Mar 12, 2011

Why Can't Lady Superheroes Get Their Own Movies?

Christian Bale, The Dark Knight, Anne HathawayWarner Bros. Entertainment; Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images
Anne Hathaway just got cast as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises, but we still can't get Wonder Woman onto the big screen?! Does Hollywood hate women?
—Sterling, via the inbox
Now, now. Milla Jovovich has cut up plenty of zombies. And La Jolie once made a fine Lara Croft, back when she was still wearing Billy Bob Thornton's blood around her neck. And pretty soon we're going to be treated to Sucker Punch, which features a whole slew of women leaping and shooting. None of those are comic book heroines, I know. But they could all kill you with their thighs.
As for Wonder Woman...
People do like going to the movies to see the occasional kick-ass chick. But authentic female comic book heroes have a history of blowing out at the box office.
"Look at Catwoman and look at Electra, two big female action movies that tanked creatively and financially," says Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter's Heat Vision blog.
Sure, movies tend to work well with the right female lead, such as Jolie. But for every one of those, you get Barb Wire, the Pam Anderson debacle that, according to Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock made—good lord—all of $3 million.
"Batman proved that the man under the hood, for the most part, could be interchangeable," Bock tells me. "But there simply hasn't been a female superhero movie that has been a box office success.
"Because superhero movies are so costly to produce and market, everything has to be in place for financing to go through. And if you can back that up someone like Angelina Jolie, who has serious box office clout, then you'll see a green light. But, until then, unless James Cameron is making Wonder Woman, it's not gonna fly."
Wonder Woman also comes with her own specific set of adaptation challenges.
"No one has figured out a good take on her" recently, Kit points out. He notes that the comic book franchise recently tried re-inventing the young Amazon, making her college-aged, with a slick new costume. There's also a more conventional plot line that has nothing to do with her World War II roots.
"Now they have her on the run and hunting down the person who killed her mother," Kit notes. "All the Amazons are on the run."
Holy crap! Amazons! On the run!
The point is, bringing Wonder Woman to the big screen is tricky. It would involve walking a fine line between feminism, 1940s kitsch, and sex appeal. It would also need a bankable female lead who could put butts in movie theater seats.
There is some good news for Wonder Woman fans, however.
The franchise does appear to be on its way back to the small screen, with Ally McBeal creator David E. Kelley spearheading the project.
Run, Amazons, run!

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