Warner Bros. (DC Comics) and Marvel Studios are looking to take yet another battle to the silver screen. This time the punches won’t be thrown at super-villains but at each other as the the two rivals vie for the title of “first company to do a comic book movie featuring a female hero right”. Lead female heroes haven’t always been plentiful in movies through the years. There are a few notable ones, though! The 1970s brought us Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) but not many others. The 1980s boasted Supergirl (Helen Slater), and Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) but again few others. The 1990s began to flourish with female leads the like of Selene (Kate Beckinsale), a variety of characters played by Angelina Jolie, and many more. The 2000s have taken it a step further featuring younger females like Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) and Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence).
For some reason, though the film industry just can’t seem to figure out the female super-hero. There have been many attempts over the years and they weren’t all horrible, but none were particularly game-changing either. The casting choices for the X-Men movies were good in most cases, but it’s difficult to flesh out relatable characters especially when you have no attachment to the lore. I think that has been the main problem. In the comics you have years to develop characters. Month after month we learn every little detail. In the movies we get minutes to develop a connection to the characters and care what happen to them.
Here’s where the problem comes in. Writers and directors continue to assume that they are smarter than the original creators and the audience. Take Rogue for example. The Rogue we see in comics is complex. Her powers give her amazing abilities that serve to mask her internal struggle. She has been mislead in her life, fallen in with the wrong people and has done bad things. Despite all of this she found the light and went to her enemies, the X-Men, for help. She grew through the years and became a leader among heroes. The Rogue in the movies is none of these things. The history is gone and all we have is a scared girl who is too young, misplaced in the lore, and just wrong. Her character in the movies plays more like Kitty Pryde. Rogue should have been introduced with the Brotherhood, and switched sides when she realized that Professor Xavier could help her with her powers. Maybe the answer is to stop recreating the wheel, and use the lore that fans know. It will play better because it already has!
Setting the past aside, Hollywood hasn’t completely given up on the female superhero film. News is spreading about the director of the upcoming Wonder Woman film, from Warner Bros. and DC Comics quitting over “creative differences.” Michelle MacLaren, best known for episodes of Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, is no rookie. The emmy-nominated Director has remained silent on social media regarding the decision. Her employer had only this to say;
“Given creative differences, Warner Bros and Michelle MacLaren have decided not to move forward with plans to develop and direct Wonder Woman together,” Warner Bros.
Jason Fuchs remains on board as the writer, as does Gal Gadot, who will be introduced as Princess Diana in the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice film. There is obviously a lot of pressure to succeed on this since it is the first major movie featuring a female hero in over a decade. Past attempts like Catwoman and Elektra missed the mark, leaving a huge void in the female superhero genre. It was reported today that Warner Bros. will replace MacLaren with another female director, Patty Jenkins, who has a peripheral tie to Marvel Studios. Jenkins, best known for directing Charlize Theron’s Oscar-winning performance in Monster, was considered to direct Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World, but left before filming began. I wonder why DC and Warner Bros. would take a chance, after failing with MacLaren, on a director who previously didn’t finish a superhero project.
On the other side of the country, now that DC has officially moved to California, the Marvel Cinematic Universe marches on. Spider-Man is back home where he belongs putting the last piece on the board for Captain America: Civil War. Netflix released the first season of Daredevil, with one of their future shows to be based on Jessica Jones, the super-powered detective. Jones will bring some dysfunction to the corp of relatable but flawed female characters in Marvel’s television universe. Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD boasts several great female hero characters. Skye (Chloe Bennet) and Melinda May (Ming Na Wen) represent two in a short list of women of color in the genre, and Bobbi Morse – Mockingbird (Adrianne Palicki) has done wonders for the credibility of the Marvel TV Universe.
There has been no small amount of speculation regarding a female hero led Marvel Studios movie. Many said Black Widow had earned the right to be first. Having been developed through Iron Man, Captain America, and the Avengers franchises, the character, expertly portrayed by Scarlett Johansson, may have been the perfect vehicle to bring a woman to the fore. That was not to be, as Marvel decided that an altogether different female Avenger should lead the way: Captain Marvel. As much as I’d love to see how Black Widow’s ledger got so much red in it, I have to admit that Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel,) is a great choice. Especially considering the future plan for the MCU includes more galactic adventures.
Captain Marvel was an integral part of the Infinity story line in the comics, which will play out in the third and fourth Avengers movies. Marvel, anxious to make this movie but smart enough to do it right, has made it clear that they want credible female professionals on this project. They started by announcing the hiring of a pair of accredited female screenwriters, and rumors continue to swirl that they are in hot pursuit of action-maven Angelina Jolie to direct. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Nicole Perlman, best known for co-writing the surprising blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy, will be joined by Pixar’s Inside Out scribe Meg LeFauve to give Marvel’s new lead female hero a voice. Collider has reported that Jolie was “definitely under consideration” for both Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman, though neither studio confirmed.
Now that the Wonder Woman job is off the table (for now) does that mean Marvel has a better chance at Jolie directing? Or will she stick to more serious material as a director? In my humble opinion, Marvel has the lead in this race, especially if they can get Jolie. There’s still a lot of time for that to change, since Wonder Woman doesn’t come out until June of 2017, with Captain Marvel releasing in November of 2018. The only thing I am truly sure of right now is that the success of these two movies constitutes a win for everyone, especially the fans!
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