The list of female-led superhero movies isn’t long. There’s Catwoman and Electra, two mid-2000s’ films that featured attractive ladies (Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner) in tight outfits that left mid-riffs and breasts heavily exposed as they fought bad guys. Then there was Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey, and Captain Marvel, three late-2010s’ movies that sought to portray the female comic book character in a way that was both empowering and entertaining. They mostly failed. And last year’s Wonder Woman 1984 was filled with all sorts of pockmarks that led it to have a dismal 5.4/10 rating on IMDb and a Rotten 59% score.
Yes, female-led comic book movies have had more downs than ups. For some reason, writers haven’t been able to separate the woman from the character, resulting in stories that often felt lazily composed or as if the writers were trying too hard to make a statement.
Of these past six female-led comic book movies, Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel stand tall above the rest but even then those films are among the weaker entries of comic book movies in the last decade.
Wonder Woman had every chance to be a remarkable origin story for the Amazonian warrior and while it has one of the greatest sequences in any comic book film–No Man’s Land–the movie is just a bit mundane.
Gal Gadot knows how to embody that gorgeous Amazonian goddess persona on the big screen and the film’s action sequences are pretty good (they would’ve been better if there was less slow-mo breaking the flow of the fight scenes) but what bugs me is the level of attention on Steve Trevor’s side of the story. He’s such an imposing presence on the movie’s narrative that the film almost should be called Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor.
This is a problem we seem to never have to deal with when male superheroes get their origin stories told. Female characters in those movies are either the doting love interest/damsel in distress or an afterthought to the man’s ascent to superhero awesomeness. But Diana Prince is hampered by Wonder Woman‘s male writers (Zack Snyder, Allen Heinberg, and Jason Fuchs) as they make sure to always have Steve Trevor as her equal in the movie. They even commit to the narrative that Diana discovers her inner power because of Trevor’s death, thus reiterating that narrative that a woman is nothing without a man, a turning point in the story that has grated on my nerves since I saw the film for the first time in theaters four years ago.
Black Widow was a movie Marvel fans had been asking for for years but we ultimately thought we would never get it. We finally did get it…but it was after already knowing that Natasha Romanoff dies in Endgame, souring the prospect of her film because we knew the outcome wouldn’t lead to more movies featuring her. Her movie was only going to be a puzzle piece to her overall story.
So did I expect the movie to be good, yeah, but did I expect it to be great, not really. To my elation, it was great.
It’s three days until I will get the chance to see Black Widow, the first Marvel movie I will have seen in theaters since Endgame over two years ago, and I am ecstatic.
In preparation for the movie I did a Marvel movie marathon where I watched every film that featured Black Widow. It took two days to complete and it was pretty fun but what was most fascinating is watching the writers evolve Natasha Romanoff from this flirty eye-candy broad in a tight black suit to a bad*** leader and a true hero.
In Iron Man 2 she, of course, was sexualized the most as Tony ogled at her and she flirted with him in turn. In The Avengers while she thankfully wasn’t forced to have a romance with anyone, namely Hawkeye, she was still forced to be sexualized at the beginning of the movie. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier she’s practically flirting with Steve Rogers the whole movie, even kissing him when they have to evade HYDRA which is warranted but wasn’t totally necessary. And in Avengers: Age of Ultron Whedon came out of left field and bombarded Black Widow with this romance with Bruce Banner that nobody saw coming but kind of made sense? The movie gives us the best idea of her haunting past in the Red Room, including letting us know that she was sterilized. It’s a terrible piece of information that gives her character so much more depth but Whedon ruins the moment by comparing her sterilization to being a monster. Ugh.
And so, that’s her story in those four films. Then she returns in Captain America: Civil War and suddenly she’s a totally different person.
Another day has passed and that means we’re getting closer and closer to the big day! Here’s to celebrating more Black Widow awesomeness.
The Face Mask Trick
Remember that one time Natasha Romanoff went complete Mission: Impossible on everyone by impersonating this S.H.I.E.L.D lady, infiltrating Secretary Pierce’s secret bad guy meeting, and crashing the party?
I remember seeing that scene for the first time and being so shocked when that “old lady” went to town on everyone only for it to be revealed that it was Black Widow all along.
It was another one of those moments where we got to see her spy skills tested and highlighted in a really fun way.
Nine days from now I will be seeing a Marvel movie for the first time in two years. No, this isn’t a highly-anticipated series that’s going to run for six weeks and leave us clamoring for more answers every week. It’s one two hour and fourteen minute film and that’s it. It’s an exciting prospect.
So, in anticipation for the 24th movie in the MCU, here’s some more Black Widow appreciation. First up, I share another favorite Black Widow moment. Enjoy!
Black Widow’s Entrance in Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the movie that turned me into a Black Widow fan. This film shined a light on her story that hadn’t been shone before and it made me empathize with her character and want to know (and see) more.
But it was this scene that I remember bringing a smile to my face. Steve Rogers is beginning to forge a new friendship with future Cap, Sam Wilson, when Natasha Romanoff drives up in a sleek, low to the ground, black Corvette, looking like the ultimate spy that she is. Then she does something that she ultimately never does again in the MCU; she tells a joke: “Hey fellas. Does anyone know where the Smithsonian is? I’m here to pick up a fossil.”
In that one moment we learn two things: A) she likes to drive in style and B) she’s actually a laid-back person if you get to know her, which shows how comfortable she had gotten with Steve Rogers. It was a wonderful moment that I thought was perfect to highlight today.
I’ve watched The Last Jedi over twenty times now and during my latest viewing of the film one of the scenes that surprisingly struck me was in fact one of the quietest moments in the movie and that was when Leia was sitting by herself in the cruiser, Ninka. Throughout Leia’s involvement in Star Wars we haven’t seen her grieve a lot even though she has experienced so much loss. She lost nearly her entire crew aboard the ship, Tantative IV, to Darth Vader and his stormtroopers. Then she had to watch her home planet of Alderaan get obliterated before her very eyes (and her mother and father along with it.) She had to endure seeing Han Solo getting frozen in carbonite, nearly dying in the process. And then even after the Rebellion defeated the Empire the hardships she would face were far from over.
When we see Leia again thirty years after the end of the Imperial war the struggles that she has faced can be plainly seen on her face. From the political obstacles she had to face during the creation and rise of the New Republic to the new war that was on the brink of the horizon with the meager Resistance against the mighty First Order. There’s also the more personal losses she has had to deal with as well along the way with the sudden and total absence of her beloved brother, Luke Skywalker, the agony of knowing that her very son, Ben Solo, was a First Order leader and dark side fanatic, and the depressing separation between her and the man she loves in Han Solo.
Leia has not had an easy life, in fact she’s had if not the hardest, one of the toughest journeys in Star Wars and this is really apparent in The Last Jedi.