Wonder Woman

The Rise of Superhero Films

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“Wonder Woman.” “Iron Man.” “The Avengers.” “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The past decade or so has seen an influx of superhero films based on comic books — major big-studio movies starring the highest-paid actors in the world (think Jennifer Lawrence and Robert Downey, Jr.) and outperforming any other movies released. This week, the world will enjoy a new addition to the superhero film repertoire: “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” featuring the work of NYFA alumnus Francesco Panzieri on special effects!

While 1990s blockbusters like “Jurassic Park,” “Titanic,” and “Braveheart” were standalone epics based on books or historical events, today’s highest-grossing films are primarily superhero movies, based on a combination of factors such as escapism, cutting-edge special effects, and an older, wealthier population of comic-book fans.

The most significant, and grim, factor behind the rise of superhero movies has been the economic crash of 2008. There were popular superhero movies prior to this, such as “Spider-man” and Christopher Nolan’s excellent “Batman” series reboot, but following the economic downturn — in which many people lost their jobs and homes — superhero movies went into orbit.

People suddenly wanted escapism into a different world where the hero always triumphed and where distinctions between good and bad were easy to tell. Blockbuster epics with tragic endings like “Braveheart,” and “Gladiator” fell out of fashion, as no one wanted to compound the grim economic situation with an equally depressing movie. Comic-book superhero movies, in which the hero triumphs over evil, became more appealing to the general public. (While our economic downturn is not as severe as the Great Depression, it’s notable that the popularity of comic books in the 1930s mirrors the popularity of superhero movies today.)

With the rise of computers, special effects have become more realistic and believable — something that previously limited superhero movies. Compare the stiff, lumbering shark of “Jaws” — a movie that had exceptional special effects for its day — to the beautifully computer-generated creatures and atmospheres of today’s superhero movies.

Special effects designers have a wider range of options to work with, as well as better software and technologies, than they did 20 years ago. Need Captain America to soar to the heavens? Stand the actor in front of the green screen and virtually create the sky behind him. Need Ant-Man to fly through Iron Man’s suit and sabotage it? That can be achieved realistically as well.

Whereas “Titanic” required a replica ship, today’s computer generated imaging can produce entirely believable superhero action scenes through the digital manipulation of pixels.

The third factor in the popularity of comic-book superhero movies is the older age of the audience. Today’s superhero movies — even if they’re rated PG-13 — are primarily made for adults who grew up on comic books and now have a disposable income. These adults are mostly Generation X-ers and Millennials who read comic books as children during the 1970s-1990s and now have the money to see films and buy paraphernalia. While kids can beg Mom and Dad to buy movie tickets and Mom might possibly agree, adults can always purchase tickets and attend films — creating a great source of potential viewers who have fond childhood recollections of their comic book superheroes and villains.

What are your favorite superhero films? Let us know in the comments below! And if you’re ready to learn more about creating incredible films, study filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

5 Facts You Didn’t Know About Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is one of the most iconic superheroes in the world and has a large, faithful fan base. Bursting into the world in 1941, the Amazonian was an instant hit with comic book lovers everywhere. Even people who aren’t avid comic readers still adore the genius design and storyline. And now, the 2017 DC Comics film adaptation has smashed box office records.

As Forbes reports, “‘Wonder Woman‘ made even more over the weekend than originally estimated. It opened not with $100.5 million, but rather with $103.1 million … That makes it the biggest opening weekend ever for a female director.” (Want to learn more about female directors and gender inequality in the film industry? Check out our infographic.)

Wonder Woman was the third hero to get her own comic book after popular appearances in “All Star Comics #8” and “Sensation Comics #1” and is still regularly circulating in her own comic books, movies and TV appearances.  But even her biggest fans may not know these five awesome facts about her extraordinary history!

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1. Wonder Woman was partially based off of the creator’s wife.

Besides women’s suffragists, Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston (pen name Charles Moulton) based the first female crime-fighter on his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston. Elizabeth was a psychologist as well as an attorney, often helping her husband with Wonder Woman projects. The couple was also responsible for creating the very first prototype of the lie detector test.

2. Wonder Woman never wore a skirt.

In earlier issues, Wonder Woman seemed to be wearing a skirt. Surprise, it’s not a skirt! Wonder Woman was actually sporting culottes, or split pants with flowing bottoms, making them appear like a skirt, so she could be both practical and feminine. But no matter what she wears, Wonder Woman is always in style!

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3. She used to reform, not kill criminals.

Marston was inspired by the Suffragette Movement and believed having more women in charge of national and global affairs would lead to a more peaceful world. Wonder Woman would send many female villains to Reform (Transformation) Island after capturing them. Her hope was to have them return to the “true nature of women” and to bring peace to society with a women-run Earth.

4. The Lasso of Truth was based off of Marston’s lie detector prototype.

Wonder Woman uses her Lasso of Truth to force villains to be truthful and obedient, even using it to provide evidence in court. But did you know it was based on a real-life invention? Marston and Elizabeth’s lie detector invention directly influenced the creation of her famous Lasso of Truth. The prototype correlated heightened blood pressure with lying and guilt, but courts would not accept it as a reliable measure of guilt.

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5. Wonder Woman is the daughter of Zeus, Greek god of the sky and ruler of Olympus.

Though Wonder Woman’s first origin story said her mother Queen Hippolyta of Themyscira sculpts her daughter Diana out of clay, praying to the gods of Olympus for her clay–crafted child to come to life, the recent “DC Comics: Rebirth” series tells a different story. Queen Hippolyta only told the story to hide the truth: that Zeus is actually Wonder Woman’s father. This makes Wonder Woman a demigod like Hercules and explains the source of her mighty power.

What are your thoughts on the premier of “Wonder Woman” this week? Let us know in the comments below. Learn more about filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.