THIS SUMMER, STUDIOS have made several announcements about their intentions to flip genders in some popular franchises, including Ghostbusters and The Expendables, as well as focus on some new female-led comic book franchises.
So, what exactly is going on? We’re on the case.
What is going on?
Basically, studios like Sony, Marvel, DC and Millenium Films have all made announcements over the past few months regarding some female-led franchises that they have in the pipeline.
Back up. An all-female Ghostbusters?
Yes. The rumour surfaced a few weeks ago with Variety reporting that Bridesmaids director Paul Feig is in talks to reboot the franchise with actresses taking on the roles once played by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd et al.
Nothing has been confirmed, but it has generated much excitement.
And what’s all this about The Expendabelles and Thor?
Well, The Expendabelles is happening. Sylvester Stallone and producer Avi Lerner confirmed as much at the London premiere of The Expendables 3. The film synopsis is as follows:
When America’s Navy SEALs are wiped out trying to penetrate the island lair of a deadly despot who has captured one of the world’s top nuclear scientists, it becomes clear that there is no such thing as the right man for the job and that this is a mission so impossible that only women can handle it. The only way in: some of the world’s deadliest female operatives must pose as high-class call-girls shipped in by private plane to satisfy a dictator – and instead save the scientist and the day.
Female operatives posing as high-class call-girls to please a dictator? Hardly the most feminist premise in the world.
Nonetheless, the film is set to start shooting next year and no cast has been confirmed as of yet. (Sly wants Sigourney Weaver, though.)
Hmm. And what about this Spiderman/Wonder Woman business?
Sony recently announced its plans to launch a female superhero franchise in 2017 with the studio hoping to pluck a female heroine from the Spiderman universe to lead it. No word on who that character may be, but a script is currently being written by screenwriter Lisa Joy.
Meanwhile, Warner Bros. have announced their intention to give Wonder Woman a spinoff, though they have failed to give a release date as of yet. The iconic character will be played by Israeli actress Gal Gadot in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, who will reprise the role for the proposed franchise.
But what about the old adage that female-led movies don’t perform well at the box office?
It’s patently untrue.
Last year, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire starring Jennifer Lawrence was the highest-grossing film at the US box office, with Frozen coming in third and Gravity coming in sixth. That’s three massively high-grossing films with female characters at the fore.
And it’s to say nothing of this year where films like Maleficent, Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, Lucy and Tammy, which have all performed very well at the box office and all feature stars like Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansson, Melissa McCarthy and Shailene Woodley front and centre.
Additionally, female audiences are coming out in their droves for comic book films: The Hollywood Reporter notes that 44% of the audience for Guardians of the Galaxy’s opening weekend was comprised of females.
So studios are copping on then?
What do other people think of all this gender-bending?
Well, Mike Fleming of Deadline asked, “Do we want an estrogen-powered Ghostbusters?” in a column penned shortly after the announcement arguing that it was a “classic guy comedy”.
Flavorwire argued that the problem with a Ghostbusters reboot is not the gender-flipping, but rather that the time has passed.
Finally, Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post contended that Hollywood’s objective shouldn’t be to meet gender quotas, but rather to produce a “broader range of stories”.
So what does this mean going forward?
Provisionally, it’s good news. Studios are clearly beginning to recognise that there is a market for female-led commercial films and will likely start seeking out more projects with female characters to help even the playing field. (Projects like Black Widow, starring Scarlett Johansson may even become a reality.)
As Guardians of the Galaxy star Zoe Saldana told The Hollywood Reporter:
I want to see more women, period, in films and in art. Whether they’re kicking ass, handing ass, I don’t care — as long as more stories are told through the eyes of women. That way I can have an even share of options when I go to the movies instead of just watching male-driven films with male points of view.