The megabudget superhero movie is more than a trend—it’s a mandate. Like a geeky kid bitten by a mutant spider, the form shucked off its awkward phase (George Clooney’s Bat-nipples, anyone?) and came of age right around the start of the new millennium, with Bryan Singer’s polished X-Men (2000), and, shortly thereafter, Sam Raimi’s likeable Spider-Man (2002). By the time Christopher Nolan put the genre firmly in the grownup box with his brooding Caped Crusader reboot, Batman Begins (2005), comic-book movies were all but off and running—er, flying—as the wheel-turners at Marvel and DC frantically spun blockbuster franchises out of gold and dross alike.
Throughout this boom, anyone who isn’t a handsome white dude (be he vigilante, mutant or demigod) has hung out on the sidelines, waited around to be rescued or stood in the line of fire while our fearless hero worked through his existential angst—to become the gallant defender we all knew he could be! If he just opened his heart to the possibility of love, honor and what-have-you!
But whence the minority superhero? And more specifically, whence the superheroine?
Ass-kicking, my friend, is hot.
Ask anyone this question, and they’ll probably mutter grumpily about Rob Bowman’s terrible Elektra (2005) or Pitof’s worse Catwoman (2004), the only movies to center on ladies with superpowers since Jeannot Szwarc’s Supergirl (1984)—which was also quite awful. But these movies don’t suck because their lead characters lack a Y chromosome; they suck because they aren’t good movies.
A Wonder Woman flick, the first and most obvious choice to kick things off, has been languishing in development hell since the ’90s; Joss Whedon, the crown prince of writing ass-kicking ladies (see: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Serenity, Dollhouse), penned a Diana Prince script in the mid-2000s only to have the project scrapped by a skittish studio. (He went on, of course, to make a little movie called The Avengers.)
But consider the possibilities, even with what we’re already working with: At the end of the recent Iron Man 3, Tony Stark’s girlfriend, Pepper Potts, acquires some gnarly, unstable superpowers. She uses them to save the day, and it’s awesome, right? Of course, she gets “cured” in the epilogue so Iron Man can continue wearing the iron pants in the relationship, but think about it—how cool would it have been if Pepper got to keep her powers?
Although an impressive array of actresses get cast as superheroes’ romantic interests—Amy Adams as Man of Steel’s Lois Lane, Emma Stone as The Amazing Spider-Man’s Gwen Stacy—they ultimately exist as props for their boys to rescue or lean on. Even flicks which do count lady crime-fighters among their ranks tend to relegate them to the sidelines. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) got a hot second of screen time compared with her male counterparts in The Avengers; in the X-Men flicks, Storm, Rogue and Jean Grey ultimately took a backseat to Wolverine and the boys; and in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, the fascinatingly complex Silk Spectre of Alan Moore’s comic was reduced to a simpering sexpot.
So why should guys care? Well, first off, I’ve got four words for you: Hot ladies with superpowers. I’ll say that one more time: Hot ladies with superpowers. Who doesn’t love a story about an adventurous badass who also happens to be easy on the eyes? We females have gotten to enjoy gratuitous Captain America butt shots and heaving, shirtless Bruce Wayne abs for years now; straight dudes deserve a slice of that pie, too.
And if your own ladyfriend is the type of girl who normally steers clear of tights-and-capes flicks, a womancentric variant on the genre might be just the thing to reconcile your movie night. She’ll get the relatable protagonist, you’ll get the violence and explosions—everybody wins! Besides, any guy worth his weight in testosterone knows that strong female characters aren’t a threat to masculinity; they’re the ass-kicking opposite-sex counterpart to it. And that, my friend, is hot.
There is some hazy, tentative good news on the horizon. Natalie Portman (who, as Jane Foster, was recently seen cozying up to the thunder god’s thunder pecs in the poster for Thor: The Dark World), recently told SciFi Now that Marvel has a womancentric movie in the pipeline. The character in question may just be superhuman kicker of butts Captain Marvel, née Air Force pilot Carol Danvers, according to recent vague comments from Marvel bigwig Louis D’Esposito. But with the studio’s packed production schedule, this probably won’t happen for at least a few years.
In the meantime, we ladies will cool our heels in this chair we’ve been tied up in since the second act. Don’t mind us. (But hurry it up, willya? This rope is really starting to chafe.)