Don’t hold your breath waiting for Marvel to handle women better
Before I begin, let me re-iterate I’ve taken a break from watching superhero movies since X-Men: Days of Future Past. I have not watched anything following that, and I skipped seeing Days of Future Past in theatres. I have not watched Guardians of the Galaxy or Avengers: Age of Ultron. Don’t think this comes from a place of me watching Age of Ultron or something. I haven’t. All I know is that it’s a movie about recycling the first Avengers and replacing aliens with robots but this time they create Captain Planet.
When WikiLeaks uploaded new content from the Sony hack, most people were upset that this was still happening and that WikiLeaks was continue to allow the complete upheaval of an entire corporation’s privacy be seen to the world. It felt like, I don’t know, another Kurt Cobain documentary exposing the private life of a person who didn’t want to be exposed to the world by anything other than his own art.
However, a new email came out that didn’t just involve someone from Sony. It also involved the CEO of Marvel, Ike Perlmutter. Perlmutter was talking with Sony CEO Michael Lynton and wanted to follow up with something from a phone call. IndieWire writer Laura Berger discussed it here. Leaking emails is bad, but it’s already been leaked:
To: “Lynton, Michael”
Subject: Female Movies
Date: Thu, 7 Aug 2014 05:32:50 -0400
As we discussed on the phone, below are just a few examples. There are more.
1. Electra (Marvel) – Very bad idea and the end result was very, very bad. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=elektra.htm
2. Catwoman (WB/DC) – Catwoman was one of the most important female character within the Batmanfranchise. This film
was a disaster. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=catwoman.htm
3. Supergirl – (DC) Supergirl was one of the most important female super hero in Superman franchise. This Movie came out in 1984 and did $14 million total domestic with opening weekend of $5.5 million. Again, another disaster.
This is some delicious hot take. It’s completely devoid of context except the context that befits the take itself.
Nevermind that this was originally the viewpoint of comic book movies themselves at one point before X-Men and Spider-Man changed the Hollywood landscape. If it didn’t have a major property attached to it, it was going to fail the way Mystery Men and Tank Girl were commercial failures. It could maybe make a few dollars like Blade and Darkman, or maybe it makes money but is a critical failure like Batman and Robin, but it’s going to be a disaster.
And “Female Movies”? Female?
It’s obvious that Perlmutter means “Comic Book Movies with Leading Women” but he’s somehow the CEO of Marvel and doesn’t know how to compose an e-mail or talk like a human being. If he was just talking about “Female Movies”, women in leading roles, he’d be forgetting Frozen and The Hunger Games, one being one of the biggest successes of Disney (Marvel’s parent company) in the 21st century and the other one of the biggest film franchises of the 21st century. Of course, it came from a book without pictures and Marvel is about books with pictures so I guess I’ll presume he doesn’t read those. He’d be forgetting everything from The Wizard of Oz to The Sound of Music to Aliens. Aliens! That movie was a successful sequel to a successful first film. With a woman who kicked ass without losing her femininity. And it was both a critical and commercial success!
But are these superheroes? I guess I have to make clear of something how I made clear about it on Twitter:
Why men can’t be superheroes: BECAUSE SUPERHEROES DON’T EXIST.
— Aaron Wrotkowski (@AaronWrotkowski) May 5, 2015
Why women can’t be superheroes: SEE PREVIOUS TWEET — Aaron Wrotkowski (@AaronWrotkowski) May 5, 2015
Why men can’t be superheroes in a movie: NO REASON BECAUSE MOVIES ARE F FOR FAKE Why women can’t be superheroes in a movie: SEE ABOVE
— Aaron Wrotkowski (@AaronWrotkowski) May 5, 2015
So Elektra, Catwoman and Supergirl didn’t work out so well. Was the script good? Was the director known? Was the production strong? Was the budget adequate? Was the promotion acceptable? You don’t have to watch the movies to know that the answer to that is no no no no and no. The movies sucked, not because they were “Female Movies” but because they were “Bad Movies”.
And for the CEO of a Comic Book Movie company to try to make that point to the CEO of Sony when “Comic Book Movies” has given us Thor 2 and Iron Man 2 from his own studio, where Sony has given us Amazing Spider-Man 2, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, when their competition has given us Dark Knight Rises and Jonah Hex, when we’ve seen awful comic adaptations of Dark Horse properties like R.I.P.D. and TimeCop 2, not to mention Ghost Rider, The Spirit, Blade Trinity, Mystery Men and I think you get the point. Comic book movies can suck really bad with a man in the lead. Even with a man who has worked well in successful movies (Wolverine) or in a movie that people still defend despite being a completely awful, lazy, befuddled mess (Dark Knight Rises).
I’m speaking to the choir though, for the most part. Unless you really take offence to me saying Dark Knight Rises was a terribly contrived, sloppy sequel which looked like everyone wanted it over and done with and ended on a 50’s Batman style “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb” slopilogue, you’re going to agree that a woman as a superhero can be a very successful movie if it’s a good movie. Marvel seemed to think so too with the word of doing Captain Marvel.
But here you have the CEO of Marvel trying to prove to the CEO of Sony that women leading superhero movies is a bad idea, all while pushing Captain Marvel to beat DC from making Wonder Woman. All with Marvel’s current track record of keeping Black Widow off Avengers merchandise to the point where actor Mark Ruffalo has to plead with Marvel to give her more merchandise. This is the studio making Captain Marvel. This is the studio you expect to listen for future Marvel films in giving women a bigger stage to stand on? And to not just be plot devices or quota fills? You really expect Marvel to do anything other than use this as PR fodder to show how “they changed” with Captain Marvel despite not giving it the same opportunities they will give other properties?
Don’t hold your breath. Unless that’s your superpower. Then hold your breath. And go save something.