New Age Heroes

War torn and dark, wrath stains her face black. Exhaust, the deadly smoke thicker than paint, hides her yearning eyes. Her command, stronger than the machine that roars towards the freedom that fumes within her heart, she drives furiously towards hope. Imperator Furiosa.

Her power perfectly manifested in the visual poetry of her hands. They are enchanting and haunted, moving like ink in water, ghostly and fast. Her bewitching pain lures you in, close, quiet, deadly. Veiled in pain, she wrought destruction. But in hope, sacrifice and love, she emerged a hero. Scarlet Witch.  

Enticingly elusive, she evades detection despite her radiance. She is magnetic; her mystery is sharper than the knife she placed in your side. She is cunning, dangerous, and conflicted, wrestling with her misguided allegiances and the inherent sense of good that lives within her. Isla Faust.

Last week, I talked about my childhood, raving about dreams being realized on screen. Now, as an adult and more importantly, as a father, my dreams have come true in a different way. I’ve witnessed magic unfold its tiny hands to hold mine. I’ve heard a dream gently whisper and call out for me. Yes, of course, I am talking about my beautiful little Hazel Mae. And up until now, I was having a hard time thinking about female heroes that she would be able to look up to in the future. But, if you haven’t noticed, this year, 2015, was the year of the female hero. As the title picture illustrates, this year, we had character after character wash away all preconceived notions of female heroes in film. Much can be said about woman in movies and their portrayals throughout film history, but I think major strides were made this year in developing strong, independent and fearless female heroes. Obviously, throughout the years we’ve had our fair share of awesome female heroes like Sarah Connor, Ripley, Buffy, and more recently with Black Widow, Katniss or Tris. But, I don’t think we’ve ever seen so many great characters in this close succession before and it fills me with joy, knowing that there are more heroes coming our way that both my daughter and I will be able to geek out over together.

2015: Driver. Avenger. Spy.

As mentioned above, Furiosa (Mad Max: Fury Road, played by Charlize Theron), Isla Faust (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, played by Rebecca Ferguson) and Scarlet Witch (Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, played by Elizabeth Olson) owned this year. The female hero was unrelenting, strong, and intelligent and they gave all of their male counterparts a run for their money. The most exciting thing about this is how comfortable they were at completely embodying that strength and confidence in their portrayal of their particular character. Nothing in their depiction seemed over the top or unexpected, it was all very natural and experienced. If one of our female heroes did something incredible, it was never perceived as extraordinary solely for the fact that it was done by a woman. We therefore weren't ever distracted from the broader elements taking place in each film and it let us, as an audience, buy into the reality each character inhabited. A reality in which women were no longer damsels in distress, but instead, capable and compelling heroes in their own right. That’s awesome. Mainly because, Hazel will one day look at heroes like this and hopefully think that she doesn’t have to go out of her way to be special, to appear strong and confident. She can be all of those things, and more, without having to compromise who she is for the sake of some arcane sense of validation from others.

What I loved most of these three was that none of them were the same. They were unique characters who had their own set of strengths and weaknesses, merits and faults. Which, in and of itself, is a testament to the role women now play in the larger movie making landscape. There is no simple or exact way of portraying a female hero. Furiosa wore the stern unflinching gaze of a leader on her face. This iron disposition seems necessary if one is to be a soldier and General of a ravenous group of motor vehicle maniacs. She carried with her this air of reverence and respect and you could see it. It was raw and powerful. Her eyes roared like engines blazing in desert winds. Yet, her heart was fueled by compassion and freedom. Her blood was thick and alive, like the green place she raced towards. She is everything a hero is: strong, unrelenting and fearless.

We also have Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff. I know some of you might be wondering why I went with her rather than Black Widow. The truth is, I feel like Black Widow, though awesome as she is, she feels a bit flat and one note. We can see that she is deadly, she is a hero, she is funny, etc but there seems to be a lack of depth to her character. A depth I feel is fully fleshed out by Elizabeth Olson as Scarlet Witch. Her pain and vulnerability make her rich and accessible as a character. And even as an "enhanced" being, she is perhaps the most human of the other heroes. Through her physical torment, emotional torture and personal loss, we are genuinely affected and are forced to sympathize with her. In turn, when her motivation for going after the Avengers, specifically Tony Stark, is revealed, you understand why she feels compelled to align herself with the titular villain and there is something poetically tragic, beautiful and universally human about her quest for revenge against Tony. And though her insatiable thirst for justice pits her against our heroes, in the end, her pursuit to preserve life shifts her allegiance and births the rise of a hero. She is everything a hero becomes: compassionate, selfless, and vulnerable.

Finally, there is Isla Faust, a cunning, sleek and intelligent spy tasked with infiltrating and defeating a criminal organization known as “The Syndicate”. What was great about her and this movie was the fact that she consistently found herself going toe-to-toe with men. She was never relegated to the split screen treatment, that is, as opposed to what we see in many other movies where a female leadis only seen as being able to outdo another “strong” female character. In this latest installment of the M.I. franchise, she is often seen out-striking and outsmarting everyone, including Mr. Hunt (Tom Cruise) himself. Her mystique is her greatest quality. Often shrouded in mystery and intrigue, she is consistently one step ahead of all her adversaries and she makes it look effortless. I would be as bold as to say, she is perhaps the best female spy we've seen on screen so far. Being the ultimate personification of both cloak and dagger. She is everything a hero should be: unabashed, confident, and smart.

Future Heroes

I am really excited about the upcoming heroes coming our way soon. Here's my list of who I am most excited about seeing in future movies:

  1. Captain Marvel (Release Date: July 6, 2018)
  2. Wonder Woman (Release Date: June 23, 2017)
  3. Harley Quinn (Suicide Squad; Release Date: August 5, 2016)
  4. Storm (X-Men: Apocalypse; Release Date: May 27, 2016)
  5. Jubilee (X-Men: Apocalypse; Release Date: May 27, 2016)
    • Honorable Mention: Psylocke (X-Men: Apocalypse; Release Date: May 27, 2016)

All of these look amazing and it seems that we are headed into a Golden Age of awesome female heroes.

Again, I am extremely excited for all the movies Hazel and I will be able to watch together in the future. She will be four by the time Captain Marvel comes out. So we will definitely be in line and in costume for that movie. Cannot wait.

What are your thoughts? Do you think these characters will be good? Are the actresses currently cast as each character a good fit? What is your ideal casting for Captain Marvel? Ronda Rousey? She looks the part, but can she act it? Let us know in the comment section below, or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Later kids!