Spotlight: Patty Jenkins’ record-breaking “Wonder Woman”

This weekend, Warner Bros. and the DC Extended Universe rolled out their first female directed, solo female superhero film, Wonder Woman. Directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster) and starring Gal Gadot (Fast Five), the film went on to make $103,251,471 domestically and easily put Jenkins atop the list of highest grossing weekends for a female director, beating out Sam Taylor-Johnson for 2015’s Fifty Shades of Grey, which made $85,171,450 on Valentine’s Weekend that year.  But there’s something more of note here. For one thing, not even Marvel Studios, after 15 films in their Cinematic Universe, have a film directed by a female or a solo female superhero. Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson, has yet to have her own standalone film and the first one Marvel appears to have planned is Captain Marvel, starring Academy Award winner Brie Larson and co-directed by Ryan Fleck and (thankfully) Anna Boden (Mississippi Grind & It’s Kind Of A Funny Story). But the release date on that is scheduled for March 2019, eleven years after the first film in their anthology. Thankfully, it only took DC four years to do it and look at the return. What is interesting to me is where this falls in with all the other films, both from DC and Marvel, as far as opening weekends go. It’s also interesting to note that Wonder Woman has the lowest production budget of the four DC Extended Universe films so far, coming in $26 million lower than Suicide Squad. It still had the lowest opening weekend of the four but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it going on to have a bigger domestic haul than at least two of the other three.

TITLE OPENING WEEKEND PRODUCTION BUDGET
Man Of Steel (2013) $116,619,362 $225 million
Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016) $166,007,347 $250 million
Suicide Squad (2016) $133,682,248 $175 million
Wonder Woman (2017) $103,251,471 $149 million

Of the Marvel films, Wonder Woman‘s opening weekend beat out 9 of the 15 films released so far. If you look closer, it beat all the “origin” films or what you could refer to as the “introduction” films for the standalone characters, including Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, and the most comparable with the period setting, Captain America: The First Avenger. If you adjust for inflation, this number becomes a bit smaller, but it still beats out Captain America: The First Avenger, which would land around $85 million adjusted for inflation.

TITLE OPENING WEEKEND
Iron Man (2008) $98,618,668
The Incredible Hulk (2008) $55,414,050
Iron Man 2 (2010) $128,122,480
Thor (2011) $65,723,338
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) $65,058,524
Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) $207,438,708
Iron Man 3 (2013) $174,144,585
Thor: The Dark World (2013) $85,737,841
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) $95,023,721
Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014) $94,320,883
Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015) $191,271,109
Ant-Man (2015) $57,225,526
Captain America: Civil War (2016) $179,139,142
Doctor Strange (2016) $85,058,311
Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) $146,510,104

And the reason we’re here in the first place, the record-breaking Patty Jenkins, whose only real feature credit prior to Wonder Woman was the Oscar favorite Monster (2003), to which Charlize Theron won an Academy Award for her leading role in, below is the list of the top performing weekends for female directors. Some lists were arguing that the Wachowskis, formerly men, now both trans-women, could make the list with their Matrix films, but for arguments sake, I just kept it at this.

Taking a closer look, you see that this is the only superhero film on the list. Four of the films on the list are animated, three of those are the only ones that carry a bigger budget than Wonder Woman. Also, two of those animated features are co-directed between a man and a woman. Wonder Woman aside, there are only six films out of fourteen that have female leads, Fifty Shades Of Grey, Twilight, Frozen, Brave, Zero Dark Thirty, and 27 Dresses. Many of the films on this list are what one would consider chick flicks, either of a romantic comedy sense or based on a best-selling book. The stand-outs on this list, in my opinion, would be Kathryn Bigelow in her war drama Zero Dark Thirty, which came off of her big Academy Award win for The Hurt Locker, opening the door for her as a filmmaker, Angelina Jolie’s war period piece, Unbroken, which was based on a book and featured a mostly male cast, and Deep Impact, which was an ensemble cast disaster film. All of these stand-out to me because more often than not, these would be handled by male directors.

The sad fact of the matter is that the oldest film on this list is only 19 years old, meaning only in the last two decades have female directors been breaking the weekend box office. And this doesn’t even come close to reaching even the top twenty of all-time opening weekends. The #1 grossing weekend $247,966,675 for Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), which did happen to have a female lead in its ensemble cast, but even with Wonder Woman breaking the female director weekend, it is still only #40 on the all-time weekends list. It’s sad that in 2017 we still have to be reporting the fact that it’s almost a miracle that a major motion picture franchise “allowed” a female director to take the helm. Although Marvel has one planned after its eleven year run, you wonder why other franchises, like Star Wars, hasn’t had a female director yet. Whatever the reason, hopefully this is more power for the course.

TITLE DIRECTOR OPENING WEEKEND PRODUCTION BUDGET
1 Wonder Woman (2017) Patty Jenkins $103,251,471 $149 million
2 Fifty Shades Of Grey (2015) Sam Taylor-Johnson $85,171,450 $40 million
3 Twilight (2008) Catherine Hardwicke $69,637,740 $37 million
4 Frozen (2014) Jennifer Lee & Chris Buck $67,391,326 $150 million
5 Brave (2012) Brenda Chapman & Mark Andrews $66,323,594 $185 million
6 Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (2009) Betty Thomas $48,875,415 $75 million
7 Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) Jennifer Yuh Nelson $47,656,302 $150 million
8 Deep Impact (1998) Mimi Leder $41,152,375 $75 million*
9 The Proposal (2009) Anne Fletcher $33,627,598 $40 million
10 What Women Want (2000) Nancy Meyers $33,614,543 $70 million
11 Unbroken (2014) Angelina Jolie $30,621,445 $65 million
12 Doctor Dolittle (1998) Betty Thomas $29,014,324 $70.5 million*
13 Zero Dark Thirty (2012) Kathryn Bigelow $24,438,936 $40 million
14 27 Dresses (2008) Anne Fletcher $23,007,725 $30 million

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s