Posted on Thursday, June 11th, 2015 by Peter Sciretta
Hollywood has a woman problem, both behind the scenes and in front of the camera. There isn’t enough female filmmakers making big movies, and there aren’t enough big-budget films centering on — or even featuring — complex female characters. This is something discussed many times in recent years here and on other sites. Over the last decade we’ve seen the Bechdel test, a simple routine which calls attention to drastic gender inequality in our big screen stories, blow up in popular culture.
The old Hollywood way of thinking has always been that female driven stories doesn’t usually equate to huge box office successes unless they involve princess fairytales or epic love stories. In recent years we have seen a growing desire for female driven stories on the big screen, from young adult adaptations like Twilight or The Hunger Games to 2013’s Oscar-winning success Gravity, or even breakout b-action films like Lucy.
But the tables are turning and we’re starting to see Hollywood bet big on female-driven stories. This summer alone is filled with blockbuster films with strong female characters in the central role. I thought now that we are almost half way into June we should look back and forward and take an assessment of the new era we may have approached.
Not only is the main character of Tomorrowland a teenage girl, but one of the biggest supporting characters is also a woman. Even then, the lead role was originally written as a male character, but Brad Bird and screenwriter Damon Lindelof decided the role worked better as a teenage girl. Lindelof told Vulture that “It felt very ordinary. There is a completely false perception of, ‘Well, our main character is interested in space travel, so it’s gotta be a boy,’ but the first time I said, ‘Well, what if it was a young girl,’ it just felt like it was exactly right for us.”
We do still seem to have a problem when it comes to marketing and merchandising. You wouldn’t know that two of the three main characters are female, judging from the theatrical poster for the film. The one-sheet features two male actors, George Clooney and the actor who plays the childhood version of his character in flashbacks. But I guess if you have a movie with George Clooney you market the star?
Also, the popular Funko Pop line of figures for the film features the old and young version of George Clooney’s character, and the film’s villain, but neither of the two female leads. Did Funko believe that fans of the movie wouldn’t want Casey or Athena figures?
But now that the film under impressed at the box office and is now reportedly set to lose over $100 million for Disney, the New York Post wonders if a flop of that size will hurt future non-fairy tale/love story female driven films.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Despite being marketed around the titular character played by Tom Hardy, Fury Road is just as much about Charlize Theron’s character Imperator Furiosa. The film has been a smash with audiences and critics alike, earning over $317 million worldwide so far. It could possibly hit $450 million before it leaves theaters.
The Jurassic Park sequel hits theaters this Friday and stars Bryce Dallas Howard, even though the marketing is being built around Chris Pratt. And for good reason, as I note in my Jurassic World review, the character’s main purpose seems to relay exposition and over-dramatically respond to whats going on as her dinosaur theme park begins to crumble in her hands. Her character is disconnected from her family and humanity, and Howard plays up the coldness of the character so much that I’m not sure I even care if she lives or dies.
But the rest of the movie works well despite this. And execution aside, its kind of great that a huge blockbuster sequel/reboot like Jurassic World went for a female lead, when studio studies would likely show that dinosaur film’s demographic probably skews more male. And the movie will be a gigantic dinosaur sized success, as its expected to gross over $400 million, $110-$140 of which will come from its opening weekend alone.