More blockbusters that are driven by women are something that film critics and lovers alike have been clamoring for constantly over the past couple of years. We applaud Sony for giving us Ghostbusters: Answer the Call last year, which saw an entire team of women using their brains and brawn to take out a supernatural threat endangering New York City. We wait with anticipation as DC’s Wonder Woman heads our way this summer to tackle World War I with his sword, lasso, and shield. We rightfully chastise Marvel for taking until 2019 to deliver a superhero film (Captain Marvel) based entirely around a female character.
We also celebrate the fact that we have now been given not one, but two new Star Wars films with a women at the center of their casts. On the flipside, we rightfully chide Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy for insinuating that no female directors have the experience needed to tackle a future Star Wars movie as filmmakers. This is all well and good, but why is it that our cheering and soapboxing about blockbusters that aren’t male-driven begins and ends with superheroes and Star Wars?
Sure, we still celebrate The Hunger Games films, but that franchise has now ended. Some side love was even tossed towards the Divergent series, although it didn’t last. Lucy is often trotted out as a shining beacon of a successful action offering when looking at box office numbers, but even then, the discussion usually stops there. Do we rally behind upcoming (or potential) female-driven Star Wars and superhero movies because we truly believe that equal representation on the big screen is important or are we doing it only because those are high-profile targets? I’m not asking a rhetorical question here. I really would like to know.
I ask because I sit here thinking about the month at hand, which has not one, but TWO decent-sized sequels from recognizable female-driven action franchises hitting the big screen. Underworld: Blood Wars, which is currently in theaters, is the fifth installment in a globally-successful series that has centered on a strong female lead for virtually every entry. Furthermore, Blood Wars was also directed by a woman: Anna Foerster. Foerster has made her career in the past as visual effects artist and cinematographer, working on numerous films such as Independence Day, Alien: Resurrection, Pitch Black, and Aeon Flux. Blood Wars marks her feature-length debut as a filmmaker, after directing episodes of various TV shows such as “Outlander” and “Criminal Minds“. Where’s the support for Blood Wars and Foerster? I look across social media and most film sites and I see nary a word spoken about either one.
Arriving later this month, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is the sixth (and supposedly final) installment in any even more successful franchise. All six films have been centered around Milla Jovovich as series lead Alice, with a wide assortment of fun, equally badass co-stars such as Ali Larter, Ruby Rose, Michelle Rodriguez, etc. We rally behind Scarlett Johansson for her continued work as Marvel’s Black Widow across five films (to date), but offer little to no support for both Milla Jovovich and Underworld star Kate Beckinsale.
Both actresses are in their early 40s and are still headlining their own action franchises. I say “still” because many actresses sadly begin to get sidelined in Hollywood once their 30s have passed, finding themselves now playing moms, aunts, and spinsters. Supporting roles, basically. Speaking of motherhood, both women also have children and their still at it. Yes, people, mothers can still lay out bad guys on the big screen just as well as their male counterparts, despite what most of Hollywood seems to think. And yet here they are still getting regular work as action stars over at Sony, with very little fanfare beyond their respective franchises’ fans. Again, where is the support?
I can already hear some of you grumbling and see you rolling your eyes. No doubt some of you are muttering about how you think one or both franchises “suck”. To that I reply with an old saying: one person’s trash is another’s treasure. Just like one’s personal taste in cinema, the quality of any given film is relative. It also has nothing to do with what I am talking about here. It doesn’t matter if the Resident Evil and Underworld franchises are as good as Star Wars or The Hunger Games. It doesn’t matter whether or not you preferred Ghostbusters: Answer the Call to one or both of the original Ghostbusters films. It doesn’t matter if Beckinsale’s Selene and Jovovich’s Alice are as compelling as Daisy Ridley’s Rey, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, and Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss. What matters is the world and, specifically, little girls (when they’re old enough) and young women are being given films where two unstoppable female heroes are saving the world with as much passion and determination as the likes of James Bond, Captain America, and Batman. The mere existence of the Resident Evil and Underworld franchises, which have been around for a decade and a half now, is deserving of celebration.
So this is my challenge to you: support these films in some way this year. When you are heading along your #52FilmsByWomen goal in 2017, make as much an effort to see Anna Foerster’s Underworld: Blood Wars as you do to see Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman. Take just as much time in your moving-watching schedule to cheer on Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter as you will later on for Zoe Saldana in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: Episode VIII.
If you truly want to scream at Hollywood about how much you want more superheroic women on the big screen, you can’t just focus on the mega franchises. You should support the smaller films as well. Seek out and give your support to Underworld: Blood Wars, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Ghost In The Shell, and any other such film coming out way this year. Go see Hidden Figures, which is also out nationwide at the moment, while you’re at it! Pay attention to what Anna Foerster is doing next, be it her recently-announced Bad Robot project Lou or something else. Pay attention to what Jovovich and Becksinale are doing. I hear the latter is stellar in the critically-acclaimed Love & Friendship, a film I will soon be seeking out.
If you don’t support such films, instead only standing up when it’s a massive property like Marvel, DC, or Star Wars, then you are the social activist equivalent of what a friend of mine used to call a “submarine Christian”. It means that you only surface on the big days. A religous reference, I know, but the comparison still stands. And that, my friends, just won’t do. If that’s your strategy, then why are you even bothering to speak up at all? January 2017 has given us a gift and it’s time you embrace it. No matter the film or franchise, women kick ass on the big screen and it’s time we let ALL of them know how much we appreciate it.