Well, Warner Bros can breathe a sigh of relief. Wonder Woman is a resounding success. The Gal Gadot-starring, Patty Jenkins-directed film made history by making $100 million in its opening weekend, the biggest opening for any woman-directed movie. The reviews have been glowing, and audience reception seems overwhelmingly positive. Wonder Woman is a bona fide hit for the studio, a home run that Warner Bros certainly needed. With the first well-received DCEU movie under their utility belts, all masked heads are turned to the next DCEU offering, Justice League, opening in November. Let’s look at how Warner Bros can learn from the success of Wonder Woman as they take the next big leap in their cinematic universe.
The road to Themyscira has been a long and arduous one for the Amazonian princess, not just for the shared universe but for the character as well. Warner Bros had been trying to get a Wonder Woman movie off the ground for over a decade. One of the first real attempts was when Joss Whedon tried to take a crack at the property in 2006, a year after Batman Begins successfully rebooted Batman. This was even before George Miller would get hired to unite the League – and bring Wonder Woman to the screen – in a film called Justice League: Mortal, when that project eventually fell apart. Whedon’s movie, which would have been radically different than Patty Jenkins’ effort, never materialized and fizzled out after a year of development hell.
Wonder Woman finally got another crack of the lasso when Warner Bros got into the shared universe game with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. At this point, it should go without saying the DC Extended Universe – which is what Warner Bros is calling this cinematic universe – has somewhat stumbled on its own cape coming out of the Watchtower. Man of Steel was a strong financial success, earning nearly $670 million worldwide. The reviews were mixed, but it was considered a decent start. Batman v Superman, on the other hand, may go down as one of the most polarizing comic book movies of the last several years. Even though it earned over $800 million worldwide, it received terrible reviews from critics. The reaction from fans was divisive to say the least, with some hardcore DC fans praising the film for its complex, politically-driven take on DC’s biggest superheroes – while others were less than impressed. So when Wonder Woman, the first major solo DCEU movie not involving Bats or Supes, came around there was considerably more pressure for success. Wonder Woman didn’t just need to be good, though. It needed to be a great movie.
Which meant Wonder Woman naturally had an incredibly difficult predicament to overcome. It needed to get certain disenfranchised fans excited about DCEU movies again, honor the character’s legacy as the first live-action, big screen iteration of the popular heroine, and hopefully appease critics. The fact that the film did all of this in spades is no small achievement. It’s a sweeping win not only for Warner Bros, but also for fans of the character and superhero movies in general. As Warner Bros continues its “course correction” moving forward, there are many ways Warner Bros can learn from the success of this movie.
One of the ways it appears Warner Bros is learning is by bringing on someone from the opposing team to help. There is a great sense of irony given that Joss Whedon, who directed Marvel’s first big Avengers and nearly wrote and directed a Wonder Woman movie over a decade ago, is now overseeing the Justice League movie slated for release later this year. While Wonder Woman needed to be a success for the studio, there is a lot riding on Justice League. Wonder Woman may have saved the day, but Justice League needs to save the DCEU. It is introducing several core characters that haven’t been properly introduced before, unless you count cameos in a video in Batman v Superman or a brief appearance by The Flash in Suicide Squad.
Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg all have major supporting roles in Justice League and they are all getting planned spin-off movies. One of those, Aquaman, is already in the middle of filming his spin-off film, being helmed by Furious 7 & The Conjuring director James Wan. If Justice League does not win over audiences, or certain characters such as Aquaman aren’t well-received or liked, it doesn’t bode well for their spin-off movies. Warner Bros thusly has a lot riding on Justice League to succeed. If the film doesn’t, it could affect how Warner Bros handles some of the movies already in pre-production or production already.
Which is why Joss Whedon is an inspired choice to takeover from Zack Snyder on this movie. It should go without saying that it is difficult to talk about the transition process for Justice League, as it was born out of tragic circumstances. It was revealed last month that Zack Snyder had to step away from overseeing the remainder of post-production as well as additional filming on Justice League after his daughter committed suicide back in March. It’s a tragedy plain and simple, and our thoughts are with the Snyder’s as they mourn in what is clearly a very difficult time for their family at the moment.
With Snyder stepping down, however, it comes at a pivotal point in the movie’s post-production schedule. According to Batman On Film, the studio plans to spend at least two months doing additional shooting on the film. It is not clear whether or not this will entail complete reshoots, or just add additional scenes to help clarify the film’s narrative or flesh out certain character beats. If the report is true – and it could very well be false – two months is a very long period to add new material to the film. It is possible this level of supplemental filming might reshape Justice League in a world where Wonder Woman is a hit, or at the very minimum add clarification to certain aspects of the film that will hopefully only make the film better.
Even if the additional filming isn’t as “substantial” as some reports claim, Whedon will oversee the rest of post-production. This is something that hasn’t really been discussed publicly to any great detail yet, which is understandable given the nature of Snyder’s decision to step down. However, with Whedon overseeing editing, color correction and other aspects of the film’s post-production, Whedon has a chance to mold Justice League in significant ways. Toby Emmerich, an executive at Warner Bros, told Hollywood Reporter the additional filming would not change Justice League and that Whedon will “still adhere to Zack’s vision for the film.” This could very well be true, or just PR, but Whedon could also make some significant creative decisions in post that could alter Justice League in surprisingly subtle but noticeable ways.
As an example, editing is a major part of the post-production process. As Quentin Tarantino has said, a film usually undergoes three stages of basic story construction – the actual screenwriting process, filming and then editing. In the same way a great script could be cut to shreds in editing, post-production editing can also take a mediocre script and elevate it. As such, Snyder’s films have been criticized for some questionable editorial choices in the past. Take this critical analysis of Batman v Superman from the YouTuber user The Nerdwriter, which goes into great detail explaining why some of Snyder’s films have occasionally suffered from an editing standpoint.
As Wonder Woman proved, audiences will happily embrace a good-natured hero willing to whip her lasso around truth, justice and the right thing. Warner Bros doesn’t need to completely retool their formula, as their filmmaker-driven approach has benefited them many times before (e.g. Mad Max: Fury Road) and is currently benefiting them now. They just need to understand their heroes… or at the very least, find people (such as filmmakers like Patty Jenkins) that do. If they can do that, the results will truly be wonderful. Do you think Wonder Women is going to change DC?