Posted on Thursday, September 17th, 2015 by Angie Han
At the start of the summer, Peter wrote an article wondering if 2015 was “the summer Hollywood finally bet big on women.” There were plenty of titles to support that impression, from Tomorrowland to Mad Max: Fury Road to Trainwreck. Now that we’ve reached the end of the season, we thought we’d look back and consider how Hollywood’s big bet on women played out in practice — and whether this era of female-driven blockbusters might continue. After the jump, let’s look back at how the summer 2015 female-driven movies did, what it means for the industry, and where things might be headed next.
Mad Max: Fury Road
What’s left to say, really, about Mad Max: Fury Road‘s treatment of women that hasn’t been said already? While the marketing focused on Tom Hardy (an understandable choice given the franchise is built around Max Rockatansky) the film itself gave Charlize Theron‘s Furiosa equal or greater weight. In supporting roles, the wives got to have distinct personalities and inner lives. And the whole plot was structured around a deeply feminist message: “We are not things.”
Box office-wise, Fury Road has turned out to be a moderate hit, grossing $374 million worldwide on a $150 million budget. But those figures don’t tell the whole story. It’s already attracted a strong fandom that pays homage via fan art and cosplay, and has been hailed by critics as one of the year’s best films. Oh, and it’s currently killing it on home video. Even after some of this summer’s bigger hits fade from memory, Fury Road looks likely to linger in popular culture for some time.
Pitch Perfect 2
The first Pitch Perfect was a sleeper hit. The second was an undeniable smash. Pitch Perfect 2 crushed the original’s box office take, raking in $285 million worldwide. And it did so with a female cast, a female screenwriter, and a female director. A sequel is already in motion. For audiences hungry for more female stories that’s obviously a great thing.
It’s just too bad this you-go-girl moment is marred by the film’s casual racism, the most egregious example of which is a new character whose sole purpose is to spew “hilarious” reminders of how shitty her home country of Guatemala is. Let’s hope the offensive humor is one thing they cut when they move ahead with Pitch Perfect 3.
Tomorrowland should’ve been a highlight of the season. In a genre (sci-fi adventure) where boys tend to be the leads by default, teen girl protagonist Casey Newton (the charming Britt Robertson) felt like a refreshing change of pace. Particularly because she wasn’t defined by her gender. Casey would’ve worked equally well as a boy, and in fact was originally written as one.
Too bad Tomorrowland was the summer’s biggest flop, losing an estimated $120-$150 million for Disney. Casey’s gender was the least of Tomorrowland‘s problems, and it’s hard to argue that she tanked the movie when the marketing purposely de-emphasized her and the other female lead in favor of male lead George Clooney. Still, it’s hard not to worry that these awful numbers will send the industry running back to what it knows — sci-fi adventures about boys and men.
On the one hand, it’s exciting that the biggest film of the year so far, not to mention one of the biggest films ever, had a female lead. On the other, it’s disappointing that the main thing people remember about said female lead is that she spent the entire movie sprinting in stilettos. The marketing didn’t help matters on that front, either, favoring male lead Chris Pratt over Bryce Dallas Howard.
Given all that, it’s unclear how much of Jurassic World‘s success can be attributed to its female lead. However, the film’s astounding $1.6 billion haul sure looks like proof that a female lead won’t hurt your box office prospects, at the very least.