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“Wonder Woman: 1984” To Be Released In Theaters AND HBO Max On Christmas: Why This Is A BIG Deal

More often than not, we don’t realize when a fateful decision is a big deal that has ramifications for years to come. Those kinds of moments are rare, but powerful. I doubt the first person to use a cell phone knew just how big a deal that breakthrough was when they made that first call.

Other decisions are more obvious. You know from the get-go that this is one of those choices that might not be surprising, but you get the sense it’ll be one of those moments that you can cite as a major turning point years from now.

This Christmas, we may just experience one of those moments because that’s the day “Wonder Woman 1984” is set to come out, both in theaters and on streaming. I don’t think it’s a stretch to claim this decision could change movies, entertainment, and media for years to come.

It finally became official. After being originally set for release in June 2020, Warner Brothers decided that, rather than simply wait for this once-in-a-century pandemic to end, they’re going to release “Wonder Woman 1984” in theaters and on HBO Max on the same day. This is what The Hollywood Reporter had to say.

THR: ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Heading to HBO Max, Theaters Dec. 25

With a second wave of COVID-19 impacting many parts of the globe, Wonder Woman 1984 is changing course yet again.

The tentpole is all but giving up on a traditional theatrical release and will instead bow in whatever cinemas remain open Dec. 25 as well as stream on HBO Max in the U.S. for one month beginning on Christmas Day. In international markets where HBO Max is not available, the film starts rolling out Dec. 16.

“At some point you have to choose to share any love and joy you have to give, over everything else,” director Patty Jenkins said in a statement Wednesday. “We love our movie as we love our fans, so we truly hope that our film brings a little bit of joy and reprieve to all of you this holiday season.”

Jenkins urged audiences to watch the $200 million tentpole in theaters where it was safe to do so, and on HBO Max where it is not. In a note echoing Jenkins, star Gal Gadot added, “It wasn’t an easy decision and we never thought we’d have to hold on to the release for such a long time but COVID rocked all of our worlds.”

Growing the number of HBO Max customers is of huge import to TimeWarner, even if it means giving up on potential box office ticket sales that Wonder Woman 1984 would have earned had it been pushed to sometime in 2021. The hope is that a high-profile Christmas Day title such as the superhero sequel will lure new subscribers (HBO Max is pricier than most other streamers, at $15.99 a month).

That’s just the basics. “Wonder Woman 1984” is still coming out in theaters, as it was always meant to. However, with theaters on the brink of collapse in wake of the pandemic, Warner Brothers is opting to gamble on the future of streaming media. They’re dropping this big name blockbuster that cost $200 million to make on their signature streaming service, HBO Max.

Logistically speaking, it’s understandable. The news surrounding the pandemic has been bleak, even by 2020 standards. Even though a vaccine seems imminent, it might be too late to save the movie industry as we know it. The damage has been done. That industry must change. This may very well be the biggest change we’ve seen since in decades.

This is not some forgettable movie like “Trolls World Tourskipping theaters for streaming. That could’ve been written off as a calculated risk for a movie that was never going to make much at the box office to begin with. This is a tentpole blockbuster from a studio’s biggest franchise skipping over what many see as the most critical part of a movie’s life.

The first “Wonder Woman” movie made north of $800 million on a budget of $150 million during its theatrical run. That’s a lot of profit, but may be a profit that even a blockbuster movie just can’t make anymore in a post-pandemic world. Even after the pandemic ends, who’s to say that the theater industry will just go back to the way it used to be?

Now, it seems Warner Brothers are prepared to leveraging their future on their HBO Max streaming service. “Wonder Woman 1984” is, by far, their biggest chip and most valuable asset. It, more than any other movie they had in the can, was most likely to get their studios’ profits going again once the pandemic waned.

Instead, this movie that has so many excited and eager, myself include, is going to be Warner Brothers’ boldest gamble at turning HBO Max into a viable Netflix competitor. They’re not just looking to do for HBO Max what “The Mandaloriandid for Disney Plus. They want to go a step further and make streaming the new avenue for big title blockbusters.

It’s impossible to overstate how big a shift this is for the movie industry. Whereas “Trolls World Tour” on streaming was a sign, releasing “Wonder Woman 1984” on the same day it comes out in theaters is a monumental shift.

It’s essentially sacrificing potential profits at the box office for a new host of subscribers to HBO Max. Will that ultimately make more money in the long run? It’s possible.

After all, those who buy a movie ticket to see “Wonder Woman 1984” are only going to pay for that ticket. From that purchase, Warner Brothers will only see a fraction. If a bunch of people subscribe to HBO Max, they may ultimately pay much more to the studio through its monthly $16 fee.

Even if most just buy an HBO MAX subscription for a single month and cancel, it’s very likely that plenty will stay subscribed, keep paying, and keep coming back for more wonderful blockbusters. In the long run, “Wonder Woman 1984might make more money for its studio overlord than it ever would have in the theaters.

That’s still a big if. So much of a movies profits is still tied to its box office. Nobody quite knows how this new model of releasing a movie will work. Streaming a movie on the same day it comes out in theaters may help widen the audience, but without those profits, the idea of footing the bill for a $200 million movie might be less tenable.

Would that mean that big budget blockbusters like “Wonder Woman 1984” became less rare?

Would that mean that theaters as a whole would diminish both in numbers and in importance for the industry?

Would that mean that blockbusters will ultimately have to cater to a streaming audience instead of a casual movie-goer?

It’s hard to say. Nobody knows. I certainly don’t know. I doubt anyone knows, but most can already sense that this could be the start of a much larger trend. Releasing “Wonder Woman 1984” on streaming and in theaters could ultimately be the point of no return for the movie industry.

This could be the future of entertainment and movies. Theaters are no longer the center of all things film and there’s no going back. Whether other blockbusters follow suit remains to be seen. I have a feeling Disney will be watching how “Wonder Woman 1984” performs closely, given how it opted to delay “Black Widow” until May 2021.

If it proves profitable in the long run, I suspect that Disney will follow suit and so will every other studio. At that point, the movie industry will have permanently changed and we’ll be able to cite this announcement as the moment it began.

There’s only one certainty at this point. On Christmas this year, I’ll be curled up on my couch to watch “Wonder Woman 1984” through my current HBO MAX subscription. Whatever monumental changes this movie inspires in the industry, it’s still Wonder Woman. I still intend to partake in her wonder, no matter what form it takes.

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wonder-woman-cheeta-kristen-wiig

How’s this for timing? A few days ago, I write an article about all the reasons why Cheetah should be the main villain in “Wonder Woman 2.” Earlier today, director Patty Jenkins announces that Kristin Wigg will play Cheetah. I’m not saying my article had anything to do with this news, but some coincidences are just uniquely satisfying.

CBR: Patty Jenkins Confirms Kristen Wiig For Wonder Woman 2

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March 9, 2018 · 11:04 pm

Why Cheetah Should Be The Main Villain In Wonder Woman 2

It’s been a while since I talked about Wonder Woman, DC Comics, or developments surrounding the planned sequel to her first movie, which I praised to no end last year. Even though a sequel was announced shortly after the movie’s historically successful debut, not much news has come from it.

There’s a reason for that, albeit a distressing one. The news surrounding anything related to DC’s movie universe has been pretty grim since “Justice Leagueunder-performed at the box office. While I enjoyed the movie and gave it a glowing review, I can’t deny that it’s perceived shortcomings have caused all sorts of problems for the DC movie universe.

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Those problems aside, Wonder Woman is still seen as the lone bright spot in a bleak outlook, especially as Marvel keeps raising the bar with their movies. To date, “Wonder Woman” remains the highest rated, highest grossing DC Comics movie. That makes the success of the sequel, still only known as “Wonder Woman 2,” of paramount importance to the future of superhero movies.

To date, there hasn’t been much news surrounding “Wonder Woman 2.” The only official details we have thus far are that Gal Gadot will continue to play Wonder Woman as only she can and Patty Jenkins is once again set to direct it. According to Jenkins herself, it will to be a very different movie compared to the first one. These are her words:

“We’re actually making a totally different film with a lot of the same, similar like things that we love, but it is its own movie completely, so it’s not ‘two’ to us. It’s an entirely new adventure together that we couldn’t be luckier [to do].”

I’m certainly excited about it, as I am with all things related to Wonder Woman. However, there’s one element that I believe will determine whether “Wonder Woman 2” is a “Dark Knight” level success or a “Batman and Robin” sized disaster. By just referencing “Dark Knight,” I think most superhero movie fans know where I’m going with this.

Image result for Heath ledger joker

It’s all about the villains. Regardless of the studio making the movie, the heroes involved, or the sex appeal of said heroes, the movie often succeeds or fails by how compelling or forgettable the villain is. Nobody will ever forget Health Ledger’s Joker in “Dark Knight.” Conversely, I’m pretty sure everyone has already forgotten Steppenwolf in “Justice League.”

Wonder Woman” may not have had an iconic villain on the same level as Heath Ledger’s Joker, but the combined narratives of both Ares and Dr. Poison worked because they supplemented Diana’s journey towards becoming Wonder Woman. Since the core of “Wonder Woman” was built around that journey, she didn’t really need a villain of Joker caliber.

However, she’ll need one for “Wonder Woman 2” and that’s where Cheetah comes in. She has already been rumored to be the villain of the movie. She’s no Joker, but she is probably Wonder Woman’s most well-known villain. The fact that she isn’t an embittered child of Zeus, a story so old that it pre-dates movies, comics, and the printing press, makes that status all the more remarkable.

Image result for Wonder Woman Cheetah

From a pure comic book stand point, Cheetah makes the most sense as the main villain for “Wonder Woman 2” because she’s also one of Wonder Woman’s oldest foes. Her origins go all the way back to the earliest, and also kinkiest, era forged by Wonder Woman’s creator, William Marston.

Like many other classic villains, Cheetah’s persona mirrors Wonder Woman’s in many respects. In her earliest incarnation, Priscilla Rich, she’s an aristocrat woman born to a powerful family. Her mother isn’t a queen, like Diana, but just being in that privileged position from birth puts a great many expectations and temptations on her. It brought out the best in Diana, but it brought out the worst in Cheetah.

From a purely thematic standpoint, that’s an important component for Wonder Woman’s journey. In the same way characters like General Zod embody the kind of person Superman might have become, Cheetah shows Wonder Woman the much darker path she could’ve walked.

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That path already has a very lengthy gap for Patty Jenkins to work with. The conclusion of “Wonder Woman” and the events of “Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice” reveal that Diana had been secretly living in the modern world since the end of World War I. That’s a lot of time for her journey to take many turns, some of them darker than others.

That significant breadth of time actually plays to Cheetah’s advantage because her title is not tied to one person. In some instances, it’s a legacy that others take on. In others, it’s a curse that gets transferred from one person to the other. In every case, though, Cheetah embodies a persona that directly clashes with everything Wonder Woman’s stands for.

Wonder Woman fights for compassion. Cheetah fights for herself.

Wonder Woman believes in blessings. Cheetah believes in curses.

Wonder Woman is deeply empathic. Cheetah is exceedingly callous.

Wonder Woman is loyal to her friends. Cheetah betrays them.

Wonder Woman believes in love. Cheetah is driven by hate.

These contrasts were best embodied in Cheetah’s earliest incarnations, but it’s actually her more modern persona in Barbara Ann Minerva that, I believe, has the most potential for “Wonder Woman 2.”

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Like other Cheetah’s before her, Barbara is a privileged woman from a powerful family in which she has all these expectations thrust upon her. As a result, she shares many of the selfish, arrogant, neurotic traits of Priscilla Rich and every spoiled rich brat that ever lived. However, what makes Barbara’s story more compelling is that in her most recent incarnation, she started off as a close friend of Diana.

It’s an element to the villain’s journey that makes their story more entwined with that of the hero. By starting off as a friend, it makes the inevitable clash that much more dramatic. Given the high drama we got in Diana’s final battle against Ares in “Wonder Woman,” it makes sense to take a similar approach with “Wonder Woman 2.” Diana, as we’ve seen, is at her best when drama and passions run high.

Image result for Wonder Woman fights Ares

The Barbara Ann Minerva that Diana knows in the most recent comics can come off as a spoiled brat at times, but she has a genuine fascination with gods, mythology, and the divine. In that context, it’s only natural that Diana would start out as an ally and a friend.

For Diana, especially after how her first movie ended, she would need a friend. After losing Steve Trevor, she would need someone to connect with in a world that is still very new to her. Conversely, Diana can give Barbara the connection she seeks to the world of gods, demigods, and magical lassos that make for hilariously awkward moments.

These two women have everything they need to forge a powerful friendship. At the same time, though, they have everything necessary to create a bitter rivalry as well. In the comics, Barbara’s ambitions and bad choices are what turns her into the feral, villainous Cheetah. It’s those differences in choices doesn’t just make their clash dramatic. It makes it genuinely heartbreaking for Diana.

Image result for Wonder Woman vs cheetah

To some extent, making a new friend and seeing them become an enemy would be even worse than losing Steve Trevor. It would also provide a legitimate explanation as to why Wonder Woman remained hidden from the world for so long, up until the events of “Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice.”

Cheetah can do for Diana what Killmonger has recently done for Black Panther. She can give Wonder Woman an enemy that forces her to confront the harsher parts of a world that is still new to her. Back home on her paradise island of warrior women, she was sheltered from all these hardships. Now, she’s all alone in having to face them. That struggle is what will forge her into the iconic female hero that we know and love.

Image result for Wonder Woman vs cheetah

This is, of course, my own personal sentiment and I understand that doesn’t account for much. I’ve already made a wish list of all the things I want to see in “Wonder Woman 2” with the understanding I’ll probably only get a fraction of it, at most. After the first movie, both Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins have done plenty to earn my trust.

It’s simply my hope that a sequel to such a wonderful, ground-breaking movie will find new ways to raise the bar for superhero movies and female superheroes, in general. That bar is still rising and I believe a character like Cheetah can help raise it for Wonder Woman.

 

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