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The Female Superhero Finally Strikes Back

Thompson on Hollywood By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood August 5, 2014 at 3:51PM

Suddenly there's momentum for female superhero movies, thanks to Warner Bros. and DC breaking the ice with Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice." This has led to Sony entering the female fray with a Spider-Man spinoff scripted by Lisa Joy ("Burn Notice," "Pushing Daisies"). No confirmation yet if it's Spider-Woman, but it's a significant development. And word is, Marvel is developing its own female counter-attack by turning the spotlight on Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, with a script to be written by "Guardians of the Galaxy's" Nicole Perlman (but who tweeted on Monday that there has been no active development since turning in her treatment in 2011).
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Wonder Woman
Suddenly there's momentum for female superhero movies, thanks to Warner Bros. and DC breaking the ice with Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice." This has led to Sony entering the female fray with a Spider-Man spinoff scripted by Lisa Joy ("Burn Notice," "Pushing Daisies"). No confirmation yet if it's Spider-Woman, but it's a significant development. And word is, Marvel is developing its own female counter-attack by turning the spotlight on Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, with a script to be written by "Guardians of the Galaxy's" Nicole Perlman (but who tweeted on Monday that there has been no active development since turning in her treatment in 2011).


Fan pressure has been mounting ever since Black Widow become an important fixture of The Avengers. And you can sense that she's busting to break out on her own. The timing couldn't be better and there's no further proof of Johansson's star power after scoring a minor box office triumph with her badass, cerebral Lucy in Luc Besson's trippy sci-fi/actioner.

Meanwhile, Marvel Comics has already started mixing things up: announcing lady Thor on "The View" after divulging that Falcon will become the first African American Captain America. But then there's always room for experimentation in the comic book world.

However, despite Marvel's impressive string of box office successes, there's definitely awareness of superhero fatigue and what better way to combat it then by turning to Wonder Woman? Fangirls have been impatiently waiting to embrace one of their own and Hall H went gaga over the first Xena-like Wonder Woman pose of Gadot. "Dawn of Justice," then "Justice League," and, finally, Wonder Woman will break out on her own. And that could be the tipping point.

Before then, though, Sony will have an indication of how much interest there is in tapping the female side of the Spidey universe (slated for release in 2017), in which casting will be key and freshness will be imperative after diminishing interest in Andrew Garfield's sophomore turn as the Marvel web-slinger. (Marc Webb's "The Amazing Spider-Man 3" has been pushed back to 2018.)

But, of course, there's already box office evidence of a growing female demo that's worth catering to: the phenomenal success of Jennifer Lawrence in "The Hunger Games," and the competitive surge in young adult novels that are consequently being gobbled up as potential franchise fodder by the studios. And Disney has had a perpetual Cheshire grin after "Frozen" took the world by storm with a double-dose of female empowerment, courtesy of Anna and Elsa. (Jennifer Lee is turning her attention to a film of Madeline L'Engle's trippy YA classic "A Wrinkle in Time.") 

Still, Marvel president/producer Kevin Feige, who already has a full slate through 2017, insists that it's a matter of timing in this all-important superhero chess game. True, there are bitter memories of Halle Berry's Catwoman and Jennifer Garner's Elektra, and guys usually aren't drawn to female superheroes that aren't part of a superstar ensemble, but with the right combination of elements, there's no reason to think that a gender balance of power shift can't be successfully achieved.

So why not a Black Widow movie or even a "Guardians of the Galaxy" spin-off with Zoe Saldana as the smart and deadly Gamora? The great thing about "Guardians" is that it veers off the beaten track and opens up a whole new Marvel world of possibilities. And audiences immediately embraced it. We're craving something new and unpredictable. Makes no difference if you suddenly put a female in charge of saving the universe as long as she's capable, compelling, and doesn't take herself too seriously. 

And getting back to industry leader Marvel, which is bound to make its gender shift eventually, it has plenty of established female superheroes to choose from without bringing a female Thor to the big screen. Then the hammer would really come down hard on them for such gimmickry.

This article is related to: Marvel, Immersed In Movies, Women in Film, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy, Zoe Saldana, Scarlett Johansson, Scarlett Johansson


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