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‘Wonder Woman’ and Its Secrets to Success

Director Patty Jenkins and lead actress Gal Gadot created a cultural phenomenon. The new Wonder Woman movie that everyone’s got a boner over will possibly go on to rank as one of the highest grossing superhero movies ever. And to think, a woman (!) director and a strong female lead made it happen. What will they think of next? Movies directed by people of color?? I can’t even.

The movie’s box office brought in $103.1 million over opening weekend. That number breaks the old record for best opening weekend by a female director. Previously, Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Fifty Shades of Grey rung up $85.2 million in 2015.

Not only that, it ranked #4 in opening weekends for superhero origin stories. Only Deadpool, Man of Steel and Spider-Man beat it.

No one can predict success and hindsight is 20/20, but you had strong indicators for Wonder Woman’s success.

The charismatic Gal Gadot

Obviously, choosing the right actress for Wonder Woman was paramount. In addition to Gadot, Elodie Yung from G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Olga Kurylenko had auditioned. Maybe they would’ve been good, but eventually Gadot was selected.

The 32-year-old actress fits the role. Physically she looks the part. She’s relatively tall at 5’10”, comes off as fit and superhero-y and looks like she could save the day. She also has a charisma and humility that comes through if you’ve seen enough of her interviews.

No doubt that comes from her beauty pageant training. After all, the former Miss Israel won Miss Universe 2004 at age 18. That’s crazy…that she’s been around this long. Check her star power on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Skim through Gadot’s Instagram and you’ll feel like, hey, this is someone who could be a movie star. That’s charisma.

Gadot’s movie experience doesn’t cover a lot. She’s been in the Fast and Furious franchise movies and some other random movies that I’ve never heard of, but she’ll never have to worry about getting a part again.

Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman’s equally talented director

Surprisingly, Patty Jenkins hasn’t directed a film since 2003’s Monster. She’s batting a thousand though because that movie won lead actress Charlize Theron an Oscar for playing serial killer Aileen Wuomos.

Why haven’t you seen Jenkins since then?

“For a long period since Monster, the bottom fell out of the indie market, and it was only big tentpoles being made — and that made everything very difficult. Definitely many films I was wanting and trying to make became nearly impossible to make…”.

In between, Jenkins also directed The Killing, a criminally underwatched show. Ironically, she was slated to direct Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World, but bowed out after two months. Imagine that.

Wonder Woman’s strong supporting cast

Don’t leave out the Wonder Woman cast which includes Chris Pine and Robin Wright.

Pine plays sidekick and damsel-in-distress (more on that later) Steve Trevor.

Wright, who kills it in House of Cards, plays Antiope, Gadot’s aunt.

That’s three strong actors in main roles.

Women’s Support

Female directors in Hollywood are rare. Only 7% directed the top 250 films in 2016. Here comes Patty Jenkins in 2017, steering one of the biggest movies of the year and yes, women want to support her.

Is this a feminist movie? I guess if having a woman superhero is feminism. It’s strange that we still have to prove women can be powerful and strong, both behind and in front of the camera. Well, whatever.

Zoe Williams of The Guardian wrote an article titled “Why Wonder Woman is a masterpiece of subversive feminism.” In it, she says:

Yes, she [Wonder Woman] is sort of naked a lot of the time, but this isn’t objectification so much as a cultural reset: having thighs, actual thighs you can kick things with, not thighs that look like arms, is a feminist act. The whole Diana myth, women safeguarding the world from male violence not with nurture but with better violence, is a feminist act. Casting Robin Wright as Wonder Woman’s aunt, re-imagining the battle-axe as a battler, with an axe, is a feminist act. A female German chemist trying to destroy humans (in the shape of Dr Poison, a proto-Mengele before Nazism existed) might be the most feminist act of all.

*nods head* Yes, yessss, what she said!

This is a movie women can get behind and they did. According to CNN:

More than half, 52%, of the film’s audience this weekend were female — a significant number for a genre that has been dominated by men.

I do wonder about that stat though. That 52% number has been around since 2014 when MPAA did their “Theatrical Market Statistics” report. 2016’s stats also clocked in at 52%, so not sure if it’s a coincidence or what. There’s also anecdotal evidence though, i.e. those sold out women-only shows for Wonder Woman.

Alamo Drafthouse held women-only screenings in Austin and Brooklyn that quickly sold out. Some guys got their panties in a bunch and whined about it.

Nevertheless, when women go to the movies 52% of the time, buy 50% of the tickets and yet see themselves onscreen only 32% of the time, having a women-only screening once in awhile seems like an equal trade-off.

Director Patty Jenkins put out a movie that critics and audiences love, and one that the devoted superhero/comic book crowd enjoys. You know how those comic book guys can be.

Gender role reversal

One note is the switch of traditional superhero gender roles. The woman no longer needs the male superhero’s help. Instead, it’s the man who looks to be rescued. Finally! It’s hard having to work all day and pay the bills, about time women do something for men, amirite? From Vox:

The film also adds another curious wrinkle to the superhero genre: It places a man, in this case Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor, in the role of sidekick/love interest/someone that needs saving — a role that’s usually occupied by women like Lois Lane, Jane Foster, Pepper Potts, or Batman’s carousel of female companions (and perhaps The Hunger Games’s Peeta too).

Although, Chris PIne’s not wearing the metallic-looking bustier and the skimpy bottom, Gal Gadot is. Baby steps…

So, how should Warner Bros.’ DC Extended Universe go about their next films? Use Wonder Woman as a template. A talented director like Patty Jenkins, a future Hollywood star a la Gal Gadot. Then, throw in a strong cast, great writing and gender role reversal. Finally, give everyone boobs and make them wear next to nothing.

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