With the release of Iron Man 3 this week, the summer movie season is officially upon us. And yet again there is a glaring lack of female driven blockbusters being offered to the viewing public. It seems Hollywood is content with ignoring a major part of the moviegoing public. Must the strong female protagonist be stuck in indie purgatory forever?
Comic book fare is dominating the cinemas right now, a trend that looks to only increase over the coming years, especially with DC plotting their answer to Marvel’s The Avengers. Just look at the slate over the coming months: Man of Steel, The Wolverine, Thor: The Dark World. And while I will likely be amongst those lining up to see these films opening week, I can’t help but yearn for a more balanced gender representation in our entertainment. It’s not as though there is a lack of female superheroes to choose from — there have been talks of a Wonder Woman movie for years, with Joss Whedon (yes that Joss Whedon) linked to it for a time. Anne Hathaway’s brilliant turn in the Dark Knight Rises sparked buzz of a Catwoman feature, but that buzz seems to have all but died down. Hollywood, it seems, does not wish waste talents like Whedon and Christopher Nolan on a little thing like Wonder Woman when there are superheroes like Antman to be explored.
There are those out there who are keen to point to failures of the past as reason not to pursue more the female superhero film. HalleBerry’s Catwoman seems to be the most egregious offender. But was that failure really due to featuring a female protagonist? Or was it the failing of everything else — the writing, the directing, the producing, and so on? Catwoman strayed so far from its comic book origins that the fanboys and girls were up in arms before it was even released. It never stood a chance. Where recent films have succeeded is when they walk the line between being faithful and creative. Look at the Dark Knight Trilogy. Christopher Nolan was able to satisfy comic book purists while appealing to a greater audience. He gave us a Gotham we want to return to. So much so the big wigs at Warner Bros are already talking reboot. There is a hesitancy though. How are they going to top the success of Nolan’s vision — straight reboot? Direct sequel? The only thing the studio heads seem to be debating is how to bring Batman back.
But in merely rehashing past successes they’re missing the point and more importantly money making options. Note to Hollywood, women go to the cinema to see more than rom coms or angst ridden YA featuring preteens. Give us a superhero! Gotham city alone has a wealth of female talent to be mined. Catwoman, of course as already mentioned but what about Batgirl? Batgirl was a staple of the Batman universe of the 1960s and she’s recently received an awesome comic book reboot at the hands of Gail Simone. While it may be a little obscure for some, so was Batman: Year 1 until Nolan used it as the basis for Batman Begins. We have to start somewhere so why not Simone’s dark, gritty, smart and capable depiction of a classic heroine. Batgirl can blend into the Gotham that has now become so familiar to us all and could just well be the filler Warner Bros needs while they figure out Batman and the Justice League.
It seems to be a lack of gumption plain and simple. Female superheroes do represent a a risk in the eyes of the Hollywood establishment. However it’s a risk they’ve taken before. Marc Webb, director of The Amazing Spiderman had only one other major film to his credit — (500) Days of Summer. While critically acclaimed, it’s not exactly a proven track record on which to stake a multimillion dollar project. The studios only need to take that kind of mind set and apply it to their treatment of female superheroes. If Wolverine gets his own films why shouldn’t the Phoenix? Or Storm? What’s worse — or maybe better, I haven’t decided — the use of female characters in recent films have given me a naïve sense of hope. In addition to Hathaway’s Catwoman, Scarlett Johansen’s Black Widow, and Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique have made me hope against hope that we are headed in the right direction. And those of you have seen Iron Man 3 will know that Pepper Potts only gets stronger by the film.
Why must these women be relegated to supporting players when in most instances they are the more interesting characters in the production? If only Hollywood filmmakers could get past their inane bias against the female movie goer. Then maybe next summer we’d be seeing Batgirl: Year 1 or Black Widow Origins along with Iron Man 17.