Summer 2017 was filled with big, fun superhero movies. But ‘Wonder Woman’ was undoubtedly its most important one.
As the summer comes to an end, so does the primary season of high budget films and blockbusters. Fortunately, this year showed us many great ones, especially where the superhero genre is concerned. In May, we got Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which proved to be just as successful as the first. We also saw Spider-Man: Homecoming, which was a great success amongst Spider-Man fans of all ages. And in June, we got perhaps our most important film of the summer, Wonder Woman. Out of all of these heavy hitters, Wonder Woman reached the highest numbers in domestic box office earnings for the summer and became the highest grossing live-action film directed by a woman, slashing records from its very first weekend, and opening up a new avenue for DC films, which have not had the best couple of years.
On top of all this success, it was also announced last week that Patty Jenkins, director of Wonder Woman, would be directing the Wonder Woman sequel which is set to release in 2019. Jenkins is currently in negotiation to get paid an appropriate amount for her upcoming work on Wonder Woman 2, which would put her in line with her fellow male directors in an industry where women are currently usually paid much less. So that is groundbreaking in and of itself.
For Wonder Woman as a film, the reviews were somewhat mixed. While some absolutely loved it and there were lots of glowing reviews, others just didn’t feel as excited about the story as they had hoped. It’s fine, of course, to have differing opinions. It’s actually necessary, I would even say. However, at the same time, it is important to acknowledge that while the film itself may not have been as widely revered or been your summer favorite, the scope of what Wonder Woman has achieved in the film industry is pretty remarkable.
Naming female film directors at the top our heads is already difficult enough. We can name Sofia Coppola, Kathryn Bigelow, and the wonderful Ava DuVernay to state a few. There have also been a good number of female directors working in TV recently as well, such as Michelle MacLaren, who has directed episodes for Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad. But the fact that it is more difficult to immediately make a list of widely known female directors than it is of male directors is astonishing. It is 2017 and only one female director, Kathryn Bigelow, has ever won an Oscar for Best Director, and there has only been a total of 4 female nominations in that category in the Oscars’ 89-year history. Not to say that the Oscars are the most important thing or even always a marker of a truly great film, but they do go a long way at laminating someone’s name into the industry forever.
So, it is a great thing in the first place for Wonder Woman to have put another very talented female director on our radar, but it is another, entirely even more remarkable thing for that director to have had as much success as she did and to have directed the summer’s biggest hit. For a superhero movie no less, which is automatically thought of as a boys-mostly genre to many people. And sure, some of the success can be credited to everyone who came out to support a female director and a superhero film with a female lead, but at the end of the day, a good film is a good film. There were various reports and tweets of people going to rewatch the film for a second and even a third time, which shows that, overall, the movie was appealing and well done, and attracted large audiences because of that. It was a film that meant a lot to so many people.
Wonder Woman as a character also proved that a superhero film did not need to have a male lead to be a success, nor did it need a stereotypical romantic relationship that fell into common gender tropes. Diana Prince was strong and invincible on her own, and sure, she fell in love on her way to save the world, but her whole life didn’t revolve around Steve Trevor, nor was she a supporting character in his story. It was her story that shined and their love was a piece that worked to enhance it, like so many other aspects of the movie.
When first going to see the film on opening weekend with my friend, I was both excited and worried. The film looked awesome from the trailers, but before going in I was honestly a little nervous that, somehow, Wonder Woman the character would either be overly sexualized or would be made to look like she couldn’t tackle the world on her own, as is so common in lots of films. But sitting in the theater watching the film, I was overcome by a rush of emotions that I did not expect to feel and my worries were very soon put to rest. As a young female who has always been interested in pop culture mostly geared toward guys, it felt so great to finally see a powerful female superhero on screen in her own story. And as a young, aspiring female filmmaker, it felt so encouraging when I realized that an actual wonder woman was behind it all. Because to me, that’s who Patty Jenkins herself represented: a real life Wonder Woman.
The great thing about Wonder Woman, though, was that while it was an empowering movie for women of all ages, it was also a film for anyone to enjoy, which is in part why it’s so important. It created a female character who could be universal. Even though it is extremely valuable to take note of this amazing success, I can only hope that one day films like Wonder Woman will truly be universal in every sense of the word and that the production of female-led/female-directed films will be occurring more and more often. It is very clear that they can and will succeed.
Therefore, Wonder Woman may or may not have been your favorite summer film of 2017 and that is OK. But when reflecting on this year’s films so far, and superhero films in general, Wonder Woman should be remembered for its groundbreaking success and push for female empowerment inside and outside of the world of Diana Prince.