Two of DC Entertainment’s big media adaptations of beloved comic book franchises had major announcements within the last two days. The first and biggest is that Michelle MacLaren has been hired by Warner Brothers to direct and “develop” the planned “Wonder Woman” film for 2017, as reported by Hollywood Reporter earlier this (Nov. 24th) afternoon. The second and less major development is that NBC has ordered that their “Constantine” TV series stop production of its’ debut season at thirteen episodes, as reported by Deadline yesterday (Nov. 23rd).
As one of the first major super heroines in pop culture (as well as the most successful), there is a lot riding on 2017’s “Wonder Woman” film. One can easily imagine that Warner Brothers would love to capitalize on the recent thirst for lady led blockbuster films that their rivals at Disney and Lion’s Gate have mined with hits such as “Frozen”, “Maleficent”, and the “Hunger Games” series. Although how seriously Warner Brothers may pursue their DC Comics superhero cinema may depend on how well (or poorly) 2016’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” performs, the studio remains full steam ahead on producing more superhero films. After an exhaustive search, as well as a desire to hire a female director, the studio decided to tap Michelle MacLaren for the job of not only directing the film, but in helping in it’s development (i.e. writing). MacLaren has never directed a feature film before, but was considered a top choice due to her work on directing episodes of “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones” as well as her work as co-executive producer for “Breaking Bad” and “The X-Files”. The “Wonder Woman” movie will be produced by Zack and Deborah Synder alongside Charles Roven. There is no script for the film yet nor any credited writers, but MacLaren is expected to help in the selection and writing of such a script. This film would be a possible star vehicle for Gal Gadot, who’s been cast as Wonder Woman for “Dawn of Justice” and whose prior film credits include supporting roles on several “Fast and the Furious” films. Little is known of the plot for the film beyond that DC Entertainment plans to run with the “New 52” version of the heroine whose origins involve being the demigod daughter of Zeus (rather than a baby made of clay bestowed life by female gods). A heroine once known for compassion and kindness, Wonder Woman’s since been remade into a combat hungry warrior first and foremost for the express purposes of trying to make her more of a higher seller to mainstream audiences (namely, men) and it will remain to be seen how well or poorly that works out for her.
For the record, this will mark only the second time that a female director has been at the helm of a major super hero film. The first was 2008’s disaster “Punisher: War Zone” as directed by Lexi Alexander. “Wonder Woman” will also be merely the fourth comic book film adaptation to star a woman since the year 2000; the others were “Ghost World” (2001), “Catwoman” (2004) and “Elektra” (2005). For perspective, by 2017, Batman alone will have headlined (as in been named in the title of) four films since 2000. Due to the realities of Hollywood, Michelle MacLaren’s result could be summarized as “double or nothing”. If “Wonder Woman” is a breakaway hit and pop culture cornerstone, she can write her own ticket in Hollywood. If it bombs or is seen as middling, she may never work in film again, and it could be another decade until another DC heroine is given a shot. For perspective, several bombs in a row have barely slowed down Johnny Depp or Adam Sandler.
Meanwhile, “Constantine” has struggled to find a place on NBC’s line up. Airing on the so called “death slot” of Friday nights at 10 p.m., “Constantine”‘s production crew have been ordered to cease producing episodes after the thirteenth. The only caveat is that unlike some other recent NBC shows which were issued similar marching orders, “Constantine” does have a chance at being renewed for a second season. According to Deadline, this is because last week’s fifth episode saw a 38% spike in ratings from previous weeks. Despite offering viewers the sort of supernatural battling detective action which has made “Supernatural” a hit on The CW, the series has failed to live up to NBC’s lofty expectations. On the other hand, both Fox’s “Gotham” and The CW’s “The Flash” have gotten full season orders, with the latter seeming to be a lock to be renewed.