Hollywood has a female superhero problem

31 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Box Office: ‘Ant-Man’ Has Topped ‘Green Lantern’.

The list of male superheroes starring in their own big-screen escapades is bigger than Tony Stark’s ego, and the billions of dollars these films have generated rival the fortunes of the well-off tinkerer. However, in spite of Hollywood’s continued fascination with supermen, a new surge of female power could finally electrify the genre and more closely resemble the audiences of comic book adaptations.

That’s the apparent takeaway from Marvel Studios’ latest release, “Ant-Man.” The film concludes with — SPOILER ALERT — Evangeline Lilly’s character, Hope Van Dyne, being bestowed with her late mother’s prototype superhero suit and alter-ego. When she spots the ensemble, she satisfyingly informs her inventor father, “It’s about damn time.” It likely is, considering 42 percent of “Ant-Man” ticket buyers on opening weekend were women. “It was always intentional to end the movie that way with Hope saying she’s going to be suited up in future adventures,” said Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios. “Over the year since we shot that, it’s taken on a greater meaning out there in the fan community.

Well, aside from the clickbait headline (and the reassurance that I have other stuff in the pipeline today), it brings up a fun way to briefly discuss a few minor points in terms of apples-to-apples comparison in terms of box office punditry. It’s more relevant now than it’s ever been.” Over the past seven years of interconnected Marvel superhero movies, female characters who are not codenamed Black Widow have mostly been relegated to the sidelines as love interests, sidekicks, damsels in distress or all of the above, making Hope’s parting words resonate beyond the screen for viewers who’ve long been dissatisfied with the lack of female superheroes in movies, despite their decades-long histories in comics. Scarlett Johansson’s shadowy agent Black Widow is no longer the sole Marvel movie heroine following the introduction of Zoe Saldana’s alien assassin Gamora in last year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Elizabeth Olsen’s mind-bending Scarlet Witch earlier this year in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and Lilly’s winged Wasp at the end of “Ant-Man.” “Their intentions are in the right place,” Lilly said. “They just have to get there.

That was the second-lowest debut in Marvel Studios history, playing less like Guardians of the Galaxy and more like (non MCU films) X-Men: First Class, The Wolverine, Fantastic Four, and yes, Green Lantern and Watchmen. I’m really honored and excited to be part of that, to be one of the pioneering women within the superhero realm, to represent strong women and put more of a female presence into these movies.” Andrea Letamendi, a psychologist and comic book expert who recently participated in a talk at San Diego Comic-Con titled, “Building the Modern (Super)Heroine,” was disappointed that the filmmakers stopped short of having Lilly’s character actually don the Wasp’s get-up and help save the day alongside Ant-Man. “When women don’t see ourselves represented in an important role, for instance as a superhero, we begin to question our value in society,” said Letamendi. “It’s surprising that we’re still considering that, but it’s very true. Yet despite the fact that all of these films opened just over/under $55m, they had vastly different box office trajectories and their overall performance led to wholly different long term outcomes.

The clinical term for it is symbolic annihilation, and it has a damaging effect, especially on younger audiences.” Letamendi commended Marvel for including smart, savvy female characters, such as Thor’s astrophysicist girlfriend Jane Foster and Tony Stark’s CEO significant other Pepper Potts, in past films, although she said it would be more socially beneficial for viewers to see women serve as actual superheroes or — better yet — lead the charge against all those killer robots and aliens. Financially, solely focusing on female superheroes has never boosted the bottom line for movie studios. “Supergirl,” ”Elektra” and “Catwoman” each failed to dazzle audiences or critics, but that was more than a decade ago before the current superhero boom. Despite a relatively soft number, it earned rave reviews and jumpstarted fan faith in the long-running franchise and that goodwill paid off with X-Men: Days of Future Past last summer. She’ll first pop up as the DC Comics character in next year’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” The demigod will later join several male superheroes for a two-part “Justice League” film series. It spawned a sequel (Rise of the Silver Surfer) two years later that cost a little more ($130m), opened a little bigger ($58m) but did a little worse here and abroad ($131m/$288m).

Watchmen opened with $55 million in March of 2009, which normally would be a fantastic debut for a 2.75 hour R-rated comic book movie based on a cult property. But the Zack Snyder film cost $150m and we all knew that the legs would be nonexistent, and they were worse than that with a $107m domestic total and $185m worldwide cume.

The question of just how female superheroes can fare on their own with modern audiences will be tested later this year, not in theaters but on small screens. And to this day, considering how many big budget disasters still manage to scrape up $250m-$300m worldwide, I’m still shocked at how poorly Green Lantern did not just here but overseas as well. Heck, inflation and 3D bump aside, it will likely surpass the $374m total of Batman Begins, the $391m total of Superman Returns, and the $385m cume of the first Star Trek. Domestically, it’s heading towards a $150m-$175m total, and worldwide is a frustratingly open question since it doesn’t open in Greece, China, and Japan until September. We’ve heard copious amounts of how the Marvel brand is damaged, or that Avengers: Age of Ultron only making $455m domestic and $1.4b worldwide and now Ant-Man openly opening with $57m means that the end is coming and the company is on a downward slope.

Maybe, beyond all reason to presume otherwise, Captain America: Civil War will “underperform” and the various Phase 3 films will basically be a waiting game for Avengers: Infinity War part II. And they are doing that on an opening weekend that was all-too-similar to a number of lower-profile or outright lower-grossing comic book superhero movies from the last decade.

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