Have you heard? Thor's a woman!
That's right, Marvel has announced a brand new era under the God of Thunder, one that will strike into action this coming autumn, and the comic folk reckon it's time for a female to take the reigns!
I'm not a comic book guy - I've never read one - but this sounds like a tremendous idea to me. It's fresh, it's different and it could make for an enticing Doctor Who-esque transformation scene in Phase 12 of Marvel's Cinematic Universe. (Wishful thinking).
Speaking of thinking, I've been doing some for once. In the past, female ass-kickers have been relatively hard to come by - certainly when pitted against the numerous male action heroes who've regularly chewed up screen minutes. Part-time singer and full-time prophet Bob Dylan knows the score though: The Times They Are a-Changin'.
In alphabetical order, here's a rabble of females who have proven that they are more than capable of handling themselves in a variety of contexts, without any required male (or otherwise) assistance. Some are quite literally butt-whippers, whereas others display a different form of mental vitality. They each transcend their numerous counterparts for all the right reasons. Alongside Ellen Ripley, these girls have passed the Bechdel Test with flying colours.
SPOILER WARNING: There may be a few small spoilers sprinkled in amongst the forthcoming ass-kicking.
Clarice Starling - The Silence of the Lambs
I don't think there'd be too many volunteers offering up their services in regards to taking down one crazed psychopath whilst being assisted by another. Clarice is up for the task though. Jodie Foster plays the FBI student with purpose, yet ensures Clarice retains a genuine sense of humanity in the face of pure nastiness. And then there's that nerve-shredding showdown in the darkness.
Elizabeth Shaw - Prometheus
The film is one of modern cinema's most divisive flicks, but there's no denying the temerity of our lead character Elizabeth. She has her beliefs and she retains them through thick and thin. And when face to face with hybrid human-alien creatures. Noomi Rapace totally convinces as Elizabeth - in the end, we believe in her.
Erin - You're Next
Erin doesn't even need a surname, a sharp object will do. Sharni Vinson plays a character who single-handedly takes it upon herself to bend the rules of horror. Instead of whimpering in the corner like those around her, Erin intelligently thinks through her plentiful plans and is the only cool head in a house of boiling brains.
Katniss Everdeen - The Hunger Games
Jennifer Lawrence has magnificently portrayed District Twelve's unlikely symbol of hope in two Hunger Games instalments thus far, with another pair of films still to come. Katniss is the poster girl of the moment; athletic, strong, single-minded and entranced by familial protection. The bow-wielding warrior is, quite simply, a tremendous character.
M - Skyfall
In a franchise ravaged by ill-conceived female characters involved in poorly judged scenes alongside the macho mainstay, Skyfall's true star isn't Bond - it's M. Judi Dench finally receives a meaty role that she can sink her teeth into and the wonderful actress obliges with heartfelt glee and heart-wrenching sorrow. M doesn't need Bond, forget it. Bond needs her.
Marge Gunderson - Fargo
It's role swap time. As her husband slouches at home, Marge Gunderson wanders the freezing streets of Fargo, North Dakota bumping heads with and subsequently sorting out criminals. We laugh alongside Frances McDormand's character, rather than at her, as she qualms potentially devastating issues with well-founded confidence. Oh, and she does it all whilst seven months pregnant. What a woman.
Maya Lambert - Zero Dark Thirty
Tenacity. That's the word perhaps most apt when it comes to describing Maya Lambert. Jessica Chastain deserved an Oscar for her turn as the CIA analyst who throws herself head first into taking down the world's most wanted terrorist. Despite facing countless obstacles, both Maya's psychological durability and mental smarts win out. Incredibly, the character is based on a real person.
Ofelia - Pan's Labyrinth
Ivana Baquero's Ofelia is an abundance of exuberance and mindfulness. For a moment forget the whole 'living with an autocratic and vile general in post-Civil War Spain' horror - Ofelia must also contend with her ailing mother whom she loves dearly and could lose at any moment. The kid has a kick-ass attitude. She's charming, youthful and a spot of pure authenticity in a world of evil.
Rita Vrataski - Edge of Tomorrow
The Angel of Verdun, or Full Metal Bitch. Either is applicable, though Rita Vrataski embodies a combination of the two. On one hand, she's a calculated warrior focused simply on winning a seemingly un-winnable war. On the other, Rita relays a genuine sense of care and will. Emily Blunt is brilliant in the role. She kicks Tom Cruise's ass. More than once. It's great. (Sorry Tom).
River Tam - Serenity
Following on from her appearance in Firefly, River Tam retains an element of mystery and intrigue. We know indefinitely that she's a genius, which is likely why she's the prime target of The Alliance. It turns out that River is also one heck of an ass-kicker too, bearing fighting skills that'd put Jackie Chan to shame. Summer Glau admirably balances inner vulnerability with outer fortitude.
Let's hope we see more fulfilling female ass-kickers. Hollywood, keep 'em coming!
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