STATE OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: Special Report

We typically reserve the “State of the Comic Book Film articles for the end of the year, but with a weekend take of $103.2 Million, the success of Wonder Woman is a paradigm changer. This means we have to do a special edition of that feature to cover what it means to, well, the state of the comic book film.

To make it a little different this time around, I’ll be doing it in a question and answer format. Just call me the Sean Spicer of FBOL. If Saturday Night Live wants to parody me, may I suggest either Rosie O’Donnell in drag or the guy who played Skippy on Family Ties to play me.

Here we go:

The grosses for WONDER WOMAN were surprising, weren’t they?

Here’s a hot take for you: no. Or, at least it shouldn’t have been, Wonder Woman is the most popular female comic book character of all time, and ranks right up there with Superman, Batman and Spider-Man as the most recognizable regardless of gender. She is a feminist icon and a gay icon. She has been around for 76 years and has had her own TV show, appeared in cartoons, and been featured on merchandise ranging from T-shirts to bedding, toys to Halloween costumes. And that’s all before a feature film for her was even in development. There is a huge audience for the character out there already, and if you weren’t a fan you at the very least knew of the character. Taking that into consideration, the grosses weren’t surprising at all.

But it was surprising for a female led comic book film, because they don’t do well at the box office, right?

That’s fake news.

Okay, one, you’re taking the Sean Spicer thing so far, and two, as Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter mentioned in one of his e-mails that were leaked in the Sony Hack, CATWOMAN, ELEKTRA and SUPERGIRL were all movies fronted by female comic book characters and they all failed at the box office.

Yes. But do you know what else those films had in common? All of them featured character less well known/popular that Wonder Woman (yes, even Supergirl comes in second in my book to WW) and each of those movies were horrible.  I won’t deny that in the boardrooms of Hollywood, many a male executive blamed the failure of those films on their female protagonists, but those films were so bad that the would have failed even if the lead was a man.

Aliens, The Hunger Games films, and Lucy proved that Sci-fi/action/superheroesque films with female leads can do well at the box office if they are done right. Hopefully, Wonder Woman has put the last nail in the coffin of that particular myth.

Isn’t this much ado about nothing? All of Warner’s DC films open big and then take a nose dive the next week. Why would WONDER WOMAN be any different?

Well, for a number of reasons. First off, while Wonder Woman opened big, it still opened $33 million less than Suicide Squad, $66 million less than Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and $16 million less than Man of Steel. What if the people who went to see those movies on the opening weekend held back on Wonder Woman because of diminishing returns for DCEU films? What if the theatergoers who added the $16 to $66 million to those film’s coffers decided to hold off on going on the first weekend of Wonder Woman because they were disappointed in those other three?

The film’s good reviews probably brought some of these Doubting Thomas’s in the first weekend, which is why the opening was better than what was originally projected. And will probably bring more in this week.

That number will be helped by the people who have already seen the film. The people who have seen the film seem to really love it–to the extent that they were moved by it more than you’d typically see in a comic book film. This will provide not only priceless advertising through good word of mouth, but likely most of these people will come back again and again to see the film. That will give the film legs.

Also working in Wonder Woman‘s favor is the competition coming up. This week, its biggest threat comes from The Mummy. This is Universal’s remake of one of its legendary “Monster” properties which the studio hopes to use it to jump start a shared universe in their monster properties called “Dark Universe.” However, the film is projected to make between $40 million and $45 millon this weekend, below Wonder Woman‘s $56 million week two projection.

After that, the Amazing Amazon takes on Cars 3. That’s definitely the weakest franchise in the Pixar catalogue quality-wise but has done well at the box office.

Cars 2 opened with over $66 million, but this go round is projected at a $57 million opening. That should be enough to knock Wonder Woman from the top spot but if it falters WW could get the top spot again. Regardless, if Wondy gets three weeks of solid grosses, it could become the highest grossing DCEU film to date.

So, does this mean that everything is hunky dory with the DCEU? That Warners has righted its ship and set a course on cinematic domination?

Lest we forget that all the DCEU films have done well. Like, “tripled their budgets worldwide” well.  Problem is Warners expected them to do even better. Many internally and externally blamed the bad reviews the films received from keeping them reaching their full earning potential. Externally, fans attacked critics’ integrity by accusing them of taking bribes to pan DCEU films. Internally, Warners decided to start making better movies. It looks like Warner’s way of doing things worked better. If the rest of the films are close to the quality of Wonder Woman, I can guarantee that they will give the Marvel films a run for their money in the comic book movie race.

But will the next slate of films be as good? That is impossible to say because we don’t know all of the next slate of films. Out of the officially announced films, Justice League is undergoing reshoots written and directed Joss Whedon, replacing Zack Snyder, who stepped down due to family issues. The fact that Snyder did the lion’s share of the work on the film might cause worry among the fans but A) he has done good work before, B) part of the problems with his other DCEU films might be mostly due to studio meddling, C) he owns a “Story by” credit on Wonder Woman, and that turned out alright, finally D) the film in previews seems lighter than the rest of Snyder’s DCEU work, and the hiring of Whedon might mean that it will only get lighter. And Wonder Woman is in it, which means at least some of the good will from her solo film will carry over,

The Flash was supposed be next, but tons of problems with its director caused it to be delayed. Warners appears to be searching for a big name director with experience directing a young protagonist in a sci-fi/superhero film. However, until it brings a director on board, it’s release date will be in a state of flux.

What is coming up next is Aquaman, which has already started production. They seem to be portraying Aquaman as a Wolverine-of-the-Sea, a whisky swilling malcontent with a heart of gold. That kind of characterization worked for the Wolverine-of-the-land, and Jason Momoa is just charismatic enough to make it work.

After that is anybody’s guess. Shazam! was next on the depth chart with a 2019 release, but other than Dwayne Johnson bringing it up every so often, we haven’t heard much about it. The Justice League sequel was supposed to be after that, but it was pushed back. Snyder’s involvement in that is now up in the air. Cyborg is next up, but not much is know of that one either as of yet. The Green Lantern film isn’t supposed to arrive until July 2020, but it seems more development has been done with that with other films scheduled to arrive sooner. We already have a plot and some casting rumors for it.

From there, nothing is set in stone. There will be sequels to Wonder Woman, which Patty Jenkins will direct, and Suicide Squad, which might start shooting next year.  There will be The Batman with Matt Reeves at the helm, Batgirl which will be written and directed by Joss Whedon, Gotham City Sirens starring Margot Robbie and directed by David Ayer and a Nightwing film directed by Chris McKay. Outside of the Bat-Universe, Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam might be getting a spin-off , Superman a sequel, and the tumultuous Justice League Dark film might eventually get made if it can keep a director.

What about Marvel Studios? How does it affect them and their CAPTAIN MARVEL film?

Probably not all that much. The success of the DC Extended Universe most likely doesn’t threaten the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the least, If anything, having more successful comic book films would only benefit Marvel if in no other way than keeping the market strong.

And I don’t think Wonder Woman being a hit will have an effect on Captain Marvel either. Marvel is going to do with that film what it has already planned to do with that film. Any cues they take in making that film will be from other MCU films and not any outside film. Just don’t expet a $100 million opening weekend from Captain Marvel. While the character might be Marvel’s biggest female hero (their roster of female heroes pale in comparison to DC’s), she is a complete nonentity to most of the outside world. Expect an opening weekend gross along the lines of other Marvel characters they have to introduce to audiences–maybe $57 to $85 million.

What about new superhero movies featuring female leads? Will we see more of them in the future? And who would you like to see?

I certainly hope so. Don’t forget that there are already a number of female-focused super hero movies in the works. There’s the aforementioned Batgirl from DC and Captain Marvel from Marvel. Also, there will be the Sony Spider-Man spin-off  Silver and Black which might itself spin off into a all-woman team movie.

As to who I think could work as a movie? Well, let me start with Marvel and give you the obvious choice-Black Widow. It seems inevitable that the character would get her own film–they teased as much in Avengers: Age of Ultron–but hopefully it becomes a case of sooner rather than later with the success of Wonder Woman. After that, we get into theoretical territory. Of characters already introduced into MCU cannon, Scarlet Witch has had a number of series to her name and could possibly carry a movie. The Wasp could probably do okay in a spin-off. And Iron Man’s paramour Pepper Potts and Hulk’s girlfriend Betty Ross each had superhero identities for a while.

For those not yet introduced, I have two candidates. First, She-Hulk. She is Jennifer Walters is Bruce Banner’s cousin. She is an attorney who was shot in a mob hit, and needed a blood transfusion from Bruce to stay alive. The blood changed her into She-Hulk, just as powerful as the Hulk but keeping her intelligence. The other would be Ms. Marvel, who is Kamala Khan, a Muslim teen who is part Inhuman and gains the ability to shapeshift. She is a recent Marvel creation and would add another layer of diversity to the MCU.

For Marvel characters owned by other studios, my choice for Fox would be Dazzler. Don’t laugh. Well, go ahead and laugh because she was a roller-skating, disco-singing pop star with the power to absorb sound and turn it into light. She was outdated from the moment her first issue hit the stands. However, she was able to support her own series for a number of years and with pop divas such as Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga dominating the pop charts, updating her to modern times shouldn’t be too hard.

At Sony, well, I mentioned in the link above that I think Spider-Woman could carry her own film. Her origin is tied into the Marvel universe but not in such a way that it couldn’t be rewritten. And she operated free from Spider-Man for most of her career, so she does not need to tie directly in with the web-head at all.

As I said, DC has a better array of female heroes. There are a number of quality candidates for a future film. Since Warners doesn’t mind having a TV and a film version of the same character, perhaps Supergirl could get another shot at a film. If they want to keep the character as TV only, Power Girl has a similar power set, at one time had the same origin (she was the Earth-2 Supergirl, more or less) but has become a strong character in her own right.

Warners seems to be hitting the Bat-family for potential films. Perhaps a Batwoman feature is already being considered? And Catwoman deserves another shot at a film. Anything would be an improvement over her last film, so the bar is low.

Other than that? I think Manhunter, a lawyer who uses stolen supervillain weapons to go after the criminals the legal system can’t, would make a powerful film. Birds of Prey was a short-lived TV series, but could have a better chance to succeed as with a bigger budget than a film allows.

The success of Wonder Woman has made it an exciting time to be a fan of the comic book film. It has breathed new life into the genre. Where will we go from here? The possibilities are endless.

About William Gatevackes 1647 Articles
William is cursed with the shared love of comic books and of films. Luckily, this is a great time for him to be alive. His writing has been featured on Broken Frontier.com, PopMatters.com and in Comics Foundry magazine.

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