THE SUMMER MOVIE
This summer movie season is incredibly important to a lot of people, all because of one movie. “Wonder Woman.” Here’s just one example: Before she became an illustrator and writer, Amanda Conner wanted to be a superhero when she grew up.
“I made some cardboard bulletproof bracelets like Wonder Woman had,” she said. “I got my brother to shoot plastic pellets from his pellet gun at me — I don’t recommend anybody do that. Then when I realized that wasn’t really a career option I decided to go into comic book art.”
Today, Conner draws and writes for DC Comics, including books featuring Harley Quinn from last summer’s “Suicide Squad” movie.
Conner said “Wonder Woman” isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime event — it’s once in two lifetimes.
“It’s one of those things I’ve been waiting my whole life for — my mom has been waiting her whole life for it,” she said. “My mother wanted to be Wonder Woman when she grew up. So it’s a long time coming.”
There has been some wailing and gnashing of teeth over this summer’s movie slate. Another “Transformers”? A movie about emojis? “Cars 3”?
And don’t even start with “The Nut Job 2.”
Maybe the summer movie season isn’t what it used to be. Maybe studios are looking at release dates outside of the usual May Day to Labour Day window.
Or maybe after Rey and Jyn Erso in the two most recent “Star Wars” movies, Black Widow in five Marvel movies and Hermione in eight Harry Potter films, Hollywood is — finally — taking the hint: There’s another kind of moviegoer out there.
And she’s excited to see people like herself on the big screen.
It has long been said that female moviegoers will go see just about anything, but ask a guy to watch a film with a female cast, director or lead and he’ll act like he just contracted cooties from a middle school water fountain.
“I wish I knew how to fix that because it doesn’t make any sense to me,” said Barbie Banks, director of the Citizen Jane Film Festival at Stephens College in Columbia, Mo. “Women make films about all variety of topics, not just things that interest women. But film is such a powerful medium, to have that sort of blockbuster is a way to start breaking this down.”
“Wonder Woman” comes out June 2. The DC Comics-based film stars Gal Gadot and is directed by Patty Jenkins. The film may have one of the highest profiles this summer, but other filmmakers also have amped up the appeal to female audiences.
May 5 saw the release of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” the sequel to Marvel’s surprise blockbuster about five space oddities and a powerful gem that can destroy a space system.
Director James Gunn wrote on social media late last year that he increased the sequel’s female roles well beyond the infamous “Bechdel test,” i.e., do two or more female characters talk to each other about something other than a male character?
“We not only pass the Bechdel test, but run over it and back up over it again and again in an 18wheeler truck,” he wrote.
“I am sick of stories where there are a bunch of fully realized male characters and one female character, whose primary characteristic is simply being ‘the girl’ or the personality-less object of some man’s affections.”
To that end, he gave sisters Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) their own mission in the film and added a new weirdo who fits right in with the Marvel misfits.
“We have these fan favourite characters of Drax, Rocket and Groot because they’re all idiots,” he said. “My new character — who I’ve fallen deeply in love with — is Mantis, played by Pom Klementieff, and she’s amazing in the film, a truly magical performer; so, so funny, and just as strange as those other three.”
Also plenty strange, but probably a shade more intense, is “Alien: Covenant,” which opens May 19. This is Ridley Scott’s second prequel (after 2012’s “Prometheus”) to his 1979 space horror classic “Alien,” which gave us Sigourney Weaver as bad-ass space hero Ripley. The last woman standing in this instalment is Daniels, played by Katherine Waterston.
There’s more. The resurrected corpse in Tom Cruise’s “The Mummy” (June 9) is an undead and very unhappy queen, and Luc Besson’s “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” ( July 21) features Cara Delevingne as the title character’s equal partner.
“Atomic Blonde” (July 28) features Charlize Theron as an undercover agent sent to Berlin during the Cold War. It has been described as a female “John Wick,” which starred Keanu Reeves.
Banks said she likes “Atomic Blonde’s” premise of an unapologetic female assassin.
“She doesn’t have this typical storyline about how she became this assassin because of some man or something bad happened to her,” Banks said. “I think having films that don’t have this twist of, ‘Well, she was a mother and she lost her baby’ or ‘She was scorned by a man’ help because she’s just this character. That’s just who she is.”
Banks says the summer release she’s most enthused about is Sofia Coppola’s “The Beguiled” ( June 30). The Civil War-era film stars Nicole Kidman as the head of a private school for girls who takes in an injured Union soldier (it doesn’t look like it ends well for him). And while Banks’ tastes are more in the realm of independent film, there’s no denying the appeal of “Wonder Woman.”
“Not only is she a strong character, but she’s that way because of the other women in her life,” she said. “I think that resonates with females because we tend to have our little squads that raise us up and keep us going and act as superheroes in our lives.”
Shana O’Neil, a California writer who goes by @GeekGirlDiva on Twitter, wrote last week on for Fangrrls on Syfy Wire that she’s worried the studio doesn’t realize how important “Wonder Woman” is. As evidence she cites the film’s marketing or lack thereof.
“‘Wonder Woman’ finally gets her own movie and the movie marketing machines for DC and Warner Bros. haven’t seemed to have chugged to life,” she wrote. “Where are the TV commercials and product tie-ins (yes, I know about Dr. Pepper, other ones please)? Batman and Superman both had their own breakfast cereal, so where’s my Wonder Woman cereal? I’ve seen toys but no toy commercials.”
Representatives for DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. declined requests for interviews on the topic. But O’Neil’s concerns do bring up an interesting question: If the movie isn’t marketed heavily because of fears it won’t do well, does that become a self-fulfilling prophecy?
“That is 100 per cent absolutely my fear,” O’Neil said by phone the other day from California. “‘Wonder Woman’ is 75 years in the making. But also it’s a stand-alone film with a female superhero and a woman director, and we’ve seen in the past where things like this have not been marketed well . ... When I have to Google when this movie is coming out and it’s coming out June 2, that’s weird.”
Even without a huge marketing blitz so far, Ellie Ann, a Joplin, Mo. based writer, said there’s plenty of excitement for the film in her house.
“I just want to cry, it is so amazing to see a movie centred around a female superhero,” she said.
“I’m excited to see how they portray femininity vs. power. I want to see her kick some ass. I’m just excited to raise my daughters in this time. There are so few women portrayed in the media, and it’s changing.”
“Wonder Woman,” starring Gal Gadot, may signal that Hollywood is finally figuring out there is another kind of moviegoer out there.
Nicole Kidman is Martha Farnsworth, who runs a girls’ school during the Civil War in “The Beguiled.”