‘Wonder Woman’ Success Makes Marvel Look Slow to Embrace Female Heroes

Director Patty Jenkins becomes first female director to top $100M at box office.

June 5, 2017 9:32 am
Wonder Woman
Gal Gadot stars in 'Wonder Woman' (Clay Enos/Warner Bros.)

Marvel has some mansplaining to do.

Rival Warner Bros. just landed a major box office hit with Wonder Woman, earning $100.5 million in its opening weekend—and giving Patty Jenkins bragging rights as the first female director to break that benchmark in the process. It was a much-needed win for Warner’s previously uneven attempts at building a large cinematic universe for its collection of DC superheroes.

Because of Marvel’s success in building that superhero-movie template, Wonder Woman’s fortunes are even more glaring.

That’s because Marvel, with a huge head start, won’t launch its first film headlined by a female superhero until Ant-Man and the Wasp next year, and first solo female superhero film, Captain Marvel, until 2019. As many women who happen to love comic books have pointed out: Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, once the only woman on the Avengers, has no superpowers and is overshadowed by the Hulk, Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man.

Black Widow
Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ (Marvel)

Making it a little uglier is the fact that Jenkins had been attached to direct Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World, before dropping out over creative differences with studio head Kevin Feige.

As The Hollywood Reporter puts it:

“Whatever else Marvel has done right, its handling of female characters has been a sore spot for a while. In 2015, an email leaked in which Marvel chairman Ike Perlmutter decried the concept of female-led superhero films, using Catwoman (2004), Elektra (2005) and Supergirl (1984) as examples.

“Those are, admittedly, bad superhero movies. But, arguably, the same could be said of 2008’s The Incredible Hulk or Iron Man 2 or Thor: The Dark World.”

While Perlmutter is no longer in charge of the Marvel movies, the studio has been noticeably slow to break that glass ceiling. 

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