Do Toys and Batman Ruin Female Super Hero Movies?
A little while back, I had a conversation with some friends about comic book movies. It stemmed from Iron Man airing on TV; which led to someone mentioning how much they disliked Pepper’s portrayal in Iron Man 3 as the “damsel in distress” until the climax of the film. They argued that the movie fails to optimize her character in lieu of a trope, but let’s put aside the fact that Pepper has almost always been an ancillary character.
The conversation then moved on to “Why are there no comic book movies featuring a female heroes?”
Where am I going with this? Well, with recent news that Katee Sackhoff may play a major role in an upcoming Marvel Studios film (which is hopefully as Captain Marvel); I thought I would give my thoughts as why there have been no successful comic book movies featuring a female hero and how the sales of toys and success of Batman hinders a movie coming out.
Fly past the jump to read what I have to say. [Warning: I’m going to be wordy.]
As the title of the article says; Toys and Batman have ruined female heroes especially when it comes to comic book movies. Comic book movies are at their peak of popularity. The Avengers, Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight, and other comic book movies are some of the highest grossing movies. In fact, according to Box Office Mojo, comic book movies have claimed 3 of the Top 10 of all-time worldwide box office grosses.
The only one of the comic book movies to feature a female here is Avengers with the Black Widow played by Scarlett Johansson. But it’s an ensemble movie; not to mention she played second fiddle in Iron Man 2 and will again be a sidekick in Captain America: Winder Soldier. There’s nothing wrong with that because these movies are about other characters. But where is a Black Widow comic book/spy movie?
Let’s get to the nitty-gritty.
I might be leading to something a bit more subjective. There is no math or science behind this, but from my experience everyone wants to be Batman or beat him.
For the sake of argument; let’s imagine that comic book movies did not exist before 1998’s Blade because that is where the current comic book movie renaissance began. So unfortunately/fortunately the 80’s & 90’s Batman does not exist.
Ever since Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, comic book movies have decided to take a darker path. Especially those under the Warner Bros. roof. The newly relaunched Amazing Spider-Man showed a much darker tone than the Sam Raimi trilogy of Spider-Man movies. The Green Lantern was a dark move; more so visually than in tone. Then there is the rebooted Superman franchise with Man of Steel. I always thought of Superman as one of the hopeful heroes, both in as he inspires and is hopeful; but Man of Steel was just dark at every turn. Much like how comics became darker with the introduction of characters like Wolverine; comic book movies have gotten darker with the introduction of Nolan’s Batman.
What’s wrong with being dark? Normally, nothing; but it’s hard to entice audiences by introducing a character they may not know about and then subject them to a dark story. The combination of new character/dark story are usually hard sells. Yes, some of the best stories have a little darkness to them but it’s harder to sell broody Wonder Woman than it is to sell a broody Batman.
I mean, before Avengers; no one made money like Batman. Everyone wanted to be Batman. Batman is dark and generally people just associated that to be the winning formula. It’s just that you can’t do that with a character like Wonder Woman where general audiences are more familiar with Linda Carter than any of the character’s numerous backgrounds.
Hopefully, Marvel Studios can change this around with their more humorous take on heroes and possible Captain Marvel film. Seriously, if they can make a successful movie that has a team with a talking raccoon then they can make a movie featuring a female hero.
Now what about the toys? I know I’ll probably hear how toys should not matter in the success of films. Well, they do. Ultimately; some companies need to see a profit on toy lines before they can agree to film and TV franchises.
I hate to say it, but comic book movies are still for kids. Wait, didn’t I just say that they are making comic book movies darker? Yeah, it’s that weird double standard. The medium is produced to be darker, but they will always market for kids. For example: Heath Ledger’s Joker was horrifying yet they promote the toys even to this day.
Lack of toy sales have ruined franchises. Young Justice was ultimately a victim of this trend. No matter how good or interesting the show became; they could not justify the continuation with the lack of support from the toy lines. So Young Justice was cancelled. Then there is Green Lantern. The failure of the Green Lantern movie as well as its toy line ultimately affected a genuinely good animated show years later.
Now I don’t want to be stereotypical, but I have 5 nieces and I have never seen any of them ever pick up an action figure. I’m sure there are lots of girls who buy and play with super hero toys but unfortunately not enough to supplement a show or movie. A toy line featuring Wonder Woman, Power Girl, Supergirl, Captain Marvel, or anyone else may not cut it against the Iron Man and Batman toys.
Alright, I’ll end it here before I get to long (which I may have already). I would thoroughly enjoy watching a female super hero in her own movie or show; especially a funny Jimmy Palmiotti penned Power Girl, a mythological Wonder Woman, or a hard-hitting Captain Marvel. It’s just that without the support of toys and producers’ need to make everything like Batman; we may not see one of these films see the light of day.
Until then, we are left with these movies.