For audiences walking out of the theater this weekend — and studio executives looking at the box office take at the same time — Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman raised one big question: How quickly could the sequel arrive? Unfortunately for all involved, there’s a big stumbling block in getting an answer: Warner Bros. hasn’t signed director Patty Jenkins for a follow-up.
The studio hasn’t even started negotiations with Jenkins over a potential Wonder Woman sequel just yet, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Executives were reportedly “a bit unprepared” for the fact that the movie turned out to be quite as successful as it’s turned out to be. (The studio had initially expected for it to make around $65 million in is opening weekend; it made an estimated $103 million.)
While it’s not unheard of for studios to not try to lock in directors for follow-ups to tentpole movies — consider the Star Wars movies, with each installment of the new trilogy going to a different director — it’s also pretty unusual, especially when it comes to the other movies based on DC comic characters: Director Zack Snyder went from Man of Steel to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and this November’s Justice League — he’s also still attached to the projected Justice League sequel — while David Ayer is following Harley Quinn from last year’s Suicide Squad to the in-development spin-off Gotham City Sirens.
The fact that Jenkins wasn’t even in negotiations for a second Wonder Woman is being seen by some as a sign that the studio wasn’t expecting a sequel to be a real proposition in the near future. Others see another instance of studios taking franchises away from women directors after they prove to be big hits. (Ask Fifty Shades of Grey’s Sam Taylor-Johnson and Twilight’s Catherine Hardwicke how that feels.) Given that Wonder Woman has the critical acclaim and, judging by its performance this week, the box office staying power that Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman lacked, Warners’ lack of long-term planning to keep Jenkins on board looks at best like bad planning. At worse, the move is exemplary of the out-and-our sexism many feel plagues upper echelons of the movie industry.
If there’s a silver lining to this story, it’s that Jenkins has a great negotiating position with the studio now. Not only has she delivered the first all-out success of Warners’ DC Films stable, but she’s been so visible during the movie’s promotion that she’s linked to the property in fans’ minds, and therefore harder to replace without causing a fuss. Audiences should expect her to return for a second movie, barring entirely unforeseen circumstances — and likely coming back for more money and with more clout with the studio. Diana of Themyscira would be proud.