The Glaring Reality of Women Superhero Movies
While I was beginning to write my latest review for a superhero movie I watched that was recently released on home video, it made me think about Women-led superhero movies and how it’s been so long since anyone has dared to make one, either on home video or in theaters. That movie happens to be the first movie that has been released in the US that’s led by a female superhero since 2009’s DC Animated Wonder Woman. If you’re curious, the movie is Barbie in Princess Power. Yes, it took a Barbie movie to break this streak. By my count there have been 80 superhero movies released in the US between 2010 and April 2015. This is the only one led by a female superhero. If I expand my search just a little, there is at least one other that I am aware of from a couple years ago in Japan called Nuigulumar Z but that’s it. When you look at theatrical features the prospects are even more grim considering the last female-led superhero movie was all the way back in 2005 with Elektra and the next one isn’t due until 2017 with Wonder Woman, that’s twelve years. Think about this: if a girl was born in 1999, she would not have been able to see a superhero movie led by a woman in the theaters until her 18th birthday.
One of the saddest things to think about is when you consider the business of the female-led superhero movie. When you look at the last three films to come out in theaters (2002’s Powerpuff Girls Movie, 2004’s Catwoman, & 2005’s Elektra), they made a total of $75 million which doesn’t even cover the $100 million budget of Catwoman. But by the same token, with the exception of the Powerpuff Girls movie they were all terrible movies. It would be a completely different situation if these were all critically acclaimed films that failed to make any money, but by all accounts it was the fact that they were awful movies that contributed to their failures. And yet, it seems like the studios took their failure as an excuse to further their sexism by not developing any superhero features led by a woman.
But while it’s easy to sit back and blame “old, white, Hollywood producers” the fact is that there have been plenty of much smaller independent films released over the past ten years that have built on the latest superhero craze and not a single one of them have dared to include a woman superhero either. The only place where that really starts to come into play is when you look at webseries and short films. Webseries like We Might Be Superheroes, Super Knocked Up, and Chick! and fanfilms like the two Wonder Woman trailers by Jesse V. Johnson and Rainfall Films. But there hasn’t been any palpable move to make any of these properties into a feature length film.
It’s not until the past few years that studios have finally started to realize that audiences are craving for a strong, female protagonist. You don’t have to look very far to find an incredibly successful film led by a strong, female, protagonist. The Hunger Games is likely the biggest example with the later films becoming the highest grossing film of the year in the US for that year, or at least in the top 5. Branching out from that, last year’s Lucy is a prime example of a ridiculous premise with middling critical reviews that made large amounts of money largely due to the appeal of Scarlett Johansson’s strong female lead. Other prime examples that were in the top 10 box office for the year are: Maleficent, Frozen, Gravity, Twilight, and Brave. It’s absolutely ridiculous that it’s taken over 10 movies before Marvel Studios is willing to take a “chance” with a female-led Captain Marvel. By comparison, DC and their late start seem very progressive as it’s only going to take them 3 movies in their current slate before getting to Wonder Woman. It’s just as bad if you start to look behind the camera as well, from 2010 until now there have only been 9 writing or directing credits for women. Only 1 was a director: Lauren Montgomery for Justice League: Doom, and she shared directing credits for Green Lantern: Emerald Knights & Batman: Year One, and only 2 had a solo writing credit: Marjorie Liu for the story on Avengers Confidential: Punisher and Black Widow and Marsha Griffin for the film that inspired this post: Barbie in Princess Power. The others were: Jane Goldman with shared writing credits on X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: First Class, and Kick-Ass, Nicole Perlman with shared writing credit on Guardians of the Galaxy, and Anna McRoberts with shared writing credit on Super Buddies. It’s nice that Marvel and DC are actively looking for a female director on Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman, but it’s time that they look farther than that and I hope you’re with me. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.