Frank: Max, we’re a couple of weeks out from release of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice now, and while the movie is, as expected, a box office hit, the response amongst not only critics but fans as well has been… not positive. But something that has gotten fans excited is the now certainty that we will be getting a Wonder Woman movie starring Gal Gadot. This will be the first superhero film in the current era of Superhero films (2008-present, 2008 being the year Iron Man, the first of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, and The Dark Knight were released) to feature a female hero in a solo adventure. This is exciting but it begs the question “what took so long?”
Max: Indeed it does. It’s great to see fans excited about Wonder Woman. And it may turn out to be the one good thing pulled out of the wreckage of Batman V Superman. But to me, a well-supported, highly anticipated, female superhero movie is way overdue.
Frank: Overdue? Yes. But I don’t know that we can hold the makers of Superhero films to blame for that. In the past, the fans of comic book movies have not been particularly receptive to female superhero films. It’s not like they haven’t tried, Catwoman and Elektra where both box-office disappointments
Max: Yup, they certainly have “tried” and put forth a couple of completely uninspired stinkers. I’m not complaining that female heroes haven’t gotten some screen time. But we have yet to see a big studio really put everything toward making a female driven film the huge success that I think it could be.
Frank: Alight those were bad examples. But still, one can understand why studios may have, in the past, been reticent to put a lot of money into a female-lead Superhero movie. Now, in the age of “shared universe”, any superhero film seems flop-proof. If fans have to see Wonder Woman to get the whole story when they see Justice League, they will go. Let’s hope Marvel gets onboard and we get a Black Widow solo adventure.
Max: Yes, Marvel (and Fox making films with Marvel characters) was not going to be exempt from my scorn on this issue. We get two Wolverine solo films, two Thors, and an Antman without getting some solo Storm, Rogue, or Black Widow thrown in there?
Frank: To be fair, Rogue is essentially the main character of X-Men (2000). Also, Jennifer Lawrence has been front and center in First Class and Days of Future Past, and Scarlett Johannson has gotten as much screen time as the other Avengers, more than some. Hell, despite the title she is really the co-lead of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Do we think that’s good enough, or do the studios need to make a lady superhero’s name the title of a film?
Max: Well, since the Catwoman debacle there seems to be a reluctance to lean heavily on the well-known female superheroes. The cases you mention are mostly lesser known female heroes living in male or ensemble dominated films. They have been given prominent roles in the movies because of great performances from popular actresses. In some ways, it seems like the actress, and not the character, is earning the screen time. So, yeah, I guess I’d like to see a female as the titular character again. We’re ready for it, and we may have been ready for it for longer than studios may be willing to admit.
Frank: You’re not wrong. I still think a major part of the problem is the fans. Despite a growing number of female fans, the majority of superhero fans, or at least outspoken superhero fans seems to be men and, for that matter, not always particularly progressive men. The superhero films that have been produced in recent years, specifically The MCU, The Dark Knight Films, and the two First Class films have been getting a lot of positive feedback, both critically and financially, and there has not been a huge outcry from fans for female-lead superhero films. Studios may not be seeing a compelling reason to take the risk, if it making a female-lead superhero film is, in fact, a risk.
Max: There are some interesting points there. As fans, I do think we sometimes forget that basically all of the decisions about how entertainment gets made are based entirely on money. And while studies are not immune to mistakes or being overly cautious, they know their people and what they want. But here’s a reason I think the return of the female driven superhero movie is overdue. At present time fans are rabid for information about the Wonder Woman pic, and are already leaving the boys from Batman V Superman in the rearview. Over on network television, a very watered-down Supergirl has done pretty well for itself. The appetite for these female projects didn’t spring up overnight. It’s been there, hopefully now studios are emboldened to capitalize on it.
Frank: I agree. As with everything for all recorded history, evidence is piling up in favor of giving ladies a turn. Props to the MCU, even if they haven’t yet given a solo movie to a lady, they have done a show, the excellent Jessica Jones on Netflix, maybe my favorite property in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. Baby steps, I guess.
Max: I’d forgotten some of these heroes have spilled onto Netflix! Good call bringing up Jessica Jones. I could certainly continue to gripe about the lack of trust in the ladies over the last few years, but I think it’s time to heal that wound and get excited for what’s ahead. Here’s hoping Wonder Woman is the hit it’s setting up to be. And also, here’s hoping young girls start to feel more included in the superhero scene. And not because it would mean a new audience and more money for the folks making these movies (Lord knows they have plenty). But because those girls deserve a strong cinematic alternative to princesses.
Frank: Yeah! Also, studios need to step up their game when it comes to including their female characters in promotional material and merchandise. I’m not the first to say that there has been a woeful lack of Black Widow toys. Also, Scarlett Johanssen is too good as Black Widow to not get her own movie. Also, while we’re excited for Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, so far Warner Bros. and DC have set up a cinematic Justice League that is one lady and five dudes, let’s get Hawkgirl in there!
Max: Yeah! It’s 2016, after all.
Well, what started as a debate has converged into consensus: “Sorry we made you wait so long ladies, now give ’em hell”.
Frank: Well put, Max. My only other point of note is that, as well as not enough ladies, it seems that the Justice League movie will also have a woeful lack of Martian Manhunters. Max, next time you need me, simply go to your roof and turn on the Renaissance Fan Head Film Writer Signal.
Max: We are all comforted to know you are out there, somewhere, watching over our film enjoyment.