Comic book movies don't win major Academy Awards. When I say major, I'm talking about "above the line" for the big categories involving the creative talent like Best Actor/Actress, Best Supporting Actor/Actress, Best Director and Best Picture. Plenty of them have been nominated for and a few have won for the technical stuff like Visual Effects, Makeup and Hair, and Art Direction, but The Dark Knight is still the only one that has claimed a "major" Oscar when Heath Ledger was posthumously awarded Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of The Joker.
So now, nine years after that well deserved win for Ledger's iconic performance, there is talk of WB launching a massive campaign to make Wonder Woman the next comic book movie to receive a major "above the line" Oscar or two.
Admittedly most fans, myself included would immediately look at this and say no for more than a few somewhat self-loathing reasons. We know that comic book movies just don't get nominated for big Oscars like that, let alone have a real shot to win them, and even if Wonder Woman gets nominated what will its competition be next winter when the awards campaigns start? The Academy has never been kind at all to anything that is science fiction or fantasy in nature, unless its a once in a lifetime franchise like Lord of the Rings was in the early 2000's. They are more than willing to hand out technical Oscars for those movies most of the time, but not so much the acting and direction awards at all.
So what makes Wonder Woman any different as far as chances to win an Oscar? Well, there's actually a LOT of things that could end up benefitting the movie's chances to win big at the Academy Awards, not the least of which is the social stature of the movie. We know the significance of the Wonder Woman movie not just in a comic book movie sense but also a cultural sense as well. An icon and a symbol of strength for women across the world for decades finally being given her own big screen treatment after so long has been and will continue to be a huge story, one that could propel the film to a decent amount of social Oscar buzz come awards season. We know that as with any major awards show, there is a great deal of politicking going on with the studios and the people behind the nominated films and Wonder Woman would certainly not be the first time a movie won a big time Oscar for socially relevant reasons.
Expanding on that idea but going into skill, you now have Patty Jenkins as the first ever female major comic book movie director. While she has never been nominated for an Oscar, her previous film Monster did win Charlize Theron a Best Actress Oscar, and Jenkins has been on the radar of the Academy and others for some time now in terms of her ability and talent. They may very well decide to at least give Jenkins her first Oscar nomination as a director and that's all you need to get your foot in the door of possibly taking one home as well.
The performance of Gal Gadot along with the chemistry between herself and Chris Pine were both lightning in a bottle in Wonder Woman and that could translate into Oscar nominations for either or both of them. I have to believe that with the field of Best Picture nominees as wide as it is, that Wonder Woman will at least get a Best Picture nomination, even if the competition is too strong for it to actually win one.
That's the major intangible when it comes to Wonder Woman's Oscar winning chances: The level of competition it will face from other films and the awards campaigns their studios embark on. With Wonder Woman being a summer movie, it will face a tougher battle against movies coming out in the fall and close to awards season that will take advantage of a recency bias in the minds of the voters. For Wonder Woman to have a chance at Oscar gold, it has to make a mark that is more than memorable to last several months. Well, I would say it has certainly done that even to this point so mission accomplished there, but we will just have to wait and see how well it holds up to the Academy after the other prospective nominees are released.
It is certainly not impossible for Wonder Woman to win at The Oscars next year and there is a very solid chance that it will win at least one in a "below the line" technical category such as visual effects, costume design or hair and makeup which Suicide Squad won an Oscar for earlier this year. As for whether or not it deserves to win any Oscars, the only question to ask is why not? Is it somehow less deserving of Oscar buzz because it is a big budget tentpole summer superhero blockbuster? No, it shouldn't be. The notion that comic book movies are more filler and less substance than other more serious or independent dramas that typically nominated for Oscars is not a fair assumption for Wonder Woman or for most of the DCEU movies for that matter. As I have said before, comic book movies are extremely capable of being thought-provoking and full of depth and Wonder Woman is no exception to that idea. It deserves to be spoken about in Oscar contention just as much as any other film might.
Wonder Woman definitely has a lot going for it when it comes to Oscar winning potential, but only time will tell how serious that potential is realized from the Academy itself. It will also be very interesting to see what exactly WB's Oscar campaign for Wonder Woman is going to look like and include so that we can get a gauge on just how serious they are taking that idea, though one would think already given Wonder Woman's unbridled success that WB would be taking an Oscar campaign very seriously already. At the end of the day, I'm not super confident in the chances of it winning an Academy Award, but I am certainly rooting for it and I do think it has a solid shot to take home some hardware next awards season. Here's really hoping that it does.