Feminism may not be the motivating factor for movie studios, but the mighty dollar can’t be denied: last summer, Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent beat “sure things” like Spiderman 2 and Godzilla at the box office, while The Hunger Games and Gone Girl dominated in the fall. While a slate of comedies like Pitch Perfect 2, Magic Mike XXL and Trainwreck are proactively courting female audiences, the big bucks are reserved for superhero sequels and reboots, with directors and studios realizing that hey, 52 percent of the population equals serious box office clout.
So for this year’s Boom! Pow! Bam! summer blockbuster season, a contingent of strong female characters will be part of the action. Instead of the usual long-suffering superhero love interest roles, these summer movies are smashing glass ceilings (and kicking down a few doors) with roles that have kick-ass women going toe-to-toe with the bad guys.
Scarlett Johansson in Avengers: Age of Ultron
You can’t take a scroll through social media without bumping into some kind of Avengers promotion, from RDJ walking out of an interview to behind-the-scenes Instagram shots of the cast. Scarlett Johansson is reprising her femme fatale role as Black Widow, a Russian spy turned S.H.I.E.L.D. agent with a complex backstory that involves brainwashing, falling in love with Hawkeye and tangling with Iron Man. Her superpower—incredibly fast healing power—combined with her extensive combat skills, Olympian dexerity and high emotional intelligence make her one of the most captivating characters in the Avengers world. Now can she get her own movie, already.
Elizabeth Olsen in Avengers: Age of Ultron
The newest characters being added to the Avengers universe include twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff (played by Aaron Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen, respectively). So, what could this duo possibly add to the Hulk, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor and Captain America? The trailer offers little glimpses, but we do know that Wanda Maximoff, or Scarlet Witch, has the ability to hex her enemies and she’ll be a growing part of the S.H.I.E.L.D. universe. Oh, and Olsen’s film premiere outfit choices? Slay!
Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road
A dystopian wasteland sets the tone for this roadtrip-from-hell movie, featuring a shorn Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who partners with Tom Hardy’s Mad Max to escape a sadistic warlord (as warlords tend to be). There was no love lost between Hardy and Theron during filming, but with the grueling and contentious shoot behind them, it seems cooler (bald) heads have prevailed.
Emilia Clarke in Terminator Genisys
Yes, Arnold is baaaaaccccckkkk (did he ever really leave?) but we’re most excited to see Game of Throne’s Mother of Dragons Emilia Clarke take the reigns as Sarah Connor in the Terminator sequel. We know that Clarke has a handle on complex feminist leaders and unusual creatures (Daenerys Targaryen is trying to ascend the Iron Throne, so how hard can a few cyborgs be?). Also piquing our curiosity is the plot: why has the Terminator has aged, but Sarah Connor has stayed incredibly youthful.
Kate Mara in The Fantastic Four
In the 2005/2007 Fantastic Four films, Jessica Alba played Sue Storm/Invisible women, but this time around, Kate Mara is taking the reigns as the wry and strong-willed heroine. Storm’s dual powers—she can make herself (and those around her) invisible, and she can conjure up powerful force fields to protect from her enemies, will certainly come in handy in the battle for intergalactic justice.