Superhero Movies and Female Superheroes

I want to talk about female superhero movies for a moment. This is not a gaming related post – it’s definitely “off-topic” so if you want out, there’s your warning. I’ll make my next post extra “gamey” to make up for it, but I need a moment. A friend of mine posted this article today about 5 superheroes who should have gotten a movie before Ant Man… and while I can’t fault him for his choices (because, you know, there should be a solo female superhero movie). He also does a good job of displaying his “geek” cred with some pretty obscure choices (Rescue, anyone). He also makes a really solid point in that superhero movies shouldn’t be just one genre. But all those pale in comparison to the face that for now, they won’t be. And basically for one really good reason…

1. Big studio companies own Marvel (Disney) and DC (Warner Bros.) at the movies and…
1a. Those big studios are fairly risk averse (and growing moreso all the time with “untested” properties, look at John Carter and Battleship and… well, I could keep going but you get the point).

First, as is the nature of these things – less break down his choices and then I’ll propose a solution of my own…

5. Armor
First of all, let me say that I’m in complete agreement that Armor is the best thing to happen to the X-Men in a long time and if they wanted to introduce her and make her important in an X-movie then I’d certainly appreciate that more than a character like Jubilee or Shadowcat. But she’s too much of an unknown. Pacific Rim – a blockbuster summer-type movie – with all its amazing special effects, scary monsters and kick ass robots struggled at the box office (by today’s standards) and struggled to connect with main stream audiences. Armor presents the same problems for a studio. I think she would be an amazing addition to the X-movie franchise and could even be put in the forefront of a movie storyline the way Rogue was… but she’s really not a solid choice for, “front-runner” for cracking the female superhero movie wall.

4. Rescue
Obscure enough that I think it makes the point all on its own. That said, even with the connection and profile that Pepper has from the Iron Man movies, you still have the “Nightwing Problem” which basically is – even though this is a cool character in their own right, the typical moviegoer spends the whole film asking, “Wait, so where’s Batman (or, Iron Man)?”

3. Oracle
As cool as Oracle is – and she is one of the coolest characters DC ever created – this ship has sailed. Not only did the Birds of Prey already crash and burn as an awful TV show but Barbara is Batgirl again in the comics. I could be wrong, but just between those two points this seems less that productive to speculate on.

2. Black Widow
I would say this idea has serious merit. Scarlett Johanson has been pretty good in the role, she’s firmly established as a character now, she’s actually interesting, and you could tell awesome stories with her… but I feel like, you know, if they were gonna give her her own movie, they would have by now. And she’s still probably not Marvel’s best choice.

1. Wonder Woman
Now, I love Wonder Woman and I’ve been a fan of her solo comics for a long time… And I think that Marvel’s success with the first Thor movie should really put to rest any worries that “mythic” supers can’t work in their own right. That said, Wonder Woman is going to be – more than Superman, more than Batman – a proposition where you will just never get it right. (Okay, maybe someday, but no matter what tack you take with the character, half of everyone will be disappointed). I know what I would do with a Wonder Woman movie if I were given the shot, but I’ll bet every one of us thinks we know how we could do it right. The other problem with Wonder Woman is that there have been so many lackluster or abandoned projects that I would imagine it becomes increasingly difficult to get such a project off the ground. I just don’t think WW is going to be the first big one. It’s almost like how Buffy waited for Dawson’s Creek to do the “gay kiss” before they would take the plunge. We’re going to need a female superhero movie to succeed to get Wonder Woman a green light. That’s how it feels.

So… I’ve talked down all the choices above, so who would I choose? Well, it’s actually fairly easy.

Captain Marvel aka Carol Danvers is the best choice for a female superhero movie. She has so much going for her.

First, she’s a strong woman in her own right, a military officer with the Air Force. She’s more than just her powers. Second, you can start the story with her as a normal human, do some military stuff first and then – ALIEN SPACESHIP CRASH – and the story kicks into superhero mode.

Second, despite a wealth of ridiculous stories and continuity nonsense that has happened to Carol over the years, at the core you have a very simple superhero story that also works nicely as a three movie arc.

Really, three movie arc? Yep. Here’s how it would go. Carol is a rising star officer… She’s young, competent, in control of her life and her career. She’s promoted to a posting with the space program after some sort of opening scene of heroism as a normal human. Spaceman falls to Earth, he bonds with Carol, falls in love – which would be a nice chance to have her not reciprocate allowing for the guy to be unrequited for once. This doesn’t have to be belabored, just a fact of the story. Something happens (accident, alien dies, etc.) and Carol gets powers. Stuff happens, aliens show up looking for first alien, original alien, Carol defeats them with powers and gets called Captain Marvel for the first time. End of first movie… sorta. After the credits we see Carol, a wreck, a tank blown up, and her coming to in the desert.

Movie two – we do a nod to Carol’s substance abuse issues without going down the “Tony Stark alcoholism hole” and have the military keeping her all hopped up on drugs to control her powers. She mostly has a normal life now but is depressed, has a councilor, and a liaison officer (spying on her, of course) and her whole life plan has been completely taken over by being “Captain Marvel, military secret weapon.” We could get a cameo from Captain America (or not) and we get a “I need to regain control of my life” story. This one is a little darker, a little more government is dangerous and such. Carol finds a way out and solves a big enough problem that she gets to have a little more control over her life again. Paranoia could be a strong theme of this movie, chemical control, experiments even. But at the end, Carol is in a better position.

Movie three – Now in control of her destiny again and outed to the masses as a Superhero(!), Captain Marvel has beaten the drugs, works for SHIELD, gets to have great scenes with Maria Hill, and overall just gets to end her story being the BEST EVER – a nod to her later storyline where she attempts to cement herself as an A-List hero. This also mirrors the whole phenomenon of a female superhero driven franchise.

Overall, this is a good bet because she is recognizable (Marvel in her name), has the military connection, has “real-people problems” and also has the general paragon/superman power set meaning that she can have the wild car-throwing, bodies flying action scenes, she’s believable (again the military connection) as a trained warrior, and you get a very “traditional” superhero movie experience with shades of other things – starting with the fact that your lead character is woman.

So that’s my vote for how to get the first big budget female superhero to work… what’s yours?

Thanks for reading.


3 responses

  1. Given that “Starbuck” has stated publicly that she is in talks about playing Captain Marvel…

    1. That was a rumour.

  2. Wow, there was just so much wrong in that article. Lets start with the objectively wrong.

    “(because, you know, there should be a solo female superhero movie).”

    Right off the bat there has been Supergirl, Elektra (1 & 2) & Catwoman. There have already been some female solo lead movies in the superhero genre & for different reasons they sucked.

    But the given list is a prime example of WHY female superheroes suck. Because instead of understanding the appeal of the superhero comic & its tie in movie, you’ve selected a list of also-rans. Doesn’t matter how much people love Rescue, she cannot draw a sufficient audience, even with the Marvel cinematic universe.

    You want a list that can do the job, here it is.

    !. Power Girl: People know just enough about her to get butts in seats. She’s as powerful as Superman, has her own rogues gallery, has an iconic costume, a great personality to work with & a smashing pair of tits.

    I envision a character piece, in she’s just quite decided to start being Karen Starr again & is trying to put together her private identity, some flash backs to her days in Infinity Inc & the arrival of The Humanite as our antagonist, who desires a Power girl body to house his brain in.

    2. Mary Marvel: After a Captain Marvel movie to introduce the Marvel family, Mary gets her own solo movie. Cute girl next door thing, works with the whimsical nature of the character.

    A story about the price of power, As Doctor Sivana puts forward a dastardly plan of action in Fawcett City involving an army of robots.

    3. Batgirl: Completed unrelated to the current Batman property, just Batgirl doing her own thing. Closer in tone to the 90’s movies that the Nolan-verse version

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