Last year, Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman shattered the glass ceiling for female superhero films. The movie was adored by viewers and critics alike, grossing over $800 million at the global box office. Warner Bros. wasted no time signing both Jenkins and star Gal Gadot for a sequel, Wonder Woman 1984, which is currently filming.
Before the success of Wonder Woman, Hollywood insiders had argued that female superheroes just wouldn’t work at the box office. They pointed to movies like 2004’s Catwoman and 2005’s Elektra, both of which grossed less than $100 million worldwide. But Wonder Woman proved those naysayers wrong, confirming what some had always argued; the entire idea of female superheroes shouldn’t be written off just because a couple of films had failed to perform.
Wonder Woman has proved to be an absolute game-changer for the superhero genre. Every studio is attempting to launch, or maintain, its own shared superhero universe. Now, in light of Wonder Woman, every studio is recognizing the potential of their female superhero franchises. Let’s take a look at what’s coming.
Ant-Man & the Wasp is a groundbreaking movie for Marvel Studios. It’s the first film where a female hero, Evangeline Lilly’s Wasp, shares top billing with a male star. Next year, Marvel will go one step further, with Brie Larson starring as Captain Marvel. In that film, the female hero won’t be a secondary character.
“With Captain Marvel, she is as powerful a character as we’ve ever put in a movie,” Kevin Feige told Vulture. “Her powers are off the charts, and when she’s introduced, she will be by far the strongest character we’ve ever had.” In a recent statement, Larson even implied the hero will be able to move planets.
Looking forward, Marvel seem to be doubling-down on their female heroes. A Black Widow movie is finally in the works, with Marvel now down to an all-female shortlist of directors. There have been hints that Marvel Studios is preparing to introduce Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel, a teenage Muslim American inspired by Captain Marvel’s heroism. All indications are that this will be a comic-book-accurate portrayal, meaning the Ms. Marvel film would be a fascinating movie exploring traditionalist faith in the context of social justice. More recently, speaking to Screen Rant Feige has even suggested he foresees a time when over half of Marvel’s heroes are female.
As a result of the success of Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins has been able to negotiate triple the salary for the sequel. The new film will see Gal Gadot’s hero take on the threat of the Cheetah, and there are rumors another dark god is manipulating events in the background. So far, the DCEU has been pretty divisive among both fans and critics, and Wonder Woman was really the first unvarnished success. Warner Bros. no doubt hopes the sequel will be just as significant a hit.
2016’s Suicide Squad may have taken its share of criticism, but Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was a real highlight. As a result, Warner Bros. is working on a range of movies exploring the character, including two all-female titles: Birds of Prey, and Gotham City Sirens. Another film in the works would feature Harley Quinn alongside Jared Leto’s Joker, exploring the twisted and abusive relationship between the leads. Over in the comics, Harley Quinn has become DC’s “fourth pillar,” joining the so-called “Trinity” of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. The film department hopes she’ll prove to be just as important to the DCEU.
Sony’s deal with Marvel may have brought Tom Holland’s Spider-Man into the MCU, but the studio is still determined to build its own Spider-universe. That will be kicked off later this year by Venom, starring Tom Hardy, but other films in the works are decidedly female-focused. Take Silver & Black as the most prominent example; the project is focused on mercenary Silver Sable and thief Black Cat, and will bring the two femmes fatale into head-on collision. Gina Prince-Bythewood is signed on as director, though the film is currently on hiatus while the script is reworked.
We recently learned that Sony has another female superhero film in the works, too. The studio is reportedly developing a Silk movie, inspired by a secondary superhero (above) created by writer Dan Slott back in 2014.
These are just the mainstream films that we know are in the works. Broadening out beyond these three shared cinematic universes, Sony is also committed to launching films inspired by the heroes of Valiant comics, including the popular hero Faith. Meanwhile, Fox is developing a Kitty Pryde movie starring the popular X-Men character, although it’s unclear how that film will be affected should Disney’s proposed purchase of Fox’s assets go forward.
One thing is abundantly clear; the success of Wonder Woman has transformed the entire film industry. It won’t be long before female superheroes become the norm, rather than the exception.