Marvel was probably hoping all the post-release Avengers: Age of Ultron news would be limited to exuberant convulsions of pure, unbridled joy from comic book movie fans all over the world. Unfortunately, it seems it hasn't gone all their way.
The release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, as well as some poorly thought out comments made by some of its stars, has seemingly landed Marvel smack-dab into a debate about gender in superhero movies. First there was Jeremy Renner's comments referring to Black Widow as a "slut," then there was the controversy surrounding the limited amount of Black Widow merchandise, and most recently there were, apparently ill-founded, suggestions Joss Whedon has left Twitter due to comments made by angered feminists.
Now WikiLeaks has decided to step up and make things even worse for Disney and Marvel. The site, which has access to 30,000 leaked Sony emails, has published an exchange between Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter and Sony CEO Michael Lynton with the subject line, "Female Movies." It appears to continue a discussion about the poor box office and critical reception of the various female-fronted superhero movies of the past. Peruse it below:
To: "Lynton, Michael"
Subject: Female Movies
Date: Thu, 7 Aug 2014 05:32:50 -0400
As we discussed on the phone, below are just a few examples. There are more.
1. Electra (Marvel) – Very bad idea and the end result was very, very bad. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=elektra.htm
2. Catwoman (WB/DC) - Catwoman was one of the most important female character within the Batmanfranchise. This film was a disaster. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=catwoman.htm
3. Supergirl – (DC) Supergirl was one of the most important female super hero in Superman franchise. This Movie came out in 1984 and did $14 million total domestic with opening weekend of $5.5 million. Again, another disaster.
Now, before we get too carried away, we should point out that little context is provided for this email, and we do not know the content of the phone call which apparently preceded it. However, one possible reading is that Perlmutter is citing female superhero flops as a means to advise Lynton against pursuing them. If this is the case, it's certainly not going to help Marvel's reputation any.
Alternatively, he could simply be pointing out three female superhero movies which were done badly. He does not explicitly state they flopped because they were fronted by female heroes - although he does suggest Elektra was a "very bad idea." You can remind yourself of the trailer for Elektra below:
The email has led to a quite a bit of backlash online. For example, Think Progress published an article in which they point out at least six-male fronted movies, including Daredevil, Green Lantern and Superman Returns, also flopped at the box office. The suggestion here, therefore, isn't that the female movies failed because of the sex of the superhero who fronted them, but simply because they were poorly made and poorly marketed.
Of course, this news must also be tapered with the fact Marvel is in fact developing a female led superhero movie in the future. Although it doesn't look like Black Widow will get a solo outing on the big screen, Captain Marvel is due to arrive in 2018, suggesting that Marvel are at least willing to experiment with female led superhero movies again.