It’s supposed to be hotter than the surface of the sun here this weekend (give or take), and it probably is no picnic wherever you are, either. Maybe you should go see a movie this weekend! Because air conditioning just feels better when it’s somebody else’s.
I’ve seen a few movies recently, and I was struck by a common similarity they all shared: summer blockbusters tend to be very male-character-heavy. In fact, in each of the three movies that I reviewed for today’s post, there really was only one leading female character, and forget about any of them passing the Bechdel test. I’m not saying this necessarily makes a bad movie, but I was fascinated by the under-representation of women in films that were otherwise artistically fulfilling and well-made.
I don’t imagine I need to say this, but obviously there are minor spoilers here within. Nothing climactic, and nothing you probably didn’t already get from previews, but be warned all the same.
1) The Lone Ranger
What it’s good for: Nothing, according to the masses. The movie bombed at the box office and was panned by critics. I, however, personally liked it, so I’m putting it here just in case your taste is as bad as mine and you still desire to see it. (If Johnny Depp had a large influence on that desire, I feel you.)
What it’s about: A retelling of the Tonto/Lone Ranger story, including their meeting, friendship and subsequent chase of one of the most notorious villains of the Old West. John Reid, the Lone Ranger, sets out to avenge his brother’s death at the hands of Butch Cavendish, a murderer and alleged cannibal.
Who is in it?: Ruth Wilson plays Rebecca Reid, the wife of the Lone Ranger’s brother, Danny. John has been in love with her from the start, and she has feelings for him as well, but they have too much respect for Danny to do anything about it. Technically, there are two female “leads” in the movie, but Helena Bonham Carter as a whore with a heart of gold has almost nothing to do with the plot and was probably inserted only as bait for Johnny Depp to do the movie, so I am not counting her as a female lead because she had about as much significance as an extra.
What does she do?: Rebecca starts out as a pretty independent woman. When her husband dies, she takes it upon herself to keep their son safe from any harm. She uses a shotgun to defend their home from the antagonist’s gang, but that is where her role as a strong female basically ends. She spends the rest of the movie being manhandled by every male character on the screen. She is threatened by multiple men, both with their penises (Cavendish gleefully anticipates raping her after he kidnaps her in the movie’s third act) and their guns, which we all know are just penis extensions. Definitely not the worst portrayal of a woman onscreen this summer, and definitely not as bad a movie as critics claim it is, but from a feminist standpoint, it could use some beefing up.
2) This Is The End
What it’s good for: A date or a night out with friends. With an 85% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, audiences have agreed that this is one of the better comedies to come out in recent years. I myself laughed my ass off at the sheer ridiculousness of the situations, and also at the wit of the writing.
What it’s about: A bunch of celebrities, playing themselves, hole up in James Franco’s apartment after the end of the world comes, hilarity ensues.
Who is in it?: Emma Watson appears as herself.
What does she do?: In the film, Watson makes her way to Franco’s house to take shelter from the apocalypse still progressing outside. The guys in the apartment comfort her, feed her and find her a warm place to sleep. The five main characters standing outside her room then have a discussion about making her feel “safe” being a woman in a house full of men. Emma Watson overhears them but misunderstands, thinking they are discussing who is going to get to rape her. She bursts of out the room armed and dangerous, demands all their supplies, beats the living shit out of them, and leaves without another word. A scene that could have been a disgusting attempt to capitalize on rape jokes actually becomes a denouncement of rape culture and a vehicle to showcase a female in power. It also pokes fun at the sexism of the male characters, who assumed Watson was at their mercy. Great scene, and I highly recommend the movie, which comments on celebrities as a microcosm for society.
3) Pacific Rim
What it’s good for: 14-year-old boys and fans of Guillermo del Toro.
What it’s about: In the near future, giant sea monsters are systematically destroying humanity, and the only thing that can stop them is a government program that build huge fighting robots, powered by two pilots who are mentally synced up. Yep, it’s Transformers meets Ender’s Game.
Who is in it?: Rinko Kikuchi plays Mako Mori, an aspiring pilot who teams up with the main character to fight the monsters.
What does she do?: At the beginning of the film, the main character, Raleigh Beckett, sees potential in Mako’s fighting abilities, and she proves her physical and mental strength to those around her. Despite this, the commanding officer of the program, Stacker Pentecost, won’t allow Mako to participate in a real battle, and Raleigh thinks it is because the monsters killed her entire family when she was a little girl, and the memories of this trauma are too overwhelming for her. However, it is eventually revealed that Pentecost saved her from that same attack. Ever since, he has been protecting her, and feels fatherly affection toward her. He won’t allow her to fight because he is afraid of losing her.
WARNING: fairly large spoiler ahead. But you shouldn’t see this movie anyway, so read on.
The films spends a lot of time exploring this damsel-in-distress/rescuing prince relationship between Mako and Pentecost and her flaws which impede her abilities, portraying her as a weak and helpless schoolgirl. At the end, when she finally does get a chance to fight, she loses control during an underwater battle. Raleigh saves her life and removes her from harm’s way like an infant and finishes the battle alone, perpetuating her “damsel” image and disempowering her. She ends the movie clinging to her savior like a lost child. I have almost never seen such a pathetic portrayal of a female character in an action movie, where women are usually potent with sexuality and power. You can do better, Guillermo.