Tag Archives: DC Comics

Is Warner Bros. Taking the Woman Out of ‘Wonder Woman’?

The Hollywood Reporter broke the news yesterday that Michelle MacLaren, director of Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman” movie, has exited the project.

According to a statement, MacLaren quit because of the mysterious “creative differences” so often cited as an explanation for director-studio splits.

BB-S5-Michelle-MacLaren-590 (1)Now, I know it’s probably too early to step up on my feminist soapbox. After all, we don’t really know what happened here. “Creative differences” could mean any number of things, from “she didn’t get along with the producers,” to “she was difficult to work with,” to “we just didn’t like her.”

There are rumors the studio was uncomfortable with MacLaren’s vision for the Amazon princess’ first solo film, which included a 1920s setting and maybe a tiger sidekick. Perhaps the director’s television background didn’t prepare her to oversee a potential blockbuster, though her credits include such formidable series as “Game of Thrones” and “Breaking Bad.”

Whatever the reason, which we’ll probably never fully know, MacLaren’s exit raises all sorts of red flags. I can’t help but wonder if the Hollywood boys club, not to mention the boys club of comic books, has chewed up and spit out yet another victim.

MacLaren would have been one of the first women to direct a major comic book movie, no small achievement. USA Today notes that Lexi Alexander helmed 2008’s “Punisher: War Zone,” but “Wonder Woman” is a movie of greater scale and bigger box office potential.

Just as there are few women in creative positions in the comic book world, there aren’t many to be found in the world of comic book movies either. There are woman producers, but they are seriously outnumbered by their male colleagues. Offhand, I can think of only one woman writer of comic book movies — the capable, crimson-haired Jane Goldman, co-writer of “Kick-Ass,” “X-Men: First Class” and “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”

Marvel came close to breaking new ground when “Monster” director Patty Jenkins was set to oversee the sequel to “Thor.” Jenkins bowed out due to — guess what? — creative differences, making way for Alan Taylor to inherit the mess that was “Thor: The Dark World.”

Of course, Hollyywood is notoriously male-centric when it comes to virtually every film ever made, not just comic book movies. There are only a handful of female directors who are household names, including Angelina Jolie, Kathryn Bigelow and Sofia Coppola.

Bigelow made history in 2010 when she became the first woman to win a directing Oscar. It took that long for a female filmmaker to claim the honor. Just this year, the Academy infamously snubbed “Selma” director Ava DuVernay in favor of a couple of male directors whose work was arguably less compelling.

I’m not going to argue that it is Warner Bros.’ sole responsibility to change the status quo. The studio isn’t obligated to appoint a woman as the cinematic guardian of “Wonder Woman.” It would be a nice gesture, though.

It’s difficult to ignore the fact that Diana’s debut in “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” — due in theaters next year — was entrusted to Zack Snyder, a guy whose idea of girl power is embodied in the objectified, video-game-shallow heroines of “Sucker Punch.”

Even so, I’m sure there are plenty of men who could sensitively and effectively tell the warrior princess’ story. One of them is Joss Whedon, whose name has been floated as the perfect replacement for MacLaren.

Whedon, who was involved in an earlier, doomed Wonder Woman project, recently announced his intention to take a break from Marvel. He presumably needs a rest after wrestling the impending “Avengers: Age of Ultron” into shape. The timing of this news sent the rumor mills swirling with the theory that perhaps a move to DC is in the director’s future. Such a crossover seems unlikely but stranger things have happened.

Whedon is celebrated for writing nuanced, powerful, three-dimensional female characters, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to “Much Ado About Nothing’s” Beatrice. I’m sure he’d do a wonderful job with “Wonder Woman,” but I’d be disappointed if he was named director.

Entrusting MacLaren with the keys to Diana’s kingdom was a step toward inviting women to contribute significantly to a genre woefully short on meaningful, memorable heroines. The director’s experience on series packed with strong female characters boded well for the film.

There’s always a chance Warner Bros. could bring another woman onto the project — although, by my observation, women who walk off a film are inevitably replaced by someone from Hollywood’s massive pool of male directors.

(I can’t help but think of Brenda Chapman, the ousted director of Disney’s “Brave,” or Catherine Hardwicke, who was replaced by Chris Weitz for the second “Twilight” movie.)

Once again, the studio is under no obligation to hire a woman to helm “Wonder Woman,” but somehow, it feels right.

At top, “Wonder Woman” star Gal Gadot, photo: mic.com. Above, director Michelle MacLaren, photo: blogs.amctv.com.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Forget Batfleck: The Real Outrage is That Hollywood Still Hasn’t Given Us a True Superheroine

The latest potential casting development in the controversial saga of Zack Snyder’s “Batman vs. Superman” film materialized yesterday with rumors that Joaquin Phoenix was in talks to tackle the role of the Man of Steel’s ultimate nemesis, Lex Luthor.

If the rumors are confirmed, they’re likely to be met with the passionate debate and perhaps even outrage sparked by the news that Ben Affleck will don the Caped Crusader’s cowl in DC’s epic superhero face-off. That event, which almost blew up the Internet, was followed by more fan consternation when it was announced that Gal Gadot, a Miss Universe contestant featured in the “Fast and Furious” franchise, will appear in the movie as Wonder Woman.

Some have hailed DC Comics’ decision to quietly sandwich Wonder Woman into the “Man of Steel” sequel as a smart move. After several notorious botched attempts to bring the Amazonian princess to the big and small screens, this is a sneaky way to introduce the classic comic book character to moviegoers without the risk of investing in an expensive film that would rest solely on her muscular shoulders. It also appears to be part of a strategy to quickly introduce multiple characters from the DC universe to facilitate an inevitable Justice League movie.

DC is all too aware that it lags behind Marvel in its attempts to build its stable of superheroes into a formidable collective box office force, a la “The Avengers.” If moviegoers respond positively to Gadot in “Batman vs. Superman,” the studio can breathe a sigh of relief and plow ahead with a Wonder Woman spin-off. It they don’t, DC can shrug it off and move on. This may be shrewd strategizing from a business perspective, but to me it feels like a defeat.

The fuss over Snyder’s perplexing “Batman vs. Superman” casting selections is merely a distraction from the real outrage brought to light by the sequel: the fact that DC repeatedly failed to produce a Wonder Woman movie and has, for the moment, abandoned all efforts to do so. The marginalization of Wonder Woman is also a potent reminder that Hollywood has failed to bring us even one successful comic book movie headlined by a female superhero.

Over the past few decades, Hollywood has made a few weak attempts to bring superheroes who are women to the big screen. There was 1984’s “Supergirl,” the 2005 Jennifer Garner vehicle “Elektra” and, of course, 2004’s much ridiculed “Catwoman,” featuring Halle Berry as the feline supervillain. The dismal reception of these films could be considered evidence that comic book movies starring women don’t sell, but that would be disregarding the fact that these projects were ill conceived, poorly written and sloppily executed. You can’t blame audiences for rejecting them.

In today’s cinematic landscape, superhero movies have become so lucrative that Marvel and DC are constantly mining their archives for new properties. It’s not just about pop cultural juggernauts like Batman and Spider-Man and Superman anymore. Less familiar crusaders, like Iron Man and Thor, have emerged from the pages of comics to astounding success. And the studios are planning to mine even more obscure properties in the near future, including Ant Man and Guardians of the Galaxy.

There’s no excusing that women in comic book movies are still largely relegated to the role of sidekick. There are strongly scripted female roles to be found in the most successful franchises: Anne Hathaway’s smart, slinky Catwoman, Gwyneth Paltrow’s no-nonsense Pepper Potts, the powerful female mutants of “X-Men,” Scarlett Johansson’s conflicted Black Widow in “The Avengers.” But despite Johansson’s tough portrayal of the redheaded Russian spy, the focus on the character too often comes down to how great the actress looks in her tight, black bodysuit. And consider the recent “Thor: The Dark World,” in which astrophysicist Jane Foster is relegated for much of the movie to a simpering damsel in distress.

The sad fact is there has never been a better time for a film studio to step up and take a risk on a female-driven superhero movie, a time when women are proving themselves to be hot commodities at the box office as never before.

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” starring Jennifer Lawrence as the bow-and-arrow-wielding Katniss Everdeen, recently grossed a staggering $700 million worldwide, while Sandra Bullock led the outer space thriller “Gravity” to an unexpected $640 million in global ticket sales. The upcoming “Divergent,” based on a dystopian book trilogy that revolves around a butt-kicking heroine named Tris, is expected by some analysts to outperform even “The Hunger Games.” Many of Disney’s recent animated hits are princess flicks -– think “Brave” and “Frozen” — with considerable girl power that nonetheless appeal to boys and girls alike. Even the comedy genre is currently dominated by women, from “Bridesmaids,” to “Pitch Perfect,” to “The Heat.”

My friend, Kristy Rivas, an avid comic book reader who enjoys such titles as Batgirl, Wonder Woman and Birds of Prey, dreams of the day when girl power at the box office finally translates into a movie featuring a heroine as mighty as the Caped Crusader or the Man of Steel.

“I absolutely love Tris and Katniss,” she said during a recent text exchange on the subject. “They are reluctant heroes though. It would be nice to have a true ‘hero’ role model for girls. Batman and Superman chose the life of a hero as did Batgirl and Wonder Woman.”

It’s high time Hollywood let such a hero emerge.