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She Has No Head – The 11 Women Of The Marvel Studios Films

So, obviously this is spurred by Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy, which came out last weekend, which demolished all August film openings, which I saw this weekend, and which was, as everyone has already been telling you, pretty much awesome.

But you don’t need another post about that, you’ve seen it all before, there’s nothing new I can tell you. This movie is like pure joy, bottled and delivered directly into your soul. It’s not perfect but it’s fun, funny, and a great example of how super complicated ideas and utterly bizarre characters and concepts can be made “new viewer” friendly and yet still appeal to fans. It’s a success all around.

MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD

SHNH Ranking Marvel Movie Ladies

Click to Embiggen! From Left: Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Emily VanCamp as Agent 13, Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, Jamie Alexander as Sif, Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis, Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter, Karen Gillan as Nebula, and Natalie Portman as Dr. Jane Foster

The biggest problem with the film is the after credits stinger which is basically a worthless joke. It’s fine that it’s a joke and it’s not a bad little laugh, but for people that were hoping against hope for a Black Widow or Captain Marvel stinger hinting at a solo adventure (Captain Marvel especially since that would be fitting for the cosmic/GotG galaxy film we’d just seen) it’s REAL downer of a stinger.

As the movie release approached and nothing leaked I (and others like me) slowly accepted that this Widow or Captain Marvel Stinger was not going to happen. I still managed to hope we’d get an announcement at SDCC, but it was not to be.

We not only didn’t get the announcement we’d all been hoping for, but we got some relatively awful news on Ant-Man regarding female characters (short version: Janet Van Dyne/The Wasp’s immediate future looks rather grim). Feige said some intelligent things recently about superhero movies and about Hollywood in general that give one confidence, but when it comes to superheroine films Feige (and co.) remain incredibly vague on the subject. Supportive but vague. There’s been MORE than enough time for us to move well past vague. We’re two years out from the MASSIVE success of The Avengers and that’s more than enough time to get your ducks in a row and at least put a team together and make an announcement.

Hell, we all know that the massive success that is Lucy should have been a little movie called BLACK WIDOW. And I hope the success of that film (which I have not yet seen) has Marvel Studios very seriously looking at all the money they have flushed down the toilet. And no, I don’t believe that money will always be there. We are quickly heading to saturation/oversaturation point on superhero films (if we’re not already there). Sure, they’re not going to stop being made, and thanks to demand for these kind of action/high effects film in the foreign market, they’ve got a longer life expectancy, but people are going to burn out on them and they will reach a natural nadir at which point production will slow down and become more difficult.

So, as I’ve said before, the time for a lady led superhero film is NOW. Time for some of these people to get serious. And Marvel should certainly be taking advantage of the opening DC has given them with Wonder Woman to get there first in this new age of superhero films (our last “literal superheroine film” was 2005’s Elektra, before the 2008 boom that Iron Man created…unless you count this month’s Lucy…which…maybe we should? I dunno, she doesn’t ever like don a costume, but she definitely has powers and at some points fights bad guys? So I don’t know…maybe it qualifies as “superhero” instead of just “action”?). Anyway, Marvel should move heaven and earth to beat DC to the table. And listen, I have serious skin in the game. I’m more than happy for my little indie book about superheroes to be the first “new” female led “superhero film” (god, that would be awesome) but I really shouldn’t get there first. There’s no reason on Earth I – a nobody – should get there “first.”

So below is a rundown and ranking of the most significant roles for women in the Marvel films to date. And before you get to thinking that 11 (relatively) significant roles for women over the course of ten films isn’t so bad, consider that in those same 10 films there have been (by my rough count) more than 45 equally significant roles for men to the ones listed below for the ladies. That’s…not great, especially as a single female led film continues to elude us.

But we’re here to rank the existing ladies in prominent roles in the existing films, so let’s get to it. We’ll start at the bottom and work our way to number one!

Betty Ross Headshot11. LIV TYLER AS BETTY ROSS IN THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008)

Unfortunately this role is almost forgettable, despite the fact that I really like Liv Tyler as an actress and she turns in a fine performance. It’s just not a great role. While Betty Ross is an interesting character in comics, here (and admittedly it’s been a while since I’ve seen Incredible Hulk) the role is mostly just the traditional love interest. She’s also a cellular biologist, but more for story convenience than anything else. It’s true that especially in Hulk stories the love interest (usually Betty) provides a good anchor point for Bruce Banner and as comic fans know Betty goes on to become a really interesting character in her own right and eventually the anti-heroine Red Hulk, but there’s very little in this movie for the character to do short of run, hide, kiss, look scared, etc. Too bad.

Sharon Carter Headshot10. EMILY VANCAMP AS SHARON CARTER/AGENT 13 IN CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER (2014)

This is again a case where there’s not much to the role we’ve seen thus far. This is more about the promise of what’s to come, which is likely more interesting to comic book fans who really understand who Sharon Carter is. For me, VanCamp is not a great cast for this. It’s possible she’ll come into her own as a movie star, but she still feels more like a TV actress to me and so she didn’t really command attention on the screen. The role had little meat, but my gut feeling when I saw the film was that a different actress could have given it a bit of gravitas it was lacking, but perhaps not, it’s pretty hard to stand out among already established superheroes and movie stars. Also, though I am a fan of Sharon Carter in the comics, I have to admit the idea of her as Cap’s love interest in future films is pretty icky (it is in the comics too)…the niece of a woman you loved who’s now a (dying) grandmother? There are so many amazing women in the world, Cap, let’s look for one not named Carter, okay? All that said, there’s a lot of potential for Carter in the future and if VanCamp can grow quickly into the role and own it she might be able to climb this chart.

Nebula Headshot09. KAREN GILLAN AS NEBULA IN GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)

Nebula was a nice surprise. She was all but absent from the trailers and yet she has a decently juicy supporting role in the film. She takes over the hunt of the Guardians at one point and thus kind of becomes the big bad guy they’re dealing with by default and she gets one really great hand-to-hand combat scene with Gamora. The make up/effects for Nebula are fantastic (far better than Gamora’s in my opinion) and Karen Gillan simply does an excellent job with what she’s given. Nebula is not a funny gal (neither is Gamora, more on that below) and so it would be easy to get lost among all the jokes and charismatic/weird characters in Guardians of the Galaxy but Gillan holds her own.The character was significant enough that I’d definitely like to see her again in future films and with Thanos a big player in the current Marvel Film Universe, that doesn’t seem like it should be a problem. Watch out for this one to potentially move up!

jane foster headshot08. NATALIE PORTMAN AS DR. JANE FOSTER IN THOR (2011) AND THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013)

Thank the gods they cast Natalie Portman, because this role is a struggle to make work even for someone of her caliber and magnificent beauty. Plainly, Jane Foster is a snooze fest. She’s beautiful and brainy and you can feel the writers trying hard (and valiantly) to make her significant, but except for a few surprises where she proves funny or more resilient than expected, she’s mostly a “Mary Sue” of the highest order that doesn’t ever quite earn a reason to be on screen. The “big moment” they gave her (punching Loki in Thor 2 and saying “that was for New York”) is a huge miss in my opinion and an example of why the character remains so flat – there’s little personality there, despite Portman’s best efforts. Loki almost destroys NYC and the best we can do is punch him in the face Jane? SIGH.

In comics Foster was of course originally a nurse and in the films she’s been “upgraded” to astrophysicist but in both cases she has those jobs mostly as a function of plot as it relates to Thor (i.e. in the comics so she is conveniently located to Dr. Blake and in the film so that there’s a reason for Thor and Foster to come into contact). And herein is the essential problem with love interests. They are there primarily to service plot and emotional development for another character. It’s a well used device and there’s nothing wrong with it, but when there aren’t any alternatives (i.e. female leads that are NOT love interests) then it becomes a big problem. Jane Foster is there to serve Thor’s story and there’s no way around it. You can build her up as much as possible (and it’s good that the effort is made to do so) but at the end of the day, she can’t ever be a Black Widow or even a Gamora because those characters have their own agency and hopefully one day their own films, they can anchor those things, but can Dr. Jane Foster anchor her own film? No, she can’t. It’s certainly no fault of Portman’s that the character is thin, and she does what she can with the role, but there’s just not much there. She’s a love interest coupled with a plot device, and it’s hard to make those characters feel like more than that, because it’s what they are supposed to be.

Jane Foster would need a whole lot of evolution to level up on this list, but it’s almost entirely thanks to Portman that she scrapes by at #8.

Maria Hill Headshot07. COBIE SMULDERS AS MARIA HILL IN THE AVENGERS (2012), CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER (2014), AND MARVEL AGENTS OF SHIELD – TV (2014)

To be honest, without a couple wonderful key scenes in Captain America: Winter Solider, Smulder’s Maria Hill is maybe batting last on my list (or maybe coming in just before Agent 13, if I’m generous). I’m one of the only people in the world (or so it sometimes seems) that is not a big fan of Smulders (on How I Met Your Mother or anywhere else). Despite Whedon being a fan of Smulders and making a clear effort to find a place for her (and Maria Hill) in The Avengers – which is much appreciated given how few female roles exist in the film – Hill in The Avengers does almost nothing for me. Perhaps it’s simply because she’s surrounded by so many characters and massively charismatic movie stars as well as a huge movie/plot but I was generally bored by Hill/Smulders. HOWEVER, in Winter Solider Hill gets a couple of really juicy scenes that take the character dramatically forward and Smulders plays them expertly. Winter Soldier alone shot Maria Hill up the list at least 4 places. It also speaks to how important getting additional titles are to advancing in this kind of character game.

Darcey Headshot06. KAT DENNINGS AS DARCY LEWIS IN THOR (2011) AND THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013)

This is arguably not a significant enough role to make the list, and to make matters worse Lewis is not/was not an existing character from the comics, however Dennings steals every scene she’s in and makes you wish she was in the whole damn movie. I’m a big Natalie Portman fan, but Dennings performance makes you wish Thor would fall for Dennings smart mouth and “unconventional” curves rather than Foster’s smart brain and classic beauty. It really puts a fine point on the limitations of being a love interest. Dennings gets to do far more as the funny sidekick than she would ever get to do in the romantic lead role, though that speaks volumes about how small-minded we are in our approach to romantic leads/relationships. In fact, now that I think about it some more, I don’t wish that Thor would fall for Dennings at all, instead I wish that Darcy would be involved in some kind of intern lab accident, get superpowers, and get her own film. Cause I would watch the CRAP out of Kat Dennings’s Darcy tearing stuff up with her sarcastic wit AND bare hands.

Good god. Someone make that happen, please.

Sif Headshot05. JAMIE ALEXANDER AS SIF/LADY SIF IN THOR (2011), THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013), MARVEL AGENTS OF SHIELD – TV (2014)

And here you can see some obvious bias and not of the actor kind. I LOVE Sif. I love the character even independent of comics, TV, and film. It’s simply a character from Norse Mythology I find fascinating and am always interested to see adapted in other stories and media. So it was really exciting to see her cast so well – Jamie Alexander has a wonderful presence and as a nice bonus she’s a little more “physically significant” at 5’9” than most actresses which works well for Sif (and for superheroes in general). I think Alexander’s incredibly strong performance in an extremely minor role in Thor was what guaranteed her much larger role in Thor: The Dark World. But that, coupled with fans desperation to see some leading ladies kicking ass really made her a fan favorite. She’s earned every bit of it. It takes a well-written role and a capable actress to draw the spotlight to you without stealing it, to capture fans minds, and to easily balance battle-tested warrior, and non-resentful scorned love interest. Alexander handles it all with grace and she looks incredibly capable (read: badass) in fantastic looking battle armor. There’s a reason so many fans wanted her to be Wonder Woman after seeing her take on Sif. They weren’t wrong.

Peggy Carter04. HAYLEY ATWELL AS PEGGY CARTER IN CAPTAIN AMERICA (2012), MARVEL ONE SHOT: AGENT CARTER – SHORT (2013), AND CAPTAIN AMERICA 2: WINTER SOLDIER (2014)

People are fanatical about this character and I don’t really blame them. Atwell absolutely owns the Peggy Carter role and she gets to do it in awesome period fashion. But I don’t think it’s an accident that people have attached themselves so rabidly to Agent Carter, she IS at this moment the only woman on this list with anything named after her. Sure it was a digital short and it’s not lead to a film but a television series, but I think it’s as much a testament to the desperation of fans for a leading lady as it is of Atwell’s Carter being a great character. I’m not saying we’d support something crappy just because we’re desperate, but just that our death grip on the delicious thing we’ve been given is even more intense for fear it’s going to be taken from us, and because we’re simply STARVING for it.

Atwell plays Carter perfectly in her film roles, staying firmly entrenched in a supporting role but unwilling to be anything as flimsy as just a love interest, she’s wonderfully capable, and badass in a way appropriate to the time period. In her digital one-shot short she steps into the lead as naturally as if she’d been born for it. Let’s hope she can do the same for the TV series.

Gamora Headshot03. ZOE SALDANA AS GAMORA IN GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)

I like Zoe Saldana. I think she’s a very talented actress and she does a good job with Gamora, but I’m not sure why she’s become the only woman (along with Jennifer Lawrence?) to get all the action roles in big movies/franchises (Star Trek, Losers, Avatar, Columbiana, and now Guardians of the Galaxy). It’s great of course that an actress of color is getting these roles, but it seems like maybe we should let Saldana take at least a small break – spread the wealth around a little bit. I say this is in part because I think Saldana being pigeon-holed into these action roles (ALL the action roles) is starting to limit her range. Her Gamora was perfectly acceptable, but she felt like a lot of other action roles for women…and worse, she felt a lot like other action roles for Saldana. Gamora is a pretty unique character and I’m not sure the role as written, or Saldana’s performance quite got us there. Also, what was up with that super annoying leather (vinyl?) mini-skirt at the end? Eyeroll.

Anyway, Saldana kicks a ton of ass in GotG, as expected, and she’s certainly the most honorable of the group, despite her back-story, but to be honest the writing of her felt a bit thin. In fairness to GotG it has a ton of characters, a million jokes, a lot of plot to cover, several bad guys, and some great music, none of which leaves as much time as I’d like for character development, but Gamora does feel like she gets the short end of the stick, and as the only woman on the “team” it’s particularly noticeable. Still, Gamora has some incredible fight scenes and establishes herself well as a force to be reckoned with. There’s a ton of room for future development for the character and I’m excited to see where they take her. The right moves and Gamora could easily continue moving up this list after an already solid debut.

Pepper Potts Headshot02. GWYNETH PALTROW AS PEPPER POTTS IN IRON MAN (2008), IRON MAN 2 (2010), THE AVENGERS (2012), AND IRON MAN 3 (2013)

Pepper Potts has the benefit of four movies, more than any other female characters on our list. Given four movies I’m sure characters like Gamora can eventually outpace her solely by being their own leading women as opposed to meager beginnings as love interests, so Potts should enjoy this #2 spot while she can! That said, four movies means nothing if you don’t let a character grow and Potts grows beautifully and realistically, from brilliant smart-mouthed assistant and potential love interest in Iron Man to brilliant smart-mouthed CEO of Stark Industries and actual love interest in Iron Man 2, to fully realized partner in love and business in The Avengers, to all of that plus temporary damsel in distress, and then full blown superpowered badass that actually takes down the big bad in Iron Man 3.

None of the women in the Marvel films have been given the same consideration of their arc as a character and Paltrow has made the most of it. Think what you will of Paltrow as modern day guru/entrepreneur but as Pepper Potts she’s simply nailed it. Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark does his level best to steal every scene he’s in, and yet Paltrow finds the perfect give and take with both Downey and Stark so that she holds her own on screen but doesn’t tip the scales. Their chemistry is pure magic. Iron Man 3 gets a lot of criticism, some of which I agree with, but as an example of a strongly feminist film – ultimately Tony Stark fails to rescue Potts who then rescues herself and also saves Tony – it’s wonderfully on point. When I watch Iron Man 3, other flaws be damned, I find myself shocked that Shane Black and company got away with such a feminist ending and I love it.

Black Widow headshot01. SCARLETT JOHANSSON AS BLACK WIDOW IN IRON MAN 2 (2010), AVENGERS (2012), CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLIDER (2014

Well, duh. Johansson’s Black Widow has been the best and most cleverly positioned woman in Marvel’s films since her first appearance on screen. She has been a chameleon quite deliberately in both how her character is realized and in her more obvious physical appearance. Johansson’s Black Widow slides flawlessly from overtly sexy mysterious badass with improbably odd curls in Iron Man 2 to capable spy and superhero, smart and holding her own among men with far more physical power than she possesses in The Avengers, to a more personal look at her fears and insecurities, coupled of course with plenty of ass kicking in Winter Soldier. One of my favorite things about the way Marvel has handled Widow is in the choreography. They are very smart in their choices, as you’ll notice that Widow really has to throw her entire body weight around, and use technology as well as her environment to fight incredibly smart as she’s often fighting characters with far more physical power than she possesses. We all come into superhero movies with a certain suspension of disbelief, but it really helps me believe a 120 pound woman can take down a man twice her size when I see real thought in her fighting technique and clever use of objects and even her own body. It’s some great stuff.

Quite frankly, the chameleon-like roles Widow has been given in these films and Johansson’s execution of those roles rivals the development of some of the male leads who have had much more time to do the same kind of work. Marvel has set Widow up perfectly for a standalone Black Widow film, which is perhaps why it’s so damn depressing that we don’t yet have an announcement on that film.

So. That’s it for the list. As we wind down, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, not the lack of female leads which we’ve already well covered, no, the OTHER elephant in the room. Every single woman on this list is white (and no, green and blue don’t count toward diversity). It IS great that Zoe Saldana is an actress of color and one of the biggest female leads to date, but since she’s playing a green alien, it doesn’t count toward diversifying the list of characters, even if it does count toward diversifying the actresses.

It’s doubly frustrating to realize that even if we got our dream and got a female led film (or two!) announced, they would likely be white women as well – the most likely candidates discussed (and well positioned) are Captain Marvel and Black Widow, both white. Other names that we regularly see bandied about and discussed are usually white too – She-Hulk and The Wasp are two I frequently see mentioned. And we already have our newest female “love interest/supporting cast” announced in the form of Evangeline Lilly in Ant-Man – again, white.

Comics has a real problem with diversity and it’s something that’s being exported into the films. I hope some of the very smart people making these films see the problem and are doing their best to make sure they course correct.

Nextwave-Cast

The leading ladies of NEXTWAVE: Monica Rambeau, Elsa Bloodstone, and Boom Boom!

I suppose we could solve basically ALL our problems with a Nextwave: Agents of HATE film starring Monica Rambeau. It would be like an even crazier R-rated version of Guardians of the Galaxy…who’s with me?!?


Kelly Thompson is a freelance writer living in Manhattan. She is the author of the superhero novel THE GIRL WHO WOULD BE KING recently optioned to become a film, and her new novel STORYKILLER is out now. You can find Kelly everywhere, but twitter may be the easiest: @79semifinalist

124 Comments

Captain Haddock

August 4, 2014 at 9:14 am

Good list, I do think they neutered Gamora and played a bit safe with her, but I still thought she and film overall were excellent. And I didn’t see much wrong with the skirt, not compared to her standard comic book outfit anyway…

It’s hard to inject women of color into these movies due to the limited choices, one thing I will say is that I hope they don’t race-swap characters just for diversity. I’m a visible minority, and it really bothers me when a characters ethnicity is changed just to appeal to a broader audience and quell any issues of racism, and it feels like tokenism. The only exception was Idris Elba as Heimdall, that dude’s screen presence could rival Odin’s.

I would put money on Evangeline Lilly’s character becoming Wasp eventually.

Wow, Nextwave could be the NEXT BIG THING for Marvel.

Ellis should write the screenplay

In your lede, spurned should be spurred.

I haven’t read the article yet and I’m sure it’s good as all your writing is, but I was annoyed by this mistake in the lede and I had to say something before continuing.

Minor spoilers down the way, I guess.

Your NEXTWAVE conclusion was better than the GotG stinger.

GotG seemed to have a nice subtle balance of powerful female roles. Sure, they semi-fridged Gamorra, but it didn’t seem too obnoxious. And who ever thought they’d see Glenn Close in a comic book movie? And she got to be president of the planet!

It would be a waste to have Evangeline Lilly in just one movie and in a non-superhero role. I have hopes, but I’m only crossing my fingers, I’m not holding my breath.

I’d love to see Kat Dennings in the Rick Jones role, just kind of traipsing around the MU tongue lashing whoever she came across. Good call!

OMG, I would kill to see that Nextwave movie. It could be brilliantly fun.

I don’t read GotG, and I haven’t seen the movie, but couldn’t Groot be female? How about a Groot solo movie?

I thought Gamora was pretty well-handled; in addition to being the most honorable (Groot could debatably tie), she also came across as being the most knowledgeable about cosmic events and in some ways the most competent of the group “I’m going to die surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy”

I think we’ll see more Gamora vs. Nebula in the sequel.

I do think the GotG could use another female team member. I would go with Mantis, her maddenly vague premonitions would be fun to add to the group dynamic.. maybe its too much green skin for one movie.

Moondragon would be another possibility, perhaps being “turned from the dark side” by the GotG. I wonder how she would be portrayed in the movie and what sort of interactions she might have with Drax.

I also think a female Kree would be a cool character to introduce in the sequel, this character could then come to Earth as part of a GotG/Avengers crossover in Avengers 3 and go on to star in a solo film, adopting the title “Captain Marvel”… might be long-shot though!

I’m amazed that you gave Gamora/ GotG so much credit. The Deadliest Woman In The Galaxy has to get rescued multiple times, stands around ineffectually with a knife at her throat, gets immediately turned into a quasi-love-interest for Quill (it doesn’t go very far, but she’s defined as “the girl he’s trying to impress/ save,” an object for him to win), *never* scores a clear win in any consequential fight, and gets called a whore in a way that’s meant to be a laugh line (unlike Loki’s epithet for Black Widow in Avengers).

It’s also true that I find Saldana dreary as an actress, but this was a writing/ directing problem not an acting problem.

“I don’t wish that Thor would fall for Dennings at all, instead I wish that Darcy would be involved in some kind of intern lab accident, get superpowers, and get her own film. Cause I would watch the CRAP out of Kat Dennings’s Darcy tearing stuff up with her sarcastic wit AND bare hands.

Good god. Someone make that happen, please.”

OMG WHAT IF SHE’S THE NEW THOR THO?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

It would be hilarious if the new character taking on the mantle of Thor were named Darcy Lewis. And by “it”, I mean the Internet reaction.

Interesting article–I am always a sucker for lists–and I enjoy your perspective even if I don’t always find myself agreeing with you.

I have a small, nitpicking comment–and I hope I don’t come off sounding like a jerk, but in your section on Maria Hill, you mention that she was almost your clean up hitter and you make that sound like I negative thing. I got the point you were trying to make, but used the term incorrectly. In baseball, the clean up hitter is usually your best power hitter and hit in the fourth spot in order to take advantage of hopefully having runners on base. It is a very good thing, which does not match the message you were trying to communicate. In baseball, the number 9 hitter is usually the weakest hitter and more in line with what I think you were trying to say about Maria Hill.

I liked your list and agreed with it mostly (I would have Peggy Carter higher, but that’s personal taste). I love the idea of Thor falling for the more interesting (and in my opinion, more attractive / beautiful / whatever physical term you want to use) Darcy! However, I have to disagree with your take on the women from Guardians of the Galaxy. I thought they were just about the weakest, least interesting characters in the film (apart from Lee Pace’s disappointing Ronan). I found Karen Gillan’s Nebula visually interesting, but thought the character was poorly written and her performance very boring. As for Gamora, I though Zoe Saldana tried valiantly, but that her character was the least interesting and most one-note of the heroes. As much as I enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy, I was very disappointed in the female characters, which is not common for me and Marvel movies. I thought the most interesting female character was the Collector’s assistant, Carina, who I hoped would become the partner / love interest for the yet to be introduced Korvac and we would eventually get and movie version of the Korvac Sage with the Avengers and Guardians meeting…oh well! :)

Last thing, as I was reading your list, I was struck by how many actresses from Marvel movies whose performances I generally don’t like–in fact Kat Dennigs, Jamie Alexander, and Hayley Atwell are the only actresses on this list that I would say I like as actresses. However, most of them have really done nice jobs with the roles they were cast in and I like them in these roles–for example, I really can’t stand Gwenyth Paltrow or Scarlett Johansson as actresses in general, but they have done great jobs and Pepper and Natasha and I love those particular performances!

I think that there is a limit to how far characters that are conceived as love interests can go. Marvel has gotten some great actresses to sign on board for some pretty thankless roles. I mean, they got both Jenifer Connelly and Liv Tyler to sign on as Betty Ross. Irrespective of what title they have given Jane Foster, she still acts like a nurse/assistant and they got Natalie Portman on board. Certain characters are just designed to live in the B-story and only the franchise-driving chemistry of Gwenyth Paltrow and Robert Downey, Jr. has freed up Pepper Potts at all. None of the other ladies on this list have made a connection with the man opposite them that is remotely that interesting.

Which makes the Peggy Carter case really interesting. Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell were pretty much a big zero in the first Captain America film as well. The real love story there was between Cap and Bucky. Peggy was also a pretty blank slate on the comics side as well. When Marvel went to make the digital short, they built her almost from zero. Like Agent Coulson, she is really a native of the Marvel cinematic universe (MCU).

To me, that is a much more fertile place to look for female superheroes than Marvel Comics. The MCU was created in the 21st century (or a couple generations post-feminism) and, as result, its native female characters feel a lot more modern than the fairly weak roster of women in Marvel comics.

@Argo — I was confused by the “cleanup hitter” reference too. I just glossed over it though. I got the point that Kelly was not a big fan of Maria Hill except in the Winter Soldier.

@Argo/Nu-D:
An embarrassing mistake considering I’ve played softball most of my life (and made worse because when I did play in my youth I frequently BATTED CLEAN UP) but this is what you get when you write/finish articles at 4am and have no editor. :( I’ve fixed it – thanks for the catch!

“I don’t read GotG, and I haven’t seen the movie, but couldn’t Groot be female?”

Aren’t most trees hermaphroditic?

@Greg — Groot is an alien, not a tree. S/he/it can be whatever the writers want.

Wow you read my mind :)

I want a Captain Marvel film so much and it’s hard to keep that from affecting my enthusiasm of the upcoming films. Would be nice to just get an announcement “we are making a Captain Marvel movie. No release date but it is coming”.

What’s odd is that the comics are finally embracing female characters but the movies and games coming out don’t reflect that at all. They’ve announced 19 characters for Disney Infinity and only 2 of them are female characters! Marvel revealed a new mobile game at SDCC and out of about 10 characters, Storm was the only female shown.

Maybe Wonder Woman’s presence in Batman v Superman will change things but I’d really like to see Marvel take the initiative on this.

Believe me, you are far from the only person to make a mistake by misusing a word or term. Beyond the typos and punctuation errors in my post, for which I am embarrassed, I almost used the word cypher to describe Gamora’s character in GotG, which would have been the opposite of what I was trying to say.

That’s why I didn’t want to come off as a jerk–we’ve all been there–it just was something that took me out of the article and confused me momentarily–and I enjoyed the rest of the article so much!

Plus, I am a softball and baseball youth umpire, so it rubbed me the wrong way there too! :)

Keep up the good work.

Groot is an alien tree. It’s true that that can mean whatever the writers want it to mean, but I’m personally rooting for it to mean that our rules of gender don’t really make sense in that context.

Take my money NOW for a Black Widow movie!!!

I’m not familiar with Cobie Smulders. I did like her as Maria Hill in The Avengers. I wish she was on screen more. Hopefully she will have more to do in Age of Ultron. I haven’t been following Agents of SHIELD…

I will watch Agent Carter when it hits ABC – hopefully it won’t be up against NCIS or NCIS: New Orleans… :)

“We’re two years out from the MASSIVE success of The Avengers and that’s more than enough time to get your ducks in a row and at least put a team together and make an announcement.”

They put at least one duck in a row in the GOTG post-credit scene, but I guess that’s not what you’re looking for.

No mention of how, of course, in Iron Man 3, they ‘found’ a way to put Gwyneth Paltrow in a sports bra?

I remember seeing that for the first time and was thinking how unnecessary it was.

WHOA, Nebula looks AWESOME, i’ve never heard of her before now!! O_O now i want a Nebula/Darcy team-up movie.

Marvel Studios will only make a Female Superhero movie once they see that kind of movie being successful. Otherwise They would have already done a Black Widow movie. They would rather play it safe then to take that kind of risk.

Basically I see Marvel Studios doing that after they see how successful Wonder Woman is on the big screen in her own solo flick.

the caption misidentifies Liv Tyler as Incredible Hulk, not Betsy Ross….

@ John Klein III:

I disagree.

Gwyneth Paltrow is a movie star. She has millions of dollars in the bank, an Oscar on her mantle and 48 credits on her IMDB page. She may not be able to open a movie on her own, but her signing on as Pepper Potts gave a ton of credibility to the first Iron Man film (and by extension the whole MCU project). She had way more leverage on IM3 than anyone other than Robert Downey, Jr.

Therefore, her stripping down to sports bra in IM3 was a decision about how she wants a character that she basically owns to be perceived (along with her own personal brand). Odds are she is a lot more than likely to be right are pretty good.

Pepper Potts was an almost entirely de-sexualized character through the first films. At her moment of maximum empowerment, she became sexy. That is very different than what you typically see in sci-fi.

Also, sports bras are not particularly sexy. And I’d have to rewatch Iron Man 3, but I don’t remember those shots being particularly “male-gazy”.

I’m not sure disappointment for the tease at the end of the GotG is really fair, if you were hoping for a surprise announcement that they’ve never done before. Has there been any post credit sequence that refers to a movie not already in production other than the Avengers? (Which went from a wish and a prayer to something that almost for sure was going to happen). They haven’t really announced new flicks with these things. So unless from scratch they go into production on a movie featuring the character at the end, I think one would be setting themselves up to be disappointed to expect a “Captain Marvel” announcement there.

(On a side note, I think copycatting Avengers hasn’t been a great call for the Marvel films credit teases, because it would make more sense for the one that’s part of the movie to appear first, and the big surprise for future stuff a reward right at the very end. But I digress).

But I find myself mostly agreeing with the list. 7-11 are forgettable, and in some cases miscast. (Though I think Nebula only because she got the Darth Maul treatment, a cool character who could have more screen time. But at least she got the other Darth ending). Add me to those to still lament that we didn’t get a dual superhero role casting of Sif and Wonder Woman. More on 4 and 3 below. Of existing ones, Black Widow is the obvious choice. But maybe too easy. I think if you really went heavy James Bond, you could make something different, but it might feel a bit too Captain America lite. To work they probably really have to pull another GotG, and make something the average person hasn’t heard of and make it work. Something like Captain Marvel, that I have no idea how it would translate, but would fill a different area of the Marvel Universe, other than just being a woman. Other than Thor they really don’t have very many characters pre-Avengers 2 that have actually super powers that don’t involve hitting people really hard. I guess Groot, but he’s a tree, not a person. CM would really bring the “super” to their super heroes, and that would be a different angle to take.

Comment wise, I’m not sure how they could have satisfied with Gamora. Half are she wasn’t enough of the deadliest woman in the galaxy, and the other half is her character was too bland. So killer assassin is going to be even blander around a bunch of joking characters, and funny Gamora isn’t going to come off as that deadly. They might have gone too much in the middle and not pleased anybody. I don’t know. Quill big romantic overture turned into a joke that she didn’t seem to take that seriously. And hey, they took out her caught disrobing shot that was in the trailer. We got to see more of Pratt naked than her. (Hi Star Trek 2!)

And while I usually agree, I have to say I disagree with Dean Hacker a lot today. I thought Peggy Carter and Steve Rogers were the heart of Captain America. It’s what made it a great film for me. The plot was typical, and the Red Skull just a tad not evil enough for my tastes (though well done), but it’s the heart shown by those two that made the movie for me. How often do you get a big summer type movie that ends on such a melancholy beat? If anything, I thought the Cap-Bucky thing was far undersold. If you didn’t read the comics I’m not sure you would have thought Bucky “dying” was any bigger a deal than any of the howling commandos biting it, other than him knowing Bucky longer.

And Paltrow had almost semi-retired by the time Iron Man came around. She was hardly a big box office draw. Good pedigree, but that doesn’t help much in a world where Transforrmers movies make so much money.

And anyone who thinks she was de-sexualized doesn’t remember the birthday present dress shoe wore in the first one. Wowza.

@ M-Wolverine:

Chemistry can be pretty subjective, but I didn’t think Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell sparked off each other at all. She was charming, but that is a different thing. It isn’t that Evans is wooden as Cap, either. The chemistry between Evans and Scarlett Johansson almost bent the shape of that movie.

Bucky, on the other hand, was the love interest of the first movie. Their relationship drives the first act. His being taken hostage motivates Cap springing into action the first time. His dying moves things into Act III. He had pretty much the classic “love interest in a superhero story” role.

In fact, Bucky carrying the love interest baggage frees Peggy Carter up to be something else.

I think Scarlett’s Pregnancy may be a reason the Widow Film is not on the books, I sure they said here roll in was alter to take account, and they will want her to be fully fit and have her home life setup before going full on in a widow movie.

@Mister Ferro

If that’s their thinking, they should make an announcement tomorrow. As was said in the article, Scarlett Johansson has just opened a sci-fi/action movie to over $80 million dollars in two weeks, doubling its budget. If Marvel had thrown $100m at a Black Widow movie and produced something halfway decent (as they usually do), that and the brand/character recognition would probably have lead to at least $300m worldwide. Plus, the Hunger Games is one of the biggest franchises in the world.

I think the real issue is that Marvel have limited space in their schedule, and a female-led movie is not a major priority to them. Not enough to derail the various sequels they’ve been juggling or new projects they’ve been trying to make for a decade (Ant-Man, Dr Strange). Feige does seem to care about getting one made but I imagine it’s somewhat on the back burner. They’re shifting to a three-movies-a-year schedule in 2017 though, so I have to hope we’ll get a Widow/Captain Marvel/Ms. Marvel movie then or in 2018

@Dean Hacker

I definitely agree with you that the Cap-Bucky relationship was the emotional core of the movie. But if you’re saying you didn’t get a bit teary eyed at Cap and Carter’s last conversation before he hits the ice, then I must assume that you are a twisted, cold-hearted, husk of a human being

Gwyneth Paltrow is not sexy, IMO. She’s too twiggy to be sexy. Beautiful, yes. But not sexy.

This has nothing to do with the movies or the acting, but I really wish people would ask us poor straight males what we consider “beautiful” in a woman.

I suspect that I am in the majority of guys that think Kat Dennings’ lush, curvy body is much more attractive and hot than Natalie Portman’s body, so skinny that it looks like it can break if you hug her.

And yet, Kat is the tagged as “unconventional” and Natalie Portman is a “classical beauty”?

Something does not compute.

@Dean- agreeing that it is subjective, I can’t say you’re “wrong” that there was or wasn’t a spark. I’d say there are different kinds of chemistry. I think what they had in Captain America was sweet, and slow, something which doesn’t really fit the times…but fits the times the movie was set. Cap and Widow was as modern as the setting…opposite’s attract, very sexual in nature, even if the character’s themselves really don’t have much of a fit or anything in common other than work. But it was there.

And I don’t see Bucky as important as you do. He’s not trying to get into the war to impress Bucky. Bucky is discouraging him. I see him in the first act as less important than Dr. Erskine. He does drive the second act, that’s inarguable. And he may be the segue into the final act, but considering after he has a drink it’s not even really brought up again, it doesn’t seem to be a tragic Love Story. If it were a James Bond film, you’d have your villain, your Bond Girl, your henchman, his ally, and “the victim,” which is usually one of the other characters (ally, or 2nd Bond girl) who dies in the movie. I don’t think his role is really any more different than Coulson in the Avengers. But it’s making me look at the film in interesting ways.

@renearcisco:
I think there’s very little to argue on Natalie Portman being a classic beauty. She’s classical beautiful, even if she’s not particularly to your tastes.

But there’s a very good reason why I put quotes around the word unconventional.

@renenarciso – Not only do I think you’re not alone, I think at least Marvel realizes this. They seem to have, if not equal representation, at least a decent mix. Iron Man hits you with the latter in Paltrow, but adds a more curvy Black Widow who moves onto the Avengers and Cap 2. Liv Tyler is probably the latter…but replaced someone in the non-Marvel Hulk who (at least used to be) the former. Thor doubles up. Atwell is certainly no twig. And it’s probably going to a level of crass over-analysis to say where Zoe falls.

The problem is Hollywood as a whole as a community seems to push for the skinny. Because there are a lot of women early in their careers who have perfectly acceptable, sexy shapes….and then often get way too thin. It’s almost like they want to make sure they look good on the red carpet rather than on screen.

@Alastair
Agreed that Johansson’s pregnancy is easily (and likely) a factor in any potential Black Widow announcement, but it only further illustrates their need to get their act together. If their act had been together before, then we would have had Black Widow instead of (or in addition to) Lucy, instead of now needing to wait until Johansson was willing/ready to anchor another action film/franchise.

IM 3 is the first time I’ve been actively attracted to Paltrow. I think she played well off RDJ and she was given a lot to do. IM2 & Avengers are two of the few movies where I haven’t been particularly attracted to Johannson. I thought Black Widow was a pretty flat character in IM2 and I don’t think she was served well by curling up into the fetal position after Thor saves her from Hulk.

I don’t think that discussions of potential female-led Marvel movies are going anywhere if they devolve into “hot or not” discussions. I don’t want a “hot” female-led Marvel movie. I want an interesting story with interesting characters.

Dean, all good points about Gwyneth!

Also, I am a huge fan of Cobie Smulders and I am glad that she is getting all of this work in the Marvel Universe! I still need to see Winter Soldier (comes on BluRay in a couple of weeks) but I’m glad she has more to do in that film.

@ Kelly Thompson:

I am a little confused.

You seem to be implying that there has never been a female solo superhero movie and yet LUCY seems to fit in that genre for me. Luc Besson’s earlier LA FEMME NIKITA (and its American re-make) seem to be superhero films as well despite not being adapted from comics. There have even been solo female comic adaptations in SUPERGIRL, ELEKTRA and CATWOMAN. They were terrible, but they exist.

The genre even has a true classic in KILL BILL Vol. 1 & 2.

If anyone was expecting a Black Widow after-credits scene in this movie, I’d have to ask: Why? How would Black Widow tie into this movie? OK, going into the movie, we didn’t know if the plot ends up on Earth, but I hope that by the time the credits start, you’re not expecting Black Widow to pop up.

Captain Marvel would make a ton more sense. Do it already, Marvel! Is there a lack of capable Blonde actors in Hollywood? :)

Kelly –

I suppose I’m just complaining about definitions, then. With “classical beauty”.

The art in classical antiquity depicted women with lush, curvy bodies. Actually, those statues would pass as fat nowadays.

If classical refers to The Golden Age of Hollywood, the actresses also had lush, healthy, curvy bodies.

The standards of beauty represented by Natalie Portman actually is relatively new. I think it started in the 1960s with Audrey Hepburn and Twiggy. Even though the 1920s also had boyish, skinny women as an ideal of beauty.

So, standards are always changing. Let’s hope that someday women will realize again that there are plenty of men who like women with curves.

@Dean: I think I found what you’re referring to – in the paragraph where I talk about The Girl Who Would Be King?

If so, you’re right it’s unclear and I’ve made some clarifications, do they help?

M-Wolverine –

“Because there are a lot of women early in their careers who have perfectly acceptable, sexy shapes….and then often get way too thin.”

Tell me about it. I am still in mourning over what happened to Jennifer Connely. She used to be a goddess.

I’m pretty sure from character comments in the film that Groot, like most trees, is no one sex and has no thoughts one way or the other on the matter.

@ Kelly Thompson:

They do. Sorry to nitpick, but I am usually very clear on what you are saying.

I have a broader definition of ‘superhero film’ than most. I think that both the James Bond and Indiana Jones franchises are in the superhero genre. Basically, anything set a modern (1920s-80s) or post-modern (1990s until now) setting that features a protagonist with special powers (especially if those powers have a sci-fi or fantasy feel), a super-powerful antagonist and an origin story (or hints of same) feels superhero-y to me. Add a distinctive outfit (like Bond’s Tux, or Jones in his fedora, or The Bride in her yellow jumpsuit) and it is the same genre as a Marvel Comic adaptation to me.

GhostBusters might have a female led cast. Hmmm, still not what Kelly might have wanted.

Guys, let’s try to move away from body shaming, okay? It’s getting a little uncomfortable in here.

@Dean

No, you were totally right. I rushed that paragraph and didn’t explain myself.

I am split on defining action movies with clear “powers” (Lucy, Kill Bill, etc.) “superhero movies”

I agree that a lot of them feel like superhero movies and should possibly count within the genre, but man does it become a muddled mess in the middle…is Frozen in the superhero genre? Is Hunger Games? Is Divergent? Is Kill Bill? Is Lucy? Is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? Are characters like Jinx or Wai Lin from Bond superhero characters? Man, it gets messy.

By the same token, I have no interest in limiting “superhero genre” to solely “adapted from comics” or “must include crime-fighting, costumes, superpowers, etc.”

But where is the line? What’s to stop almost all action movies from being “superhero films” right?

My head sort of hurts just thinking about it!

@ Kelly Thompson:

The genre question is fascinating one for me, because superheroes are a bastard genre to begin with.

My thoughts are that it is the genre that replaced the Western, so it needs to be set well after 1890. My semi-arbitrary cut-off is 1920. That rules out both FROZEN and CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. It also deals with sci-fi fantasy solutions to semi-realistic contemporary social problems. That means that it cannot be in a fantasy world (including the future). That rules out HUNGER GAMES (and explains why ‘Legion of Superheroes’ always under-performs). The person with special powers needs to be the protagonist, antagonist or both. Again, that rules out FROZEN, because Ilsa is not quite either.

It is better when the hero has a distinctive weapon and/or outfit. The Bride had her Hanzo Sword, Indy has his whip and Bond has his gadgets.

It is better when two (or more) other genres are mashed together. KILL BILL had martial arts, blacksploitation and westerns. Bond mashed together spies and sci-fi to create Spy-Fi, which is sub-genre unto itself.

Just out of curiosity, where would the other women in Marvel films that are not under the Marvel Studios banner fit if you expanded them to the list? (I can totally understand leaving the FF movies out since there’s a reboot underway making the earlier efforts fairly irrelevant, but I think exploring the X-Men movies and/or Spider-Man is worth considering for impact)

I generally agree with most of what you’re saying here; I actually like Emily Van Camp a lot, and totally geeked out with her as Agent 13 (though I wanted it to be a bigger part). I think there’s great potential here, and she’s proven she can kick some ass on the small screen and I think she’ll translate well to the big screen in an expanded part.

I loved Karen Gillan as Nebula and while I’d have liked more of her in this movie I’m ok with how it turned out if it sets her up for bigger things. I really thought she nailed it

Totally agree on the post-credits scene. While I’m sure the Steve Gerber/70’s marvel fanatics loved it, it felt like a throwaway to me rather than building something bigger. Maybe it’s because they didn’t know how GG would play, so they didn’t want to put in anything important for the MCU series? (not unreasonable, but too bad) I would have loved to see them set up the Shi’ar or maybe start something for another cosmic hero and keep building towards Infinity Gauntlet.

A rundown on Post-Credits scenes:

IRON MAN = introduced Nick Fury, vaguely hinted at the Avengers.
INCREDIBLE HULK = technically had no post-credits scene, but also hinted at the Avengers.
IRON MAN 2 = showed a scene from THOR
THOR = hinted at both CAPTAIN AMERICA and THE AVENGERS
CAPTAIN AMERICA = showed a scene from THE AVENGERS
AVENGERS = hinted at GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (Guardians hadn’t been announced yet, so at the time, this was a vague “Hey, it’s Thanos”); also had the first “funny” PC scene
IRON MAN 3 = only had a “funny” PC scene; no future hint
THOR 2 = hinted at GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
CAPTAIN AMERICA 2 = hinted at THE AVENGERS 2
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY = had two “funny” scenes

I guess there’s no established pattern here. We’ve come to expect a Hardy Boys-style prelude scene, but some of them have been vague on what’s coming, and at least two–Guardians included–had no prelude whatsoever. So sure, it’d be nice to have the formal announcement of what’s coming, but we got no such thing.*

* – Although I’ve read that Adam Warlock’s cocoon was in the Collector’s trophies and was shown as empty in the GUARDIANS post-credits. So, maybe that’s something.

“CAPTAIN AMERICA 2 = hinted at THE AVENGERS 2″

Just for clarification, Cap 2 had scenes teasing both Avengers 2 and Cap 3. Wasn’t the first mid-credits and second post-credits? Going from memory here.

I still haven’t seen Cap 2, shame on me. I know what both of the PC-scenes are, though. My impression of the second with Bucky is that it sort of cleared up his issues in the movie, but you’re right, I guess it could hint at Cap 3 depending on where the script goes.

William O'Brien

August 4, 2014 at 7:39 pm

I think pulling in the Fox and Sony movies would put Mystique at the top of the list. While she’s only a henchwoman in the first two movies, she pretty much only gets cool “assignments” and succeeds in each one, with the exception of the 1-on-1 fight with the main character at the end of the first movie. She’s the Boba Fett of those movies. From what I remember of Last Stand she only has a very small part, but it’s one of the only roles in that film that provokes a true emotional response (other than “wtf?”). She’s a key character in First Class, serving as the moral barometer in the Charles/Erik relationship. And she is the central protagonist of Days of Future Past, which is at this point the best received film in the series. She’s certainly not marketed as the lead of that film, but she’s the character who the story is actually most about.

The only real problem with her portrayal is her look, and even that has some character drive behind it (though of course I think they came up with the nude look first and the justification second).

It’s close between her and Widow, but I’d go with Mystique because I think the acting has been a little better and there’s a little more emotional weight to the character.

My list would probably be Mystique, Peggy, Widow, Pepper, with an honorable mention to Nebula for that really cool “re-assembly” scene and just a great look overall. She’s a more interesting character than the actual villain of that film.

I love your casting suggestions for Nextwave, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Sony got the rights to Boom Boom along with the X-Men franchise. It might ultimately be a shared thing like Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, but she’s so much more associated with the X-franchise than anything else that it might be hard for them to argue she’s not an X-character. Granted, she first appeared in Secret Wars II, not an X-Book, but Rogue and Wolverine first appeared in the Avengers and The Incredible Hulk, respectively – and are both currently members of the Avengers – and I’m sure Marvel couldn’t use that rationale to argue they should have access to them.

I think genre is why there hasn’t been a Black Widow movie, and why if I had to make a bet, there won’t be. Marvel seems like they want all their movies to be a different genres from each other. Thor is medieval fantasy, GOTG is space opera, and Captain America is a spy film. It looks like they’re going with fantasy/horror with Dr. Strange and action-comedy with Ant-Man. I could see them not being as interested in doing a Black Widow solo franchise because they already have an espionage series in Captain America.

@Josh and William O’Brien

I am working on a much larger post covering all “superhero ladies” – though the limitations so I don’t drive myself crazy with it are proving daunting.

That said, I think you’d be surprised how low Mystique would rank on my own personal list. Despite the fact that Jennifer Lawrence is a favorite actress of mine, I’m not a fan of the character as interpreted in the films (or the visual interpretation, which I hate).

It’s also Lawrence’s least intriguing performance to me in a really impressive body of work. For Romijn it’s a more impressive performance given her body of work, but I’m still not impressed by it.

I suppose it’s mostly irrelevant to the discussion but Lucy was terrible, one of the worst movies I’ve seen in quite a while. But hey, if its success somehow means more female-led movies then I suppose it was worth getting thru it.

I agree that Gamora was probably the least impressive Guardians member, even visually, something just didn’t look quite right to me. But I LOVED Nebula, she was awesome!

Pepper Potts is one of the rare roles where I tolerate Gwyneth, never been a fan of hers but she’s good in it.

Everyone who loves Darcy should check out Kat Dennings in Defendor, a low-budget superhero movie starring Woody Harrelson.
And while you’re at it, also check out Super, a very messed up and funny superhero spoof co-starring Kitty Pride as the amazing sidekick Boltie.
Also irrelevant to the discussion.

I detest Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal of Mystique, she makes the character appear weak and risible compared to Romijn’s intimidating villain.

Don’t forget the Spider-Man spinoff they’ve started talking about–probably the Black Cat. Another sexy white superheroine!

” as an example of a strongly feminist film – ultimately Tony Stark fails to rescue Potts who then rescues herself and also saves Tony – it’s wonderfully on point. ”

See, I’d argue the opposite, because Pepper rescuing herself is only possible because the Extremis somehow gave her super-powers greater than Killian’s, so she’s really just the recipient of a deus ex machina. The problem is that she’s been neglected by Tony throughout this film (even moreso than the previous two, when they weren’t even dating), who only pays attention to her when it’s either convenient for him or when she threatens to leave, and regularly puts her in danger through his gross irresponsibility.

I’d say a truly feminist film would’ve had Pepper LEAVE Tony at the end, since he literally asked the villains to target their home on international television, not thinking about the consequences.

Who’s ready for Sunset Bain as the next big Iron Man/Avengers movie villain? Played by… Sandra Oh? Alice Krige?

Liv Tyler as The Hulk. You fixed it, but it made me laugh so hard.

@Iam Fear

So you prefer a henchman to a person.

@VichusSmith

I’m not talking about the storylines each Mystique has, but about how they appear based on acting performance.

“unless you count this month’s Lucy…which…maybe we should? I dunno, she doesn’t ever like don a costume, but she definitely has powers and at some points fights bad guys?”

One of the things I really enjoyed about Lucy is that at no moment in the movie does she do anything heroic. The closest she comes is a moment when she disables a bunch of the bad guys, but it is only so that she can get something that one of them has. She kills an innocent to speed things up, and she lets human police officers fight off the bad guys when she has the power to stop them immediately in assorted ways.

I don’t think she is a good fit for a “superhero”. But that’s interesting, most movies like this would force her character down a heroic path simply because she has powers.

@Adam- while not “post credits” I’d definitely count the Stark appearance as an end of movie tease (especially since they don’t all come post-credits…the 1st GotG one was basically at the end of the movie).

@Iam Fear- I think the Gamora problem was that the brow appliances didn’t look all that great aesthetically or realistically. Not only did it not seem super comics inspired, but it really looked like a rubber appliance covered in green makeup. The makeup was generally good in the movie, but hers seems to be rushed at time. (There are scenes that the makeup around the eyes is not green but letting her skin color show through). Wouldn’t be surprised in a sequel the tweak it to make it look a bit more natural. Not too different than how the keep working on things like Cap’s costume. But I was fine with the character.

The best female superhero on film is Elastigirl.

David Spofforth

August 5, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Before the “mask-off” reveal, I was convinced that Jenny Agutter’s character in “Winter Soldier” was going to be Jacqueline Falsworth (AKA, Spitfire).

I would love a Nextwave film, but Marvel doesn’t have access to Boom Boom. Who could replace her role on the team?

@ The Mutt, Hit-Girl all the way!

I heard an interesting take on the success of the Marvel movies on the Mind Robbers and the hosts suggested that part of the reason why Marvel’s “super hero” movies are doing so well is because “super hero” isn’t a genre itself (just like anime and manga aren’t genres) but rather a back drop for telling pretty much any kind of story you like.

Want a gritty noirish style story? We’ve got Batman, Daredevil and the Punisher.

More into westerns? Jonah Hex, Rawhide Kid, Lone Ranger (not the last one)

Sci-Fi more your game? Guardians of the Galaxy, Green Lantern

Spy stories? Nick Fury and the Agents of SHIELD

Maybe that’s part of the reason why it’s so hard to define whether something qualifies as a “super hero” story or not.

A Black Widow movie would be cool, I guess. I’m not sure I’d see it because I was interested in it, but rather to make sure I don’t miss any MCU content. Captain Marvel would probably be far more interesting, but I would not have expected something at the end of GotG because to me that wouldn’t make too much sense. Out of any female character, I’d want a She-Hulk movie or, from Sony’s side, Spider-Woman or Spider-Girl.

Agent Carter is the basis for which all female heros become. She was the original female super hero/super spy, I would say just alone on that basis she should be number one. I agree Gamora should be higher based on comics alone, she was played down a bit in the movie. Not really sure why Nebula made it that high…..she’s the only dead on on the list……

I think what could really work is a Warriors 3 movie (Fandral, Hogan, Volstagg) with Darcy in the mix.

Chaim Mattis Keller

August 5, 2014 at 4:45 pm

@Ganky – If you’re looking for a female Iron Man villain, I’d opt for Madame Masque over Bain.

@Dalarsco Bombshell from Ultimate Spiderman would do nicely

NEXTWAVE MOVIE!!!!

Great column as usual! I did agree with most of what you said, but I was actually shocked by one of your ladies. I was floored that Kat Dennings as Darcy even made your list and even more surprised that she ranked so high! In both Thor films, I literally wanted to simultaneously rip off my ears and gouge out my eyes to be spared from her inane chatter, unfunny dialogue and annoying voice. I was almost as shocked by how many people agreed with you in the comments. Literally no single person I know who has seen either film liked Kat Dennings’ character. No. One.

What am I missing? I know part of it is that I rarely like Kat Dennings in anything (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist being the exception), but it must be more than that because even fans of hers didn’t like her in Thor.

I appreciate that her body type is a more realistic and attainable kind of sexy so she is a great role model in that respect, but damn is she irritating!

“I suspect that I am in the majority of guys that think Kat Dennings’ lush, curvy body is much more attractive and hot than Natalie Portman’s body, so skinny that it looks like it can break if you hug her.”

Well, I’m not sure if we’re in the majority, but I totally think that Kat Dennings is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay hotter than Natalie Portman.

And yet you look at the movies and it SEEMS natural to just cast Portman in the lead/bombshell role, while Dennings is the weird/goofty/nerd/supporting girl.

It wouldn’t be that way if I cast things.

@ Adam B A great role model who is irritating but has a certain voluptuous build? What kind of role model is that?

Who is “Bain”?

I am very sure there will be a Wasp in the Marvel movie U, she’ll just be Hope Van Dyne, rather than Janet. It makes sense in the story context of Ant-Man with an older Pym. I can’t imagine they’d keep Wasp on the shelf.

Penny Dreadful

August 5, 2014 at 6:59 pm

I am surprised nobody’s mentioned Misty Knight and Colleen Wing in a buddy cop movie.

so….the x-ladies are just out of the equation now?

I get the vibe that you think movies are more important than tv (e.g., Carter getting a tv show rather than film, Emily Van Camp’s performance, etc), and that’s not really the case anymore when tv is so much better.

What about an ASIAN heroine?? The world is comprised of almost or more than a quarter asians. Why not an Asian woman? Or what about an Asian Avenger? I’m still waiting for SHANG CHI to be cast. I noticed that his name is on IMDB but has not been mention as a future project. Let’s get Marvel have him in the mix so we can see some Kung fu ass whupping!

@Carl
The x-ladies are owned by Fox for film, not Marvel. This list comprises only MARVEL films, as stated in the title.

@Catsmeow
TV is great but this is a post about the Marvel Films (inspired by the debut of GotG this past week) as noted in the title of the piece.

i am curious aboot the omission of x-wimmins and televisions legitimacy, in pertinance to your article. just joking. i see you ve covered that in the title. i m sorry i…couldnt help myself. great stuff, keep doing that thing you do and also, congrats on your recent successes.

Based on the way that “these things” work, I doubt if we’ll see hints of Monica before Carol Danvers makes her debut as Captain Marvel.

I loved NextWave, but– the highly satirical bent may not work for what the MCU has become so far. Humorous content in GOTG notwithstanding, the filmmakers are generally presenting a “serious” fantasy world so far. All the batty characterization in NextWave might be TOO over the top for a live action version. That said, I have no problem seeing the individual characters. Maybe they can show up on Agents of SHIELD someday soon.

I’ll be honest I feel like Hill is very underrated here. Though I suppose as you look down on television it seems you probably haven’t watched Agents of SHIELD which had an episode where Hill was great.

011001010100011101

August 6, 2014 at 3:15 am

#BlackWidowTheSecretAvenger

Watch for this movie, the announcement is coming.

I feel like Jane Foster is a better character in the Thor movies than you give her credit for. I think she’s kind of the *main* character for half of both of them.

What really impresses me about Darcy is the wardrobe choice. If “Thor” had been directed by someone like McG or Michael Bay, she’d be bearing her cleavage 24/7 no matter the climate or situation. Instead she’s probably one of the most covered-up women in the MCU, which makes more sense with the character.

(Technetium, hmm?)

“#BlackWidowTheSecretAvenger Watch for this movie, the announcement is coming.”

I don’t believe you, and I don’t know why Black Widow would have to be called a “secret” Avenger.

40% of women watched Guardians of the Galaxy opening weekend. The highest since Avengers, where it was 44%. So clearly Disney/Marvel is doing something right.

You’re trying too hard. Plus: supposedly Sony is planning a woman-centric film. There you go. Talk about that instead. Is one thing asking for Marvel to do it, which I think you’re asking for. But is another if you think the industry has a diversity problem. That’s different, and should be presented with sound data and logical arguments. Because everyone watched Guardians, including women. I watched it. It was overrated. But I digress.

Disney/Marvel know what they are doing, and are very, very smart. They just turned a team that was never in the minds of Americans into big time popular icons. Just last year the idea of earning $100 million opening weekend would be laughable(actually, I did predict it can happen). Not anymore. In fact, the idea of Ant-Man earning $100 million is not laughable anymore. Is expected. If Marvel decides to make a Captain Marvel film — which would make sense considering the MCU is leading to the Infinity Gauntlet — is not going to be because “is about time.” Is going to be because Marvel has gotten the trust of the mainstream. So relax. Marvel’s portfolio is only going to grow. Does that mean they NEED to make a woman-centric film? What are we? Self-entitled brats? Marvel don’t owe us anything. When they feel the time is right, they will. If not, then oh well. Is not the end of the world. Be grateful comic books geeks are not perceived as freaks anymore. Is considered mainstread accepted. My how times changed.

The X-Men, Spider-Man, Daredevil, and Fantastic Four films (all of which have solid female characters, including heroines and a couple of villainesses) don’t count as “Marvel” films?
Wow…

They aren’t produced by Marvel Studios, so no they don’t count as Marvel films.

God – thank you GREG.

I was beginning to lose my mind at the absurdity of some of these comments.

Even if someone somehow misunderstands the title of the piece, how can a person look at this list and see that ALL the X-Men and related films are missing and all the Spider-Man characters, and all the Fantastic Four characters and even Elektra and Daredevil characters and come to the conclusion that the author just left them out…like easily more than two dozen characters…?

Use your brain, guys. Use your brain.

Here’s a link, just in case there’s any further confusion or you want to opt out of the whole brain thing.

http://marvel.com/movies/all

Nextwave Agents of Hate would be the greatest movie EVER! if they let Ellis write the script. It would destroy all superhero movies forever . . . the end.

This is why it should be on the list. LOL Seriously, would love it. And yes, its lame Marvel that you can’t put out a female lead film when you’re so popular and we’ve all grown up enough to know women helmed films can make money.

Regarding the Sharon Carter thing–look at it this way, there’s always Bernie Rosenthal or Diamondback.

@ Tim Re: Nebula- you might want to watch the movie again. Not that that’s a bad thing.

@Adam B. I don’t know who you’re friends are, but Denning seemed to get most of the laughs (other than maybe Loki) in the theaters I was in. Denning vs. Portman….there are all kinds of great women. :-) But it must be a small universe you hang out in if you find her universally hated in the films.

@Josh John- There does seem to be a limit to the amount of good Asian superheroes. Particularly at Marvel. I guess GotG could throw in Mantis at some point, but the Avengers type heroes don’t have lots to choose from. They turned Big Hero 6 into a Benetton ad. I always find it funny that we “need” to add more color to properties by race changes the Human Torch or Hemidall or whatever, but when there’s actually a property with characters who ARE Asian (see Last Airbender, or the Akira talk) we need to make them white. And all these changes, no one seems too concerned about the biggest minority group, Hispanics. We’ll see if we get more than token Asian presence or “extra scenes for overseas” as markets like China become bigger and bigger. They may make up only a small part of the US audience to cater to, but make up a pretty big part of the world audience that is really running things now.

Unlike most people I love Maria Hill in the comics.

So far Colbie Smulders has done a fine job with her character on screen, but I agree that she is not badass yet.

Hopefully when she takes over as leader of whatever SHIELD becomes, she will finally cut her damn hair short to unlock that badass level!

Yeah I know it,s a stupid nitpick, but she’s one of those rare times where suck a detail change annoys me in the movies :p
(except for Michael Rooker, no complaints about his acting or anything, but other than being a blue-skinned alien the character he played had absolutely nothing remotely in common with comics Yondu, what a waste of a potentially great character, Marvel has plenty of other aliens they could have used for that part)

Franky, just a tangent for a sec: Why do you feel that Guardians was overrated.
BTW, you asked that facts and solid numbers should be used, but then you say “everyone” saw Guardians. If everyone saw Guardians, then how did any other film make money opening weekend? ;)

@Vichus

Who are you directing your inquiry to? Me?

Franky. Please read my comment.

@Vichus

Jesus. Be rude about it why dontcha? You imbedded the name into the comment, I thought it might be a weird typo.

@Iam Fear- While not close to an accurate representation of future Yondu, he did have a (sometimes glowing) red mohawk (if pretty different) and Yondu controlled arrows, if not the bow. Though certainly they could have come up with any sort of alien for that role. But then I don’t think we’re getting two different GotG teams. It’d make more sense and be kinda fun if they picked another member from the original group and made him or her a supporting character in the next one too.

@Kelly- For what seemed like a pretty straightforward reply (for something that wasn’t embedded, but conversational) freaking out about it being rude seems a bit…problematic…after your previous post telling everyone to use their brains or not. The OP can set the tone for how the comments are going to follow.

@M-Wolverine

Well, I’d argue that “be rude about it why dontcha” is pretty jokey, but fair enough that tone is hard to read in print.

To the second point, I spent YEARS tip-toeing around the comments section, constantly trying to take the high road. As many have noticed in the last year, that is my approach no longer. I tolerate no bullshit in these comments now. I didn’t mean to be SUPER aggressive with Vichus, I meant to be jokey and suggest that his comment was a bit rude…there were a million ways for him to go about responding to me…and I think he chose a pretty rude one (especially considering I AM the OP), I responded in jokey, albeit possibly too aggressive, kind.

But on the whole, I’m simply done apologizing for being a woman with an opinion on the internet. It’s my column, you can read or not read, you can support or not support, you can agree or disagree, but I’m done walking on eggshells to make people feel more comfortable.

@Franky:

Thank you for your incredible insight to talk about “supposedly Sony is planning a woman-centric film. There you go. Talk about that instead.” – which doesn’t fit this column at all both because we’re talking solely about Marvel Studios films and more importantly because that news was announced maybe an hour before this column was posted, a 4,000+ word column that had already been written and scheduled before that news was a glimmer in anyone’s eye.

Of all my powers, time travel remains beyond me.

I apologize for not using an @ symbol, to but I will not apologize for my tone, because I was not aiming to be jerky or anything. I’ll certainly have an argument, but I never come here to be a dick.

Maybe this comments section is in need for a disqus type upgrade, so when a comment is made, there’s no doubt who’s speaking to who.

I have to admit to being biased because I was a Sif fan-boy long before I heard of Black Widow, or Capt. Marvel, or She-Hulk. I think Jaimie Alexander’s done a wonderful job of realizing the character, and I believe her character provides the most options for settings and adventures. You could take her on a “Tales of Asgard” bent with the Warriors Three, or team her with someone like Black Widow for an Earth adventure (perhaps recovering the Berserker Staff from Agents of SHIELD). And even in the comics, we’ve never learned a lot about her aside from her adventures with Thor, so there’s a lot of room to add background to fill out the character. Have we ever met Sif’s parents, for example? Not in any of the comics I’ve read. (It would be fun to show one of them Black and one of them White…just to leave open the possibility that Sif and Heimdahl really are brother and sister in the movies…they’re just not on friendly terms for some reason, which is not unprecedented in the comics.) As much as I like ScarJo’s Black Widow, the further adventures of the Lady Sif is the movie I’d most like to see.

“The X-Men, Spider-Man, Daredevil, and Fantastic Four films (all of which have solid female characters, including heroines and a couple of villainesses) don’t count as “Marvel” films?
Wow…”

Greg sez…
“They aren’t produced by Marvel Studios, so no they don’t count as Marvel films.”

The Marvel logos at the beginnings of the films were just for show?
Unofficial?
And Ari Arad (Marvel Studios Chairman and CEO, August 1998 – May 2006) and Stan Lee’s producer credits on those films were just a polite acknowledgement?

Gotta say this a pretty weak list, but that’s understandable seeing as you don’t have much to pick from. I’ve yet to see Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy so I can’t say much about Carter and Hill or Gamora (and Nebula), but it seems a lot of these characters are here because they were lucky enough to have some good actresses to work with the crap they were given. I

I’ll give you Peggy Carter, Black Widow and Potts but need some serious convincing on the others. Portman and Alexander are great, but Jane Foster, like you said, is a Mary Sue and all Sif get’s to do is pine after Thor and do a few fight scenes.

You’re right about Liv Tyler. I completely forgot about her.

If this is all there is in the way of female characters in the MCU then jeez does that suck.

@tupper

Not trying to start an argument or anything, but when does Sif ever pine after Thor? I never got the impression that they were anything other than friends from the movies (although maybe I need to watch them again).

@Anon

Perhaps “pine” is too strong a word since she never actively pursues him, but the fact that she has feelings for him is pretty much one of her few defining characteristics (at least in my opinion, I cold be wrong and please feel free to call me out on it if I am).

@Atomic Kommie Comics

I don’t know how to explain this to you any more clearly, but I will try ONE more time. After that, I urge you to go to the internet…google is your friend.

Fox owns all the X-Men and Fantastic Four (and related) Movie Rights. Sony owns all the Spider-Man (and related) Movie Rights. Marvel sold those rights to those studios and thus has no control over them or the material they produce.

That doesn’t mean that the other studios are not legally required to acknowledge that Marvel created and owns the characters, which is why you still see a Marvel logo. Marvel created those characters and selling the movie rights doesn’t change that fact. It also doesn’t mean the other studios don’t sometimes want/need/ask for help from Marvel, especially before Marvel launched their own powerful film studio.

But at the end of the day Marvel Studios, Fox, and Sony are in COMPETITION with one another. Marvel gets significant money from Fox and Sony when they produce a film using their characters but only a tiny fraction of what Marvel gets when they produce one of their own films. Marvel sold the rights to Sony and Fox when they were in dire financial straights years ago and as a result they have no control over what those studios choose to do (or not to do) with their properties when it comes to films. So long as Sony and Fox continue putting out movies with their properties every X number of years, they retain the rights to those properties when it comes to film.

This column list covers only the MARVEL STUDIOS produced movies. Which began with Iron Man in 2008 and again, here is a link so you can see all MARVEL STUDIOS movies.

http://marvel.com/movies/all

I will probably do a more inclusive list of the female characters in superhero films, one that’s not only not limited to Marvel, but not limited to any one comics company, but that is a huge undertaking of a list/column.

Since Guardians of the Galaxy, a MARVEL STUDIOS film launched this past weekend to much success, and it launched a major female character onto screens (as well as at least one minor one) I had the idea to do a column about the women of MARVEL STUDIOS movies so far. This is that column.

I’m sorry this isn’t the column you wanted to see, but please, accept that these were the limitations of the column which were CLEARLY POINTED OUT and move on. If you have more questions about how all of this works, MANY MANY people have written about Marvel’s selling of movie rights to other studios and what that means for everyone involved, including characters.

@Kelly- It all sounds like a rationalization to be nasty. It’s your right, but you probably should expect the rudeness to beget more rudeness. I really don’t see what being the OP or a woman has anything to do with it. The former sounds like ego, because if you didn’t want comments that may or may not agree with you, you could post somewhere that doesn’t have them. The fact that there are comments means people aren’t going to agree with what you post sometimes. And being treated badly on the Internet isn’t a woman thing, it’s an Internet thing. Rarely does more bad behavior make anything better.

It seems you’ve chosen as your answer to rude people on the Internet is to reply to everyone rudely, whether they’ve been rude or not. Again, your choice, but it says more about you than the people who are commenting.

@Anonymous- There are some scenes in Dark World where the line of interpretation between Sif offering advice to forget the mortal girl and casting dirty looks at her when she comes to Asgard can be thin between “friend warding off a bad relationship” or “jealousy.”

I think, if you know anything about the original version of Gamora as written by her creator Jim Starlin, then you know that they pretty much get Gamora exactly right. With the exception of the costume, of course. She was never a super intense warrior ONLY type of character. She was demure, playful, soft hearted, sexual, lonely and torn about her duties to Thanos who basically created her to kill Warlock’s evil future self The Magus. She was never really like the typical female badass of film and I think it’s great that Gunn and Perlman captured that about her. If you know the character, the original character or even the Abnett and Lanning version, then you know they get it right in the GOTG film. Gamora can be vicious, but she likes being in love. I think as Starlin wrote her in Warlock and as Abnett and Lanning wrote her in Nova and GoTG, we really get the perfect translation to screen with the GOTG film. The only thing they change is her oversexualized costume. And I’m guessing that’s not a problem here, right?

As for Drax’s “whore” comment, I think that made sense in the context of the film. Drax called her a murderess, which she was. Drax called her a woman, which she was. Given what Thanos might have had Gamora do to achieve his ends, its perfectly logical to extrapolate that she might have had to sleep around to get information or whatever from her victims and Drax no doubt deduces that and calls her what he thinks she “literally” is. He didnt’ have to say “woman who works for Ronan and sleeps around to get information from victims” to be literal. But then you actually have to have an understanding of the word Literal.

As for the skirt. Seriously? It’s barely above the knee for crying out loud and hardly a “mini” by any stretch of the imagination.

@Brian Lee

I have no idea who on earth you’re ranting to.

Except for the skirt comment, which is a one line eyeroll (and not because it’s particularly short but just because a skirt is an impractical piece of clothing for an acrobatic assassin/fighter) I didn’t say or imply any of the things you’re ranting about…?

Who exactly are you talking to?

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