So Captain America has opened to almost $100 million and the Marvel masterplan now supposedly extends to 2028. Superhero films have never been more dominant, and yet there remain no announced plans for a single major vehicle with a woman in the lead. This, frankly, is starting to make the studios look like fools. Last year, “Gravity” made over $700 million worldwide, “The Hunger Games” over $850 million and “Frozen” is soon to soar past $1.1 billion. Global audiences don’t just not have a problem with female protagonists – they love them.
And yet, executives continue to make excuses, as Monika Bartyzel pointed out this week. With that in mind, we’ve lined up 10 films we’re sure could turn a profit at the worldwide box office. We’ve even cast them – they’re ready to go! There are dozens of brilliant characters in the comic book universe who could make great movies, but for now, and knowing how risk-adverse studios are, we’ve focused almost exclusively on characters, brands and stars with proven box office clout. This means we’ve included no less than four X-Men spin-offs – but that’s exactly the same number of Avengers characters (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk) who’ve been granted headline films of their own. Call it equality.
It’s kind of depressing that we even have to write a list like this. But it wasn’t hard. And forget about originality and representation for a moment – these are films just waiting to make money. We say that with certainty, because we’ll be first in line. So go on, Hollywood, prove us right. Oh, and don’t forget to hire a few female directors in the process.
10. Angelina Jolie as “Manhunter”
Admit it – it already sounds like a hit. It would take a lot for a studio to launch an unfamiliar superhero tentpole, let alone one with a female lead, but if anyone can do it, it’s Angie. New Yorker Kate Spencer is a public prosecutor who becomes the titular vigilante while hiding her change of career from her son. A superhero who is also mother – we call that rich, untapped narrative territory that could give the genre a whole new spin. Jolie is the woman with the clout to sell it.
9. Halle Berry as “Storm”
Berry’s standing as a leading lady in this genre is considered tainted by the Catwoman debacle, to which we say bullshit. Is there anyone who’d think twice about casting George Clooney, star of the miserable “Batman and Robin”, in a different superhero role? Berry has played Storm four times while feeling that the character has never been given her due – she even refused to return for the third film unless her role was beefed up. But we say they didn’t go nearly far enough. Give the woman a movie!
8. Anne Hathaway as “Catwoman”
While we’re revitalising Ms Berry as tentpole material, let’s do the same for the franchise that killed her. Just as Clooney emerged unscathed from the “Batman and Robin” debacle, so the franchise rose again under Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan. So too, in fact, did the Catwoman character in Anne Hathaway’s portrayal in “The Dark Knight Rises”. Which only leaves the Catwoman franchise itself. Hathaway defied sceptical critics with her performance in the role – it’s time for the franchise to do the same.
7. Ellen Page as “Kitty Pryde”
Pryde is one of the most beloved and respected characters in the X Men universe, with Ellen Page set to reprise her role in this summer’s sequel “Days of Future Past”. Needless to say, casting an openly gay woman as a super hero would be doubly revolutionary. But Page’s audience is not just ready – they are waiting for a role like this. Marvel have praised the character for drawing in new fans, and even named Kitty Pryde the No.1 X Men character on their own website, citing how easily audiences identify with her. And yet they’ve given Wolverine two spin-offs, and Kitty zero. Come on, guys!
6. Zhang Ziyi as “Spider Woman”
While Sony Pictures seem determined to churn out Spiderman films on repeat, Marvel Studios have the elusive character of Jessica Drew waiting in the wings. As a girl infected with a mutant gene by her father and then groomed as a terrorist before turning to more valiant aims, it is a fascinating origin story. With Asia now providing a serious percentage of global receipts and Zhang Ziyi having proved both her action credentials and her box office clout with “The Grandmaster” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, it’s high time a Hollywood studio caught up.
5. Jennifer Lawrence as “Mystique”
OK, so Lawrence supposedly wants out of the X-Men franchise (she signed a three film contract before “The Hunger Games” launched her to super-stardom). And with every A-list director in Hollywood chasing her down, could anything persuade her to headline a Mystique spin-off? A truly great script, the chance to smash some glass ceilings? If Lawrence was up for it, you know the studio would be too. Come on, J-Law!
4. Meryl Streep as “Jean Grey”
Who doesn’t want to see Meryl Streep as a superhero? She’s done action movies before (“The River Wild”), and while Famke Janssen was killed off as the character in “X Men 2”, the comic book Jean Grey has returned from death on several occasions. Who better to portray that experience and complexity than Streep? She’s proved she can make mega bucks at the box office (“Mamma Mia!” took over $600 million worldwide) – in fact, she’s proved there’s nothing she can’t do. Let’s let her add superhero to her roster.
3. Lupita Nyong’o as “Wonder Woman”
Lupita is the hottest property in Hollywood, and we can’t believe she doesn’t already have a slate of films charging into production. So here’s a suggestion. Take the most famous superheroine out there – you know, the one that’s weirdly never had a feature film to her name, despite that name having recognition a hundred times higher than frigging Ant-Man – and cast the universally adored Nyong’o. A supporting role in the “Batman vs. Superman” sausage fest isn’t enough (we haven’t seen Gal Gadot yet, but either way, execs might balk at giving a headline role to such an unknown). Casting Lupita would refresh a brand that feels unjustly tired, and play across the globe. Do it!
2. Scarlett Johansson as “Black Widow”
Duh! Johannson even publicly confirmed her interest this week, telling reporters “If you want to see a Black Widow spin-off movie, then I want to see it. We will put the request into Marvel tomorrow”. Black Widow has now featured prominently in three Marvel hits, with some arguing that this dents her chances of a spin-off. But this argument simply isn’t used against male characters such as Wolverine or Iron Man. Johansson has never been more in demand and the appetite for Black Widow is proven. It’s baffling why this hasn’t happened already.
1. Sandra Bullock as “Captain Marvel”
It just sounds right. Carol Danvers was a long-time Marvel Comics superhero as Ms Marvel before inheriting the title Captain Marvel in 2012, in a series which, according to its writer, reflects on “what the legend of Captain Marvel means to Danvers, what she will do with it and what the rest of the Marvel Universe thinks of her new role”. It’s the kind of universe-spanning character that Marvel must surely love, and hell, it could hardly promote their brand any more directly. Sandy could ride this one to a billion dollars in her sleep. If Marvel aren’t developing it right now, they’re mad.