By now most of the movie-watching world would have caught Marvel’s latest celluloid spectacle ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’, which is the first of a long line of superhero movies to last you through 2020.
If you take a look at the upcoming list, most of the movies are male-centric. Out of the 30 films in the line-up, just two are standalone female superhero features: DC’s ‘Wonder Woman’ movie is released in 2017, while Marvel’s ‘Captain Marvel’ is scheduled for 2018.
We would think that Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow will be a frontrunner for a leading role in her own movie, but even after four appearances in mega-blockbusters, the studio just wouldn’t give ScarJo a break.
I could imagine Black Widow in a spy movie in the vein of ‘Mission Impossible’, ‘Casino Royale’ and ‘The Bourne Identity’ – just with a female protagonist.
ScarJo has proven time and again that she can helm a movie (Re: ‘Lucy’, ‘Under The Skin’).
Even more disappointing is the decision to exclude Wasp, a female founding member of the Avengers from the upcoming 'Ant-Man'.
So what the flick?
One reason, as we now know thanks to a leaked email, is that the bosses behind the established comics have a distaste for female-fronted movies.
Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter voiced his doubts an email exchange with Sony boss Michael Lynton, about the box-office performance of “female movies”.
MORE: 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' review
In the leaked Wikileaks correspondence from 7 August 2014, Perlmutter lists ‘Elektra’ (2005), ‘Catwoman’ (2004) and the 1984 film version of ‘Supergirl’ as examples of female-led superhero movies that bombed financially, citing each of the films’ box-office results on BoxOfficeMojo.com.
“Very bad idea and the end result was very, very bad,” he said of ‘Elektra’, the Marvel movie starring Jennifer Garner, which was a spinoff of the Ben Affleck-led ‘Daredevil’ feature film.
Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, will be Marvel's first female superhero movie released under its Marvel Cinematic Universe series in 2018. The studio has yet to cast the lead | Photo: Marvel
Of ‘Catwoman’, played by Halle Berry, Perlmutter said: “Catwoman was one of the most important female character within the Batmanfranchise. This film was a disaster.”
The executive clearly means “disaster” in terms of profits, adding that 'Supergirl' suffered the same fate even though she was one of the most important female superheroes in the 'Superman' franchise. "This movie came out in 1984 and did US$14 million total domestic with opening weekend of US$5.5 million. Again, another disaster,” he added.
Gal Gadot will appear in 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' in 2016, and will get her own movie in 2017 | Photo: Warner Bros
What’s vexing about the exchange is that both execs failed to notice that the films they’re talking about came long before Marvel, DC or whatever company got their act together.
MORE: 10 superheroes who need their own movie
While Sam Raimi’s ‘Spider-Man’ kickstarted the modern genre, the superhero movie boom came only after ‘Iron Man’ in 2008, which gave birth to the current Marvel Cinematic Universe.
THE MEN FLOP, TOO
Additionally, male superhero movies have been studio "disasters" more often than female-led ones.
Think ‘Superman IV: The Quest for Peace’, ‘Green Lantern’, ‘Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance’, ’Batman & Robin’, ‘The Spirit’, ‘Punisher: War Zone’ and even the recent ‘Superman Returns’ if you need some examples.
IT’S THE STORY, SILLY
At the end of the day, it boils down to writing and plot, and those films – even the three female movies listed as "disasters" – just didn’t have a good enough story to sell tickets.
It doesn’t even have to be superhero movies – there are female heroes in almost every movie, whether it is a medieval fantasy or modern drama, and they’re the reason why people love them.
Not a superhero but Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss brought in the bucks | Photo: Lionsgate Films
There's Scarlett O’ Hara, Clarice Starling, Princess Leia, Bella Swan, Katniss, Trinity, Ellen Ripley, Elizabeth Swann and many, many more.
Perlmutter's email shows exactly what is wrong with Hollywood when it comes to films starring women, action-based or not.
As Cate Blanchett said at the 2014 Oscars, accepting her Best Actress statue for ‘Blue Jasmine’: "And thank you to... those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films, with women at the centre, are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money."
Zaki Jufri writes about the arts, entertainment, film and other forms of popular — and unpopular — culture for inSing.com