C'mon Hollywood: It's time for a proper female superhero film!
2008 kicked off the renaissance of the comic book movie, with both IRON MAN and THE DARK KNIGHT dominating the box office and setting the course for the next wave of genre cinema. Sure, there were plenty of comic book movies before that time and some may argue that it began with Bryan Singerís X-MEN, Tim Burtonís BATMAN, Sam Raimiís SPIDER-MAN, or even Richard Donnerís SUPERMAN, but the bottom line is that there has never been such an abundance of them as there is now, each coming with a franchise set-up and top notch talent. Itís almost hard to believe that there was a time when a studio wouldnít touch a comic book film to save its life. Now, theyíre fighting over the scraps of every property that ever saw print.
Except, it seems, for the female ones.
Last year we saw two very strong female characters emerge from male-driven comic book films: Anne Hathaway as Catwoman in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in THE AVENGERS. Many felt that Hathaway stole the show, while Johansson just looked amazing while beating the shit out of everyone (and everything) that confronted her. Each of them more than held their own and delivered a performance that was as good or better than their male counterparts.
And yet, even with all the success the genre has seen, thereís been no movement for any female character to get her own film. Does that mean itís sexist? Perhaps. Does that mean that studios are afraid to gamble on a female-led movie marketed predominantly to teenage males? You would think not, but thatís pretty much it. When you look at the box office for films that have strong, heroic females as the leads, they donít tend to perform as well as their male counterparts, with the key examples of Halle Berryís CATWOMAN and Zack Snyderís SUCKER PUNCH seemingly proving the point (and movies like ZERO DARK THIRTY pushing back, although not part of the genre).
But, is that still the case?
There is already an abundance of male-led characters that will continue to dominate the comic book movie marketplace. The truth is that there are more male than female superheroes and it is, simply put, a male-dominated marketplace. Within the market, unfortunately, the female driven books just donít sell as well (out of the top 500 best-selling comics of 2012, only 38 were female-led books). But does that mean that these characters donít merit their own movie? Not at all. We just want to see one that features the right female super hero done with the same level of passion, sophistication, and creativity thatís been so prevalent in the male superhero genre.
Some of the highlights thus far have been, Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, Pam Anderson as Barb Wire, Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Devon Aoki as Miho, Famke Janssen as Jean Grey, Helen Slater as Supergirl, Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl, Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre, Jennifer Lawrence and Rebecca Romijn as Mystique , Jennifer Garner as Elektra, January Jones as Emma Frost, Angelina Jolie as Fox, Jessica Alba as Invisible Woman, Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl, and a scattered batch of others. I would say that only a few of those listed here really stood out enough to garner their own film.
Marvelís Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, Wasp, Mockingbird, Spider-Woman, or DCís Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Batwoman and Batgirl are all good choices for a potential spin-off franchise. The smart move would be to segue one of their already established characters like Black Widow or Catwoman into their one film with Johansson and Hathaway leading the roles, respectively. Ms. Marvel and Wonder Woman are primed to step into the spotlight, and there are plenty of other independent characters outside the ďBig TwoĒ that could be translated as well.
Some like to argue that female characters in comics exist merely as sexual objects in form-fitting clothing that serve no other purpose than to sell books to horny teenagers. While there are merits to that thinking, it certainly doesnít define every female character in comics anymore than it defines male ones, who also wear form-fitting clothing and look like they just walked off the stage of a bodybuilding contest. Exaggeration is a common factor in comics, so really, the argument that characters, be it male or female, are molded purely for sex appeal is a boring stereotype. There is a generality in terms of appearance that commonly applies to the medium, and that is that the heroes and heroines look their best. Yíknow, like superheroes, not out-of-shape common folk who can barely run a mile.
Iím not arguing for female characters to go neck-in-neck with their male counterparts on film. At this stage in the game, however, I do think that thereís room to spread out the wealth and diversify the franchise characters a bit. It will always be a male-driven medium, simply by the mostly male core audience, but there is more than enough room to expand the market and provide a strong female superhero to the masses that doesnít capitalize on breast size and spandex alone, but rather shows that female superheroes can be just as engaging and bad ass as the boys if given the same chance.
|Extra Tidbit:||What female comic-book character do you feel most deserves a proper big screen adaptation?|