Monday, June 5, 2017

A Reel Opinion: The Triumph of WONDER WOMAN

In today’s ultra-sensitive, super-critical world, it’s hard to find a true triumph in the movies, and even harder to find one that transcends the silver screen. But this past weekend’s long-awaited arrival of Patty Jenkins’ WONDER WOMAN can, and should be one of those rare victories. The 4th entry in the series of films based on DC Comics characters soared to a domestic opening of $100 million, with an additional $122 million overseas. It is the highest opening in history for a female director, and it beat the openings of rival Marvel Studios solo-hero films, including the now past record holder, IRON MAN ($98.6 million in 2008). And with excellent reviews all around (read Reel Speak’s review HERE), it seems poised to make a long run in theatres.

How does this qualify as a triumph? Right away, the success of WONDER WOMAN could not have come at a better time for the DC Comics films and their parent company Warner Bros. On the screen, the previous three entries in the series, which adapted classic characters such as Superman, Batman, Joker, and Harley Quinn, were not met with a lot of joy from critics and fans. Odd decisions with characters, convoluted storytelling, joyless atmospheres, bland cinematography and weird casting decisions were just the tip of the iceberg. Off the screen, WB seemed to struggle even more, with directors bailing off high-profile projects such as THE BATMAN and THE FLASH, and long-time DC Comics director Zack Snyder having to leave the upcoming high-stakes JUSTICE LEAGUE due to a family tragedy. Warners and DC were plagued by bad decisions and bad luck, and frustrated fans got to the point where they didn’t care and were planning on showing up at the theatre just to witness a good train wreck.

But then along came director Patty Jenkins and WONDER WOMAN, which arrives as the first female-led superhero film in 12 years. Gone were the messy and convoluted narratives and joyless slogs, and in their place was an embracing of classic storytelling and an infusion of energy and optimism. Where the past three DC movies were packed full of miserable superheroes, WONDER WOMAN was a sincere hero who believed in love and hope; finally offering goodness for fans to latch onto. With one cinematic punch, DC fans have a glimmer of hope for the first time in a long time.

On the screen, Jenkins turned leading-lady Gal Gadot into a star and role model nearly overnight, and outside the theatre, the character of Wonder Woman became relevant for the first time since she was on the TV screen in the 1970’s. And Relevance is where WONDER WOMAN finds its biggest victory; young girls have a new role model to look up to, and Jenkins’ success at the box office should open doors for more female directors, and hopefully make huge strides in gender-equality in Hollywood (a huge issue, especially with pay).

WONDER WOMAN is a good, perhaps even great movie which has earned its stellar reviews, and perhaps its most important victory is that it removes itself far from the leftover stink from last year’s ill-thought-out crappy GHOSTBUSTERS remake; another female-led film which was crude and vulgar and had uneasy critics afraid to pull the trigger and the braver ones being accused of misogyny. WONDER WOMAN proves that a good movie can overcome any hyper-sensitive political-correctness, and that solid filmmaking solves a lot of problems and puts the hush on the brainless loudmouths. Patty Jenkins and aspiring women filmmakers and writers can now bravely step forward with confidence that their work and efforts will be treated fairly, and that is a triumph for us all.

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