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Captain Marvel, Dark Phoenix & Wonder Woman 1984: Why Can’t Female-led Superhero Movies Be Set in the Present?

In the next two years, there will be three superhero movies named after female characters. Captain Marvel on March 8th, 2019, Dark Phoenix on June 7th, 2019 , and Wonder Woman 1984 on June 5th, 2020. Three completely different universes with one glaring thing in common: none of them take place in the present day. So while I’m happy to be seeing more women taking leading roles in superhero movies, why can’t they be in the present?

Captain Marvel is the second MCU movie after Infinity War, and just like Ant-Man and the Wasp, it takes place before the snap. This is more of a complaint with all MCU properties and not just Captain Marvel, but I want to see the new world post snap. I want to feel the gravity of the situation but right now it feels like Marvel is scared to address it. They left the TV shows to try, but they were all told too late to really involve Infinity War at all.

So why not have Captain Marvel be set in the present? She can be one of the last heroes kicking all the butt that Tony and Steve are too depressed to kick now that all of their friends are dead. It gives her a dog in the fight once Avengers 4 rolls around. She’ll be the one to pick up the pieces and bring the Avengers back together against Thanos. Maybe she’ll still be doing that in Avengers 4. The problem is, if it does happen in Captain Marvel, it will only be at the end. Setting the movie in the 90’s only brings up questions of “okay well where was she all this time?”, and they’re going to have to answer that.

Arguably, Dark Phoenix has the most understandable excuse, being that the entire current Fox X-Universe is in the past (minus Deadpool but he’s an outlier), and they tried Dark Phoenix in the present once before with X-Men: The Last Stand, and we all know how that went over. We’re also getting an entirely different feeling to this movie than the other two because our title character is the bad guy. They could make Jean the protagonist like Thanos was for Infinity War, but she’s still the big bad that everyone is trying to stop. I can’t really see a way for this movie to be in the present, so X-Universe, you get a pass for now, though after New Mutants I don’t know how long you’ll be around. Pour one out for the franchise that’s been here the longest, and was just bought out.

Wonder Woman 1984 is the last DCEU movie with a set release date. With the status of the franchise being up in the air, it’s understandable why DC and Patty Jenkins wouldn’t want to advance the present storyline until they know what that is. Then why is Aquaman not set in the past? Or Shazam!?

Wonder Woman is going to be in DC (the city not the company) for this movie. She’s always been a feminist icon and I would love to see her in the US capital during a time where just being a woman is a political statement. What I’m saying is I want to see Diana use the lasso of truth on Brett Kavanaugh. Okay, maybe that’s too much to ask from a superhero movie, but I want to see her reaction to these events. She’s someone who has been reactionary this entire franchise. She left Themyscira after hearing about WWI, she joined Bruce and Clark when she heard about Doomsday, and she helped build the Justice League when she heard about the mother boxes being stolen. She is a character who reacts to the wider world around her, unlike her male counterparts where fights tend to be personal. Patty Jenkins said she wanted to see Diana during the Cold War. That’s fine. I just think now is a time we need Wonder Woman more than ever.

The cynical side of me believes that setting female led movies in the past is playing it safe. If they were in the present and they failed, then it’s much harder to ignore than if they failed in the past. If Wonder Woman had failed, DC could have easily ignored something that happened 100 years ago. If Captain Marvel fails, then she has no impact on the precious MCU timeline and no big deal. If Dark Phoenix fails…well…I don’t think Fox cares that much if it fails or not. We are finally in a time where female led superhero movies are getting the attention and care they deserve, but companies are still playing it way too safe by setting them before their most recent films in their timelines. I’m optimistic that Birds of Prey is going to break this mold, because women seem to be the only hope for the DCEU’s future. Marvel, on the other hand, doesn’t have any other female led movies upcoming, and Fox just might be over for good.

Are you excited for these female-led blockbusters? How do you feel about them all being set in the past? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter!

About the author

Alexandra Mirabal