Why is it taking so long to get a female-fronted comic book movie off the ground?
News that Captain Marvel will beat Black Widow to be the first Marvel character to get their own movie was one of the surprise highlights to this week's unveiling of Marvelverse films to be released over the next few years. But, why is it that female fronted comic book films are so few and far between? Especially now, when comic-inspired blockbusters are huge tent-pole business for the industry.
We've seen some pretty strong female super heroes over the last few years, but none have made the jump to their own lead, and the history of such films isn't the brightest. While Superman got two really strong outings starting back in 1978, by the time it was Helen Slater's turn to be Supergirl in 1984 it was in a film closer in style to the previous year's Superman III - i.e. not really very good. Since then, things haven't really improved.
Halle Berry's Catwoman is probably the most recent example - a terrible film, panned by critics and ignored by fans - it's not the character that was the problem; both Michelle Pfieffer and Anne Hathaway have proved that and it's not the actress, Berry can be very good. The same can be said of Jennifer Garner's Elektra - she was one of the few highlights of Daredevil but given her starring role, something was lost. It wasn't a bad film, just forgettable.
The recent resurgence of comic book films, probably spearheaded by Bryan Fuller's ensemble X-Men and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man has seen women taking on more and more challenging roles within the genre. Unfortunately, in the same breath we've seen strong female characters being relegated into supporting roles - some of this is due to the usual comic book tropes and is unavoidable given they're the source but it's a shame then that when there have been so few opportunities for women to take the lead.
Over the next few years we'll have the pleasure of seeing Gal Gadot become Wonder Woman and the choice of strong actresses who could bring Captain Marvel to life really excites us (Anna Torv or Emilia Clarke would be perfect choices). Of course we shouldn't forget the TV outings for Agent Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Jessica Jones. But, what's that - FOUR female fronted comic book inspired live action projects? How many male-fronted in the pipeline? I’ve lost count at twenty and I’m sure there are more. If we count everything from the last few years too then the female count stays static and the male doubles. That isn’t a good thing.
Yes, there ARE fewer female superheroes to base films on - but that doesn’t exclude the possibility of creating NEW ones or giving more weight to those who do exist. There are a fair few female characters we think could support a film on their own. How about Jaimie Alexander’s Sif? Or how about giving Elektra another go? Of course we’ve already mentioned Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow - if there was a character calling out for a film of their own its her and I’m sure there are millions who would pay to see Jennifer Lawrence taking on a lead project as Mystique too.
None of the studios can claim there isn’t a market for this stuff - there clearly is, and that market is becoming more and more vocal. It’s good to see the studios responding, even if it appears, right now, that they’re testing the water but we want to see more!