Marvel 'Avengers' women muscle into spotlight in 'Ultron'

Wed Apr 22, 2015 8:06am EDT
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As the sole female Avenger, Scarlett Johansson had a bone to pick with Hollywood: not only were there few female superheroes, but they tended to be dumbed down.

So when Marvel Studios brought in another formidable woman for summer action film "Avengers: Age of Ultron," Johansson, who reprises her role as the feisty Black Widow, was happy to see "a step in the right direction."

Out in U.S. theaters on May 1, the Walt Disney Co film reunites Black Widow with 2012's "The Avengers" superhero ensemble of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk and Hawk-Eye as they fight a villain bent on large-scale destruction.

Now comes Scarlet Witch, played by Elizabeth Olsen, one of the most powerful Marvel comics characters, known for her thought-altering magical powers, to join the male-dominated superhero ranks. Three other women play key roles.

Boosting the female quotient makes sense as women fans could help push "Age of Ultron" past its predecessor at the box office and possibly make it the top-grossing film of summer 2015.

The film throws a larger spotlight on its female characters, led by Johansson's Black Widow holding her own in complex fight scenes and finding romance with Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).

The evolution of female characters in Marvel's superhero movies "has been slow," Johansson said, since she took the helm as Black Widow in 2010's "Iron Man 2."

"We haven't really been able to explore the depth of the character behind the superhero - that's what makes characters interesting," she said. "It's nice to see the introduction to Scarlet Witch, and I know that there will be more to come."   Continued...

Cast member Scarlett Johansson poses at the European premiere of "Avengers: Age of Ultron" at Westfield shopping centre, Shepherds Bush, London April 21, 2015. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth