‘Atomic Blonde’ is set to follow in ‘Wonder Woman’s’ highly profitable footsteps
Is Charlize Theron the Atomic Bomb the movie industry needs?
The South Africa-born actress is the bisexual titular character of “Atomic Blonde,” a late Cold War-era thriller that’s this summer’s second major female-led action flick. Also starring James McAvoy, the film, which opens nationwide Friday, is already expected to be a hit. Crafted on a budget of just $30 million, industry experts are expecting it to make around $25 million at the American box office this weekend.
Part of this is due to critical buzz: “Atomic Blonde” boasts a respectable 77% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was warmly received when it premiered at the SXSW Festival in Texas this past spring. Online trailers of Theron’s take on an MI6 spy have been viewed about 48 million times and Snapchat has created a lens commemorating the movie.
But “Atomic Blonde” is not just any other would-be hit. It comes less than two months after the release of “Wonder Woman,” which made $780 million globally to become the most successful movie ever directed by a female director and the most profitable superhero in Warner Bros. DC Comics franchise. Just like the Gal Gadot-helmed film, also made on a smaller budget than other major action films, “Atomic Blonde” is slated to prove that you can make relatively inexpensive women-centric movies that outperform expectations.
“Atomic Blonde” seems to be on everyone’s short list of the final big ‘must see’ films of the summer,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore, tells Moneyish. He adds that alongside “Wonder Woman,” it’s “solidified the idea that women can deliver the action goods on-screen as powerfully as their male counterparts and have destroyed outmoded gender stereotypes in the process.” This is despite a dearth of women-led action films: “Wonder Woman” was the first female superhero flick in over a decade.
Much of this success is due to the performances of the lead actresses, who have excelled in beating villains up while—in the case of Theron—wearing Isabel Marant and vintage Dior. “Theron, who did most of her own martial-arts stunts, is pure bruising poetry in motion,” wrote Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers. “She’s a stone-cold badass. How can you resist?” Indeed, her portrayal as platinum blonde British secret agent Lorraine Broughton has been so acclaimed, that pundits were pushing for her to become the first female James Bond (Sorry Idris.)
Some also see political tides in the United States behind female audiences going to such movies. “You have a powerful woman out there fighting for peace and democracy,” says Christina Lane, chair of the department of cinema and interactive media at the University of Miami. “It’s a great message for girls and women who desire to see powerful women in action.”
Of course, women still have a long way to go to achieving parity in Hollywood. According to a 2013 analysis of 500 films conducted by the New York Film Academy, only 31% of speaking characters were women. Male actors also outnumbered their female counterparts by 2.25 to 1. This is despite women buying 50% of all movie tickets in America.
But change is clearly on the way. Earlier this week, Warner Bros. announced that “Wonder Woman 2” would reach cinema screens by 2019. Its Disney-owned rival Marvel recently greenlit “Captain Marvel,” its own first woman superhero film. And a “Charlie’s Angels” reboot is set for 2019.
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