Around the internet in geek circles of both comic and film fans, the pressure has been getting heavier and heavier. We all want a solo female protagonist heroine film. Every. Single. One. Of. Us.
Sony is stepping up finally in 2016 it looks like with a spin-off from Spider-man. Unknown yet as to which heroine it may be, but they have set some ground work for potentially it being a Black Cat film. They could also go more left field and use Firestar as her story plays well to the modern world with its bully story catalysts. Firestar's story has many influences from Carrie as well as the Drew Barrymore Firestarter and could play well to audiences potentially by being a new take on those concepts. She is a mutant though, and may be in Fox's rights territory. It's unknown her exact placement because of her initial animated appearance being with Spider-man and his Amazing Friends before turning up in the X-Men comics, then New Warriors, and much later becoming an Avenger. Black Cat is possible because of their usage of Felicia in Amazing Spider-man 2, but with her cat burglar nature it may tread too closely to what looks like a series of heist movies across the board as the next trend in hero flicks. Sinister Six looks to be a heist movie with the focus on the criminals from Spider-man. Over at Marvel, Ant-man is set to be a heist movie too. Black Cat in that mix may over-saturate that concept for movie-goers and possibly even bring up comparisons to Halle Berry's Eartha Kitt influenced Catwoman from DC.
Recently there's been undertones of a race going on. Who will get there first. Well, let's toss that race out the window for a minute. There is no race. DC has already been the first with their 80s Supergirl movie if you're referring to popular mainstream comic mainstays. DC also has set their sights on a solo Wonder Woman movie coming up possibly in 2017 or 2018 starring Gal Gadot. Hopefully the amazons of Themyscira will also highlight many of the other amazing women from DC. They have ample room in such a feature to cameo a young orphaned Donna Troy with how she got to the island to show how any woman can become an Amazon, Artemis with how she helped train Diana, and if they'd be so bold they could even add Empress from Young Justice as another young amazon to help showcase the character diversity on this island that could lead to bringing Cassie Sandsmark into this world as the young girl next door to Diana who became Wonder Girl after Donna Troy. Themyscira itself has a rich history and contains some fantastic female empowerment elements to allow a wide array of cameos to help build & prep this new cinematic world they're creating.
The race many speak of isn't of who will be there first. The race they mean to speak of is who of the modern film industry will be successful at the box office in this new age of cinema and effects. An age that's starting to show that even clear outright unknowns from nowhere can be successful at the box office if the movie itself is good. Hanna, Hunger Games, Gravity, Lucy, and more have all shown there is an appetite among audiences for strong female roles on the big screen alongside what defines their strength. Both Hanna and Lucy were original property films that proved successful with their box office takes. Coming in at above 40 million for each, their box office takes were entirely done without any kind of comic book tie or the much acclaimed Marvel touch. They were entirely independent unto themselves. Now if they managed to be profitable and even provide a decent box office, just imagine what a property that has an installed comic fan base could do. That extra little touch of being part of a larger world as well as having a pre-established audience could in theory double if not triple those box office numbers. It has the potential to even outdo what they're getting now from their super hero movies.(Yes that's right. I'm saying an X-23 solo film could outshine The Wolverine, First Class, and even Days Of Future Past!) Looking at Guardians of the Galaxy(oh and hey, did you know it was written by a female rocket scientist?), a relatively completely unknown property except to comic fans, that might even be a low balled estimate of the box office returns on such an expenditure. Seriously, look at Guardians of the Galaxy. It's a bromance between a raccoon and a twig that sold many people on checking it out. Heck, that's what's got me hooked, but again I'm a comic fan so I'm already a fan of Rocket Raccoon and Groot. Continuing on about them though, the largest exposure they have is via animation and the Marvel vs Capcom 3 video game. A game I might add that also features X-23!
Right now, as it stands, it doesn't look like it'll be Marvel under Disney's label. Sadly the MCU has given excuse after excuse on why not. All of which have been proven to be false repeatedly. Considering how wide-spread the love for Black Widow has been, and their still adamant refusal for a film as yet for her, it's unknown who their first solo heroine will be. They pushed Natasha to a supporting role, which while she's been fantastic in, perpetuates the false belief that she couldn't sustain her own film now. The film Lucy has proven that wrong outright by showing that Scarlett Johansson in action roles even on a completely unknown property that's more thought provoking than even the Matrix(review coming soon!) can be a pretty decent ticket draw. There are still other possibilities though. We could see them push Hawkeye out into his own film, and surprise audiences with it instead featuring more heavily on Kate Bishop's story as opposed to Clint Barton's. This would be an interesting approach as not only would it allow them to explore where Clint has been since his Avengers appearance, it could also further grow this cinematic world and the people in it. By using Clint Barton in place of the original Young Avengers in that first adventure that led to Kate Bishop being on that team, they could start to further build the legacy of the heroes they use over in the team focused Avengers movie. Establishing these legacy lines is a must for the cinematic world as it allows the films to naturally grow with the times as well as furthers their own characters exposure to the world at large outside of comic book fans.
Fox has stayed marginally silent on this front of solo super heroine films, seemingly watching the market and mulling over their choices for what to do. The majority of those they've approached about the X-Franchise have repeatedly told them to stick with team dynamic films. For the most part this is true about the X-Men. Most of the best stories are because of the team dynamics and how they come across united as family even with their differences. There are other stories that play up to these concepts. Gambit for example is a story that plays up to many of the same facets because of his history but also fits into the upcoming trend of superhero heist movies. A trend that may burn itself out rather quickly as the rapid fire of this type of film is becoming overtly abundant after the success of the TV show Leverage. While at first I was adamantly against Channing Tatum in the role of Remy, after some recent interviews with him where he's talked about his passion for the character and even in some cases started using his style choices to reflect how he could look in the role, he has won me over for wanting to see his take on the character. Hopefully they'll start a slow build with his character to first appear in a team film to build on this concept now that they have a clean slate for the X-Franchise in the 80s thanks to Days of Future Past. So Fox is possibly ready to dive into this heist super hero film trend if they so choose and it proves successful. That still leaves a solo female led film slot open though.
They could potentially surprise folks with a contender. There are many among the X-Franchise that could do extremely well at the box office as stand alone features. Obviously there's X-23 with her origin tale that still reflects the familial bonds the X-Franchise is known for as well as the triumphing over adversity alongside the sub-tones of combating prejudicial hate. It carries elements of what being a teenage girl is like with the interactions of Megan and Laura. It has elements of high school, shopping with friends, going to concerts, looking cute in outfits, kicking ass, and even possibly learning how to flirt and much much more. X-23 is a character that's entirely new to normal everyday life. There are a lot of elements that could be explored in what the comic used as a brief montage to show X-23 experiencing the normalcy of life that counterbalances how she was raised. There's also Domino that has similar undertones to her story. Both of these characters have strong potential visuals, thought provoking story, and an empowerment angle that not only benefits audiences, but could keep them coming back for more in the way of sequels. While they are building the history of the X-Men with their prequels, they have left a window open to explore this new future world they've created. The talk of X-Force with how it may play to this is one possibility if they stick to the more modern teams, though they could also do the 90s team and continue on the history building instead.
X-Force: Not Forgotten in particular is a story they should look to, but to do that, they must lay the groundwork on X-23's origin first. Not Forgotten could potentially play better to audiences than what any of the other studios could do because of it's focus on a one armed X-23 taking on her captors. Not only does it highlight a strong solo heroine that can hold her own alongside a decent female led supporting cast focus, it presents an angle of a disabled, albeit temporarily, superhero. At the beginning of the story, Kimura literally cuts off one of X-23's arms with a chainsaw. Yet Laura still manages to use ingenuity and strategic prowess to best her captors, of course with a little help from another woman too. There's no men storming in to save the day. These women do it themselves. In fact, Not Forgotten pokes fun at this trope with the men coming to save the day after the action has already happened and they've escaped. They come late to the party when the dust has already settled.
It is possible to intermingle Not Forgotten with elements of the origin via flashbacks, but with as much content as both contain, it may be best suited for them to be two back to back features outright. The draw to both Domino and X-23 as features, is not only do the reflect femininity but they also easily pass the Bechdel test with their female characters and stories. Under a skilled writer, there's nothing in either that would warrant complaints from audience goers. The only complaints would be from the typical internet misogynists that don't know how to use their brain and don't pay for movie tickets anyway! So no loss there.
The other complication that has been spoken much about is the aspect of an unknown. Well, this is a silly thing to even talk about. Unknowns are what have made the film industry what it is. Everything's unknown until it's on the screen and audiences see it. That's how things enter the mainstream consciousness to not be an unknown! That being said though, X-23 has had ample animation appearances to bolster audience retention. She's appeared in Super Hero Squad twice, was the focus of at least two sub plots in the NickToon Wolverine and The X-Men, and made her debut originally on the much beloved KidsWB X-Men Evolution. She even managed to cameo in the Marvel direct to DVD Wolverine Vs. animated features! That's more separate series animation appearances than Domino has had or even the much audience loved Rogue and Kitty Pryde who did appear in the X-Men films! (This does not count consecutive same series appearances.)
Continuing on this trend about unknowns. Let's look at Wolverine. Okay, he himself isn't an unknown, but Hugh Jackman mostly was stateside until he portrayed the character. Now look at him. Top tier beloved A-list star, and it all started because of his portrayal of Wolverine. A role that even led to him hosting the Academy Awards. Yes that's right, he went from unknown to host of the Academy Awards thanks to a super hero movie. People talk of "unknown" like it's a deterrent, but really it's a boon. It works in favor of the properties and the stars involved because there are no expectations. While okay, a character like X-23 would need to be cast to accommodate some recognition, that can be solved easily enough with one of two choices for the lead in an origin feature.
By casting Selena Gomez in the role, you present the chance to highlight a Latina in the role of a heroine. With it also brings her charity work, music, clothing lines, and recognition. By casting Lucy Hale, you provide the character with her country flair, as well as her music, recognition, clothing lines, charity work, and fan following.(She also supports the girl scouts which makes for fun X-23 cross marketing even!) Heck she could even call her Halers who are fans of her portrayal of this character Kalers. Essentially it'd mean Laura Kinney Halers! Either of these actresses bring unique qualities to the table and audience draws. While Ms. Hale has the natural look and even matches the eye color of the character to easily portray the role as if it we straight off the comic page, Ms. Gomez also brings qualities to the character that helps further diversify the potential(if only there was a way for both to portray the character!).
Recently I've grown more fond of the idea of Ms. Gomez in the role of Agent Morales instead of Michelle Rodriguez. Though I'm also still leaning on the potential of Cote de Pablo behind that role too. It's a tough decision there because of the story behind the character and how she may appear over in the MCU. If they approach the character as a fresh out of S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy agent when Hydra was exposed, Ms. Gomez would be better suited for the role. If they approach the character as an experienced veteran agent that's trying to figure out what to do next because of the Hydra reveal, Cote de Pablo would be better suited. This isn't a commentary on Michelle Rodriguez as an actress though, quite the contrary. She's already in so many roles of badass women from Fast and the Furious to Resident Evil and more, I personally feel she's better suited to be included in the GI Joe franchise instead in some manner like some of her other costars from those movies have done.
The agent Morales question hinders Ms. Gomez in the portrayal of either X-23 or Kimura. There's a unique potential with X-23 to allow Marvel to provide the scenes that would have to be changed for rights issues with one simple casting of Ms. Hale as Kate Bishop of Hawkeye and Young Avengers fame(which again helps add to that Kalers moniker fandom). This would essentially allow them to be the first to do a new modern cinema spin on the infamous Pink Floyd Darkside of the Moon and Wizard of Oz combination. It'd allow both them and Fox to become film culture icons that'd make landmark history unlike any have done before. The experience Cote de Pablo brings to such a role with her NCIS history works wonders for the character and how well trained she is, but the doe-eyed youth that Ms. Gomez brings alongside the academy training presents an earnest case handling and story angle to allow for more story diversity. This includes how she becomes aware her team is Hydra and not S.H.I.E.L.D. if they are rounding up such potential heroes as Kate Bishop among others. It presents a story angle of why she would rebel from what could be this S.H.I.E.L.D. splinter group that she finds out is trying to experiment on who they capture that would lead her and Kate Bishop to Coulson's team. A more veteran agent falling for that same story premise would raise too many questions about the capabilities of the character and could fracture the suspension of belief shows and films like this are dependent upon.
Ms. Hale as Laura Kinney though starts to create those same audience responses that Chris Evans as Captain Rogers or Chris Hemsworth as Thor have. That subtle fan joke of "is Marvel simply growing these actors and actresses that look and portray these characters perfectly on screen?" With both Kate Bishop and X-23, she causes that same response. Many tumblr blogs have already turned to using scenes of hers from the show Pretty Little Liars and other movies she's been in to do just that. One fun one in particular has been showcasing her scope and perfection as Kate Bishop in a fan fiction narrative that's been quite enthralling. Another has been doing the same with her as X-23 to quite extraordinary results.
Fox has tried previously with the Elektra Daredevil spin-off, but that was hindered by many factors that included the lack of her having audience relatability. That film also lacked having the current market and demand surrounding her that's present today. Times have shifted. Movie-goers and ticket sales are now more female driven than they've ever been before. So maybe it's time to try again with a property that has more retention, loyalty, and a larger installed fan base than Daredevil does. It made for a decent water testing movie, but now the waters are perfect and calm. Open seas are ready to be sailed. It's more than time to strike while the iron is hot.
The first successful Marvel solo heroine feature is only a matter of when. Among the companies that have the rights though, now we can ask that question of who will be successful at it first. Which of the big three will bring a solo Marvel female heroine successfully to the big screen first? Will it be Sony with their announced female led Amazing Spider-man spin-off movie? Will it be the Disney owned Marvel MCU with Black Widow, or the Carol Danvers Captain Marvel, or even the more earth and human storied Kate Bishop Hawkeye? Will Fox step up and surprise everyone by furthering the Wolverine legacy by bringing X-23 to the big screen?
It'd be rather fitting if it were X-23(not counting the myriad of directions it could take!). Wolverine with his appearance in X-Men was one of the major properties that started the super hero movie trend altogether. X-Men and Spider-man opened the door for all that followed. It'd seem rather poignant that X-23 would be the one from Marvel's library of characters that helped bring that full circle by showing she's just as capable of creating a new film trend with Marvel female characters. The same could be said of Sony as it was their initial Spider-man trilogy that also helped pave the way for all the Marvel films that followed. Originally it was Spider-man and the X-Men that showed superheroes can work on the big screen. It's rather poetic that it'd be Sony and Fox again that showed Marvel and audiences world wide that the female heroines from their character library are just as profitable if not even more so! It brings a crescendo to this male dominated scene and strikes a chord that could reverberate throughout so that we're all singing along to the same tune of anyone can be a hero no matter who they are or what they've gone through. And isn't that the music we all want to hear? I know it sounds good to me.