Currently, DC’s Wonder Woman sits at the top of the most anticipated summer movies list floating around in my head. Whenever I scroll past a post on social media advertising the movie I let out a squeal of excitement. Thinking about this movie, patiently counting down the days and dancing inside, got me through the first few months of 2017. With Wonder Woman projected to debut at just $65 mil domestic, the pressure for the film to do well is mounting.
Last week, both The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline reported that Wonder Woman is eyeing a “solid” $65 million domestic box office debut. However, a few other sources are claiming numbers with nine figures and, realistically, perhaps that initial $65 million projection could go up in the weeks before its release. Within the DC Extended Universe (the very official sounding name of DC comics’ shared movie universe), while they were they were received with polarizing criticism, juggernauts Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad both opened upwards of $130 million.
While $65 mil isn’t a bad number, it might be cause for concern for the caliber of hero that the Amazon warrior and pop cultural icon has risen to in her seven decade run.
People have raised complaints that movie isn’t being marketed enough but I don’t know if that argument holds any water. In early May, Vogue took shots at Warner Bros.’ “quiet” promotional campaign, citing that it has taken Wonder Woman 70 years to get to the bigger screen. I agree that it’s a big deal but I see no shortage in promotion.
I’ve seen an ad for Wonder Woman just about every waking moment of my life for the last couple of months, whether it be on food packaging, TV spots, magazines, billboards, when I open social media. The film’s star Gal Gadot has made appearances at the Kids’ Choice Awards and the MTV Movie and TV Awards this past year. Even when she’s not in marketing for her own movie she’s been heavily featured in Zack Snyder’s Justice League trailers. As of yet, the marketing might not be cleverly highlighting the individuals in the ensemble cast like in character teasers posted to YouTube for Suicide Squad and Justice League or even big action set pieces–this much is true. Even still, by most standards, the marketing is pretty basic and effective. But apparently not effective enough. So what is the problem?
Okay, so while I take offense to the claim that the movie is being under-marketed, there is a completely valid point raised in the Vogue article. Much of Wonder Woman’s marketing has been scattered by demographic and gender. Whereas the last few films in the DCEU (Man of Steel, BvS, Suicide Squad) had marketing campaigns that made use of brands that targeted a very broad range of people, Wonder Woman seems to be singling out young children and women.
The types of products, interests and lifestyles associated with these demographics are compartmentalized in a way that isolates them from a more blanketed reach. Perhaps the problem then is that the promotion isn’t connecting with enough of the right people. Typically men, ages 18-34 have the most buying power. It may be a given that fans of the superhero genre (even the casual ones) are going to show up opening day, but will the film be able to pull non-superhero fans?
Another issue with the marketing may be that we are we getting too much of the same footage. This isn’t a knock on the content because the visuals and the cast all look The trailers are amazing and cohesive enough for me to piece together a story: man lands on isolated island of women, adventurous but oppressed princess falls for his tale of drama and woe. The two run off back to the real world to end World War I with her mystical powers. There seems to be at least two antagonistic characters with a big baddy waiting on the bench.
Considering the backlash BvS received after a particularly spoiler-y trailer, it’s a wonderful gesture that nothing huge has been spoiled in the Wonder Woman trailers for the sake of money shots to keep people talking. But will people be interested in the period in which the film is set? A fantasy movie led by a superhero during World War I might be a bit too layered for general movie goers.
Lately, fantasy movies haven’t been doing so good at the box office or critically (King Arthur, The Great Wall, Warcraft just to name a few) When I thought of who I might take with to see it when it opens I couldn’t think of one person who wasn’t already familiar with the lore that might be able to sit through it without asking a million question or straight up falling asleep. And that scares me. Maybe I’m not giving people enough credit. I don’t want audiences to grow bored of her without giving her a chance.
With a budget of $120 million this film needs to make back triple that in order to break even. Hopefully, if it’s good, good old fashioned word of mouth will get butts in seats. But then will it have staying power or will it experience a considerable drop in its second week?
Should the standards be low because it is a female led superhero film? In recent years, female driven properties adapted from pre-existing material have fared well enough with the Twilight and Hunger Games franchises among the leading pack. Wonder Woman is the first female superhero to get her own tent pole film in seven years. Almost a whole decade since Jennifer Garner’s Elektra. Halle Berry’s Catwoman. Come on, now. As you can see, if Wonder Woman doesn’t prove to be profitable Hollywood might just send us back to the dark ages.
If it isn’t a commercial success, two things are unfortunately at stake. Since Man of Steel kicked off the shared universe back in 2013, Warner Bros. has had a rough go of it getting the even critical reception that Marvel Studios has attracted. Wonder Woman is the fourth installment into the canon and it has a lot riding on it. It absolutely has to do well. The DCEU might just implode if it experiences another failure.
Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman. These are the heroes that I grew up with. I want them all to do well. As much as I enjoy CW’s iteration of DC characters, I don’t want to be stuck with the leather clad gang forever–not when I know there’s a version out there with a bigger budget and better production value.
It sucks to put so much pressure on this property but Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins, who helmed the film, will both take a hit if things head south.
Good luck Gal. Our hopes and dreams travel with you.
Wonder Woman opens June 2. Connie Nelson, Chris Pine, Danny Huston, David Thewlis also star.