There are a lot of complaints you can hurl at Marvel about their comic book movies, but give them this: They've been pretty gutsy in terms of who they've picked to direct them. Before "Iron Man," who in his right mind would have considered Jon Favreau, a guy whose most successful film was a kids' movie with Will Ferrell? But Marvel took a chance and got two hit films out of it. Same with Kenneth Branagh for "Thor": It was a head-scratcher that ended up paying off. But since Branagh won't be back for the sequel, Marvel had to come up with someone new. And once again they're thinking differently: They picked "Monster" director Patty Jenkins for "Thor 2." She's a woman. That shouldn't be notable, but in the world of comic book movies, it really, really is.
With Jenkins, Marvel has selected a director who's only made one feature, although that one did win Charlize Theron a Best Actress Oscar. Still, that was a gritty indie drama, which would seem pretty far afield from the gods-and-humans fantasy world of Thor. But Marvel seems particularly willing to take risks with their hammer-empowered hero: This is the franchise, after all, that didn't mind offending its fan base by hiring a (great) black actor to play a white character in the first film.
But the real news, inevitably, will be Jenkins' gender. She's the first woman director on a Marvel film. In fact, she's the first female filmmaker of any major studio comic book movie. Actually, that got us thinking: Have there been any women making any of the major behind-the-camera creative decisions on any of these recent comic book movies? Producer Laura Ziskin, who recently died, was an instrumental force behind the Sam Raimi "Spider-Man" trilogy. Amy Pascal, who runs Sony, is overseeing "The Amazing Spider-Man." Jane Goldman was one of the writers on "X-Men: First Class" and "Kick-Ass." Denise Di Novi produced "Catwoman." Emma Thomas is Christopher Nolan's producing partner. (They're also married.) Is that all? We may be missing a woman or two, but, yes, it's a very small group. Now think about all the comic book movies that have been made.
We don't want to be all "Support 'Bridesmaids' to prove that people will see comedies with women!" about "Thor 2." If it's good or it's bad, it won't be because it was directed by someone with two X chromosomes. But we do sorta love that for a genre that sometimes thinks it's catering only to a male audience, even though there are plenty of women who love these movies too, a women is finally getting her chance. Yes, it's all happiness and sunshine ... just so long as no one brings up the little matter of "Aeon Flux," the disastrous film adaptation of the popular animated series. Though not technically a comic book movie, that one starred Theron and was also directed by an indie female director, Karyn Kusama. Let's hope "Thor 2" turns out better than that.