It’s become an annual tradition on this blog to celebrate the bad-ass ladies of summer — those women blazing trails of awesomeness into the male dominated territory of Hollywood action movies.
The summer movie season is winding down and, looking back on it, it wasn’t exactly bad-ass, what with flops like “Warcraft,” “The BFG” and “The Legend of Tarzan” casting a depressing shadow over the box office, which was dominated by uninspired remakes.
Despite this, there were female-centric performances to admire as many actors followed in the pioneering footsteps of Charlize Theron’s Furiosa and Daisy Ridley’s Rey to give us the strong, nuanced, wildly entertaining, butt-kicking performances we should be seeing more of. We do, after all, live in the 21st century.
Without further ado, here are the bad-ass ladies who led the way this summer. They deserve a 21 proton gun salute.
The Cast of ‘Ghostbusters’
Who knew rebooting the beloved 1984 action-comedy classic with Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon taking on roles loosely based on those originally played by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson would be such a subversive act?
When director Paul Feig announced his plan, he broke the Internet as wounded, mostly male fans took to Twitter to decry a “Ghostbusters” populated by women and declare it was ruining their childhood. This despite the approval of producer and original director Ivan Reitman.
Things only got weirder and uglier after the film’s release as online tirades directed at the cast continued and Jones became the target of a nasty trolling campaign that smacked of racism and misogyny. The incident prompted Jones to briefly shut down her account and Twitter to tighten up its regulations, but all ended well with Jones returning to Tweet another day and living happily ever after as a sidesplitting Olympic commentator.
Whatever your opinion of “Ghostbusters” — and it definitely has its flaws — the significance of its arrival on the cinematic horizon cannot be overstated. This is an action-comedy headlined not by one women, but by four, and none of them are sexualized or condescended to by the filmmakers or their male co-stars.
Whatever the movie’s failures, whether weak story or a lack of originality, the cast has nothing to do with them. “Ghostbusters” is a lovingly crafted showcase for a quartet of consummate comedians who are squarely on their game, hilarious, and in total control. (Kudos to Chris Hemsworth for good-naturedly going along with the film’s funniest gender reversal.)
This is empowerment of a kind that is extremely rare in Hollywood and done with a tone so light and playful, it’s easy to dismiss how important the film is. Because of “Ghostbusters,” women took to social media to ponder what their childhoods might have been like if this film had existed when they were growing up. And little girls donned the team’s trademark beige jumpsuits and proton packs with gusto.
We can only hope more filmmakers will join in the spirit of “Ghostbusters” and its delightful feminist subversion. Is it too soon for a female James Bond?
Sofia Boutella as Jaylah in “Star Trek: Beyond”
The rebooted “Star Trek” franchise has always featured a strong heroine in the form of Zoe Saldana’s intelligent, fiercely loyal Lt. Uhura.
At the same time, it’s hard to shake the feeling that J.J. Abrams and company never know quite what to do with the miniskirt-wearing communications officer. Uhura tends to linger on the sidelines while Chris Pine’s Kirk, Zachary Quinto’s Spock and even Simon Pegg’s Scotty get all the action. That’s why the introduction of Jaylah in “Beyond” is so refreshing.
Boutella previously made an impression as Samuel L. Jackson’s blade-legged righthand henchwoman in “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” As Jaylah, the strikingly marked alien who becomes an unlikely ally to the crew of the Enterprise, she more than holds her own beside Pine and Pegg.
Jaylah is a loner, survivor, formidable fighter and technical genius who savvily makes her home inside a crashed Federation starship and protects it with a dazzling array of sophisticated booby traps. She also has excellent taste in vintage rap.
“I like the beats and shouting,” she declares.
Boutella graces this tenacious extraterrestrial heroine with stubbornness, humor and heart and, in the process, elevates “Beyond.”
Comic Book Movie Heroes
Although Hollywood’s comic book franchises have lagged in embracing compelling, three-dimensional female characters to match their heroic male counterparts, this summer saw some encouraging strides in the right direction.
Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow has long been the woman of substance in Marvel’s often feeble female lineup. While she’s enjoyed her fair share of butt-kicking action, “Captain America: Civil War” gives her an unprecedented opportunity to flex her fighting muscles, throwing punches as aggressively as The Cap, thanks to directors Anthony and Joe Russo.
The “X-Men” franchise has treated its superheroines admirably, providing them with meaty emotional arcs and equal opportunity action moments. This summer’s “X-Men: Apocalypse” is no exception. The crux of the plot turns on the evolution of Sophie Turner’s young Jean Grey, whose climactic wielding of power is something to behold.
The season’s most entertaining comic book movie performance, however, belongs to Margot Robbie as one of the few rays of light in DC’s messy “Suicide Squad,” starring as infamous villain and the Joker’s wannabe girlfriend, Harley Quinn.
With her inordinate, self-destructive love for the Joker, Harley Quinn has always been a problematic character. She’s insanely likable, but also a bit of a feminist nightmare.
Although I wish director David Ayer didn’t spend so much time allowing the camera to leer at Harley’s short shorts, Robbie succeeds effortlessly in creating one of the film’s only fully realized characters.
Her Harley practically leaps off the comic book page — completely unhinged, an unabashed romantic, scary but sweetly vulnerable, and 100% capable of taking care of herself. It’s kind of a miracle, actually, that Robbie is able to pull off this crazy balancing act. Give her a spin-off already, DC.
It’s been a long time coming, but it appears the makers of comic book movies are finally at least attempting to give female caped crusaders their day in the sun.
Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was the most tantalizing element of “Batman v Superman,” however brief her appearance. Her stand-alone film, due next year, looks amazing from what we’ve seen so far. And Marvel has a “Captain Marvel” movie in the works, starring the astonishingly talented Brie Larson.
In short, things are looking up for bad-ass ladies everywhere. Here’s hoping next summer is even more epic for them.
Photos: http://www.youtube.com, ghostbusters.com, yahoo.com.