DC Comics superhero Wonder Woman has smashed box office records this weekend, with $300 million in global ticket sales surpassing fellow superheroes Doctor Strange, Thor, Superman and Captain America.
Box Office projections, now blown to shreds, expected the film to make about half as much.
The movie isn’t just being seen as a win for Warner Brothers, but for women in the movie business.
DC and Warner Brothers have made an industry from superhero films, but Wonder Woman is only their second movie based on a female hero – the first was Catwoman in 2004.
Marvel Studios, owned by Disney, has never made a female-led superhero film.
But it’s not just the heroine herself, played by Israeli Gal Gadot, who’s set new records. Director Patty Jenkins has broken records in an industry where women are rarely handed the reins; the film is the biggest box office release for a movie directed by a woman, with Jenkins only the second woman to ever direct a movie with a budget over $100 million (the first was Kathryn Bigelow with K-19: The Widowmaker).
“I want to send out the deepest and sincere thank you to all of you who made this so,” Jenkins tweeted when news broke that her film was the week’s top-grossing movie worldwide.
“You have helped us make change – amazing,” she tweeted.
Unlike the majority of DC’s films, Wonder Woman – initially set on the all-female island of Themyscira – easily passes the Bechdel test.
Gadot, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, and Elena Anaya have leading roles, beside Chris Pine, David Thewlis and Danny Huston.
But it’s not just money and screen-time that have marked the film as exceptional – while recent DC efforts have been met with poor reviews, Wonder Woman has received widespread acclaim.
The movie scored 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, matched only by Marvel’s Logan in recent superhero outings.
The film is only Jenkins’ second, having previously directed Charlize Theron’s Oscar winning performance in the 2003 crime drama, Monster. She told CBS that for many years she had heard people say, ‘nobody would go see a female superhero film, women don't like action’.
“Part of me is watching, saying, ‘Ah, let's prove them wrong’” she said.
Despite the popular and critical success of the film, Jenkins hasn’t been without her critics. In the right-wing National Review, Armond White puts the film in the context of America’s raging culture wars, describing Gadot as a “tomboy superheroine designed for our PC times”.
White describes Jenkins ad “not an action director” but rather a “politically correct token”.
But Andrew Barker, a reviewer for Variety, noted that Jenkins’ female directorship showed in a number of subtle yet important ways.
“As skimpy as Gadot’s outfits may get, for example, Jenkins’ camera never leers or lingers gratuitously,” he wrote.
“[She] is always framed as an agent of power, rather than its object.”
Not everyone got the non-objectification memo, however. David Edelstein, reviewing the movie for Vulture, opened with a line on Gadot’s appearance: “The only grace note in the generally clunky Wonder Woman is its star, the five-foot-ten-inch Israeli actress and model Gal Gadot, who is somehow the perfect blend of superbabe-in-the-woods innocence and mouthiness,” he wrote.
Edelstein added that “fans might be disappointed that there’s no trace of the comic’s well-documented S&M kinkiness.”
“With a female director, Patty Jenkins, at the helm, Diana isn’t even photographed to elicit slobbers.”