With all the movies coming out in this modern day, there certainly are a lot of heroes that have emerged from literature and onto the silver screen. Over the decades, we know that many movies do tend to have a male superhero (Iron Man, Captain America, John Wayne and the various cowboy flicks) to save the day. In this modern era though, things are changing and with it comes a new wave of heroes, or should I say heroines who are stepping up to the plate to battle evil. With Wonder Woman tearing her way through theaters in all her majestic glory, a friend of mine asked to comment on some of the leading ladies that have shown up on the big screen. In this comparison, we’ll talk about what they represent, some limitations, and compare the movies they have been in. Note: This is meant to be more constructive conversation about the MOVIE counterparts and no insults, just me doing my normal reviews.
Let’s start with the champion herself. The Amazonian princess is the heroine that many femme fatales are compared to. Diana is the representation of strength, justice, discipline, and standing up for all who are in need. Such qualities are sure to motivate the masses to take action and fight for what is right in their lives, yielding to almost no one. Wonder Woman’s skills are incredible starting with her combat skills and the mastery of the art of weaponry. Her skills during Batman vs. Superman gave us a taste of super abilities as she leapt into the fray between Doomsday, the man of steel, and the dark knight. Fending off the two warriors with her shield and mystical sword, Diana’s martial arts were impressive. Yet her solo film only further amplified her abilities, throwing the lasso, gauntlets, and fists as she pounds the German army into dust. Wonder Woman’s abilities are certainly empowering to any woman of any age, having them cheer and perhaps motivating them to stand up to the bullies in their lives.
Yet Wonder Woman’s butt kicking abilities aren’t the only thing that speaks to the audience. “With great power, comes great responsibility” to quote Uncle Ben, and no hero in the cinematic universe portrays this more than Diana. She doesn’t boast her strength and destroy anybody she sees, but rather finds the areas to where her abilities are needs and put them into the mix. Much of the movie involves utilizing her powers to protect than to destroy, preferring to focus her strength into only those she seeks to dethrone. What’s fortunate for her, is a sense of justice that many heroes fail to have, reading situations to determine whom she can help. No scene is a better portrayal of this than her stepping out into no man’s land, treading the wasteland of doom to face an onslaught an entire army could not even distract let alone defeat. Diana’s goals of understanding humans, showing empathy for her fellow warriors, and goal of bringing peace are all qualities to admire in a heroine. And even better is her ability to use the love of humans and peace to fuel her motivation even more.
Yet there is a weakness to her. As no hero is perfect, Wonder Woman’s main flaw is letting her pride get in the way of logical thinking…sometimes. In the film, you see that her determination, while noble, sometimes leaves her single minded, unable to deter from her goal and analyze the strategy at hand. She wants to get things done fast and efficiently, but her initial plan to achieve that goal is often not the appropriate means to accomplish it. This is evidenced by her wanting to go to the frontline immediately instead of working with a group who knew the world better. Such blinded devotion allowed her pride to get in the way, not allowing others to assist her and potentially teach her the tricks of the trade. I guess if it wasn’t an amazon, it wasn’t a proper teacher, and there were times in the movie she failed to understand the qualms her fellow soldiers had to face, (see the scene with Charlie not shooting). And as we saw, there were a few times this led to some mistakes happening, leading her to suffer under the weight of being wrong.
Character aside, let’s talk about the movie. For more info read my review, but Wonder Woman is certainly one of the best DC movies to hit the silver screen. Action wise it’s impressive, with two of three fights beautifully choreographed to show off the might of the amazons. While the slow slashing effect is a little over done, the scenes are incredible displays of CGI meeting live action and an impressive dance of the “wonder’ful woman paving the way to victory. Throughout the entire movie, you grow with Wonder Woman, feeling the emotional turmoil and curiosity building as war unveils more of the splendid things life has to offer. To have such strong character development, with a moving pace and action to match up with it, is a skill many directors fail to accomplish. And with a few fun jokes thrown into the mix, one can’t help but feel enjoyment with this movie.
In regards to the weaknesses of the film, a band of soldiers who didn’t have much to contribute outside a few spiritual discoveries was my main flaw with this movie. Why even try to build up a team of heroes if you aren’t going to do much with them? That was the question I still have. An additional qualm is again some of the overdramatic special effect use and some loose ends that were left unanswered, or at least left for the sequel. Despite these qualms though, Wonder Woman is certainly one of the stronger superhero movies to be seen in a while.
Rey (Star Wars Episode VII)
With the release of the new Star Wars franchise, one can’t help but think of the leading lady Rey! The definition of woman facing the elements, Rey had to face undesirable conditions in the deserts of Jakku and the unruly bunch who dwell there. Yet unlike others who choose to hide from the challenge, Rey takes to all obstacles with a dedication to survive and prove herself. That only becomes more evident when the First Order attempts to destroy she and her friends and she takes the Falcon by the control stick and heads face first into laser infused battles at hand. Soon the mystical abilities of the Force awaken and Rey’s skills grow exponentially to shape her into the makings of a great warrior. Rey is strong, smart, and fearless, qualities we all know make for an entertaining heroine. And her crafty skills of engineering and piloting are something often missed in many of the heroes today.
Her main weakness is her rash abilities to rush into things. Many times, Rey chooses to act first and contemplate later, often getting herself into situations she didn’t quite want to be in. While this certainly brings entertainment in regards to the movie, this personality quark is not something to leave untampered for fear of what it might lead to. Her stubbornness can also be considered a weakness, for her sheer will to stay on her “home” planet Jakku and not receive help because she can do it better are not qualities one would like in a heroine. This control level is not my favorite component of her, but hey we all have our weaknesses. Regardless of the limitations, Rey is a great opener to the Disney franchise and one that a few of my friends have tagged on to as the leader of the new series.
In regards to the movie, well Force Awakens was a great opener in the Star Wars Renaissance that accomplished the goal of roping us back into the series. With decent action, nostalgia, and some decent storytelling, the stage has been set for what will hopefully be a dynamite second installment to the franchise. While I like Rey a lot, one character/story limitation is how powerful she is at the beginning. Placing girl power aside, we’ve not seen any Jedi at the start (with no training) be able to accomplish the things she was able to do. To unleash this massive control of the force as well as fight a person trained years ahead of her and win was a bit of a stretch for me. Even more frustrating is the lack of explanation as to purpose, which will hopefully (and with class) be explained in the coming installment. Still, to start so powerful sets the bar high, to which they may not be able to deliver.
Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)
Whew sacred ground when talking about this one, but let’s go ahead and talk about the champion of district 12. Katniss is perhaps one of the most respectable and ragingly annoying heroes in a series. She’s a survivor that is for sure, taking care of her family by hunting and trading with the on-edge frontier town. Her self-sacrificing nature is admirable and her skills with a bow even more so, as she fights the odds thrown at her in the Hunger Games. As her rebellious side grows and she starts defying the Capital with more angst leading to a rebellion that begins to strike back. The girl’s bravery and courage is incredible, fueling her to do the things we only dream of doing. I mean had it not been for her…that rebellion would barely have gotten off the ground.
Katniss weaknesses’ start with her reluctance to be helped by most people. The independence thing is awesome, but once she starts to get allies who have proven themselves to her, her reluctance to let them help is frustrating. So much unnecessary conflict arose from this ability to admit help was needed became annoying as it dragged it out. Sure, it’s okay she was untrusting, I mean look at her entire life journey, but come on… how much do we have to put up with when we know she will break down. Yet her even bigger weakness is her unrelenting anger towards well almost everyone. Like a burning fire, Katniss has rage deep within that is caged and ready to burst out. While it certainly fuels her desire to survive, it also blinds her to many things that are actually beneficial. Such uncontrolled anger more than once dropped her into traps, and left her vulnerable to the political manipulations of the egotistical politicians using her as a pawn. Unlike the Hulk who becomes indestructible, Katniss’ anger only leads her to screaming more and firing more arrows. Not the best quality in my book.
In regards to the movie, Jennifer Lawrence has many personalities that match the protagonist of the series. In all honesty, she models the very character that I read about in the books all those years ago. The cinematography in particular brings Katniss out in the epic light we always pictured, and the action scenes to boot mirror much of excitement in the book. In regards to the movies themselves… they are pretty good for the most part. Movie one captured the essence of the film, albeit really gipped us on some of the cooler aspects Suzanne Collins lavished on in the first book. Once the second movie came in though, the studio had gotten their act together and crafted a film that was a perfect match to the book across all accounts, including clearing up that confusion at the end. Movie three did a nice job of spicing up a rather boring part of the book trilogy and added some finesse to what was a rather long drawl. Unfortunately, movie four couldn’t keep up with that magic for me, and left me disappointed at what was supposed to be the most intense moment of the movie. They got a few parts well, but shaky cinematography, a rushed budget, and trying to cram too much into one movie diluted some of the more graceful and admirable parts of Katniss’ legacy.
Consistently across the board, is how Katniss’ anger sometimes comes off bratty and arrogant. That anger is well placed, don’t get me wrong, but the constant bitter sting, scowl and hate with every line got old for me. It diluted her awesomeness, and what she stood for, leaving me feeling somewhat sorry for the people who had to put up with her juvenile behavior and constant complaining. Still, the movies did get a lot of what we love about Katniss and allows her to flex her proverbial muscles as she fights a corrupt regime.
Alice (Resident Evil)
Perhaps the most dynamic of our group is the fiery agent known as Alice from Resident Evil. Starting out as merely a special ops soldier, Alice it transformed into a genetically augmented weapon capable of fighting hordes of infected zombie extras and government agents. Her martial arts prowess marries well with her military mind to culminate in a heroine you can’t help but root for as her traps unfold and decimate Umbrella Corporation. Skills aside, Alice represents the quality of loyalty, friendship, and sacrifice. Alice’s journey involves lots of teamwork and protection of innocent life, fighting that primordial destruction buried in the coding of the virus that plagues the world. Seeing the decisions, she has had to make for the benefit of others is certainly tough, but continues to illustrate just how epic a heroine she is. Most of the people I mention on this list haven’t had to make quite the life altering decisions that Alice has, and may not have the guts this video game turned cinema could.
But despite that vigor, Alice does have a weakness herself and that is her gullible/naivety. Despite all the skepticism of new people and all the times she has been backstabbed, Alice somehow always has a naïve component that leads her to be deceived by her known enemies repetitively. She always underestimates the abilities of the Corporation, and as a result suffers some major blows that often costs her dearly. Perhaps her reliance on those abilities of hers leads to some overconfidence that thinks she can punch, shoot, and fight her way out of any situation. While this is true most times, there are a few accounts to show that a little more paranoia behind the operation could have made things a little easier in this complex universe of Resident Evil.
In regards to the movies, well they are certainly popcorn munching action flicks that are full of that adrenaline pumping special effects. Resident Evil’s opening number did a nice job of bringing video games to real life (with better graphics than the PS One) and keep to the horror element of the movies. Even the second film did a nice job of bringing that horror aspect again, just with less intensity and finesse. After words, the movie took a dramatic turn towards the action and stunts, gearing towards special effects and stunts than actual plot. Resident Evil’s story quickly plunged into the crappy zone and became mindless killing up until the final chapter that actually worked to fill in the numerous gaps left behind by the previous installments. And while they don’t bring the most intelligence to her sometimes, they certainly paint her to be the model warrior for many to root for.
Mercenary of the vampires, slayer of werewolves, and lover of…humans? Yeah confusing as it sounds, Selene of the Underworld series is a definition of femme fatale in this list. In her skin-tight jumpsuit, Selene blends sex appeal with lethality using the various weapons at her disposal to defeat her enemies. Like many of our heroines, she is certainly trained to fight, but her victims are the demons lurking in the shadows of the dark. The difference for her though, is that her enemies are often much more vicious, evil, or bulkier than most of our other cast. As such, Selene has a strong sense of courage that many heroes cannot mimic. Facing off against strong Lycans and the merciless aristocrats of the vampires requires one to have some guts, and Selene stands up to the various warriors with that cold edge steel needed for such a purpose. What requires even more courage is dropping her aristocratic privileges for love. Selene’s superiors wield some pretty high power and they aren’t afraid to make immoral choices to destroy any who get in their way. For our protagonist to know this and still stand up to them… I think you can agree with me that she has to have proverbial male genitalia. As the stories continue to progress, Selene continues to fight to maintain order not so much for killing vampires, but more so for protecting the humans and though she loves from their war.
In terms of weakness, ironically it is love that her enemies use against her. Selene’s desire to protect those she loves (which she makes for public display) gives her enemies leverage to use against her. The aristocrats prove themselves merciless in their approach to get what they desire and are not shy of using others as pawns. Selene’s love of the human Michael, among other people, results in numerous hostage situations, torturous beatings, and even massacres all for the sake of love. Love is certainly a strength, but for all of Selene’s skills, planning, and fortitude…you would think she would be more prepared or secretive to not have that used against her. And for much of the last film, that love resulted in her getting owned a number of times, until some weird ritual magic thing occurred that gave her super powers beyond compare. Once this happen she became cooler, yet less believable, which is saying something in this horror occult thriller.
In regards to movies, Underworld has had its up and downs in terms of quality. The first two were incredible for me as I was introduced into Selene’s war against both races. It was exciting, dark, and filled with that edge and story classic of the early 2000s, that actually made sense. An action focused plot filled with exciting scenes made for an entertaining tale, but also focused on Selene’s growth and compassion towards the human race. While not my favorite, Rise of the Lycans still catered towards a character development side that helped set up the relationships of other supporting characters. Too bad they could not hold the action together, but it was still entertaining.
Then came the modernization of the series, and new directors took over. Gone was the art of storytelling, and instead it was all about cheesy stunts and visuals to boast the special effects of the studio. Awakening and Blood Wars became a hastily done plot that tried to introduce new concepts and relationships that were shallow and lacking the magic of the first films. Even more, they started evolving their foes to ridiculous proportions that either didn’t work for me or they did little with. And in regards to the last film, the plot was so hashed together and rushed it felt like reading the initial draft of a script or a Wikipedia summary. Selene’s new power is awesome, but perhaps a little too powerful and unexplained, robbing the suspense of the movie due to her mortality.
Hermione Granger (Harry Potter)
Ahh the loveable Hermione Granger, there is so much to say about this little wizard to be. She wields the most powerful tool available to all heroes, the mind. Hermione is perhaps the smartest heroine of this group as she learns the art of mastering multiple types of magic and subject matter of her world. Fighting monsters, transportation magic, and the responsible use of magical trinkets are just some of the things she is capable of understanding and applying. Hermione proves that you can learn anything and be able to apply it better than any male hero can, given enough time, patience and practice. In addition, she displays discipline, inner strength, and classiness that we all only hope to have should we become as competent in our trades as she was. Such great qualities are all wrapped in a beautiful package of visual loveliness, once again proving that you can be beautiful and talented at the same time. Hermione’s determination to save her friends and family is a consistent throughout the series, and her desire to do the right thing is displayed numerous times through the series by speaking out against her classmates’ rambunctious antics. A symbol of following the rules that make sense and changing the rules that don’t, she certainly gets my vote for a role model.
In regards to her weaknesses, Hermione has several to talk about. Her biggest vulnerability for much of the series is her pride. The young wizard likes being the best and goes to great extremes to secure her place at the top of the class. At first this pride leads her to be arrogant, snobbishly correcting her classmates and taking her down the know it all pathway. As her friends prove to be loyal to her, that arrogance begins to temper, but her obsessions to be the best remain as strong as ever. Hermione’s goals lead her to stress herself to sickness in the third book when she literally has to bend time to allow her to take extra classes, some of which she fails. That obsession leads her to be reckless sometimes and lose track of the qualities I admire, and leaves her prone to snubbing her friends. Once the new dark age begins though, Hermione’s weakness turns to love, in particular for a small band of people who travel the dangerous road. Fans know that fear tends to paralyze her from acting, and sometimes results in her losing her abilities due to panic.
When discussing the movies, I dare not insult the films because of the fan base that follows this series. The movies are good on many levels, bringing J.K. Rowling’s world to life in beautiful graphics, sets, and costumes. Seeing all the magic in the movie is something we can only dream about, and the emotions of the journey are all contained within. The first few movies are all about the set up and wonder of the magical universe and the second half is all about casting the dark cloud over the light and challenging the heroes at hand. Unfortunately, where the movies start to go wrong is when they deviate from the books at hand. Harry Potter books are sacred tomes that you don’t want to adulterate and for the most part the movies respect that ground. Unfortunately, key aspects were left out of the book and the studios made their own decisions that grossly resulted in some shortcomings and lack of bite the books have. The burning of the Weasley cottage, the battle at the ministry, and much of the second half of book 7 were not impressive to me. Had they realized that most would sit through a five-hour film (LOTR anyone) they could have made the movies exponentially better in these regards.
Whatever movie you watch though, you can be sure that Hermione is well-represented. Emma Watson’s portrayal is fantastic on any account as she grows alongside the character and brings the maturity with it. Hermione’s character remains a little too pretty (according to one of my friends) in regards to the fashion component, but hey who doesn’t like a little sprucing up via Hollywood makeup. Makeup aside, Hermione’s aptitude for magic and knowledge is captured in the movies, as are the morals, honor and love contained within. Nice job my friends. Nice job.
Jenn Orso (Star War Rogue One)
Last on our list is the latest Star Wars maiden to grace the universe. Rogue One’s protagonist is all about the edge, a loner with the goal of survival and making a living, she was forced into a rough life at the young age of 9. Jenn’s parents were forcefully taken from her, resulting in her being raised by a mercenary in the prime of life. Fortunately, the mercenary parted a wicked set of skills that raise her odds for surviving in the vast galaxy. The tyrannical rule of the empire pulls her into the developing rebellion and leads to a journey where that strength to live carries on in full force. Jenn’s strengths are determination, rationality, hope, and leadership as evidenced by her numerous actions during the 2.5 hours of the film. She is able to unite a ragtag group of rebels together to attempt a mission best described as suicide to many. And in doing so, she was able to accomplish goals that would set the stage for ages to come. Jenn has many qualities and skills to which we hope to inspire others to mimic and she is also quite the warrior to fight for people everywhere.
As for her weaknesses, Jenn’s first is her lack of trust and teamwork. In the beginning of the movie she tries to do everything by herself, resulting in her getting into trouble and often failing miserably. While it is certainly important to have the confidence to accomplish a goal, it’s also important to recognize when a team is needed, which involves trust. Jenn will not give her team the trust to begin with and as such limits her mission considerably in the beginning. In addition, Jenn is a little reckless at times, tending to rush into things rather than coordinate. I don’t know if it’s the skeptical component or if she doesn’t have strategy making 101 down, but Jenn surprisingly has little in terms of planning under her belt (rewatch the movie again and you will see it is her male counterpart who comes up with the plans). Her ability to hold a grudge is quite a limiting step as well. That opening act shows a lot of bitterness towards, well everyone in the galaxy at the hurt she has within. Much of her hatred is cast towards her father and the abandonment she felt. By doing this, she brought about ignorance to her life and added extra complications to delay her mission that had she accepted ma have resulted in better outcomes. Still when all is said and done, that ending at the end shows she can overcome these limitations and become quite the champion to say the least.
Movie wise, Rogue One is one my favorite of the Star Wars Universe. It’s different, it’s gritty, it shows the horrors of war instead of just the glamorous side we got in the first seven installments. At first the opening is choppy and a little hodge-podge in terms of editing, but that set up serves it purpose of getting us to the grand finale of the movie. That exciting ending is more than epic conclusion, filled with the nostalgia and action we waited for so long with the Star Wars revival. A great cast of characters, a very gut wrenching story, and a new female protagonist to leave a legacy are all wonderful qualities of this movie. Rogue One does need some improvements itself though including better balance of characters, a tighter opening that doesn’t feel as discombobulated and remembering to actually use their actors they pulled into the project (like Forrest Whittaker). Outside of that though… a solid movie.
So, there you have it. Just a few women of the silver screen that I wanted to talk about. These are just some of my observations on the femme fatales of modern film, and for the most part, I hope you find my analysis in good favor. Like all good characters there are strengths and weaknesses and one can only hope that the characters whose stories aren’t closed yet will get the epic tale they deserve. We will see what Wonder Woman brings in the next movie in September and from there one can only guess what is next in the world of Hollywood. I’m Robbie K, thanking you for another read and inviting any constructive discussion you might wish to share.