifteen movies without a woman as the lead or the director: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
By the time Captain Marvel, the first Marvel Studios solo film starring a female hero, hits theaters in 2019, Marvel will have made five more male-fronted films: Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ant-Man and The Wasp. All of those films have been or will be directed by men. Captain Marvel has a two-person directing team: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.
For rival DC, Wonder Woman is the fourth film in their DCEU shared superhero universe, and it may be a game-changer for the company. The critical acclaim and audience love is a first for the DCEU, reversing the trend of Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman, and Suicide Squad, which performed well enough, but were critically panned and divisive at best amongst fans. Perhaps more importantly, in one swoop, Wonder Woman has repositioned DC’s cinematic universe as leading the way against an aging competitor, rather than following in their innovative footsteps, which could change the fortune of Justice League and future DCEU movies.