After languishing in development hell for more than a decade, the comic book world’s most famous female superhero is finally getting the chance to flex her might on the big screen.
Over the weekend, Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment’s Wonder Woman debuted to $100.5 million at the North American box office, the top opening ever for a woman director (that being Patty Jenkins).
Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot in the titular role, becomes only the 16th superhero title to launch to $100 million or more domestically, not adjusting for inflation. It is no small feat, considering Wonder Woman isn’t a sequel. Plus the movie skewed female (52 percent), while most superhero films rely on 60 percent or more of the audience being male. It is also the first featuring a female heroine to work at the box office after the quick death of both Catwoman and Elektra in the mid-2000s.
The list of top domestic superhero openings is dominated by titles from the modern-day Marvel Cinematic Universe mixed in with several movies from the relatively new DC Extended Universe, alongside Christopher Nolan’s acclaimed Dark Knight trilogy, Sony’s Spider-Man series and Fox’s Deadpool, among others.
Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) remains the record-holder for top domestic opening with $207.4 million, followed by the 2015 sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron with $191.3 million. Fellow Marvel/Disney threequel Captain America: Civil War (2016) opened to $179.1 million in 2016, while Iron Man 3 (2013) blasted off with $174 million. Warners and DC’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) is No. 5 on the list with a domestic debut of $166 million.
Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and The Dark Knight (2008) opened to $160.9 million and $158.4 million, respectively, in North America, while Sony’s Spider-Man 3 debuted to $151.1 million in 2007.
Early last month, Disney/Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 landed at No. 9 on the list of all time superhero starts when kicking off the summer season with a domestic debut of $146.5 million. That is followed by Warners/DC’s Suicide Squad (2016) at No. 10 with $133.7 million, Fox’s Deadpool (2016) with $132.4 million and Marvel’s Iron Man 2 (2010) with $128.1 million.
In summer 2013, Superman reboot Man of Steel, the first title in the new DC Extended Universe, opened to $116.6 million domestically, although both that film and the follow-up Batman v. Superman were snubbed by critics.
Sony’s Spider-Man (2002) — which cast the mold for the modern-day superhero blockbuster — holds at No. 14 on the list with a domestic launch of $114.8 million, not accounting for inflation. Fox’s X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) rounds out the top 15 with a domestic start of $102.8 million.
That means at No. 16, Wonder Woman beat out the openings of the first two Thor and Captain America movies, as well as the first Iron Man ($98.6 million).
Some box-office observers note that Wonder Woman is far more well known than Iron Man or Captain America. In the comic-book world, she, Batman and Superman are considered DC’s trinity. Also, there was the classic 1970s TV show Wonder Woman starring Lynda Carter that raised her pop culture profile.
Jenkins’ movie opens as World War I pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and his plane crash on Themyscira, the island of the Amazons, where Princess Diana (Gadot) has been trained by her aunt, the great warrior Antiope (Robin Wright). Soon, Diana leaves the island to try and stop the war, marking the beginning of her transformation into Wonder Woman. Gadot will reprise her role in November’s Justice League.
“Patty’s vision mesmerized the audience. She is a real talent. Clearly, this is a movie that is resonating with moviegoers around the globe,” said Warner Bros. domestic distribution president Jeff Goldstein. “I am sure we will be seeing a lot more of Diana on the big screen.”