'Fantastic Four' Featured Just One Female Character & While Sue Storm Is Great, She's Not Enough
A lot of criticism has been directed at Fantastic Four recently, but there is one component of the movie that deserves some serious praise: the character of Sue Storm. Despite being the only named female character in the film (more on that later), and despite the fact that she's left out from what is arguably the most pivotal sequence in the film, Sue Storm, played fabulously by Kate Mara, still remains one of the best female superheroes to have hit the big screen. Admittedly, this is a small victory in a world where Black Widow doesn't even get her own merchandise, but it is a victory nonetheless. Without a doubt, Fantastic Four having Sue as its main female character is hugely important.
For one thing, she's not overly sexualized. In the film, she doesn't wear revealing clothing or heels in the lab, which makes total sense, considering she's a scientist. And, once she becomes a superhero, her suit isn't skintight, and her boobs aren't padded to make her look like a blonde Lara Croft. Furthermore, her romantic relationships with both Doom and Reed are hinted at, but never explicitly shown or stated in the film. She's not a prize to be won in some macho science fair.
From the moment the Fantastic Four get their powers, Sue is the only one in control of her new identity (spoiler alert). Reed is on the run, terrified of his newfound abilities, while both Ben and Johnny seem content with letting the government take advantage of their powers and control their lives. Sue is the only one determined not to lose who she is. She won't run because she can't leave Johnny and she wants to find a cure, but she also doesn't show signs of self-loathing or hostility towards her powers. She accepts the training the government provides for her, learns how to control her invisibility and fly using her force fields, but refuses to be used as a weapon by others.
Sue's powers are also shown as being the most useful in combat. Her force field bubbles may not look as cool as Johnny's full-body flames, but they are the only reason the Fantastic Four made it to the final battle in the first place. She is also the only one who uses her abilities strategically during the first moments of their confrontation with Dr. Doom. Sure, Mr. Fantastic Reed Richards is known as the leader of the group, and he gets to give the inspirational speech that brings the team together, but he wouldn't even be there if Sue hadn't tracked him down and brought him back. She is completely in control of her own destiny.
Unfortunately, though, Sue is the only real female character in the entire film. This isn't unique to Fantastic Four, as a lack of women keeps in tradition with most superhero films, but it's disappointing nonetheless. Given a recent study by USC, which found that barely one third of speaking roles in Hollywood films go to women, the lack of female roles in the film is especially frustrating.
Still, Sue's fate of being the lone woman is somewhat in keeping with the history of the Fantastic Four in the Marvel canon. After all, Sue was always the only female in the foursome, and was always defined by her relationships with the male members of the group — Johnny is her brother; Reed, her eventual love interest. It wasn't until later in the comics' run that Sue got to interact with other women, mostly other superheroes of the Marvel universe that would appear during crossover issues to take her place in the Fantastic Four while she went on maternity leave.
Given the lack of significant female characters in the source material, it's tough to blame Fantastic Four for not trying harder to have more women on screen — tough, but not impossible. There is one scene in particular, during which Sue has a conversation with another female official while trying to locate Reed. The other women does not get a name, which is odd given how easy it would have been to simply have her introduce herself to Sue. Would it really have been that hard to create a character for this nameless woman? On the bright side, she does get a few lines of dialogue! (It's not quite enough to pass the Bechdel Test, but it's closer than it could have been. So, cheers to you, random girl in Fantastic Four!)
Still, it's not enough for studios to occasionally surrender and give audiences one competent female superhero in a film driven by men. Characters like Sue Storm won't sustain female audiences for much longer. If the strength of Invisible Woman proves anything, it's that women deserve more. When is a Black Widow movie going to become a reality? For female comic fans everywhere, it needs to happen, now. Images: 20th Century Fox; Giphy (3)