We’re barely even a month into the new decade and we’ve already been blessed with an impressive line-up of new releases this year. From superhero movies (thank you, Marvel and DC) to classic literature adaptations and yet another adaptation of a beloved Disney classic, we’ve sifted through them all and rounded up five films featuring groundbreaking female protagonists that you shouldn’t miss.
Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Harley Quinn has sacrificed everything for love: her career as a psychiatrist, social circles and finally her own identity, only to end up abandoned by her lover in Suicide Squad. And she is sick of it. Set to the romantic swell of strings with Edith Piaf crooning about her love in the background in the devastation that follows Quinn’s abandonment, the trailer promises us front row seats to the spectacular storm coming that is Harley Quinn, as she steps out of her desperate mad love for the Joker and into another: on re-establishing her identity, discovering who she is without the influence of the Joker and what she is really capable of.
As we accompany Quinn along on her exhilarating escapades, we are privy to the battle taking place within: the righteous anger underpinning her psychologically complex and divisive, unrestrained personality and yet also, moments of self-awareness here and there as she picks a side—the fight for survival.
She’s Harley freakin’ Quinn.
Directed by photographer Autumn de Wilde, the upcoming period film comedy marks de Wilde’s directorial feature film debut, starring Split and Glass actress Anya Taylor-Joy in the titular tile. Not to mention the film’s stellar cast featuring familiar faces returning to the screen: Josh O’Connor from The Crown, musician Johnny Flynn from Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit and Love Actually star Bill Nighy. And where there’s Nighy, there also follows a guarantee of wit in his character portrayals.
With all the Austen adaptations out there, what’s promising about this one? The trailer promises a comedy of manners critiquing issues of marriage, gender, age and social status experienced by the aristocratic class, with a humourous take on the 1815 novel following the adventures of a “handsome, clever and rich” young heroine and her often more than not, disastrous matchmaking antics. Taylor-Joy orchestrates her on-screen persona’s whimsical antics with a curiously exacted arbitrariness, executing them with the capriciousness of a high-spirited young woman in Georgian-Regency England and bringing us a glimpse of life as Austen knew it. That’s some genteel comedy right there.
Watch the trailer here. Emma is slated to be released on February 14, 2020.
Get ready to be moved with all the force of a great typhoon and all the strength of a raging fire in the upcoming live action adaptation, starring Liu Yifei as the film’s eponymous hero, Hua Mulan. Directed by Niki Caro and based on the historical Chinese narrative poem, The Ballad of Mulan, the film unfolds an epic tale of courage and resilience chronicling Mulan’s transformative journey of achieving her true potential as an honoured infantry warrior, against all odds faced as a woman in Northern Wei society.
What’s different? Deviating from Disney’s beloved 1998 animated film with darker overtones and its memorable soundtrack replaced by a poignant instrumental score, the film also makes noticeable changes to its characters. While we’re dispirited to hear that our dragon guardian companion Mushu will not be reprising his role, some of his mannerisms will be taken on by a phoenix. Well, at least they kept the cricket. What we are most looking forward to, however, is how this next one will change the narrative arc and relationship dynamic between characters: the film sees ruthless Han chieftain Shan Yu’s pet saker falcon taking on a bigger role, anthropomorphised to a powerful witch with shape-shifting abilities and complete with her own motive for vengeance. Delicious.
Watch the trailer here. Mulan is slated to be released on March 27, 2020.
This long overdue film promises to reveal previously hidden facets of Natasha Romanoff and the impetus behind her switch from KGB spy to S.H.I.E.L.D agent. Set after the events of Captain America: Civil War (2016) and forced to live as a fugitive from the authorities, a change in circumstances forces Romanoff to confront her dark past and harness her skills as a former KGB assassin to tackle a new breed of assassins, “a new world of Widows”. Easy. The not so easy part? Delving deep into her personal past.
Through her reunion with family figures Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian, Melinda Vostokoff/Black Widow, Yelena Bolo/Black Widow, the film delves deep into Romanoff’s origins, of which she has been furtive about in previous films and clueing us in on her many motivations. “Before I worked for S.H.I.E.L.D., I made mistakes. But I’m done running from my past,” she says. As she heads back to where it all began, complicating the situation—or perhaps having started it all—is the supervillain Taskmaster, a bow-wielding vigilante/criminal training instructor making his screen debut. While nothing much else has been revealed about his role in this film, it is a distinct possibility that the new generation of Widows have been taken under his tutelage and that the two will face off at some point.
Watch the trailer here. Black Widow is slated to be released on May 1st, 2020.
Wonder Woman 1984
We’re pretty pumped about this one: Gal Gadot returns as the otherworldly Amazonian warrior princess, Diana Prince, in the upcoming sequel to the 2017 DC Comics live action superhero film. But hold that thought, because there’s more good news to follow. The film introduces Saturday Night Live cast member and comedian Kristen Wiig as supervillainess Cheetah, taking on the role of Wonder Woman’s archenemy. This role marks Cheetah’s live-action debut in the DC Extended Universe, introducing the audience to her abilities which exceedingly surpass those of the most powerful felines.
Possessing extraordinary agility, unparalleled gymnastic reflexes with heightened senses of smell, hearing and night vision for stealth, this forcible combination renders Cheetah an opponent worthy of challenging Wonder Woman in physical battles. Set in the ’80s, the film will see Diana Prince taking on Cheetah and Maxwell Lord, a shrewd and powerful businessman portrayed by Game of Thrones actor Pedro Pascal, also making his cinematic debut in the film.
Watch the trailer here. Wonder Woman 1984 is slated to be released on June 5, 2020.