In case you missed the news this weekend, Wonder Woman stomped on the box office, with an estimated $100.5 million opening weekend (don’t be surprised if the actuals go up a few million). This is a new record for a film directed by a woman, leap-frogging Sam Taylor-Johnson and Fifty Shades of Grey, as well as other origin stories like Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor, and Ant-Man. Wonder Woman even bests Guardians of the Galaxy’s opening weekend, which was the last time a superhero movie surprised everyone and beat the projection. It’s hard to tell how it will hold up, though. Positive word of mouth—it got an A CinemaScore from audiences—should help, but with The Mummy next week and Cars 3 the week after, there’s just not a ton of breathing room. With this kind of opening, though, and also playing well overseas, Wonder Woman is a guaranteed hit. And with a comparatively moderate budget of $150 million—and a more conservative marketing spend—it actually should make money in real life, not just on paper. This could be the most profitable movie out of DC Films yet.
And it’s HUGE moment in history for women in film—hopefully, only the first ripple in what will become a tide. Next up is Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle In Time, due in spring 2018, then, in 2019, Captain Marvel from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. And I expect a Wonder Woman 2 announcement soon: Patty Jenkins is already contracted to make the sequel. Beyond this, how about a Storm movie in the X-Men universe? Or how about a woman for the next Star Trek, the next Jurassic Park-World, the next Star Wars? There is no reason to keep denying women these jobs, not when there is empirical proof that women can deliver successful blockbusters. (At least Jenkins gets to make Wonder Woman 2, an opportunity not given to Catherine Hardwicke on Twilight or STJ on Fifty Shades.)
But back to Wonder Woman and her amazing weekend – I went to see it again on Sunday and a ten-year-old girl sat behind me, living and dying with Diana’s every move. She gasped, clapped, and cheered her way through the movie, and it certainly didn’t hurt the experience. Wonder Woman isn’t a perfect movie, but a generation will grow up with Diana the way a previous one did Christopher Reeves’ Superman (especially since the current Superman kind of sucks). That’s important, that the “true north” hero for a lot of kids will be a woman.
I also thought about my initial criticism of the movie, that it feels calibrated to not offend anyone—particularly men—by being too overtly feminine. I still feel that way after a second viewing, but it makes me think about the difference between FOR, BY, and ABOUT.
Wonder Woman isn’t really for or about women, but it is BY a woman, and Patty Jenkins’ accomplishment is the biggest crack yet in the glass ceiling for women in filmmaking. And recently we’ve also had the remarkable success of Hidden Figures, a movie ABOUT women, which hopefully leads to more movies about women. And while it’s not a movie, Big Little Lies is FOR women to the extent that a lot of male critics didn’t get it. And that’s all just in the last six months. The goal, then, is a successful big-budget movie that is FOR, BY, and ABOUT women. We’re not quite there yet, but you can feel the acceleration, can’t you?