Outside of Halle Berry’s CATWOMAN, the last, true female comic book superhero movie was SUPERGIRL from the early 80s. Roughly 30 years ago… and I wonder why the recent NBC Wonder Woman pilot failed to get a series order (considering that a recent Wonder Woman fan film gave a template of how to do it) or that “Birds of Prey” failed so miserably on The CW, they [Warner TV] swore off doing anything remotely related to a female DC hero on TV (until this recent announcement of “Gotham” as imagined by Bruno Heller (although, I haven’t heard the pitch, it’s about Gotham City BEFORE Batman arrives, this would work a little better if it was an adaptation of the underrated, but still stellar Gotham Central comic… that’s wishful thinking that would never come to pass… no courage).
Executives defend their actions by saying the audience won’t support a female comic book movie, but is that really true? At least 50% of the audience is female, and if TITANIC was any indication, women love to see themselves empowered in romantic settings.
A few years back, French filmmaker Luc Besson produced (and wrote?) this western starring Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz… DESPERADOS. It was a little too campy to really be good, but if it was more series in the vein of Leon’s Man With No Name trilogy, it probably would have done better and been received by the critics (pros and the highly vociferous talking heads in social media).
What’s more telling is that Besson became an international name from creating and directing the original LA FEMME NIKITA (ironic that the “Nikita” TV series is basically what “Birds of Prey” could have been and is essentially the same thing. In addition, Luc Besson’s one-time wife, Milla Jovovich, has been the star of her own action hero franchise RESIDENT EVIL for at least four installments, and those have rained coin into the studio coffers.
Movie audiences love girls with guns who can kick ass; it may be a stretch in real life for an 115 lbs woman to beat the crap out of two 200 lbs beefcake dudes, but that’s why it’s called fiction! Even Lara Croft in TOMB RAIDER did pretty well (would have done better in the sequel if the fear-cloud that hangs over a franchise wasn’t so thorough in place).
Everyone has been wondering if DC/Warners will get up off their asses and figure out how to do a WONDER WOMAN movie (and Joss Whedon has been begging to do it, for whatever that’s worth)… if Raintree Films can do with paltry pocket change, then what’s the deal? The one jacked up thing about doing fanfiction (film or written) is the visionary creators rarely get to reap the rewards of their amazing efforts… and people over in Burbank are more than likely to shit the bed with a WW bed anyway (Prosecution Exhibit A: Green Lantern). Let’s all hope Rileah Vanderbilt gets some legit film work for embodying the Amazon Warrior Princess.
Only that’s the key thing, Wonder Woman would be so much better off with an unknown (much like Christopher Reeves when he did SUPERMAN in the 70s) than with any A-list female star. As with any superhero/comic book movie, people come to see the suit — not the man (or in this case woman) behind the mask (although, Robery Downey, Jr. IS Tony Stark; everyone else is and has been replaceable… remember everyone was straight trippin’ when Heath Ledger was cast as The Joker). As long as the actress has the physicality and can carry off the acting, why is an A-List star needed? You’d shave $9.5m off the budget right there (not to mention the ripple effect of not having an overpriced A-Lister shouldering the movie).
On a certain level, a powerful woman fulfils a certain fetish that more men have than they care to admit, and this another (albeit anecdotal) reason why a female superhero movie can walk all over (in high heels) the competition…
If the current low budget sci-fi film noir my brother and I are putting together for our directing debut comes together smoothly and has the impact we anticipate, we have an idea for Marvel Studios… they’ll dig it.