It’s no secret that a great majority of today's action films and sci-fi films are ruled by men. Male protagonists permeate this year’s summer film slate (see: Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Man of Steel, Pacific Rim and The Wolverine), and it’s pretty easy to agree with anyone who draws attention to the severe lack of gender diversity in leading roles. They definitely have a point.
So, someone did. As was publicized all over the Web, including a comprehensive look by Erik Davis here at Movies.com, Joss Whedon made noise about the topic of women in superhero films in an interview with the Daily Beast, and spoke briefly on what he’s trying to do about it in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. People should listen, as Whedon has made an entire career out of trying to give women their due in a superheroic environment. From the episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, to his comics work on the Astonishing X-Men and now into The Avengers films, Whedon has done a fantastic job of making women aspirational figures of heroism. And that’s the way that it should be! I (figuratively) wept back in the late 2000s when Whedon’s deal to develop a solo Wonder Woman film fell through since I thought it would be spectacular. I still do.
The problem extends beyond superheroes, though. When it comes to sci-fi action vehicles, men usually dominate the field of planet-hopping laser shooters as well. Pacific Rim, Elysium and Riddick all look pretty awesome, but they're not representing the other half of the population particularly well. Yes, there's a Hunger Games sequel coming in November, but can’t we do any better?
Yes, we can. And I have just the franchise for you. Its high concept, action and exploration-oriented sci-fi that has a badass female bounty hunter kicking butt across the galaxy. Need more? How about the fact that millions of people have already been exposed to her before. If for some reason you haven’t, then allow me to introduce you to a character that leads what I think could be an awesome film franchise just waiting to happen.
Meet Samus Aran
Samus made her first appearance in a video game for the original Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986 (released in the U.S. a year later) called Metroid. That piece was an incredibly atmospheric exploration game that created a whole new experience for gamers everywhere. The lead character, in an armored battle suit with a beam weapon affixed to its right arm, was assumed by most players to be a man. When that first game ended, though, and it was revealed that the character was in fact a woman, it definitely proved to be one of the most original jaw-dropping moments in the history of video gaming.
As time went on, Samus took the lead in every new Metroid outing, with 1994’s Super Metroid for the SNES still often being referred to as one of the greatest games ever made. With the Ridley Scott Alien influence apparent to anyone that picks it up, combined with the deep level of exploration and platforming glory, the Metroid series became one of the greatest game series ever devised, all being led by one of the least sexualized female characters in any medium, hands down.
In recent years, Samus has taken the lead in a revitalization of the Metroid game series in a trilogy called Metroid Prime. Developed by the U.S.-based Retro Studios, Metroid Prime 1 was released on the Nintendo GameCube in 2002 to wide critical acclaim, with a 2004 Cube sequel and a 2007 third entry on Wii rounding the series out. A few years ago, Nintendo released a “remastered” version of all three games on the Wii console (which is now sadly out of print and priced at a high premium in used game stores that actually have it) and IGN absolutely raved about the entire series.
Matt Casamassina, IGN’s Nintendo editor, called the trilogy collection “one of the greatest video game sets that money can buy,” and added that the Metroid Prime series was a “work of genius” and some of his all-time favorite games. Much of the appeal, besides great design and mechanics, comes from the fundamental fact that Samus, as a character, is viable, needed, unconventional and just plain awesome.
Thankfully, not every movie studio is stupidly looking away from the Metroid franchise as a possible movie franchise since it’s been attempted a couple of times. Those efforts never came to fruition for several reasons, one of which was Nintendo wanting to explore some questions a movie would have to raise about Samus in a game first. Today, though, given the current climate of women-less hero films in high-concept genres, I’m confident that all it would take is the right deal and the right team to finally bring it to life. Metroid is one of my absolute favorite gaming franchises both because every outing (except for maybe Other M) have been awesome experiences, and there’s an undeniable cool factor surrounding the lead character and what she brings to the tenor of the entire series.
The fact that you have an enormous amount of atmosphere, a strong woman without a necessary presence of any men, and incredible visuals to boot (go play any Metroid Prime game and you’ll easily see what I mean), to me it really seems like making Metroid jump from game to film is a no-brainer. Samus, by her very occupation and even her highly stoic demeanor, seems to be everything you could want in an incredible heroine. That’s why I humbly submit Metroid to the movie gods to bring to life someday, because not only do women deserve a character like Samus on the big screen, but I think we all do.
For a look at what Samus could look like in live action, check out this commercial for 2010's Metroid: Other M, a so-so game that had some spectacular visuals featuring the awesome bounty hunter herself.
My Pick This Week at the Comic Shop (Releasing 7/10)
After an explosive first issue last month, the superstar team of writer Scott Snyder and artist Jim Lee return with Superman Unchained #2. With the first issue’s blockbuster visuals, great moments of character from both Lex Luthor and the big guy himself, and a very enticing promise of a far more personal villain to come, Unchained #2 looks like it definitely has the potential to expand on what was already a very interesting setup in issue #1.
With the promise of a Batman cameo and a new threat that seems ripped from the headlines, Unchained #2 should definitely be on your lists to pick up this week.
That does it this week on the Geek Beat! What do you think about the lack of female heroes in movies? Do you think Samus would fit the bill as well as I do? Which characters would you like to see?
Chris Clow is a geek. He is a comic book expert and retailer, and freelance contributor to GeekNation.com, The Huffington Post, Batman-On-Film.com and ModernMythMedia.com. You can find his weekly piece The Geek Beat every Tuesday right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.