Wonder Woman is set to rake an an estimated $100.5 million at the domestic box office on its opening weekend. For the woman behind Wonder Woman, that massive opening is a history-making one: Director Patty Jenkins now holds the title for best domestic opening weekend for a female director, dethroning Sam Taylor-Johnson, who led 50 Shades of Grey to a cool $85.1 opening in 2015.
Jenkins’ stats continue to impress when compared to the men directing superhero franchises: Wonder Woman’s domestic opening is bigger than Iron Man’s ($98.6 million). And while Wonder Woman isn’t taking in quite as much as Man of Steel did during its opening weekend — Superman managed $116.6 million — it’s scoring higher in the critical acclaim category. Wonder Woman has a 93 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Man of Steel didn’t even make it above a splat: Critics ravaged the doom-and-gloom reboot to a measly 55 percent approval rating. (Which leads us to the inevitable question: Can men have it all? We may never know.)
Jenkins’ feat is all the more remarkable considering Wonder Woman’s troubled history. It seemed, for a long time, like the flick might never make it to screens.
While Hollywood was game to scrape the bottom of the superhero barrel as far as male stars were concerned — I mean, Ant-Man? — Wonder Woman languished in production for years. Joss Whedon, who went on to direct The Avengers in 2012, once attempted to put his Buffy-cred to use by making a Wonder Woman movie with Warner Bros., but the project collapsed. David E. Kelley tried to take her to the small screen with a pilot produced for NBC’s 2011–12 TV season. The show was killed before it even aired; a leaked script and unfinished pilot were trashed by critics.
This incarnation of the movie was a fraught one, too. Michelle MacLaren, of Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones fame, left the project over “creative differences” back in 2015. And Wonder Woman wasn’t supposed to be Jenkins’ first shot at a superhero franchise: She was slated to direct Thor 2 but got dropped, also due to alleged “creative differences.” (Jenkins was replaced by a man, Alan Taylor, known for his work on Game of Thrones and Mad Men. Critical consensus on the final product: Good, not great.)
Wonder Woman’s one-two punch of commercial and critical success is stellar news for all involved: Star Gal Godot, whose performance has been singled out as an A-list-making turn; Jenkins, whose only previous feature was the Academy Award-winning Monster, made over 10 years ago with just $8 million; female directors who can point to a precedent of superhero-scale ticket sales and praise when angling for their next projects; and audiences who feel the way Ben Affleck looks at the prospect of years of comic book movies made by and for men.