Back in 2002, Marvel Comics finally hit the jackpot when “Spider-Man” starring Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker re-defined the modern-day superhero adventure. The story of the web-slinging high-schooler who develops his super powers after being bit by a spider became the first film ever to gross $100 million in a single weekend. The acting was good, the effects great for the time and the heroics awe-inspiring.
It would go on to amass $821.7 million in ticket sales worldwide. If there was one iconic image that defined the film, it was when Peter dangles upside-down from his web in the rain after saving his crush Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) from a gang of thugs. She carefully pulls down his mask just enough to reward him with a kiss.
Swing forward nearly two decades later. The so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe now features heroines who can save themselves along with the rest of the world. They don’t need a romantic attachment with a male superhero to make them seem more interesting. In fact, they often don’t need men at all. Michelle Williams, in the guise of district attorney Anne Weying in 2018’s “Venom,” decided to insert this #MeToo-ish line of dialogue into the film to underline that fact: “I love you, but I love myself more.”
In recognition of Women’s History Month, let’s celebrate that Hollywood — including its most popular franchise-producing genre — is finally realizing that placing strong women front and center in action films is often a way to set off a box-office boom.
In 2018’s “Black Panther,” consider the fierce collection of Wakandan all-female special forces warriors led by Danai Gurira‘s Okoye as they act as T’Challa’s bodyguards. Even more impressive is T’Challa’s 16-year-old sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), who designs high tech gadgets for her country. It’s doubtful that the film would have become the first-ever superhero film to be up for a Best Picture Oscar without its cast of remarkably watchable women.
Then followed 2019’s “Captain Marvel,” starring Brie Larson, Best Actress Oscar winner for 2015’s “Room.” Ka-ching, ka-ching went the worldwide box office to the tune of $1.128 billion in ticket sales. Marvel also smartly hired a female, Anna Boden, to partner with Ryan Fleck as co-writers and co-directors.
This year, however, there is a motherlode of Marvel femme-forward productions that includes “Black Widow,” starring Scarlett Johansson as well as fellow recent Oscar nominee Florence Pugh (“Little Women”) and Academy Award supporting actress winner Rachel Weisz (2005’s “The Constant Gardener”). And yes, it too is directed by a woman — Cate Shortland, who hails from Australia. The film will kick off the summer movie season when it opens May 1.
And arriving this November is “Eternals,” directed by acclaimed indie filmmaker Chloe Zhao (2017’s “The Rider”). The story spun off from “Avengers: Endgame” centers on an immortal alien race that has secretly lived on Earth for over 7,000 years as they reunite to protect humanity from an evil force. Richard Madden headlines alongside Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani and Kit Harington.
Considering the recent strides made in female representation both in front and behind the cameras in such comic-book blockbusters, let’s honor their support of such talent this month by choosing your favorite female Marvel film character in our poll below. And feel free to write another choice in the comments section if we somehow skipped your top pick.