December 8, 2009

Why Don't Female Superhero Films Work?

I will first say that I think there is large market out there for female centered superhero films. There is a great amount of female comic book readers and fangirls these days. I think Twilight proves if anything that when young girls get behind something they'll pay to see it. I'm in a rare group who thinks Hollywood can make decent female superhero films if they take the time to develop them properly. I've come up with some thoughts on why some previous attempts haven't done well.

One of my biggest problems with recent comic book movies is the scantly clad outfits. Sorry if I'm watching a PG-13 movie and the heroine is wearing stripper outfits or lingerie they become laughable. You don't need to sell sex in a PG-13 film. It also doesn't setup good messages to girls either. I feel studios are pandering to pre-teen boys with these costumes. It doesn't seem to work and they are looking for fun action movies rather than an extended Maxim photoshoot.

The one thing I've noticed in successful films the female characters are usually wearing conservative costumes. They might be tight fitting but at least the males are sporting the same costumes. Gender neutral costumes and low cleavage is key. I don't think you'll loose any male audiences doing this. Just keep the action level up, the story exciting and you'll get the fanboys no matter what.

Studios don't spend the money, time, talent and effort for these films. I've noticed that these films aren't properly worked on and seem rushed without any real development. They end up looking like something that would air on CW. It doesn't hurt to spend a year developing a project and spending the money studios spend on male superhero films. Hiring a capable director and writers doesn't hurt either. I believe that studio executives are to blame for most of these quality control problems.

Fan casting is time honored tradition of the fanboy and I've been guilty of doing this. Sometimes it can be counter productive and give studio executives bad ideas. Yes, some studio people do read blogs and are influenced by them. I think Megan Fox could end up developing into a decent actress but I wouldn't want to see her taking on Marvel or DC heroes. I think when people start fan-casting television actresses and pretty faces over talent it helps the dumbing down of the genre.

It's not that new of a concept to make a female lead character tough and heroic. Look at sci-fi action characters like Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley, they are perfect examples of how to develop serious female action heroes. I think others besides James Cameron can do this properly.

A few recent examples include television characters such as Buffy and Starbuck. As much as I complain on the talents of Angelina Jolie she does do a lot for the female action genre. Roles in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Wanted and the upcoming Salt show us it can be done successfully even by someone like Jolie.

Female action oriented characters also can give way to successful franchises. Trinity (Matrix), Selene (Underworld) and Alice (Resident Evil) are good examples.

I feel Zoe Saldana is the future of the female action star. She's already starred in Star Trek and is hoping to do some more fighting in the sequels. Zoe is also doing her fair share of genre projects with Avatar and The Losers. So she's starting to gather steam with fanboys/girls

Other notable action actresses include Michelle Rodriguez (Machete, Resident Evil, Avatar, SWAT), Maggie Q (Die Hard 4, MI3) and Kelly Hu (X2, Tournament).

I think we're in the age where we could finally see some decent films made. Marvel Studios could be the first group to come out with these type of films. I feel they have the best and strongest characters. Scarlett Johannson is already playing Black Widow in Iron Man 2. So it's expected she'll end up getting her own spin-off. Some other prime candidates for Marvel Studios includes She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel.

20th Century Fox doesn't have the best track record lately with their superhero films. Although they might end up making some interesting X-Men spin-offs in the future. Storm and Mystique could end up getting their own origin films. I think Rogue is the character they've most wronged in the franchise. By not giving her the powers she had in the comics and turning her into Jubilee was a mistake. Hopefully they end up giving her own movie.

DC Comic characters seem to have the biggest uphill battle. DC Comic heroes are usually two dimensional and many things can go wrong in their adaptation. It's been shown by the longtime development of the Wonder Woman film. Which by all means is the most popular female superhero and the easiest to sell to fangirls. It doesn't help that Supergirl and Catwoman are the previous attempts.

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