Not So Wondrous Women: 3 Lessons from 3 Female Superhero Flops

Every year we have multiple comic book superhero movies from multiple studios making multi-million dollar films. But with all the Captain America: Civil War, Deadpool and Doctor Strange movies there is something conspicuously missing – female-led superhero movies.

Wonder Woman
She’s a great Gal

That dearth, however, will end next year with DC’s Wonder Woman starring Gal Gadot, who kicked major posterior in Batman v Superman. On the Marvel side at San Diego Comic Con it was confirmed that Room star Brie Larson (see my review of that movie here) would be suiting up as cosmic superhero Captain Marvel in the eponymous film in 2019, though she may appear before that in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. And Joss Whedon has reported that he is interested in doing a standalone movie feature female Avenger Black Widow.

Captain Marvel can hardly wait

But Wonder Woman will not be the first time we had a female superhero as a movie lead. As I perused cinema history I found three and they all had one thing in common – being awful. As we return to having super powered ladies leading films it would be fittingly appropriate and appropriately fitting to give my humble advice so these new movies can avoid the pitfalls of their pitiful predecessors (too much alliteration? Sometimes I can’t tell).

So strap on your leather, iron your cape and let’s get this list up, up and away:

#1 Have a great villain – Supergirl (1984)

supergirl old
She’s a super lady

After two great Superman movies and one year after the terrible Superman III this spin off movie featuring Supes’ cousin Kara hit theatres. And it was not just bad, it was Superbad (you saw what I did there and you liked it).

Now the movie is not all crap. Helen Slater is bubbly, sweet and energetic as Supergirl and her flying effects look decent. But the plot is a boring mess, the overall effects are horrific and the more than two hour run time feels like penance.

My biggest issue of all, however, was the main villain – wannabe witch Selena (Faye Dunaway in a Razzie nominated role). After she gets her hands on the Omegahedron, a power source from Kara’s home of Argo City, her evil plans range from brainwashing, attempting to kidnap and enslaving Supergirl’s love interest, putting a whammy on party guests and then taking over a town. She is dull, hammy, silly but never interesting or intimidating.

Faye Dunaway
Her! I want her dead!

After your superhero the most important thing in the movie is your villain. My first piece of advice to the upcoming films is to ensure that you have a decent villain that can give your heroines an adequate challenge, and, most importantly, be interesting to viewers.

#2 Respect the source material – Catwoman (2004)

Catwoman cover
Come on Halle, you’re embarrassing yourself

Let us imagine how the pitch meeting for this movie went:

Pitch Guy – You remember that movie Batman Returns? You remember Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman? She was great right? Everybody loved her. Well imagine an entire movie based on Catwoman. But without Pfeiffer. And not the comic Catwoman but a completely new character with “cat powers”. And we’ll cast Halle Berry in a super sexy dominatrix outfit. It will be a smash!

It wasn’t a smash. It was a steaming pile of cat litter, and not the fancy deodorising kind. Halle went from winning an Oscar in Monster’s Ball (2001) to winning a Razzie for this ridiculous role. As Catwoman she speaks in awful cat puns, drinks milk, gets aroused by catnip, walks around in an awkward ostensibly sexy manner and jumps around via CGI that looks like it was rejected from a video game (and they made a video game too based on the movie but let’s try and forget that).

This pathetic shadow of the iconic Batman anti-heroine was a big middle claw to fans and, not surprisingly, did not land on its feet at the box office. My piece of advice is simple – if adapting a character you do not have to replicate everything from the comic but you must respect the source material. If what you put on screen is the hero in name only, and not the heart and essence of the character, then the fans will stay home in droves.

#3 Don’t be style over substance – Elektra (2005)

Dang Jen!

Daredevil (2003) was not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination but it made a butt load of money so a spin off featuring supporting character Elektra was green lighted. And if you thought Daredevil was bad Elektra will make your brain bleed from its intense craptitude.

It appears the major concern of the filmmakers was to make Jennifer Garner look hot in her outfit (and, can I say, mission accomplished) and to move quickly to the next over the top action sequence. Now I liked the special powers of the villains the Hand – tattoos that turn into animals and super poison et cetera – but the effects looked cheap. And all the style they focused on could not compensate for a stupid plot and one dimensional characters all around.

You can have the look and abilities of the superhero but your movie must have heart and characters that connect with viewers. So my advice would be, in the midst of all action and costumes, do not forget that fans still want a good story with an emotional core and relatable characters. If you miss out on that, disregard the source material and give us a lame villain then expect to join these three films in the bottom of the box office barrel (when will this alliteration stop!).

So what advice would you give to the makers of these upcoming female superhero movies? Feel free to comment below.

For my Wonder Woman trailer review you can click here and for my look at the Netflix Marvel series trailers you can click here.

And for more woman power movie posts you can follow me @suprememango012 for updates. Julien is outie like a navel. l8rs


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