Female viewers are flocking to US cinemas to see the newest release from the Marvel stable, with women making up almost half of the audience. Why? It offers something often missing in superhero movies
Guardians of the Galaxy, the latest comic-book movie from the Marvel stable, has been doing brisk business in the US. Box-office receipts from its opening weekend amounted to a very healthy $94m, ahead of X:Men: Days of Future Past ($90m) and just behind Transformers: Age of Extinction ($100m), making it the third-biggest opening weekend of 2014 so far. And while that is impressive – given that this is one of Marvel's lesser-known properties – what's really getting everyone's attention is the proportion of female viewers who have flocked to the cinema. According to exit polls, almost half of the audience (44%) so far have been women, well above the usual figures for a Marvel superhero film. Why do women love Guardians of the Galaxy?
Well, let's just save the boffins in white coats (or cosplaying in elaborate homemade costumes) some time by asking a couple of questions: are women human? Do they, being in possession of the full complement of human emotions, like fun? If the answer to both those questions is "yes", then it's quite clear: women like Guardians of the Galaxy because it is a good movie. It is witty, quirky and fun, and has plenty of charm. It is a superhero film that wears its heart on its sleeve, but still has wonderfully heroic moments, big explosions, a talking – and angry – raccoon and a tree-like humanoid with a five-word vocabulary. There is much to love here.
Interestingly, the film's screenplay was co-written by a woman, Nicole Perlman. It is worth noting because Perlman is the first woman credited on a Marvel Studios film. She's no Hollywood neophyte – her screenplay, Challenger, about the space shuttle explosion, landed on the first ever Black List (a repository for the best unproduced scripts of the year) in 2005 – and she's currently adapting The Fire Sermon for DreamWorks Studios.
But it would be too easy, and more than a little stupid, to attribute Guardians' success to the gentle "feminising" touch of Perlman. There aren't huge numbers of women in Guardians, bearing feminist placards and discussing equal pay. The two women with the greatest amount of screentime – Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) are tough and cruel and physically strong. The male characters are just as ruthless when necessary, reckless and not afraid of a fight. But they, and the rest of the cast, are gifted with something crucial: a humanity that makes them 3D in a way that goes beyond the special glasses handed over at the box office, a factor often missing from superhero movies. If we're looking to ascribe the upswing of female viewers to anything, let it be this. Plus, in the case of straight women, maybe Chris Pratt's abs.
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