The Women of Cinema: 2020
It’s no secret that there are some kick-ass films coming out this year, many of them featuring women either as major characters or behind the scenes. Be it a superhero flick, a new spin on an old classic, or a nail-biting horror – here are just some of the female-led movies you won’t want to miss in 2020.
Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
This is, of course, the highly anticipated continuation of the wild ride that is Harley’ Quinn's character arc. Coming off the back of the love-it-or-hate-it Suicide Squad, audiences fell in love with Robbie’s portrayal of the psychotic baseball bat-wielding member of the Squad. However this time around, Harley looks like she’s going to be anything but secondary, and though the title may suggest a team effort, this is very much the Harley Quinn solo movie we all deserve.
From a lovesick, obsessive, and violent girlfriend of the Clown Prince of Crime, springs forth what seems to be a twice as badass, newly emancipated Harley who has truly come into her own. Flying solo and no longer under the protection of Puddin,’ Harley must defend herself and her new friends against Black Mask and his lackey, Victor Zsasz.
Not only does she play the eponymous character, but Robbie is also the producer and pitched the idea to Warner Bros in 2013. The film boasts a female director; Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs) and writer – Christina Hodson (Bumblebee).
Along with Robbie, we have Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim VS The World) as Huntress, Jurnee Smollett-Bell (True Blood, Underground) as Black Canary, Rosie Perez (Fearless) as Renee Montoya, Chris Messina (Julie and Julia) as Victor Zsasz, Ella Jay Basco (Grey’s Anatomy, Teachers) as Cassandra Cain, Ali Wong (Ralph Breaks The Internet), and Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting and Doctor Sleep) as Black Mask.
Coming at us on Valentine’s Day, we have the latest in a run of very successful literary adaptations of Emma. Directed by Autumn De Wilde (The Postman Dreams) and starring Anya Taylor-Joy (Split), this reimagination of Jane Austen’s most adored comedy, written by Eleanor Cotton dramatizes the life of the eponymous Emma, who’s beauty and wit is unmatched by those around her.
Emma occupies most of her time with matchmaking and takes a special interest in marrying off her new friend Harriet Smith to Mr Elton, going as far as to persuade her to refuse a proposal from a young, intelligent farmer. All in all, the story showcases the ups and downs of high society life and the peril of playing with love. One of the novels more popular incarnations was the 1995 cult classic Clueless, starring Alicia Silverstone.
The BBC also created a four-part mini-series in 2009, which garnered mixed reviews from critics. Bearing this in mind, it’ll be interesting to see where this new Emma stands among the rest and if the new decade will bring it any new brilliance, or will it simply remain “Handsome, Clever, Rich.”
On the 26th of February, we are blessed with another book-to-film adaption – Invisible Man, directed by Leigh Whannel (Saw, Dead Silence, Insidious). It is a loose adaption of the novel of the same name by H.G. Wells, published in 1887 and solidified Wells’ reputation as the father of science fiction.
The film stars Elizabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale), Storm Reid (A Wrinkle in Time), and Oliver Jackson–Cohen (The Haunting of Hill House). The film tells the story of a woman named Cecilia and the suicide of her ex-boyfriend Griffin. When Griffin leaves Cecilia a vast amount of money in his will, she immediately becomes suspicious that his death was not all it seemed to be.
As a psychological thriller, the film tackles the very real issue of domestic abuse. In an almost ironic turn of events, Johnny Depp - the man that not too long ago was set to resurrect the character of the Invisible Man for (the doomed) Dark Universe, that would feature classic monsters such as The Invisible Man. With Depp enthralled in his own scandal Moss herself has commented on the importance of this central theme of the film.
In an interview with Empire magazine, Moss explains- "You literally have a man who is invisible, you can’t see him, she’s saying he’s there, that he’s attacking her, abusing her, manipulating her, and everyone is saying 'relax it’s fine.' And she keeps saying 'no, he’s alive, he’s doing this!' And nobody believes her. The analogy is incredibly clear."
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, it’ll be interesting to examine the film's reception, especially if it does justice to the original story whilst also bringing women’s issues into the spotlight.
On the 27th of March, we have the latest in what is now a pretty lengthy line of Disney live-action remakes. Mulan, Disney’s very own warrior princess (this time being played by Liu Yifei) is returning to our screen 22 years after its original release.
The plot seems almost the same as the original, ‘A young Chinese maiden disguises herself as a male warrior in order to save her father.’ However, there are a few notable differences. First of all, Shan Yu does not feature in the film. One of Disney’s most intimidating villains will be replaced by two new characters; Bori Khan played by Jason Lee (Dragon: A Bruce Lee Story), a Hun warrior, hell-bent on avenging his father; and Xian Lang played by Gong Lee (Memoirs of A Geisha), a shapeshifting witch and ally to Bori Khan.
Captain Li Shang who stole many a heart back in 1998 will also unfortunately not feature, instead, we have a new character called Chen Honghui, played by Yoson An (Mortal Engines), a fellow recruit to Mulan and her greatest ally. Despite reports early on that neither Mushu nor any original songs would feature in the film, it has now been reported that both will be a part of the remake but not in their original forms.
Mushu will feature, sadly not voiced by Eddie Murphy, and in the form of a Phoenix, an attempt from Disney for the story to ring a little truer to Chinese tradition. While the music will feature as instrumental versions of the original songs, so from the looks of it fans will have some of the best parts of the 1998 classic in some new exciting ways.
In recent years Disney’s remakes have garnered success in part because of how they update their female leads for the 21st Century, making Belle into an inventor, and Jasmine into more of a headstrong character. Mulan already flipped the traditional Disney Princess archetype on its head back in 1998, and will undoubtedly continue to inspire children and grown-ups alike in 2020.
Moving along to May we have a very exciting instalment in the MCU, the very long-awaited and heavily anticipated Black Widow solo film. Set to hit cinemas on May 1st with Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh (Midsommar), David Harbour (Stranger Things), and Rachel Weisz (The Mummy), the superhero flick is directed by Cate Shortland (Berlin Syndrome).
Set at a crucial point in the MCU timeline, we see Black Widow after the events of the cataclysmic Civil War, which fans will remember for creating a huge rift in The Avengers. Now it seems Natasha is on the run and is being forced to tackle the demons of her past. When speaking to Entertainment Tonight (ET), Johansson described Natasha in the new film as “a woman who has come into her own and is making independent active choices in her life” claiming that Natasha is “in a dark place where she’s got no one to call.”
What we can be sure of is that it’ll be very interesting to see the Widow outside of her normal team setting. Harbour’s character is not dissimilar to his most famous role of Jim Hopper, describing his character to ET as a “fatherly figure” who “both comically, and tragically has flaws.” For many fans, it’ll be bittersweet seeing Natasha on the big screen after the tragic events of Endgame, but we can't wait for her to finally tackle all that red in her ledger.
Moving swiftly along to June, the highly anticipated sequel to the 2017 film Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot, and directed by Patty Jenkins. Wonder Woman 1984 will see the return of one of the most iconic heroes of all time, but also her long lost love interest, Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine.
Some new iconic characters are being added with Kristen Wiig being cast as Wonder Woman’s formidable foe, Cheetah, and Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord a man who is hugely influential in the formation of the Justice League. Wonder Woman grossed $308 million at the box office in 2017 and with it already being one of the most anticipated movies of the year, it is likely to do even better this time around.
Jenkins is reportedly very excited to be back in the director's chair, as she told Entertainment Weekly, “It’s a beautiful story to tell, an important time to tell it and with the people I love.” Jenkins also claims that this film will feature “another great love story” but gave no allusion to the coupling of Steve and Diana. Could this mean another heartthrob for our favourite warrior princess? Wonder Woman is Gal Gadot’s fourth time playing Diana Prince and with this film set to be a smash hit, we will hopefully be seeing her more and more in the future.
Finally, we head to September 2020 when the latest instalment of the Halloween franchise will be hitting our screens. Directed by David Gordon Green and starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle reprising their roles as Laurie Strode and Michael Myers. This will be a direct sequel to the 2018 film and the twelfth instalment of the franchise overall. Whilst not much else is known about it, if it's half as scary as the last one it's sure to be a hit.
What are you looking forward to most? And why is 2019 so female-centric? Seems Hollywood has finally taken female heroines seriously after years of only a handful of noteworthy characters. Hopefully, 2020 will provide the box office to prove its an investment worth making.