Action Heroines!

There has been a lot of recent speculation on the possibility of a big  screen Wonder Woman  movie.  Various sites and fans are discussing this in detail. They all return to one basic problem: Hollywood does not seem to think that a female lead could successfully  carry a superhero film.  But a recent post on  sci-fi site  contradicts this idea. It provides a list of action movies in which  female characters not only starred, but often led their films to box office success.

With this in mind, I offer my own list of cinematic favorites with an action heroine rather than a hero.  I’ve tried to include a selection of both science fiction and straight-up action.  Not all of the films were lucrative, but several definitely did well.  Main criteria  for selection are quality plots and acting combined with representing strong women.   If they have succeeded, then  surely we are not far away from a good super-heroine movie.

1. Terminator 2 (1991).    Though Schwarzenegger is the film`s titular character,  much of the film`s plot concerns Linda Hamilton`s tough yet sensitive Sara Connor.  Maligned by society for her revolutionary fervor, Connor is unwavering in her quest to save mankind from the future take-over by machines.   Hamilton plays her perfectly, capturing both her misguided idealism and vulnerability as expressed in her love for son John.

2. V for Vendetta (2006).  The amazing adaptation of Alan Moore`s graphic novel provides a much bigger role for  naive young Evy (Natalie Portman).   She`s a member of a totalitarian society whose life changes abruptly when she encounters strangely benign terrorist V.  Troubling though aspects of their  relationship may be, Evy finds a hidden strength within as she goes from conforming in fright to becoming intent on overthrowing the regime.  This is not a typical action film-it`s more of a dystopia- but I liked the way it illustrated the theme of people united against oppression without being talky or slow-moving.

3. Aliens (1986).  A pioneer in the genre of  female heroes, this gritty  sci-fi/action combo  is also the rare sequel to equal an original.  Sigourney Weaver made astronaut warrior Ripley fully as iconic as any male hero.  Like Clint Eastwood or Sly Stallone, she proved she  could carry a franchise by  continuing her creature battling antics in two additional films.  Aliens is my favorite of the bunch: Ripley kicks alien butt while  bonding with waif-like girl Newt.

4. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films.  Many would categorize these as suspense/mystery.  However, both the Swedish and American versions are action-packed.  Much of that is led by disturbed but gutsy heroine Lisbeth Salander, who  can hack any computer system and fight like an urban ninja.  She and her journalist partner are full equals, not merely a hero and sidekick.   Lisbeth even saves him from a vicious killer in a key scene,  perfectly reversing the damsel in distress in set-up.

Lisbeth is played by Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara.  Both are excellent, though I`m partial to Mara`s edgy, unusual charm.

5. Hunger Games (2012).  She feeds her family with her bow, fights and evades career warriors, and isn’t afraid to talk back to the decadent rulers of a bleak dystopia.  Jennifer Lawrence`s portrayal of young Katniss Everdeen  became a touchstone for a new generation of female movie fans.  One can also relate to Katniss when she isn’t fighting–this heroine is still a teen who is often confused by her values conflicts and emerging emotions.  Lawrence also shines as complex super villain Mystique in X-Men First Class.

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6. Animated Wonder Woman (2009).  An underrated entry in the plethora of recent comic book animation, this re-telling of WW (voiced by Keri Russell) deals with her attempts to save Earth from the ravages of Aries, the horrifying god of war. It`s very faithful to  the 1980`s George Perez stories, focusing on Diana/Wonder Woman`s relationship with her mother Hippolyta and various adventures on  both Paradise Island and Earth.

There is no shortage of action scenes, and the animation is superb.  I`m certainly not knocking animated films  because I love them, but  it would be amazing if a Wonder Woman story like this was produced as a live action feature.

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