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…
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.
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)?”
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.
Not really a review so much as my initial impressions of the game, I wanted to take a quick tour of the new Marvel Superhero game from Margaret Weis Productions.
First Impression: Physical Appearance and Layout
The book is beautiful. Of course, I only have the PDF, but even so, it’s actually enjoyable to read on my laptop (as opposed to many game PDFs which I often find frustrating to read.) The presentation is clean, the colors are bright and enjoyable to look at without detracting from readability. The visuals in terms of presentation of game content and examples of dice pools, etc. are all well done and the superhero art is well chosen and improves the quality of presentation of the book.
Layout is often a consistent complaint for me with some modern games but the layout and design choices here all seem to enhance the reader experience rather than detract. Also, I haven’t read the book in minute detail yet, just two relatively quick reads for content but the editing of this product seems at first blush to be very well done as well. Poor editing in RPGs is a constant problem and MWP seems to have put in the work on this one to make it great.
Basic Dice Pool and Simple Mechanics Talk
I don’t want to overly analyze the mechanics until I have the chance to actually play the game but on the surface I found them — again, after reading the game — to be interesting and innovative without being divorced from the expectation of players of other RPGs. The dice pool mechanic is a little bit of a mix of a “roll and keep” system with an effect die (like Dragon Age RPG’s Dragon Die). The rolling of 1s on the die is also important to the system and generates dice for the Doom Pool — a collection of dice used by the Watcher in place of Plot Points (which villains don’t have).
The use of plot points can manipulate either of those (the pool/kept dice or the effect die) and in multiple ways. Plot Points are a vital currency of the system flowing back and forth between players and Watcher (the very Marvel term for the GM). In this way I am reminded of the use of points in FATE style games but without all of the baggage that always bothers me in FATE games.
The basic dice pool resolution (with application of Plot Points) covers the majority of actions in the system (including combat) and is easy to keep up with. Whether you make the same connections I did above or you are a relative newcomer to RPG play, this dice system should be simple but robust enough to remain consistently interesting in play.
Heroes, Character Creation, and Powers (and Stuff)
I’ll admit, I’m still learning the powers system. I get the way it works. I think it will work well at the table. But I’m not going to wax on about it beyond saying… I like it, I like how free form and open it is and the availability of crafting powers on the fly. This system seems to make it very easy to balance the game no matter what powers you give to the characters… I think at one point the book mentions that they system is very forgiving and it really is. I think the power system and the hero and villain profiles reflect the comics well. I was impressed with these.
Now, I’ve read a couple of other reviews (here and here) that mention the oddness of the character creation rules. But here’s the thing… if you read the book, there are no character creation rules. Or, at least, there are no rules for “new” heroes. The rules in the book (more like guidelines) are really there to suggest how to make a profile for an existing Marvel character you want to adapt. That’s what they are designed to support. Now, can you make original heroes with this? Absolutely. But it’s not what the book is set up for and if you are looking for any kind of “balanced system” that tells you “how many powers you can have, etc.” you won’t find that here.
This is my first Cortex system game (I played the Leverage Quick Start but that hardly counts). I had put off diving into the game because, as much as I love Firefly and Leverage, I knew I would never get to play them, so I had no impetus to buy them. But superhero games are an easy sell to me — and the Marvel Saga System (old card-based version of the game) is probably still my all time favorite superhero game. The best thing I can say for this game is that if it performs as well at the table as it seems like it will in the book, it will easily become my new favorite.
Except for one thing. I wish it had been DC. Because now I have another Marvel System I have to convert all the DC characters I love into because they aren’t here… Oh well, I guess I should get on that.