The Expendables took the number one spot at the box office for a second time this past weekend. I guess that means people like to see a bunch of old dudes blowing crap up. I’ll be sure to tell my dad. Or maybe it was just a great movie. Either way, it’s only confirmed what we already knew - that male ensemble cast films make money (i.e. Oceans 11, etc). But is that what we want from our superhero teams?
Throughout the years, the name Joss Whedon has become synonymous with powerful female characters, so why on Earth did he confirm this past week that Black Widow would be the only female Avenger in the film he’s directing? It would be like making a Justice League movie with Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Aquaman, Hawkman, Martian Manhunter, Firestorm and Black Canary. Even though Whedon says the story will be pulling from various versions of the Avengers I think purists would agree leaving out key players, especially females, is odd.
Now, this is not exactly news seeing as how Marvel Entertainment officially announced their Avengers cast at San Diego Comic-Con in July but in Hollywood there’s always time for more announcements. Just ask Edward Norton.
Zak Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand) wrote the script with rewrites by Whedon, so the decision to include just one female may not have been the director's. In his interview with the Sunday Herald Sun newspaper he said that although Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is the only female teammate, “she will not be the only female character.” Well duh, of course not. A movie with not a single woman cast in it would raise more than a few eyebrows.
But what does he really mean by that statement? Most people are assuming it means love interests Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Liv Tyler (Betty Ross) or Natalie Portman (Jane Foster) could be added to the line-up, although Portman said her current contract is for two more Thor movies, and doesn't include Avengers. It could also mean possible S.H.I.E.L.D. agents such as Maria Hill might have a role or that the villain of the film might be a female. Whatever the case, the Avengers feels entirely too unbalanced to me.
So far, these are our male Avengers/main characters: Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Capt. America), Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/Hulk), Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Don Cheadle (James “Rhodey” Rhodes) with the still rumored I believe, Tom Hiddleston stepping in as the villainous Loki. That is one big sausage fest.
Of course there are arguments against bringing in new characters. First of all, large casts are always tough to deal with but I imagine this will prove especially so when it comes to a superhero film with big-name actors like these. Second, you need to deal with the origin stories for those not familiar with the comic characters. Luckily, most of the cast has already been seen on screen and Captain America and Thor will have already had their solo films before the Avengers hits theaters, but if you add many others you’ll spend too much time explaining them. Presumably, Hawkeye will be the only one they’ll need to introduce besides the villain(s).
Speaking of Hawkeye, how easy would it have been to leave him out of the film and instead introduce one of the Avengers’ founding members, the Wasp? Perhaps Marvel is waiting on the long-rumored Ant-Man film to happen before Wasp gets any screen time, because god forbid any female Marvel character gets her own solo film. In fact, by issue #16, the Avengers had two female members (Wasp, Scarlet Witch), neither of whom were Black Widow. On the other hand, how easy would it have been to just include Mockingbird along with Hawkeye, seeing as they currently share a comic book? Another easy switch in my eyes would have been to introduce Jennifer Walters, She-Hulk, instead of recasting the Hulk yet again. She might have been a tough one to cast but if done right it would have paid off big-time on-screen. All of this doesn’t even include long-time Avengers like Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman, Tigra or Firestar (to name just a few), all of whom could easily play a role.
Perhaps the Scarlet Witch could play the villain along with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and leave the path open for her to join the team in a second Avengers film. That seems unlikely though, as FOX, having the rights to the X-Men, presumably has "all mutants" written into that contract.
Who knows what Penn, Whedon and Marvel’s ultimate plan is? Let’s not forget the bottom line. Gwyneth Paltrow is great, but superheroines kick ass and look good doing it. Leaving them off the Avengers team is a huge mistake. Will it hurt the success of the film? Most likely not; the public doesn’t know who they are anyway. But it’s an easy fix and a strange move by a creator who knows the value of a strong female.What female Avengers would you like to see on screen? Is one really enough for a full ensemble?