She made a big impression in the less than 15 minutes of screentime she had in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice but now Wonder Woman is finally getting a feature film of her very own. This week’s new release is, of course, in the same “cinematic universe” as BvS and was teased in that movie, as Bruce Wayne’s path crossed with that of Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) as they were both searching for a photo of her from World War I, though for different reasons.
Diana’s solo movie – the first solo movie for a female superhero from either DC or Marvel – takes us back to that era. It begins with her as a young girl, the daughter of Queen Hipolyta of Themyscira, a hidden island of women. Completely cut off from the world, one day a fighter pilot named Steve Trevor (Chris
Evans Pratt Pine) crashes near the island and tells Diana and the others of the war that’s raging and threatening to envelop the entire planet. Moved by a need to protect the innocent and punish the guilty, Diana agrees to take the unprecedented step of leaving the island and going out into the world of men.
The first one-sheet was debuted on social media by Gadot and shows Wonder Woman in her classic garb. She’s standing in front of flames, as if she’s on a battlefield somewhere, sword in hand and lasso visible. “Power. Grace. Wisdom. Wonder.” we’re told, offering character attributes to sell the audience on who she is. Overall it’s a solid first effort and simply the existence of bright colors tells us the movie will be set apart from her appearance in Batman v Superman, which was massively desaturated.
A series of promotional posters followed that and came out around the same time as the second trailer, showing Diana in various action shots, wielding her sword, shield or gauntlets in the middle of battle. Each one has a different descriptive term, either “Courage,” “Power” or “Wonder.” They’re amazing.
The next one kept up the usage of bright, sharp colors. This time Diana is shown taking a knee on a bright beach with a sunset providing the colors in the background. “Wonder” adorns this one as well.
Another poster – likely the theatrical version – has another action shot of Wonder Woman moving with sword in hand. This one, unlike the others, finally adds Steve Trevor to the campaign, which was inevitable with Pine in the role. More followed that again showed Diana in full action mode, one with her lasso whipping around her and another with her lifting a friggin’ tank over her head.
A triptych of IMAX posters showed off General Antiope, Diana and Queen Hippolyta, each placed in front of a golden background. These are incredibly striking.
The first trailer, which also debuted at Comic-Con, opens with Diana finding Trevor on the beach and being in awe of him simply because he’s a man. Her mother warns her to be careful as it becomes clear she’s following him back into the world. She explains she was created by Zeus and from there on out it’s a series of action sequences as she joins in to fight World War I.
It’s…well, it’s pretty great. Gadot looks like she absolutely owns the role, getting Diana’s grace and power down pat and presenting a funny movie as well. And the action looks amazing here, especially that shot of her turning aside a howitzer shell with her shield. It’s a great introduction to the character and a promise of a satisfying movie to come.
The second trailer starts out with Diana in the modern day before we flashback to WW I as she sees Trevor crash into the ocean around Paradise Island and saves him. After a tragedy she agrees to join him back to the world of man to help fight the war. That means everything from protecting him to taking on a room full of bad guys herself to storming out of a trench to take the fight to the enemy. There’s plenty of action on display here as Wonder Woman kicks all sorts of hinder to do what she feels is necessary.
It’s a good second effort that shows off the action and visuals of the movie as well as offering a bit more about the story and plot. If there’s a quibble here it’s with the amount of time Pine’s Steve Trevor gets. I get that he’s a big star these days, but this almost sells the movie as a story where they’re operating on equal levels, with the same attention paid to both characters. If that’s true that’s…problematic, particularly for the first solo female superhero movie.
The next trailer is even better than the first. it starts out with a young Diana being shown a sword she may never be worthy to wield before a montage of clips of her training and suddenly discovering a power she didn’t know she had. When she finds Trevor on the beach she’s exposed to and decides to get out into the real world where she becomes deeply involved in WW I, taking on armies and individuals and fighting for justice and all that is good. Far less of Trevor in this one, which is good.
The final trailer hits many of the same beats, as we see a young Diana being told that fighting isn’t what makes someone a hero. Her determination to do the right thing is shown in footage from her in battle, clearly having defied her mother’s wishes. She’s moved to join that battle in an effort to save the world from the evil that’s growing and so takes her weapons and sets out, though her introduction into society is a bit tricky.
Online and Social
The official website, built on Tumblr, opens by playing the final trailer, which you should absolutely watch again. Once you close that you see, as with the sites for other movies, it keeps the DCComics.com content menu along the very top. On the splash page, which features an action shot of Diana marching through a WWI battlefield, are prompts to Get Tickets, Watch Trailer, get info about the “Soundtrack” or explore some “Games and Features.”
That last section has a few things going on. First is a link to download the DC Legends mobile game. Then there’s Rise of the Warrior, a casual online 8-bit looking game that has you controlling Wonder Woman as she walks through battle. Finally, Show Your Warrior, which lets you design a set of gauntlets and then take or upload a picture to have your creations shared to the photo, which can then be shared elsewhere.
Back to the main site, “About the film” overemphasizes the mentions of all the cast and crew but only devotes a small amount of space to a story synopsis. After that is “The Art of Wonder,” which is devoted to fan art inspired by the movie specifically but also the character in genera, much of which is pulled from social media hashtags or a submission form here.
“Partners” includes information on the companies who have signed on to help promote the movie. There’s another link to the “Soundtrack” site and then links to the movie’s profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
If you scroll down the site you can see all the posts, including GIFs, videos and more, that have been published to the Tumblr blog.
Also on Facebook, Warner Bros. was one of the first to play around with the Camera Masks newly available there (similar to Snapchat Filters), this one allowing fans to place Wonder Woman’s tiara on their own heads.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV commercials started running a little over a month out from release that took various tacks toward presenting the movie. Some sold it as a straightforward action movie, some as a funnier action comedy, some played up the mythological story of her creation and some drew very explicit lines between this and the rest of the Justice League franchise characters. All featured, though, the character tearing through the kind of action we usually see only men tackle but also highlighted Diana’s heart and compassion.
DC and WB used the series premiere of “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” to help promote the movie by airing a special immediately afterward that included the first look at footage from the movie along with new looks at Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Later help from the TV landscape came with a fun commercial featuring the cast of “Supergirl” that aired during that show a couple weeks out from the movie’s release.
DC also made sure Wonder Woman was the focal point of its Free Comic Book Day offerings, with both a reprint of the “Wonder Woman: Year One” kickoff issue and a DC Super Hero Girls story featuring the character. Later on DC announced “Wonder Woman Day” on June 3rd with events at retailers and other locations as well as online activities and two variant cover issues available for free at stores to hook readers on those books.
The final trailer was used as an ad on Twitter by both Nickelodeon and WB to show off an appearance by the cast (more on this below) during the Kid’s Choice Awards.
There were also plenty of promotional partners to help give the movie an extra boost:
- Stewart-Hass Racing/NASCAR, where driver Danica Patrick has been driving a car decked out in Wonder Woman colors and themes for the last few weeks. That exposure led to it being, according to data from analytics technology firm Amobee, the brand most associated with the movie in the month or so leading up to release.
- Cold Stone Creamery, which offered a couple movie-themed creations in stores.
- Dr. Pepper, which created collector edition cans featuring Wonder Woman and ran quite a bit of online advertising in support of that effort.
- National CineMedia, but the details are unclear.
- Orville Redenbacher, which put trailers for the movie in the Blippar app along with popcorn recipes. It also had a site that let you take an augmented reality-powered selfie with Wonder Woman.
- PayPal, which ran a giveaway for users along with the ability to send a Wonder Woman greeting card along with whatever money you’re transferring.
- Pinkberry, which offered its own movie-themed frozen tasty treat.
- ThinkThin, which offered co-branded packaging and supported that through on-site content and other efforts. That partnership caused some controversy and chin-wagging, though, since many questioned (rightfully) whether diet bars are a good partner for a character that’s often all about acceptance and empowerment, not changing who you are to please others.
- Tyson, which offered Fandango-powered movie rewards when you purchased select items at Walmart.
- Hot Topic, which offered an exclusive collection of apparel from Her Universe.
A number of other consumer brands, particularly apparel and fashion companies, also got in on the action to various degrees.
There was also a lot of online advertising done. Social media ads used the trailers, online banners used the key art and video advertising used the trailers and TV spots. Outdoor advertising used the key art. It was a significant spend.
Eventually the extent to which Warner Bros. was or wasn’t marketing the movie to the level it could came under examination with a post by Shana O’Neil at Blastr that called out a lack of advertising and apparent lackluster support in other areas from the studio. That led to a lot of conversations about the box office viability of a female superhero and had people (including myself) comparing the marketing to that of other DC/WB movies.
A few things happened after that. Not only was there another trailer released but the advertising portion of the campaign finally kicked off. Whether or not that was a reaction to this criticism or if the timing was purely coincidental is unclear, but there was at least a PR response, with stories like this being placed that pointed out the ad spending on Wonder Woman was higher at this point in the campaign than it was for Suicide Squad. That may have been true, but Squad benefitted from a lot of press coverage due especially to Jared Leto’s eccentric on-set antics.
Media and Publicity
The first bit of real publicity came when Gadot shared an official still of her in character on Twitter at the same time shooting was said to begin on the movie. A few months later the first real promotional image from the movie was released showing Diana, Hippolyta and other Amazons. It’s a pretty cool picture. Wonder Woman’s role in Batman v Superman gave the creative team on her solo movie a chance to talk about making that and what audiences could expect when it hit theaters almost a year later.
Shortly after that a CinemaCon presentation showed off footage and had execs talking about Diana’s place in the DC Cinematic Universe. And later on props and costumes, along with various planned consumer goods, were on display at the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas.
Just before Comic-Con, where the movie was announced as one of Warner Bros.’ theatrical offerings being highlighted, an official synopsis as well as some details on the story were released. That was met with some criticism because 1) The story was credited to Zack Snyder and 2) The credits included no women writers. Also just before SDCC there was a big feature in Entertainment Weekly that featured a raft of new stills, an interview with Gadot where she talked about the character, working with a female director and lots more.
At Comic-Con the movie was a big deal, of course, doing its own promotion and drafting off the overall celebration of Wonder Woman’s 75th anniversary. So it got a special EW cover for convention goers, a display of costumes from the movie at the DC Comics booth (which also hosted a cast appearance and signing), at big Hall H panel and more.
Unfortunately it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Not only did the movie’s image not benefit from the poor performance of Suicide Squad last year but it was included as part of an anonymous letter written by a former WB staffer who took the studio to task on multiple levels. As the writer railed against execs for rewarding failure and not knowing how to make or market a superhero movie to save their lives she also hinted that internal rumblings already pegged Wonder Woman as a mess. Jenkins came out quickly after that to deny such rumors, saying it was part of someone just wanting to stir things up for their own agenda.
The movie had a major presence at New York Comic-Con 2016, with costumes from the movie being displayed at the DC Comics booth there, a ceremony unveiling USPS stamps commemorating the character’s 75th anniversary, DC Collectibles showing off their movie statues and a panel devoted to the character featuring current talent on Wonder Woman titles and more.
DC co-pub Jim Lee drew a new picture of Wonder Woman for Variety’s “Power Women” issue that featured an interview with Gadot where she talked about taking on such an iconic role, DC Entertainment’s Diane Nelson talking about what made Gadot such a perfect choice for the role and more.
Wonder Woman was also named an honorary United Nations ambassador, largely due to her being a positive role model for young women around the world. Some people took issue with that on the grounds that her costume over-sexualized her and that was the wrong message to send, complaints that led the U.N. to drop her from that role just two months later.
A few press beats toward the end of 2016 kept things going, from a feature about how 2017 was going to be the character’s big year to the continued release of new stills showing off key moments from the movie and an interview with Jenkins. The final trailer debuted during the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards and was introduced by the whole cast along with a big group of singing and dancing extras dressed up like Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor.
Just a few months out from release Jenkins along with DC’s Geoff Johns appeared at WonderCon and brought footage to show off to fans in attendance there, footage that apparently went over very well.
EW’s summer movie preview issue contained a look at some concept art from production alongside comments from Johns and more information. A later EW cover story provided a last minute press push with Gadot talking about how of course Wonder Woman is a feminist, writer Allan Heinberg talking about the movie’s influences and more.
The campaign also made good use of Lynda Carter, the star of the 1970s “Wonder Woman” TV show. She showed up at all the panels, screenings and elsewhere to put her stamp of approval on the movie and talk about her history with the character, the way she’s always viewed Wonder Woman and much more
In the last month there have been interviews with just about everyone, from another feature on Gadot, comments from Robin Wright, Jenkins talking about the movie’s stylistic influences and how there aren’t really any deleted or missing scenes and lots more. The whole cast also did the talk show rounds, with Gadot showing up on “The Tonight Show,” “Conan,” “Ellen” and elsewhere. Pine, Wright and Nelson also did their fair share and the whole cast took over “Good Morning America” and made other early morning show appearances as well.
First off, let’s address the elephant in the room: It’s hard to argue that Warner Bros. hasn’t put its full efforts into promoting Wonder Woman, both through paid and earned media. There are some details you can take issue with and, again, it doesn’t have quite the scope of something like Suicide Squad but that’s largely because you don’t have 11 other characters to spread the spotlight across, nor do you have Jared Leto earning headlines with his borderline sociopathy.
I would go so far as to say Wonder Woman has received some of the studio’s best efforts or late. That’s especially true in the posters, all of which have been incredible. That element of the campaign more than anything else has presented a vibrant, inspirational hero that isn’t dark or depressing like Batman or, oddly, Superman. The trailers have been really good along those same lines as well, showing off the performance of Gadot, who nails both the action and the comedy.
Some parts of the campaign over-emphasize Pine, I think, though I understand you can’t cast an actor with his awareness and not put him in the trailers. Notably, though, the place he’s missing from the most is the poster aspect of the marketing.
Taken as a whole, the campaign has gotten just the kind of support across most channels that any other superhero movie, particularly one featuring a solo hero and not a full team, has received. Like I said there are some points where the counter-point could be successfully argued, but the big picture is one that shows the studio believes in the movie and is putting the money and effort into making it successful, not underplaying or trying to sabotage it.