• Ben Keightley

2020 Superhero Preview: Rise of the Women

2020 could be a landmark year for both superhero films and female directors. It comes as no surprise that 2020 is going to be jam-packed with superhero films. But what is interesting is how many of these are directed by women and with female leads. What's also exciting about 2020's superhero slate is how few of the films coming out this year are what you would consider "big hitters" on the comic book hero front. There are no Avengers, Batman, Superman, Spider-man films due this year. You could, cynically, look at the correlation between the upcoming films and the fact that many of them are directed by women are lament that, with one or two exceptions, none of them are your top tier characters. But I think this represents another exciting opportunity. That women are getting to helm superhero films is one thing. That they are, for the most part, helming features with strong female leads is even better. This gives these creative voices a chance to do something different. Perhaps one of two of these films can break from the traditional superhero structure and style and bring something genuinely original to the table. I think 2020 is shaping up to be one of the most tantalising and exciting years for comic book movies and i can't wait to see what some of the most unique voices in cinema today do with the genre.

Wonder Woman 1984 - Patty Jenkins

The big release of 2020 is Wonder Woman 1984. Patty Jenkins is back in the director's chair after delivering the incredibly satisfying and enjoyable Wonder Woman (2017). Wonder Woman is not only the biggest comic book character to be appearing in cinemas this year, but thanks to Jenkins' great work on the original Wonder Woman, the sequel represents a further opportunity to firmly cement the character's place at the heart of the DC cinematic universe. With the Batman and Superman films somewhat in limbo, Wonder Woman could become the lynchpin around which the future of all DC films can orbit. Wonder Woman was such a commercial and critical success that there is inevitable pressure on Jenkins to deliver - but there is also great hope that with a 80s setting, creative control and in Gal Gadot, the perfect actress, Wonder Woman 1984 might not just be the best comic book film of year, but one of the defining films of the genre. The trailer got me salivating, the first poster deserves an award all of its own and with Kristen Wiig onboard as villain Barbara Minerva / Cheetah the film could be something truly special.

Birds of Prey - Cathy Yan

Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) to give it its full title is already in cinemas and the first foray into superhero films in 2020. Spinning off from the extremely disappointing Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey takes that films greatest asset - Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn - and sets up and delivers a solo outfit for her. With an impressive cast including Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong, and Ewan McGregor, the film sees Harley Quinn venturing out on her own after ending her relationship with Joker. It's directed by Cathy Yan and written by Christina Hodson. Early reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. The film was originally pitched to Warner Bros. by Robbie - making it something of a passion project. Robbie's performance in Suicide Squad was incredible and she immediately inhabited and own a beloved villain from DC. With her own movie, and one which is an ensemble female-led super-villain group its a groundbreaking comic film. Oh, and its also only the second R rated DC film; after Joker.

Black Widow - Cate Shortland

Who hasn't been waiting for this film for ages? One of the strongest assets of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since her first appearance in Iron Man 2 (2010) is Black Widow, and the increasingly nuanced and moving performances from Scarlet Johansson. From Iron Man 2 she became one of the strongest members of the Avengers and constantly stole the show from her bigger, film leading male counterparts. All whilst being one of the only members of the MCU to not have any superpowers. Despite her fate in Avengers: Endgame, one of the first post-Endgame films from Marvel is Johansson's standalone film. The trailer looks incredible - with Johansson being joined by the amazing Florence Pugh (Little Women, Midsommar, Lady Macbeth) Rachel Weisz and Stranger Things David Harbour. It appears as though the film will be set between Civil War and Endgame and focus heavily on her backstory with the possible opportunity of bringing the character into the new MCU post Endgame. I, for one, am extremely excited that this character is getting her own film - its no less than Johansson deserves and begin to redress the male-centric balance of Marvel's cinematic output to date (Captain Marvel not withstanding). That the film is directed by Cate Shortland who directed the incredible and deeply moving Lore (2012) and Berlin Syndrome (2017) means we could be in for something much more complex and character-driven than expected. I can't think of a character more suited to Shortland's significant talent.

The Eternals - Chloé Zhao

After Black Widow Marvel turns its attention to The Eternals. Little is known about the plot of the film, due to be released in November, other than it focuses on the titular Eternals. A group of aliens who have been living on Earth for thousands of years and, after the events of Endgame, emerge to fight the Deviants. At this point though we don't need to know much because with a diverse cast including Richard Madden, Gemma Chan, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, Don Lee, Barry Keoghan, Angelina Jolie, and Kit Harington and directed by Chloé Zhao (The Rider) it promises to be a monumental moment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and with Zhao has one of the best new directors.

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