Lately, when it comes to Marvel characters and movies, the most talked about isn’t Black Panther or Captain Marvel. It’s not Captain America or Iron Man either. It’s one of Marvel’s quirkiest and oddest characters, Squirrel Girl. And it’s all thanks to a throwaway comment from an Oscar-nominated actress.
Who is Squirrel Girl? Well, she’s a teen with the powers of a squirrel–superhuman speed, agility and strength, prehensile tail, and the ability to talk to squirrels. She was created by Will Murray and Steve Ditko for an Iron Man story in the 1991 anthology Marvel Super-Heroes vol. 2, #8. In it, she rescues Iron Man from the clutches of Doctor Doom, defeating the villain by herself with the help of her squirrel friends. Yes, a villain that the four superpowered members of the Fantastic Four had to work together to defeat was taken out by a girl and a bunch of squirrels.
The character would have been consigned to the dustbin of history if it wasn’t for writer Dan Slott. He reintroduced the character in a miniseries for a comedy superhero team called The Great Lakes Avengers, which Squirrel Girl would eventually become a member. Over the next decade, the character became a cult favorite, as her plucky, can-do attitude and her uncanny ability to defeat the toughest opponents caused her to become a favorite of many fans.
Her ability to defeat bad guys far out of her weight class is a big part of her charm, a quality about her that creators carried over from her first appearance. What opponents did she defeat in the comics? How about Deadpool? Or Wolverine? And you know Thanos, the cosmic bad guy Marvel has spent years building up and the guy that all MCU will have to join together to defeat? Squirrel Girl beat him too, all by herself. You can also argue that she defeated planet-eating villain Galactus, but all she did was convince him to eat another planet and leave Earth alone.
However, while Squirrel Girl does have a following and has starred in two recent series for Marvel and is a member of the Avengers in the comics, she doesn’t seem to be a character that would be on the fast track at getting the film treatment. Or, at least she might not have been before Anna Kendrick got involved.
Kendrick was doing the press rounds for Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, and, as is the case with most interviews these days, was asked by Net-A-Porter what superhero she’d like to play if she got the chance. Guess who she chose?
My brother sent me a Squirrel Girl comic because he thinks I should [play her]. I don’t know what Squirrel Girl does other than being half squirrel, but I can be half squirrel!
It seems like a pretty innocuous, off the cuff remark that should be taken as being tongue in cheek. The Internet took it as sounding like the best idea in the history of ideas. Twitter exploded with pleas to make it happen. Fans who were good at photo manipulation created the image to the right, which shows what Kendrick would look like in character. There was a whole bunch of enthusiasm for a role that Kendrick casually mentioned she’d like to play in a movie Marvel Studios does not have in active development. Pretty weird.
But wait, it gets weirder! Shannon Purser, who is receiving some acclaim for her role of Barb in Netflix’s buzzworthy TV series Stranger Things, was interviewed for Revelist to promote that show. Once again, the topic of superhero roles came up and Purser, you guessed it, picked Squirrel Girl:
A huge comics (and cosplay) fan, Purser dreams of joining the Marvel universe one day, and she already has her ideal role already picked out — Squirrel Girl.
“I think Squirrel Girl is just adorable but at the same time is totally boss and completely awesome. I think people need a character like that,” Purser said. “It’s easy in the superhero realm to feel like a lot of the female superheroes we see are grown women who are super responsible and know what their purpose is and that kind of thing. Squirrel Girl is a little bit younger and like a real person, trying to figure out her life and then also having to save the world. I love that.”
So now we have two actresses, one an Academy Award nominated veteran, the other a buzzed-about newcomer, expressing interested in playing a superheroine who might never come to the big screen.
And if that wasn’t weird enough, now we have Edgar Wright getting involved, putting his support behind his ex-girlfriend Kendrick:
In Scott Pilgrim: Superman, Cap America, Human Torch, Punisher, Cap Marvel, Lego Robin & The Atom. Get @AnnaKendrick47 a Squirrel Girl film.
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) August 4, 2016
For those of you who do not know, Anna Kendrick played the lead character’s sister, Stacey, in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Wright’s cast also included Michael Cera (who voiced LEGO Robin in The LEGO Movie), Brie Larson (recently confirmed for Captain Marvel), Chris Evans (Who played Johnny Storm in Tim Story’s Fantastic Four films and Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as Jensen in The Losers, Curtis in Snowpiercer, and voiced Casey Jones in 2007’s animated TMNT), Brandon Routh (who was the lead in Superman Returns and plays The Atom on the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow) and a cameo by Thomas Jane (the second big screen Punisher).
Obviously, Wright wants to have every cast member in Scott Pilgrim to star as a superhero in some other movie, somewhere (and also having some good natured fun with Kendrick, judging from their conversation his tweet spawned). But, by adding his two cents, he has fans asking (or hoping) he’d direct the Squirrel Girl film, of which none is planned or has even been discussed officially by Marvel Studios.
So, all of this seems like a whole lot of hubbub about casting a character that Marvel Studios has no intention of making a into a film…or do they? Back in July of 2014, Marvel applied for a trademark for Squirrel Girl, something they typically only do for character about to make the move into TV or film. While the trademark specifically applies to the printed medium, some at the time asked if a live-action version of the character was in the works. However, Marvel Studios has films planned out to 2028, and a Squirrel Girl film has not been mentioned or hinted by them at all.
But could the interest from Kendrick, Purser and the fans jump start a project? Perhaps. Channing Tatum got a Gambit film off the ground and Ryan Reynolds and positive fan response to test footage got Deadpool made. But a lot of thing have to happen before we see a Squirrel Girl film. One, Wonder Woman and, more importantly, Captain Marvel need to be smash hits. While Anna Kendrick might actually have an as good if not better career than Channing Tatum (she was involved with two huge franchises–Twilight and Pitch Perfect–in addition to that Oscar nod), Hollywood’s gender politics think women can’t open action movies. They need to be proven wrong (again).
Next, rights issues need to be squared away. When she first appeared, she was a mutant, which might put her under the Marvel characters Fox has the rights for. However, Marvel later retroactively changed her origin into that of an altered human, a sure sign that it was telling Fox to keep its hands off (another clue, if you want to view it as such, that Marvel Studios might have plans for the character).
After that, well, you’d have the typical stuff–finding a spot on the schedule, choosing between Kendrick and Purser, getting a script and director (maybe Wright) and film it. No problem.
In all likelihood, all this hullabaloo changed the chances of a Squirrel Girl film from “never going to happen” to “probably is never going to happen.” However, this story has gone on longer than I anticipated. It will be interesting to see how far it goes and what develops because of it.