It’s not to say Hollywood hasn’t tried. There’s been a decades long push to get Wonder Woman on the big screen, as the star of her own film.
The highly-anticipated result, out Friday, comes more than 76 years after her comic book debut. And with the wave of anticipation comes a lot of expectation that the Amazonian heroine — played by Israeli actress Gal Gadot — soars.
Sam Maggs, who has written books about fan girls, inspirational women and Star Trek, said it was about time Wonder Woman got her own film.
“We haven’t seen a female solo superhero film since Catwoman, which is ages ago,” she said. “The fact that we have this real dearth of female representation in superhero films is a real shame. Everyone deserves to see themselves represented as a superhero.”
‘We haven’t been able to tell our own stories’
The pressure’s riding on Wonder Woman partially because past attempts at making female superhero blockbusters have fared so poorly. Both 2004’s Catwoman (starring Halle Berry) and 2005’s Elektra (with Jennifer Garner) bombed at the box office and were panned by critics.
Maggs counters that, saying an “astounding” number of poor male-led superhero films have been made too — and continue to get made.
“A female superhero film fails, they use that as a justification why all female superhero films won’t work, which is very unfair,” she said.
“I think the reason we’ve had a lot of trouble with female superhero films in the past is we haven’t been able to tell our own stories. You don’t get a lot of female writers or directors in Hollywood helming these female lead films so they end up coming from this male gaze-y perspective that doesn’t really do the characters or their stories justice.”
Patty Jenkins is the director, making this the most expensive film ever directed by a female with its estimated budget of around $150 million U.S. So far, the movie has been getting very positive reviews, including from the CBC’s Eli Glasner.
“I’m really hoping with the critical success of Wonder Woman, which will lead into the box office success, it will convince studios to diversify their portfolio to make movies that do star women, that do have women behind the camera,” Maggs said.
“You can be your own superheroes too.”
‘There’s a lot riding on this’
It’s the character Rogue Benjamin has been waiting her whole life for.
She was decked out head-to-toe in Wonder Woman gear while waiting in line to see the movie at Toronto’s Scotiabank Theatre on Thursday, sporting a knitted red and blue dress, boots and matching Wonder Woman earrings.
“[It’s] a female driven superhero film that is about her being a strong female warrior and Amazon princess, that isn’t just a princess in a tower, but she’s the one who’s going to help turn the war around,” she said.
“I’m very excited, I’m hesitant and nervous, but I think that’s just (because) the bar is so high. It’s the first real major female superhero film that we’re getting.”
Meredith Woerner, the editor of the Los Angeles Times’ Hero Complex, has already seen the movie. She said she hasn’t seen a woman portrayed in film quite like how they filmed Gadot.
“She’s crashing through the windows. She’s punching bad guys in the face. She’s running across rooftops,” Woerner said. “It is thrilling and I didn’t even know how much I was missing it as a woman who has grown up watching action films until it was given to me and then I was like ‘Wow, like where has this been?'”
Woerner has noticed a shift in how Hollywood is responding and catering to female movie-goers. And there are a number of other female-directed blockbuster films on the horizon, including Ava DuVernay’s take on the sci-fi novel A Wrinkle in Time and Silver And Black, the Spider-Man spin-off directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood.
Though people might like Wonder Woman, Woerner admits that its success and future female-led superhero films largely ride on how it does at the box office.
“It’s so unfair and ridiculous. But that is what happens here,” she said. “There’s a lot riding on this. Gal has really big shoes to fill.”