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The Worst (And Least Awful) Female Superhero Movies According To Nostalgia Chick [VIDEO]

Ok, I stole that title from Nostalgia Chick (Lindsay Ellis) but only because it worked so well. I recently put together a quick list on my tumblr of male-led vs. female-led superhero film adaptations but Ellis takes a deeper look at the actual quality of those superheroine (or antiheroine as the case may be) films. I will defend 1984′s Supergirl to my dying day but give a watch and see what she has to say about the some of the few female comic book films in existence.

(via XedRegulus)

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  • Thomas Hayes

    I remember when she put this video out. She also did a full review of Supergirl along with comic book reviewer Linkara which is worth a look. I am fond of the Supergirl film for a few reasons (#1 is Helen Slater) I liked it when I was a kid and it made me a lifelong Supergirl fan… but I can’t defend it. The fact that so much actually is right with it: the calibre of the cast, the effects, the production – only makes me more annoyed at the tremendous drag on the film from the utterly awful script.

  • Gerald Kirby

    Holy crap! I didn’t expect Jill to put this on the site when I sent it to her! I feel relevant. :D

  • Alyson L

    I was 9 when Supergirl came out, I loved it so damned much. I didn’t even care about the bad script back then because I walked out of that theatre believing I could fly.

  • Thomas Hayes

    “because I walked out of that theatre believing I could fly.”
    See, this is what for some reason the big studios don’t seem to get about superheroines – girls like power fantasies as much as the boys do, and this is one of the things such a film should appeal to. Why is that so hard?

    And as for the visuals, Yes, I’m right with you there, especially the practical crane shots. There’s a dodgy visible wire when she comes out of the lake but otherwise it’s way above par for its time considering some of what the 80s gave us. Also the “flying ballet” sequence might not further the plot much, but I absolutely love it.

  • Gerald Kirby

    Lindsay Ellis looks at a lot of nerdy and geeky thing regularly. There is a really good overlap between The Mary Sue and her site, Chez Apocalypse. Happy I could bring her to people’s attention. (I’m XedRegulus, btw.)

  • Sophie Sugarbean

    Yay! So happy Tank Girl is the least awful! LOVE that movie. Will defend it forever!

  • Anonymous

    Dear Nostalgia Chick, I don’t know you because I just watched you on the internet for the first time ever, but I want to be friends. Please?

  • Anonymous

    I fucking love Tank Girl. Don’t even care if other people hate it, it’s easily one of my top ten favorite movies.

  • MeatyStakes

    Yup, that’s kinda the point of Ellis’ video; they try to give female superheroes “womanly pursues” -the quotes are to remark that as sarcastic- turning them into the oft-vilified STRONG INDEPENDANT WOMAN, she who needs no man *snap snap snap* instead of making them superheroes that are woman.

    That doesn’t mean that gender doesn’t influentializes characterization, far from it -we are who we are based on our experiences- The problems comes from the insidious nature of creating a false equivalency; Strong Independant Woman doesn’t have much intrinsically wrong as a trope, but it is in no way a distaff counterpart of the Superhero trope, it just tries to codify what is an “appropriate” power fantasy for girls compared to the Superhero.

    And that is just bullshit

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    To be fair, it isn’t as if this is done maliciously, its just that often, a writer is determined to make a strong female protagonist but focuses so much on the FEMALE part of the protagonist that they don’t develop the character enough to make them more than their gender.

    Its a fallacy many writers goof up on in trying to be more inclusive but not realizing that real people are more than one thing.

    Like for example racial or cultural stereotype characters who are exclusively things that ‘represent’ their skin color or the country they come from.

  • Thomas Hayes

    Indeed, that’s exactly right. I had something similar prepared in response to a reply to my comment that seems to have disappeared, so I’ll just post it here:

    The superhero idea doesn’t need a male character to work. You could easily genderswap Iron Man, Batman, Superman or indeed ANY of the current big superheroes, give them the same personality, same backstory and same characterisation, and I don’t think it would make any difference to those characters. Their gender doesn’t define them and it doesn’t really define characters like Supergirl either. Wonder Woman is actually an exception in that she was created specifically as a model of strong femininity (I don’t think this is a disadvantage by the way, that’s actually something that helps her stand out). There is no reason why not to approach a film about a superheroine exactly the same way as if the hero was male.

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  • ShadowWing Tronix

    I don’t care how flawed it is. I enjoy the Supergirl movie and Helen Slater was the reason I had a crush on Kara…until I got older and she didn’t and it became a bit creepy.

    I’m also disappointed that she specifically said she’d ignore animation. There are some good shows and movies in the cartoon format that makes GREAT use of females who can fight on their own and not lose feminine qualities or try to rip off Buffy, like most live-action heroines these days. Unless it comes from Japan, and sometimes not even then, animation gets ignored too often.

  • Aashyma Never Would

    I think she ignored animated superhero movies because they’re usually DTV like the really awesome 2009 Wonder Woman movie, in which case they simply aren’t well known enough to make a cultural impact.

  • Alexa

    I thought Tank Girl was a lot of fun, and from what I heard Lori Petty’s performance was pretty faithful, so she obviously did something right. Plus at least Tank Girl, as Lindsay said, is having fun in the movie. It doesn’t always have to be dramatic drum beats.

  • MeatyStakes

    I do agree it’s not malicious, but is way more prevalent than it should be. It’s like they think a female character won’t be relatable (to who?) if she doesn’t has these characteristics that overly emphashize her female empowerment -better said, what the writers think is female empowerment- instead of it being meshed with her heroic characteristics.

    And that is kinda theoretical, cause all these female superhero adaptations actually star anti-heroes -except for Supergirl- So I don’t get it, does she has to be the badass chick to justify her being our heroine? Does she has to be emotionally numb for us to like her?

    I dunno, it might not be malicious, but the mold is so similar that it’s at least somewhat intentional.

  • MeatyStakes


    Also, while yeah, WW was created specially to be a role model for women, interestingly, it really doesn’t define her. She is a woman, but she also is other things, and that is what it works.

    As you said, Superman could be gender swaped and still work as a character, even if he too was made as a gendered role model. You could also genderswap WW -though you would loose more- and she (he?) would still work as a character, because WW has a lot of development, that whilst being built around her femininity, can stand on its own.

    She is just an awesome character.

  • Steven McDade

    See comments about The Supergirl movie, I’m wondering how many here saw the European cut? The one before TriStar cut the movie down to 90 mins? I LOVE Supergirl mostly due to Jerry Goldsmith’s wonderful score. Find the longer cut and then see that Faye Dunaway was fantastic. What we saw here in the USA was a sucky studio cut.

  • Floweramon

    Eeeeek! I’m so happy to see a Nostalgia Chick video on here! She’s currently on hiatus to work on a book (it’s basically Twilight with Cthulhu, and the excerpt I’ve read is hilarious!), and I can’t wait for her return ^_^

  • Thomas Hayes

    I’ve never seen the shortened one. I first saw the European cut on TV and since then I’ve exclusively watched the full-length extended version. It’s still a very sloppy film but at least you get enough scenes for it to make slightly more sense. Goldsmith did a great job on the score for this too.

  • Anonymous

    Damn you Mary Sue!!!
    I was supposed to work today and now I have to spend the whole day watching all of her videos!

  • AnnaB

    What I want them to do is while writing the Wonder Woman script, just write her as a man. Just have the scriptwriters envision a man being Wonder Woman. Heck, call it Wonder Man if that’ll help them. They can even have Wonder Man have a leading lady. From a 3rd Wave feminist’s perspective, it would AWESOME when–after writing this script with Wonder Woman as a man–they click “Replace All” in Word Doc of all Wonder Man into Wonder Woman, we find that this man-written Wonder Woman is fantastic and free of any female stereotypes. We’d have a Ripley Effect. Where Wonder Woman is epic, because the usual things that limit scriptwriters to a concept of a “female superhero” had been eliminated, thereby freeing the scriptwriter of any preconceived notions how a “female superhero” should act.

    Now, tell me honestly. Given that how scriptwriters in Hollywood tend to write women, is this a terrible idea?

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    I strongly suspect (though this is just a theory) that the reason for that frequent pattern is simply because what many of the writers themselves imagine to be the ideal female superhero happens to be a badass who does her own thing and answers to nobody. And there really isn’t anything wrong with that line of thinking as everyone has their own viewpoints, so long as they don’t get so caught up in the singular facet that they neglect to develop a character very much beyond her gender.

    Supergirl is an exception to the antihero stereotype simply because the writer who played with her saw more than the gender of the character but also the whole ‘fish out of water, alien from another world’ angle that gave her a touch more depth for them to explore.

    A trick to making relatable characters is to explore multiple angles to a characters identity, motivation, their personality and why they would have that personality. It helps though if your working with a series instead of a singular movie since that allows you to evolve and explore them with more depth, though many a film has managed without such length like…*thinks* The Princess and the Frog which makes an effort to create a strong relatable character that has far more depth and identity than you could get just from focusing on a single angle of a person, since rarely are people one dimensional. (Ive yet to encounter one myself)

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    I cannot remember the name of it off the top of my head, but a few years ago, DC did a 98 page comic showing this by portraying an elsewhere story where all the characters were genderswapped. (male wonder woman, female batman, female superman and so on) and a few minor differences aside, it made that very point, that their gender did not define them and that they were still heroes who were fundamentally the same people. (The comic itself as I recall portrayed Luthor trying to destroy Superwoman’s reputation and turn the public against her with Batwoman as a prominant figure in the tale)

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    Golly, I had no idea that the one I watched was a cut film. That hopefully explains all of the confusing scene shifts that don’t make any sense like Supergirl coming to earth and being completly clueless about the culture while hunting for the power source and cutscenes to her going to college

  • Charlie

    It’s super sad that we are all sitting here defending these movies purely on the fact we haven’t got anything better. :(

  • Anonymous

    It’s a shame that there are no good female Superhero-ish movies, though I did like Ultra-Violet, Underworld and Resident Evil series. None of those 3 were comic book based, which I think is the root of the problem- bad writing by comic book writers!

    Well, times have changed and writing has gotten better, so studios have a lot more material to work with. Who would I pick for a stand-alone movie if I were running a studio?
    1) Black Widow; people know her already and her comic back-story isn’t a complete mess. There’s some interesting story arcs to draw from, though I don’t recall any of those arcs being best-sellers.

    2) Storm; she’s a pretty big name, is pretty stable, lots of interesting special effects potential. The drawback is that the X-Men’s big story arcs generally don’t revolve around her. Can she carry a story without the X-Men or the Black Panther? I don’t like the odds. But it opens up interesting movie story-lines that other characters wouldn’t have. Her relationship with the Panther would make a good movie. Who says a superhero has to spend the entire movie punching people? Then again, she doesn’t throw many punches to begin with, also a change from most movie.

    3) Vampirella; Well, vampires are still kinda in, and a studio made Barb Wire, so…
    Besides, she wears more than that gravity defying outfit (in current comics), and she has 2 origin stories to work with. Pick one, get a bucket of blood and Bob’s yer uncle!

    4) Supergirl; There’s lots of potential here, probably even more than with Superman. You can play up her feminine aspect (Have her date Luthor’s and cover the relationship and how it drives Supes and Lex bonkers), or the kill vs never kill ethos aspect (Have her fight Darkseid or Doomsday, killing either or both and argue with the League about it) or the cracked spirit aspect (trying to be everything to everyone, no matter what).

    5) Motoko “the Major”; Why only stick with American comics? A live action Ghost in the Shell movie would be interesting to make. As far as Motoko goes, you run into the same problem you had with Ultra-Violet and Electra: too strong and too unemotional (unless you do a scene similar to SAC in which she goes ape-shit with a super-rifle). It’s kinda hard to humanize a seemingly non-human cyborg killing-machine (see SOLO) but if pulled off right with a decent script, it can work by having her human-ish right off the bat or have her ‘learn to smile’ as the main goal of the movie. She’s a bit stronger and independent that most superheroes; in fact her team is pretty dependent on her for most of the time- which would make a movie about her a different take than most superhero movies.

  • Mina

    It’s not at all a bad idea. It could work really well. My one caveat is that Wonder Woman, in addition to being a fierce warrior, has a softer side to her that isn’t often embodied in male film heroes. I’d hate to possibly lose that, but if the alternative is something terrible, I’ll gladly take it.

  • Mark Brown

    Is Cthulhu Bella or Edward?

  • Sign Ahead

    It’s one of my favorites too.

    I think Nostalgia Chick has some great Tank Girl analysis here (especially about Rebecca’s character development), but there’s also a healthy dose of confusion between preference and quality. A lot of her criticism of the movie’s tone and Lori Petty herself sound more like statements of personal preference rather than measurements of quality.

  • Gerald Kirby

    Edward. The Bella inspired character was nicknamed “LEGO brick” during the writing process.

  • Marian Librarian

    I’ve been waiting for the Mary Sue and the Nostalgia Chick to discover each other!

  • Anonymous

    There are 4 different one’s around (the German one being the shortest one with 83 minutes) – the longest is the director’s cut with 138 minutes!

  • Anonymous

    Actually I liked “Elektra” much better than “Daredevil”!

  • Anonymous

    “Supergirl” was still better than “Superman III” + “IV”. Besides I don’t think you really can compare superhero comic-book movies from 80′s with todays superhero comic-book movies.There were totally different standards 30 years ago!

  • Holly

    I saw Captain America as being fairly soft. Not in a bad way. He’s loyal and loving, kind and thoughtful. Not many men are written that way. (Iron Man, anyone? lol)

    Maybe have those screen writers write Wonder Man, and then ReplaceAll. :)

  • Jill Pantozzi

    We actually posted one of her videos before. Not sure why we haven’t kept up!

  • Ivan

    I would like to see a wonder woman movie as much as anyone, but her story is simply too unbelievable and silly to put out to an audience. She’s either made from clay or the daughter of zeus, and she’s an immortal Greek goddess. Her entire back story Needs an over haul and many people would go crazy if Warner bros tried to do that. That along with Hollywood sexism and a fear of box office failure is what’s holding the character back imo. But as far as writing the character as a male, I do see the logic in that.

  • Sable Aradia

    My gods, she’s right. Wonder Woman 1940s period piece like Captain America. I want to see this movie so bad I can physically taste it. Let’s start a petition! Who’s with me?

  • Anonymous

    God that was rough. How many times do I have to keep watching Aliens?

  • Suzanne Larsen

    you’re right. an immortal god who comes to earth is just ridiculously silly. especially when he’s looking for his hammer or stopping an alien invasion led by his brother. oh… wait….

  • Mina

    Wait, are you being serious? Because Thor.

    Also, Wonder Woman is well-known, well-loved and very much acknowledged as being fictional. Nobody cares if her back story is more Greek myth than reality.

  • Adrian

    I’ve been thinking about your comment all weekend. :)

  • Ivan

    Thor is definitely a valid argument for wonder woman, but marvel and Warner bros have different visions towards superhero movies. Marvel makes more campy comicbooky type movies, and Warner bros wants gritty and more serious type movies as evidenced by man of steel and the Nolana Batman trilogy. Now there’s nothing wrong with either approach although I prefer Warner bros approach personally, but that’s just me. It’s just that I can’t see the classic version of ww fitting into the DC cinematic universe. With all this said I still support the character and I would be there opening weekend if nade they made a we movie. Just throwing by 2 cents out there.

  • Anonymous

    I find WW origin story no more ridiculous than Superman’s baby alien story, or many Batman villains (if we are sticking to DC recently-made movies). However, we could always just skip the origin story all together. Personally, keeping Joker’s origin’s ambiguous in TDK was one of the better story choices in the film.

    Also, there’s no reason a studio has to stick to one tone of story telling. Variety is the spice of life.