With today’s announcement of a standalone Supergirl film the future of comic book movies is definitely female
The first time I saw Wonder Woman I cried.
I cried during the early fight scenes on the Amazonian island of Themyscira, when Robyn Wright and Connie Nielsen and crossfit icon Brooke Ence flipped through the air, their pleated skirts whipping around them as they felled their enemies with spears and swords and their particularly strong right hooks.
I cried when Gal Gadot’s Diana ran through no mans land to save a terrorised village, bullets raining down around her, bravely going where no man would or could. (Not even Chris Pine.) I cried when Diana used her super strength to barrel through a brick wall, reducing it to rubble and dust in an instant.
I cried and I cried and I cried into the bucket of popcorn the size of a small child in my lap.
I wasn’t alone. Women around the world – the ticketgoers who propelled the film to a £633,910 million total at the box office – cried into their Coke Zeros and their pick’n’mix and their choc tops simply at the sheer sight of the power of Wonder Woman and her Amazonian peers and left the cinema basking in the reflected glow of their strength. It was empowering.
Men get this all the time, in every superhero movie and every action film and every time they see Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson or Jason Statham or Chris Hemsworth staring down at them from a movie poster. Women never get this. So we cried.
Today, Warner Bros announced that a standalone superhero movie focusing on Supergirl, Superman’s cousin and heroine in her own right, is in the works. It’s early days, but a screenwriter is already locked in. The search for (hopefully) a female director and a star is underway.
This news comes in the wake of that same film studio confirming that the next Harley Quinn movie, starring Margot Robbie, will be an all-female superhero anthology directed by Cathy Yan. The up-and-coming filmmaker who had a huge hit with her movie Dead Pigs at Sundance this year will become the first female Asian American director of a superhero movie. Warner Bros has also announced a Batgirl movie, currently in script development stages.
Right now, right as we speak, somewhere in Washington D.C, Gal Gadot and Chris Pine are having their hair teased and feathered as they cantilever themselves into boilersuits and legwarmers and bumbags to film Wonder Woman 1984, the Eighties-era Wonder Woman sequel, slated for release in December 2019. (Not soon enough! I want to cry again!)
Over in the opposing camp, Marvel is also stacking their slate with female-led movies. They’ve wrapped production on Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson and Stylist cover star Gemma Chan, set for release on International Women’s Day next year.
After consistently proving to be the best thing about any Marvel movie she appeared in, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is finally getting her own film directed by Australian Cate Shortland. This month’s Ant-Man & The Wasp became the first Marvel movie to have a female hero named in the title.
That’s a lot of female-led superhero movies. While film studios are dialing back on their male-led franchises they’re doubling down on anything starring a woman.
Cynically, this has a lot to do with the critical and commercial success of Wonder Woman last year. That movie received rave reviews, was passionately championed by its (crying) fanbase and – crucially – made an absolute shedload of money.
But looking beyond the box office, Wonder Woman proved that the moviegoing public was desperate for something different. After decades of superhero movies fronted by white men Hollywood finally gave us something new. First, it was a female heroine, not merely the equal but the superior of every man in the movie.
Then, it was a black superhero in a movie starring an almost entirely black cast. (I’m talking about Black Panther, which also made an absolute shedload. More than £1 billion, making it the number one movie of the year so far.)
Women are still more frequent moviegoers than men (55% to 45%, according to 2016 statistics), so it stands to reason that they might like to see some movies that respect and reflect them across the full spectrum of the moviegoing experience. That means small indies and period dramas and romantic comedies, yes, but also the blockbuster superhero movies, the ones that play on the biggest screens to the biggest audiences in the biggest multiplexes around the world.
It wasn’t until last year that we finally got that. And then this year we got a little bit more, courtesy of Shuri and Okoye and Nakia in Black Panther and Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne in Ant-Man and The Wasp.
Next year we’ll get a double dose with Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman 1984. Beyond that, the future of superhero movies looks radiantly female. There’ll be Birds of Prey with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, there’ll be that Black Widow movie, there’ll be a soaring Supergirl film. Maybe there’ll be a standalone movie about The Wasp, who is so much more interesting than Ant-Man could ever be. There will be Batgirl.
I’ll see them all, starting with Captain Marvel next year. March 8, 2019, you’ll find me queuing up for that child-sized bucket of popcorn and that Coke Zero. If March 8 happens to fall on a weekday, I’ll call in sick to work.
I’ll settle into my seat and, as the lights go down, I’ll probably cry. But then, I’ll smile.