As a summer superhero movie directed by and starring a woman, the greatest feat for “Wonder Woman” will be its refusal to be crushed by expectations. So let’s get this out of the way now: It almost certainly won’t be the biggest-grossing movie with a female director. That honor goes to “Frozen,” which was written and co-directed by Jennifer Lee. However, “Wonder Woman” stands a good chance of becoming the biggest live-action movie ever (at least domestic) with a female lead character.
The latest collaboration between Warner Bros.’ and D.C. Comics, “Wonder Woman” has received excellent reviews — the best in recent D.C. memory, and equal to most of the top Marvel Studios entries. It is poised to be a strong box office performer.
With a domestic opening weekend projected between $70 million-$100 million, a $200 million total domestic gross is possible. In adjusted grosses, it would place 13th among all D.C. Comics universe movies, but second best (behind “Suicide Squad”) among those not featuring Batman and/or Superman.
Wonder Woman” is only Jenkins’ second feature. High-cost franchise films often take a chance on relative newcomers, but for women the ascension has been much more difficult. Jenkins isn’t remotely a novice. Her last film, 2003’s “Monster,” won Charlize Theron an Oscar and grossed an adjusted $49 million. That’s very strong for a specialized film. But she didn’t jump at a follow-up feature and built her reputation in TV, climaxing with an Emmy for directing “The Killing.”
At $120 million, “Wonder Woman” is less expensive than many D.C. Comic or Marvel titles — and far below the last two “Pirates of the Caribbean” entries and “The Fate of the Furious,” as well as the current dud “King Arthur.”
Still, it’s a significant budget, and even more so given its central female character. That combination is what sets “Wonder Woman” apart.
While a $100 million+ budget is a rarity for a female-directed film, it’s not a first (some animated films and Kathryn Bigelow’s “K-19: The Widowmaker” among them). It will need something approaching a half billion worldwide gross to be a success. And, if we are to believe that a female-centered story is a risk, that makes the domestic portion more critical.
Also, it could suffer from the familiarity problem “Baywatch” faced last week, since it was preceded by a cheesy ’70s-era TV show — one that has little to do with the treatment here, but might shape some expectations that need transcending.
“Suicide Squad,” the last D.C. Comics release not centered on Superman or Batman, opened in August to a very strong $133 million. Its diverse and much better-known ensemble cast gave it wider appeal. “Wonder Woman” could mean some resistance from fanboys, with studios hoping that a broad spectrum of women will make up for them.