This weekend’s big premiere was the much-anticipated Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot as the heroine. The movie is historic for many reasons. It’s the biggest opening ever for a movie directed by a woman, the third biggest opening this year, and it’s the first time that the 75-year-old heroine has ever appeared on the big screen.

But it’s also got something refreshing for fans of DC comics: it lets its heroine smile. And as a result, it makes audiences smile in ways that other DC films haven’t been able to achieve.

Why Can’t Superman Smile?

It’s one complaint that’s been leveled at the DC films helmed by Zack Snyder: they’re way too dark. Although Christopher Nolan certainly did well by making his Batman series darker than either the 1966 TV version or the Tim Burton-helmed films from the 80s and 90s, people have complained that Snyder’s undermined their enjoyment of these iconic heroes, who are known for being able to give fans a smile.

Superman in particular is known for his smile. Whether we’re looking at the iconic Christopher Reeves portrayals or the comic incarnations, Superman’s smile is seen as an essential part of his character. He doesn’t just save the world, he makes it a better place in part because of the joy he brings.

But when you look at the brutality of Man of Steel or Batman v. Superman, it’s hard to see what’s the good of wearing hope on your chest if you can’t bring a smile. And in Suicide Squad we have a cast of dark villains blackmailed into working for a cause they don’t believe in. People bond around a depressing sharing of their tortured backstories rather than engaging in pleasant banter.

Captain America Can Smile

A marked contrast to these dark DC films is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where everyone is able to smile. Even if they’re smiling through the pain, Marvel’s superheroes find joy in themselves and joy in their world, and bring joy to those they’re helping.

In Captain America: Civil War, the heroes are being torn apart and turned on one another because of some dark consequences of their work. There are some tense moments in combat and in discussions about serious issues. But they can still find moments to share a smile, and the effect is enjoyable for the audience.

And when you have lighter subject matter, such as in Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, the entire movie is full of humorous asides.

These movies are incredibly successful: five of the 14 released so far are in the top 100 movies in adjusted gross ticket sales. Of the three new DC films released, none are in the top 100. The closest is Batman v. Superman, at 130, a movie that earned half its receipts in the first weekend before everyone knew how depressing it was.

Walking a Careful Line

Of course, it makes sense that Wonder Woman would want to be a lighter movie than any of the previous films. If there’s any superhero that smiled more than Christopher Reeves’ Superman, it’s Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman in her iconic 70s TV show.

Of course, director Patty Jenkins knew she couldn’t do anything quite as cheesy as they could get away with in 70s TV, but she wanted to maintain as much of the upbeat flavor of the character as she could. This is a particularly challenging feat considering the backdrop of WWI, a particularly gloomy war with few heroes and an automated warfare designed that brought mass-produced death to an entire generation.

But it’s something that Jenkins pulls off well with stars Gadot and Chris Pine, who shows more range as Steve Trevor than he ever has as James Kirk. Gadot and Pine engage in lighthearted banter when they can, without ever losing sight of the destruction around them. The movie has this as one of its themes: how to find joy despite the suffering of war and the generally depressing nature of life.

It’s a truly enjoyable film that lets audiences smile along with its stars. And, as a result, it’s likely to be one of the more successful films in the franchise. If it has reasonable longevity, it could challenge Batman v. Superman for total domestic box office.

Looking for a Wonderful Smile?

It’s really freeing to be able to enjoy a smile, whether you’re out with friends or watching a movie but your ability to enjoy smiling can be dampened if you’re self-conscious about your smile. If you feel that your smile is keeping you from enjoying life, we can help. Please call (281) 367-5559 today for an appointment with Houston cosmetic dentist Dr. Scott Young, Purveyor of Fine Dentistry.