With Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman, the Female Superhero Strikes Back

With Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman, the Female Superhero Strikes Back

This led to Sony entering the female fray with a Spider-Man spinoff scripted by Lisa Joy (“Burn Notice,” “Pushing Daisies”). No confirmation yet if it’s Spider-Woman, but it’s a significant development. And this week industry leader Marvel, with plenty of female superheroes to choose from, finally announced its own own female counter-attack by turning the spotlight on Captain Marvel, aka Major Carol Danvers (coming July 6, 2018). Who will Marvel cast as its first leading female superhero? Let the best action actress win.

We still don’t know the fate of a Marvel feature starring Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow (Nicole Perlman, who plucked “Guardians of the Galaxy” out of Marvel’s bin of second tier comics, turned in a treatment in 2011). Fan pressure has been mounting ever since Black Widow become an important fixture of The Avengers. She’s busting to break out on her own. The timing couldn’t be better and there’s no further proof of Johansson’s star power after scoring a box office triumph with her badass, cerebral Lucy in Luc Besson’s trippy sci-fi/actioner.

Marvel Comics started mixing things up when they announced lady Thor on “The View” after divulging that Falcon will become the first African American Captain America. But then there’s always room for experimentation in the comic book world.
However, despite Marvel’s impressive string of box office successes, there’s definitely awareness of superhero fatigue and what better way to combat it then by turning to Wonder Woman? Fangirls have been impatiently waiting to embrace one of their own and Hall H went gaga over the first Xena-like Wonder Woman pose of Gadot. “Dawn of Justice,” then “Justice League,” and, finally, Wonder Woman will break out on her own. And that could be the tipping point.
Before then, though, Sony will have an indication of how much interest there is in tapping the female side of the Spidey universe (slated for release in 2017), in which casting will be key and freshness will be imperative after diminishing interest in Andrew Garfield’s sophomore turn as the Marvel web-slinger. (Marc Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 3” has been pushed back to 2018.)
But, of course, there’s already box office evidence of a growing female demo that’s worth catering to: the phenomenal success of Jennifer Lawrence in “The Hunger Games,” and the competitive surge in young adult novels that are consequently being gobbled up as potential franchise fodder by the studios. And Disney has had a perpetual Cheshire grin after “Frozen” took the world by storm with a double-dose of female empowerment, courtesy of Anna and Elsa. (Jennifer Lee is turning her attention to a film of Madeline L’Engle’s trippy YA classic “A Wrinkle in Time.”) And Angelina Jolie’s “Maleficent” also dominated the summer box office.
Still, Marvel president/producer Kevin Feige, who already has a full slate through 2017, insists that it’s a matter of timing in this all-important superhero chess game. True, there are bitter memories of Halle Berry’s Catwoman and Jennifer Garner’s Elektra, and the conventional wisdom is that guys usually aren’t drawn to female superheroes that aren’t part of a superstar ensemble, but with the right combination of elements, there’s no reason to think that a gender balance of power shift can’t be successfully achieved.

So why not a Black Widow movie or even a “Guardians of the Galaxy” spin-off with Zoe Saldana as the smart and deadly Gamora? The great thing about “Guardians” is that it veers off the beaten track and opens up a whole new Marvel world of possibilities. And audiences immediately embraced it. We’re craving something new and unpredictable. Makes no difference if you suddenly put a female in charge of saving the universe as long as she’s capable, compelling, and doesn’t take herself too seriously. 

And why stop with Captain Marvel? Marvel has scads of established female superheroes without having to bring a female Thor to the big screen. Then the hammer would really come down hard on them for such gimmickry.

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Comments

Paul T

I'm surprised you attribute Spidey 2's lackluster performance to diminishing interest in Garfield. Sixty minutes into the film, and there had yet to be an inciting incident. It was the mumblecore of superhero movies. You can't really hang that on Garfield.

Snoop

Great. So the best women can hope for are "feminized versions" of super-heroes, "X-girl", "X-woman" and supporting characters in skimpy outfits whose depth probably go as far as the acting talent of the model cast for the part?
With all the incredible superheroines out there who are not female counterparts or love interests of male superheroes, they pick those? Token females in male teams and love interests?
Striking back, right.

Brian

On a related note, I'm pushing for a Hollywood remake of the all-female Hong Kong action film, SO CLOSE (2002), which starred Shu Qi and Vicki Zhao Wei as high-tech sisters who go rogue to bring down an evil corporate empire which engineered the death of their inventor father, and Karen Mok as a no-nonsense police detective who goes after the girls but then becomes their ally. I'd like to see Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Lawrence play the sisters in a remake and Rooney Mara as the detective. C'mon Hollywood, there's a great movie to be made here and a lot of money to be made. Or are you so risk-averse that you can't even envision such results?

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