Has there ever been a female-led superhero movie really worth watching? Honestly, I can't think of a single one. Ok, there are some that can be considered guilty pleasures. I count 1984's Supergirl among these. I know Supergirl is a crappy movie. It's horrible. It makes Superman IV: The Quest for Peace look like Citizen Kane. I like it and I'll not apologize for it. But then you've got such craptastic films as Elektra and the even more hated Catwoman. Hollywood can't seem to get a good superhero film with a female protagonist off the ground. Wonder Woman has languished in development hell for quite some time because of this. At one point, Joss Whedon was attached to Wonder Woman, however, that didn't happen, probably due to the poor performances of both Catwoman and Elektra, which were released around the same time. That really is a shame because had Joss made his Wonder Woman movie I probably wouldn't even be writing this article because it probably would have been amazing because Joss Whedon both understands how to write a female protagonist, as he demonstrated with Buffy, but he also had a rather successful run on the Wonder Woman comic. Yes, Joss Whedon's Wonder Woman would have been epic. Alas, studio skittishness, especially where Warner Bros was concerned, made this just not destined to happen.
Kevin Feige recently told Comic Book Resources that Marvel is currently too busy to do any female-led superhero movies at this time, in spite of various rumors that Marvel's upcoming Captain Marvel would feature the Carol Danvers version of the character or with constant speculation of Black Widow getting her own film. While I do agree with the decisions not to develop those two films right now, first of all the Mar-Vell version of Captain Marvel ties into the Guardians of the Galaxy, which introduced the Kree into the MCU and I really just don't think Black Widow could carry her own film. She's a sidekick and nothing more. She is Captain America's sidekick. That said, I can't help but believe that Mr. Feige and Marvel have taken this position because they are afraid. While some films have done less well than others in the MCU, Marvel has yet to have a certified flop and I don't think they want their female-led film to be the first. I believe that Marvel is quite willing to let Warner and DC do Wonder Woman first and see how that goes.
The issue, however, has nothing to do with the film having a female protagonist. The Hunger Games, Alien, Kill Bill and Divergent all have female protagonists and seem to be quite popular among audiences. So why does The Hunger Games prosper while Catwoman falls flat on her face? It isn't that the Catwoman character is lame. I saw a fantastic way of doing a Catwoman movie back when the Halle Berry movie was stillborn. And Elektra? She is an amazing character. Why the hell would Elektra not be the most epic superhero film put to celluloid (or pixels, as the case is these days)? Well, it's actually quite simple. The studios didn't understand the material or the target audience. I thought the Twilight movies were crap, but I wasn't the audience those movies were shooting for. To their target audience, they were quite popular and continue to be so. The target audience for Catwoman or Elektra or even Wonder Woman should not be the same target audience as Twilight or The Hunger Games.
These movies are still based on comic books, and while 47% of comic book readers are women, the target audience for comic book movies is still men and boys. Hell, the only reason Disney bought Marvel in the first place was to have a brand to market to pre-teen boys. The core audience goes well beyond pre-teen boys (you don't make a billion dollars on one movie just with that demographic), but in almost no situation is the core audience the same as Twilight. At all. I'm in no hurry to get a female-led superhero movie, in fact I mostly dread it. Not because I don't think a female superhero movie could be interesting, or even amazing. It's because of the track record. I know they probably aren't going to do it properly. They aren't going to get it, they are going to target it to twelve year old girls, and it is going to be Catwoman, which was basically two chicks fighting each other over make-up.
If you want to do a Catwoman movie and make it great, make it a heist movie. Do The Thomas Crown Affair but have the main character be Selina Kyle. Make an odd mention of Batman or Gotham City, but you really don't even need to do that. You only need to get the character of Catwoman, and Catwoman is a cat burglar. In fact, they've already done this in graphic novel form. It was called Selina's Big Score, and it was great. I'm a huge Darwyn Cooke fan, and this was the book that introduced me to him. It also reinvented Catwoman, or at least it brought her back to her roots. Where she thrives: as a thief, not a social justice crusader for animal rights or some dumbness like that. Catwoman should not be used as PETA propaganda. Selina is fun, and her movie should be fun, and animal rights is not fun. Heist movies are fun. You want to do a Catwoman movie, make it a heist movie.
Likewise with Elektra, she should be a badass. It appeared as though they sincerely tried to make it look like Elektra was a badass in some way shape or form, but they really didn't give her anything badass to do. It was a love story, and it sucked. If you want to do Elektra, you really have to do Frank Miller's Elektra. Elektra isn't made for tween girls. She's an assassin, she kills and she's good at it. Elektra needs to be targeted to men who want to see a woman in a skimpy red outfit mess stuff up. That is Elektra and that is how you an Elektra movie successful. You need to know the character and you need to know your target audience and so far, with female superhero movies, Hollywood has demonstrated that they understand neither. The girls who read comics will come to see the movies. That's why they are reading the comics in the first place, because they like and understand the characters. You don't need to pander to them because all you're going to do is alienate your core audience and continue making the mistakes you have made in the past.