Getting a female-led superhero movie took longer than fans expected. In the long history of Hollywood movie-making, we have seen various iterations of Batman, Superman, Iron Man, Spider-Man and more. To get equal representation is still viewed as activism. But Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel have managed to successfully change the game to take the reigns from their predecessors.
Marvel’s Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is the most notable female superhero we remember on screen. In more than 10 years of Infinity Saga, we finally get a Black Widow solo movie to kick off a new phase. And Marvel is to blame for it. MCU’s first female lead Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) graced the big screen right before Avengers: Endgame in 2019.
On the other hand, as much as WB tried to expand DC Extended Universe their real success came with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). DC’s most notable character got its live-action movie in 2017 despite it being there for 75 years. To set a contrast first Batman movie was made back in 1989 and Micheal Keaton is reprising his role in upcoming Flashpoint movie.
What Makes a Superhero?
As comic book legend Stan Lee puts it,
“A superhero is a person who does heroic deeds and has the ability to do them in a way that a normal person couldn’t.”
And for years, the comic book world followed the definition without the bias of gender, race or sexual identity. Hence production houses today have the ease of picking a suitable character for representation be it Pakistani-American teenager Kamala Khan, Asian kung fu master Shang Chi, A Black Vixen or Cyborg. Comics never had a dearth of representation or diversity.
Watch: Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked Documentary
However the movie genre changed the narrative. A Batman or Captain America was always more profitable with a white male lead than a woman or a person of colour. For example, the first three phases of MCU majorly have all white casts which are mostly male. Fans, early on, had an objection to the sexualization of Natasha Romanoff’s character. Even actors like Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo had pointed out the imperative need of a Black Widow movie from time to time.
On the other hand, WB, however inclusive, also had an objectionable female representation. Michelle Pfeiffer and Anne Hathaway’s potential as Catwoman was undermined whereas Halle Berry’s Catwoman was hyper-sexualized.
The Game Changers
But that was then. Today fans and artists are equally eager for a more an inclusive representation on screen and off as well. Notably, actor Anthony Mackie has spoken about racism in the industry, a statement supported by director duo Joe and Anthony Russo, who helmed the Avengers: Endgame and Infinity Wars.
However, DC anticipated the need of the hour a tad bit before Marvel. Their 2017 Wonder Woman was the first step towards a more inclusive universe. The character was wonderfully played by former Israeli combat instructor and Miss Universe Gal Gadot and directed by notable filmmaker Patty Jenkins. The long due story of the Amazonian princess ended up inspiring millions of female fans around the world and grossed a staggering $821 million worldwide. The success came as a huge relief after the epic Justice League backlash.
Watch: Patty Jenkins’Talks About Wonder Woman
Marvel Studios’ reckoning came with the 2019 Captain Marvel movie. Performed by Oscar-winner Brie Larson and helmed by director duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the movie had its own loving fans and despising critics but ended up a massive success grossing $1.1 billion worldwide.
Given the popularity of the characters and success of the movies, coupled with the feminist and equal representation narrative, it’s easy to say Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman should lead the next generation of the superheroes. But should they?
The Future Is Female?
Marvel seems to already have big plans for Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel. It is rumoured that she will lead the Avenger 5 for the studio. Larson has a 7 movie deal with Marvel Studios and seems like there is a lot of room for her future cameos while Captain Marvel 2 is set for a 2022 release.
Marvel head Kevin Feige previously shared his thoughts on Larson joining the Avengers’ cast, “There she was at the forefront, and it was a great foreshadowing – not just for how audiences are going to embrace Brie as this character, but also for how Captain Marvel is about to take the lead and be at the forefront of the entire Cinematic Universe.”
After Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America left, there seems to be a leadership crisis in the new phase of the MCU; Larson’s Captain Marvel feels like an organic choice.
Watch: Kevin Feige On Stan Lee And Introducing Captain Marvel To MCU
Given Brie Larson’s impeccable acting chops and directorial understanding, she is a great asset for the studio. As vocal and misunderstood she is among fans for her diversity stance, Larson’s personalization of Captain Marvel is undeniably gripping and consuming on screen. She brings the controlled strength to her character with a dash of Nick Fury-like sarcasm.
Reportedly, Larson has been pushing for the same status as Downey Jr held and the studio finally gave in. This further shows that Larson has the willingness and the mettle to shoulder the franchise.
Moving on to Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman — some fans feel she should lead the Justice League, not Henry Cavill’s Superman or any Batman. Typically Batman and Superman are the co-leads. While Superman is the symbolic leader with the sense of righteousness, Batman serves as the tactician of the league.
Gadot’s performance captures the essence of both of Diana’s colleagues. Her Wonder Woman is symbolic Godly power combined with capable warrior skills. Together with director Jenkins, Gadot has harnessed the true capabilities of the Amazonian princess. Her wonder woman goes from a fierce warrior to an awing woman, looking at a child—in the blink of an eye! The delayed sequel Wonder Woman 1984 hist the theatres this October.
With Ben Affleck’s exit from the franchise and DC’s Superman plans for Henry Cavill up in the air. Gal Gadot feels like a natural leader.
The superhero stories were written to make the readers feel that anyone can be a superhero, they might as well be lurking right outside your window. The heroic narratives were supposed to dilute all the facade and just stick to the ethical quality of the character, which made superheroes both an aspiration and relatable to the reader.
Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman both capture that comic book essence in principle.
The future is still heroic and but its face is female!