Hollywood is full of male-centric films. And who can blame them? These are the films that make the most money at the box office. The highest grossing action-hero films of 2013 include Iron Man 3, Thor 2 and Man of Steel. That’s why it’s a nice surprise when an action film with a female lead becomes a box office hit. The second film in the Hunger Games franchise, Catching Fire, has grossed more than $680 million and is still making money. So, does that mean Hollywood is ready for more female action hero films?
The box office numbers don’t lie. People are seeing Catching Fire and it has been receiving praise from critics as well. A similar situation was seen with the Twilight film franchise (except the critical acclaim). So, what’s holding Hollywood back? There are a lot of factors that might be coming into play. For me, the biggest appeal of the Hunger Game series is the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, brought to life on the screen by the talented Jennifer Lawrence. Katniss is different from the other female heroes we have seen. She is her ‘own’ person. By this I mean she has her own identity. This allows the film writers to take a bit of leeway when it comes to describing her character on screen.
Remember Halle Berry’s Catwoman or Jennifer Garner’s Elektra? Even if those films did turn out to be successful, they still wouldn’t have had their own identity. Catwoman would still be linked to the Batman franchise and Elektra would still be a spin-off of Daredevil. Messing with those characters would mean you are messing with the universes they belonged to. And that was one of the reasons both films flopped, though Catwoman was still able to recoup its production budget.
Katniss Everdeen didn’t have such ‘baggage’. She belonged to her own universe. That’s why she was able to change the game. She was the hero and Peeta played the role of ‘the heroes girlfriend’ (Yes, I just said that). The film showed the world that even if people haven’t read the books, they can still enjoy the film, because the protagonist is likeable, even if it’s a she.
It’s not as if Hollywood hasn’t been trying. It’s just they haven’t been trying hard enough. There’s still hope with next year’s Divergent and The Vampire Academy. But when it comes to talking about big female players from the comic book world (the films that seem to be making the most money), things aren’t as bright. Even if Black Widow has been featured in many of the Marvel film including the blockbuster Avengers, there are still no signs of her own film. The X-Men film franchise has branched into Wolverine films, but no hints about a film about the female mutants, whether individual or as an all-female team.
There have been talks about a new Wonder Woman film for ages. Recently, it has been confirmed that she will be played by Gal Gadot in the Man of Steel’s sequel. If she gets an individual film after that, it would show that she was considered as a risk by Hollywood and they wanted to test the waters first by introducing her in a film with two male leads.
Maybe the problem is that Hollywood doesn’t want to spend too much in making a female-centric film. The first Hunger Games was made for $78 million and the budget was increased to $130-140 million. Probably because they knew it would be a hit. Making a film all about the Black Widow, or Storm, or Wonder Woman, would mean the studio needs to be ready to spend $100 million. It’s not like the relevant franchises don’t have the money to spend. I feel the studios don’t want to mess with a formula that works so well: Keep churning out male hero films and add in female players in the mix to stay safe.
I really hope the success of the Hunger Game series will open Hollywood’s eyes and tell them that the audience is ready for more female-centric films if they do the character justice.
Are you ready to watch more female hero films? Please share in the comments!
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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