Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Re: The lack of movies featuring female superheroes

 Johansson, in her most famous comic book role.
Even after suffering a few bombs over the past 15 years or so, Hollywood's current love affair with the superhero movie continues unabated. If anything, the films seem to be coming out more and more frequently, sometimes starring more and more obscure characters. I mean, this year we've already seen movies featuring Captain America, Spider-Man and The X-Men, and next weekend a movie featuring a tree monster created in a 1960 one-off monster comic by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Dick Ayers and a talking space raccoon created by Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen in 1976 as part of its ensemble cast will open. And those are just the films starring characters derived from Marvel comics that have opened since April of this year.

As prevalent as films starring superheroes may be, however, it's been a long time since anyone has even tried to make one featuring a female superhero. We can probably thank the box-office receipts and critical excoriation of 2004's Catwoman and 2005's Elektra for that...but, on the other hand, it's not like 2003's Daredevil or 2011's Green Lantern scared studios away from male superhero. Worst case scenario (Ang Lee's 2003 Hulk?), they just re-cast and reboot the character and his film.

The lack of female superheroes in the movies is a pretty regular topic of conversation on the Internet among many fans of superheroes, comic books, movies and movies based on comic book superheroes, and I imagine if anyone stops to think about it, the fact that there will be an Ant-Man movie in theaters before a Wonder Woman movie has just gotta boggle their minds.

Johansson, in her most most famous comic book role.
In light of this, I found this particular story on NPR to be particularly interesting. "Hercules may have slayed a lion and a nine-headed Hydra beast, but he was no match for Scarlett Johansson this week," host Audie Cornish began the piece, noting that sci-fi movie Lucy, starring Marvel's Black Widow Johansson, out-performed Hercules at the box-office this weekend, defying expectations (Fun fact: While Hercules is indeed a public domain character, and probably the most public domain of all super-powered heroes, that movie was also based on a comic book, Radical Publishing's Hercules: The Thracian Wars).

The title of the piece is "Box Office Wallows in a Summer Slump, And Some Seek To Find Out Why," and in it, Cornish interviews Paul Dergarabedian, "a senior media analyst with RENTRAK, a company that measures TV and movie viewing."

Apparently, box office receipts are down 20-percent this year compared to last summer.

During the course of their conversation, Cornish asks Dergarabedian who it is that was buying movie tickets last summer that are skipping out on going to the movies this summer. Dergarabedian answers:
Well, I think the ones who've been skipping out a little bit are the 18 to 24-year-old males who have been the bread-and-butter of the summer movie season for decades. And now it seems that Hollywood should be chasing the younger females or the female audience in general. If you look at "Maleficent," "The Fault In Our Stars," "Tammy" and most recently "Lucy," you have female protagonists leading these movies and these are the titles that have actually been doing very well and not underperforming like so many others.
So do you think that means we'll be seeing Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Batwoman, Harley Quinn, Black Widow, Rogue, Storm, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel or Spider-Woman movies any time soon? Or at least a Sif and The Warriors Three movie, starring the Thor franchise's second bananas? (Thor's Asgardian sidekicks are all more entertaining to watch in those movies than he is, just as Kat Denning's character is more interesting than Natalie Portman's).

Johansson, in her most famous comic book role.
Well, maybe if male superhero movies continue to underperform the way this year's Amazing Spider-Man 2 did (and do note that it made a fuckload of money, with a $91.6 million opening weekend, it just made a smaller fuckload of money than 2013's Iron Man 3 did, with it's $174.1 million opening weekend), but that's probably not going to happen. Dergarabedian predicts that next year is going to be the biggest summer ever thanks to Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World, and there's new James Bond, Terminator and Mad Max movies, plus a Pixar movie and a Despicable Me spin-off. And Ant-Man. And then there's Star Wars waiting in the wings.

So while this year Hollywood is making somewhat less obscene amounts of profit then they would have liked to—or did last year—and chasing the dollars of the female audience with female protagonists and adaptations of female-supported source material like Fault In Our Stars might seem like a very sound strategy going forward, unless there are some unexpected bombs in the sequels and prequels next summer, I guess it will probably remain business as usual for the forseeable future.


Hdefined said...
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KentL said...

"Dergarabedian predicts that next year is going to be the biggest summer ever thanks to Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World"

That could be true, but then I don't think anyone would've predicted such a slow year this year with Cap, Spidey, and an X-Men movie out. Not to mention Godzilla and Transformers. Maybe audiences are just getting tired of so many big popcorn tentpoles.

Eric Lee said...

Two things abiut Hollywood is: 1. They never want to be the first one to do anything, and 2. They always learn the wrong lessons from successful movies. For example, when " The Dark Knight" blew up, studios assumed that we like dark movies ( instead of thinking of staying true to the source material), which is why "Man of Steel" became so somber and colorless. So despite the success if female led movies like "Hunger Games" and whatnot, Hollywood will remain steadfast in not doing a female superhero movie.

garik16 said...

I'm with Eric- film companies don't want to take what they perceive as risks usually. My hope is that with guardians of the galaxy possibly succeeding, both marvel and dc will try to be what is more perceived as "bold" and try a female superhero movie.

Kind of dream of marvel doing a ms/captain marvel in the same year as dc trying a ww movie to get a fun approach out there since I suspect we're in for a dark Wonder Woman

Anonymous said...

I heard that report, and I'm also baffled about Dergarabedian's optimism for next year. Sure, Avengers will be big, but I don't see anything guaranteed about Jurassic World, Terminator or Mad Max (or even the Minions movie, which may be too much minions). In fact, with the performance of the RoboCop and Total Recall remakes, I'd be really skeptical of Mad Max

KentL said...

"I'd be really skeptical of Mad Max"

Well, it has a lot of buzz coming out of SDCC (although ask the Scott Pilgrim team how much that's worth). I can't imagine that IP is very anticipated by the average movie goer, though. I know I certainly don't care.

David said...

@garik16 Actually, I don't think we'll get much of any Wonder Woman in the movie. If we were getting someone's first or second pick as Wonder Woman, an Emily Blunt or Alexandra Daddario, I'd think she was a major part of the movie. But Gal Gadot is a stick thin waif who (judging by the Fast and the Furious movies) can't act and has an accent worse than Schwarzenegger's. I'm thinking Wonder Woman in Batman v. Superman will amount to about as much screen time as Rhino in Amazing Spiderman 2.

Speaking of Emily Blunt, still upset that Edge of Tomorrow underperformed at the box office compared to the Cancer of Our Cancer. Wanted some more cracked out quality sci-fi novels based on Japanese light novels.

Anonymous said...

Well, we're talking about film, here. The moviemaking industry is reluctant to make a move in any direction that could be considered "brave" or game-changing.

Remember when Warner Brothers' CEO said movie-goers didn't want female leads in their action films? Because 'The Brave One' tanked.

It's not just comic book movies, it's movies-- and it's not just movies, it's our very schizo society having a big ol' argument with itself about whether there is such a thing as sexism.

Personally I'd rather have movies where ScarJo acted more and traded on sexiness less...