Four years ago, everyone expected Superman to become the official face of the DC Extended Universe. Cast in the lead role, Henry Cavill gave it his all, but the movie failed to connect with both critics and audiences.
In 2016, everyone was looking at Batman to become the saving grace of the burgeoning cinematic universe, with Ben Affleck brought on board to portray Bruce Wayne and his cowled alter ego. While met with initial – and very vocal – disdain from many fans, Affleck proved his naysayers wrong by giving what many fans now consider the ultimate take on Batman. However, much like Man of Steel before it, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice failed to earn favorable reviews from critics and die hard comic fans.
Suicide Squad arrived next, with its flashy colors, quirky energy and even a few Batman cameos for good measure. But much to Warner Bros. chagrin, not even Margot Robbie's turn as Harley Quinn could elevate the film to true fan-favorite status.
And then came Wonder Woman.
Before even a single piece of footage was released, industry pundits were setting Wonder Woman up as the possible final nail in the DCEU's coffin. But despite the negative pre-release rumors and press, under the direction and leadership of director Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman debuted to near-unanimous praise, and the movie lit up the box-office like few superhero movies ever have. While Gal Gadot was a highlight in Batman v. Superman, her limited screen-time prevented the character of Diana from being explored to its full potential. Already well-known thanks to her turn as Giselle in the Fast and Furious franchise, Gal became a genuine A-list movie star almost overnight. The movie garnered a fresh rating of 92% on movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes as it shattered through every prediction and expectation. Finally, the DCEU had its saving grace, a widely lauded crown jewel of a film, with a strong and inspiring leading lady ushering in a new phase of DC Comics-based films.
Jenkins also had the unenviable and daunting challenge of bringing one of the most iconic female characters in all of fiction to the big screen for the first time. To have it become one of the year's most talked about movies, one that is critically acclaimed on top of it all, is nothing short of an absolute triumph. It's no surprise, then, that it's started to stir up some Oscar buzz. In fact, Warner Bros. is planning to give its superhero movie a massive push for the Academy Award race.
When it comes to the Oscars, very, very rarely do popular, mainstream movies – let alone superhero movies – ever make the cut. In fact, the only one that ever came close to a Best Picture nomination was Christopher Nolan's Batman masterpiece The Dark Knight. The public outcry over it not receiving a nod helped force the Academy to re-think the number of possible nominees for the big prize. As a result, the category was expanded to allow up to a maximum of ten nominees instead of just the traditional five. (Dark Knight didn't go away empty-handed however; Heath Ledger's brilliant take on The Joker earned the actor a posthumous award for Best Supporting Actor.)
In 2016, there was a similar Oscar push for the incredibly popular, raunchy, yet somehow heart-warming action-comedy Deadpool. Much like Wonder Woman, the Ryan Reynolds-starring movie had been successful both financially and critically, and some were hoping that that success could be translated to Oscar gold. But let's face it, at best, this was the longest of longshots. Deadpool never really stood a chance. The fact is, movies based on superhero properties have never quite fit into the Best Picture and Best Director mold. But all of that could, and we'd argue should, change with Wonder Woman.
While this year's Logan -- a dark, heart-wrenching and introspective exploration of the final chapter of Hugh Jackman's Wolverine story -- was the first superhero movie of the year to emerge as an Oscar contender, Wonder Woman came crashing through the floodgates and took the X-Man's spotlight away. Any way you look at the movie, it's an absolute win for Warner Bros. and everyone involved. Not only was it the first major superhero movie to star a woman in the leading role, it also became the highest grossing movie ever to be directed by a woman.
Money earned isn't an indicator of whether a director deserves an Oscar nod, but let's face it, Jenkins deserves to be among the Best Director nominees. We can't speak to what the rest of the year's movies will look like, but the fact that she was able to construct a brilliant and exciting movie that was equally funny, moving and wholesomely inspiring, a tale that was massive as much in scope as in heart, should be enough to assure her a place among the nominees.