Scarlet Johansson as Black Widow in Avengers: Endgame

Pouring One out for All the Female-Led Superhero Movies We Were Supposed to Get in 2020

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Birds of Prey has the distinction of being the highest-grossing comic book movie of 2020, but it was supposed to be the beginning of a big year for female-led comic book movies. Instead, the disappointing box office it gained due to COVID, was a specter of the way Wonder Woman 1984 would fare.

Angela Watercutter’s article “This Was Supposed to Be the Year of the Female Movie Hero” was a sobering reminder of the excitement that was in the air for female superhero fans. We were supposed to get Birds of Prey, Wonder Woman 1984, The Eternals, and Black Widow. Yet, only Birds of Prey managed to get a full Hollywood rollout.

Wonder Woman 1984 will be released in theaters and on the HBO Max streaming platform, yet despite everything, it is already being labeled as “disappointing” at the box office. Despite everything that is going on, you’d think the standard would be a little adjusted, but Deadline is reporting that with “$38.5M from 30,221 screens,” it’s “well below the $60M the industry was expecting ahead of the launch.”

$60M sounds like an unrealistic number in a pandemic, but the first Wonder Woman was a phenomenon when it came out, and Warner Bros. was banking on that excitement in China and surrounding areas. In the United States and U.K., the other big markets, theaters are largely not open, and therefore most people will be watching these films on streaming services or post-vaccine.

But what will the consequences be for these films?

Wonder Woman will be fine, largely because of its branding, but for films like Mulan, which were not only female directed but starring a non-white cast, how will the results of their failing be seen? Birds of Prey getting a potential sequel is still up in the air despite having solid reviews and already having a big following. But the industry is not kind to “failures.”

Tenet was also a failure, but Christopher Nolan is an industry darling and will likely bounce back from the fact that his film underperformed in a pandemic—and was also impossible to hear. Will the same grace be given to Cathy Yan, Niki Caro, and others?

Watercutter’s article has the question of momentum in it, “But when they do, even if theaters are one day able to return to full capacity, those releases will be scattered.” Production will be delayed on many of these films for awhile, and also push back the release of many POC-led products, because they were already left to prioritized last.

My worry is not that female comic book movies don’t have a future, but we have already seen the biases that travel with them, the criticisms that can tank them before anyone has actually seen them. It is still, even with the wins, not an even playing field, and while Birds of Prey is still my favorite film of this year and honestly one of my favorite comic book movies, I know that the chances of getting more films like that will be harder due to its box office total.

That fear still exists, even for movies I wasn’t personally interested in, but recognized the importance of. Yes, these films get attention for being inclusive, but at the end of the day, it is more about what breaks even than anything else.

(via Wired, image: Marvel)

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Princess Weekes
Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.