Like many this weekend, I saw The Avengers, and was blown away. I had a lot of faith going in, since I have huge confidence in Joss Whedon, but the ensemble superhero
movie (hell, even the single superhero movie) is a herculean task to get right…and so I admit to being worried. But those worries were soon put to rest. Whedon delivered on every single level, and while one could complain that there could have been more plot, or more character development, I think in the end he struck the right (and smart) balance. Had he tried to do more (he was already doing so much) I think he would have ended up actually doing less…or at least doing less right.
Most wonderful of all to me (and there was a lot of wonderful) and least surprising was Whedon’s exceptional use of Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. In a movie with this many "big" superheroes (Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, and Thor in particular) it would have been easy for a character like Black Widow, with her more subtle power profile to get lost. Not only are her powers not as spectacle driven as those above, but every one of those gents has an introductory superhero movie under their belt already (ahem, some of them have two).
But instead of getting lost, Whedon utilized Black Widow to her best. He knew exactly where to put her for maximum impact, and he let her just be her badass spy self. It worked like gangbusters and Johansson got both amazing scenes, and also a critical role in the story, rather than just some cool one-off scenes. A director less familiar with female characters and with superheroes in general, might not have been able to pull this off but for Whedon it feels effortless - because it is.
And so that leaves us with only one question…when do we get our solo Black Widow film, starring Johansson and directed by Whedon?
Marvel would be fools not to jump on the opportunity to create the first superhero franchise featuring a female character, and I don’t suppose they’d hate the idea of making Whedon and superheroines work, when DC couldn’t make it happen with their star female superhero - Wonder Woman.
So, who else is ripe to lead a film and potentially begin a franchise? And perhaps more importantly as we’ve learned with Whedon and Widow, who would be the director to do it right?
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Actresses: Charlize Theron (Kate Kane) Rosario Dawson (Renee Montoya)
Kathryn Bigelow has proved that she knows how to do action including great fight scenes and chase scenes in movies like Point Break and Strange Days, and both had interesting and tough female leads, especially Angela Basset in Strange Days, but she also found a wonderful almost street level style that worked beautifully for her in The Hurt Locker. Strange Days also showed that she can handle the epic ideas and an unwieldy cast that a Batwoman movie might require. But the realistic tone she took in a film like The Hurt Locker and its military background make her a great fit. Charlize Theron is a powerful actress, and though Aeon Flux wasn’t a great movie, it shows Theron being quite comfortable with action (she also expressed interest in being Catwoman not so long ago). She’s got the right coloring (well, if anyone has Kate's unrealistic coloring) and all it would take is some great red hair dye and we’d be there. She would quite simply be divine as Kate Kane. If she’s considered too old for the version of Kate that Hollywood wants to present I’d suggest Deborah Ann Woll from True Blood as a younger Kate alternative. Either way, Rosario Dawson as sometimes girlfriend Renee Montoya would be…in a word? Hot.
Director: Ridley Scott
Actress: Katee Sackhoff (Valkyrie)
Sif was one of the best things about last year’s Thor movie, and in the hands of the right director I don’t see why a Valkyrie movie couldn’t work at least as well as Thor. With Ridley Scott at the helm, the man responsible for launching just about the only existing female action hero franchise (Alien) and with a clear interest in strong female characters (G.I. Jane, Thelma & Louise, and by the looks of it, the upcoming Prometheus) Scott would be a natural fit for a female led superhero film. Also, thanks to his massive experience, including on epic films like Blade Runner he could easily handle the spectacle of a badass warrior that rides a flying horse. Katee Sackhoff has been sadly unused since her breakthrough role on Battlestar Galactica, but I can’t think of anything more perfect as a comeback for her than a role like this.
UPDATE: Of course, if I was making this list today (2013) and not in 2012, I'd modify this to Capt. Marvel. She's perfect as a hero to launch/anchor the first major superheroine film, and Katee Sackhoff would be an ideal Capt. Marvel.
03. JESSICA JONES (ALIAS)
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Actress: Gina Carano (Jessica Jones)
I know Jessica Jones is getting a television show, but in case that doesn’t work out, how about a film? Steven Soderbergh has said that he could never do a superhero movie because he’d want to strip down all the stuff that fans like, but I feel like Jessica Jones in Alias is an already stripped down character and there’s a lot of great non-superhero stuff to do with her, while still turning out completely awesome and very superhero-ish. Soderbergh’s recent Haywire with Gina Carano was great (though a financial failure), the action was unbelievably good, and if you haven’t seen it yet, I urge you to check it out. Her hotel fight scene with Michael Fassbender alone is worth the price of admission. Not everyone thinks Carano's acting chops are up to snuff, but I think she's got real promise. The risk here is that Soderberg will feel he’s already done something too similar with Haywire, but he clearly enjoyed working with Carano, and made such insightful comments regarding action movies and female stars around the making of Haywire, that I suspect he could be lured back with an interesting enough concept/script. And perhaps taking a concept with an already built in audience, might allow Soderbergh and Carano to get more interest upfront, and more asses in seats, to see them being awesome.
04. BIRDS OF PREY
Director: David Fincher
Actresses: Emma Stone (Oracle) & Kristen Bell (Black Canary)
I only cast Oracle and Black Canary here, in part just because I think they’re the core to whether this project works or not. I went with a younger Barbara and Dinah in the form of Emma Stone and Kristen Bell, in part because I just think they’re very talented actresses that would make a great team. Kristen Bell, as anyone who has seen her on Late Night With Craig Ferguson will attest, has a wicked sense of humor, and as evidenced by her interest in The Hunger Games sequel, is open to action. Emma Stone is a versatile actress, and a hell of a redhead, and I suspect after playing Gwen Stacy in the upcoming new Spider-Man, might be ready to be the hero herself, rather than the damsel. David Fincher has long ago proven that he can do just about whatever he sets his mind to, and he’s clearly interested in layered badass female characters as evidenced by his first full-length film, Alien 3 (which I happen to like a lot more than most people), to his most recent film The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
05. NEXTWAVE: AGENTS OF H.A.T.E.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Actresses: Naomi Harris (Monica Rambeau), Rhona Mitra (Elsa Bloodstone), and Amanda Seyfried (Boom Boom).
Using Nextwave is a bit of a cheat, since it’s not only an ensemble piece, like Birds of Prey, but also has a mixed cast (although one of the dudes is a robot…so I’m not sure if that counts) however, Monica Rambeau, Elsa Bloodstone, and Boom Boom are the heart and soul, as well of the leaders of this team, plus I just really want to see it make, okay?! Quentin Tarantino would be a great match for this film, even if he’s not one of my favorite directors as he could surely match the insanity of Warren Ellis brilliant series with ease. Naomi Harris, perhaps best known as the lead in 28 Days Later, is sadly underused and would make a hell of a Monica Rambeau, she’s also no stranger to action which is of course a bonus. Rhona Mitra is one of those actresses that seems to me like she should be a bigger star as she's gorgeous and talented, and given her action background she’d make a great badass Elsa Bloodstone. Bonus points since she’s already British. Amanda Seyfried has done dumb to hilarious effect (Mean Girls) and I think she could capture that again but with a bit more hero and a bit less clueless to make a perfect Tabitha Smith aka Boom Boom.
Okay, I tried to stay away from Wonder Woman but in the end I couldn’t, I’m just so desperate to see her get her day. So I’m going to stick with my belief that Joss Whedon is the man for the job, even though he’s moved away from the project in more ways than one. So many actresses have been thrown out there from Gina Torres (she’d be awesome) to Megan Fox (please god, no), but for my money, no better candidate has emerged in recent years than Gemma Arterton. Make it happen Hollywood!
What are the superheroine films you all would like to see? Who has the talent, vision, and commitment to female characters needed to bring them to life in the best way possible? Who should star in them? Sound off in the comments.
The first person to say “What?! No So and So on your list?!?!?!?” in the comments section gets killed. ;)