‘Red Sonja’ Film Takes a Concerning New Direction of Inclusion

As we reported back in February of this year, Millennium Films had repeatedly delayed shooting Bryan Singer’s “Red Sonja” movie in the wake of recent accusations of sexual assault and misconduct against him. Now news has come of regarding Singer’s replacement, and it isn’t a boost of confidence to those hoping for a rousing adventure with the red-headed “chick in chain mail.” I think we can expect something else entirely.  

Transparent creator Jill Soloway has taken over the Red Sonja film from Bryan Singer. The writer, filmmaker and TV creator whose credits include the Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning Transparent and I Love Dick, is known for her  prominent activism for LGBTQ representation in the arts as well as one of the founding members of the #TimesUp and #5050by2020 campaigns to eradicate sexual misconduct and gender inequity in the workplace.

Millennium Films, known for action movies such as The Expendables, Rambo, and Hellboy, went back to the drawing board on Red Sonja earlier this year after Bryan Singer was dropped as the film’s director. Deadline reports that Soloway is coming in to take over with a “bold new take”, and gives the film “much better optics” after she brought on her partner Andrea Sperling onto the project as a producer.

“I can’t wait to bring Red Sonja’s epic world to life,” Soloway told Deadline. “Exploring this powerful mythology and evolving what it means to be a heroine is an artistic dream come true.”

It is the first deal for Soloway since directing The Transparent Movie Musicale Finale that this fall will wrap Soloway’s groundbreaking Amazon series creation. Casting will start anew for an actress to play Red Sonja, who originated as a comic book heroine in the 1970s and has appeared in hundreds of comics over the decades, with Dynamite Entertainment still publishing them today. It will be the second film treatment for the character following the 1985 actioner that starred Brigitte Nielsen and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

No one seems concerned in the least that Soloway has zero experience with actioners or event-sized action movies. Deadline proclaims with verve that “the writer-director has been a pioneer ushering in inclusion“. The article also mentions that while “Millennium’s action and genre slates have had mostly men at the helm, the company has made an emphasis on become more inclusive in hiring filmmakers”. What this has to do with making an excellent sword and sorcery adventure film is anyone’s guess.

Originally created as a foil to Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja is the flame-haired she-devil with a sword, and is one of the most feared and desired warrior-women of the Hyborian Age, who will lie with no man unless he first defeats her in fair combat.

Red Sonja was the premiere archetype for the scantily clad, beautiful but deadly swords-woman; who has appeared in comics, B&W illustrated magazines, novels, her own movie, and other assorted venues; who seems like a logical female addition beside Howard’s other sword & sorcery creations of Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane, and Bran Mak Morn—but she was not created by Robert E. Howard. No. The she-devil everyone knows about is the Roy Thomas comic book creation that made her first appearance in 1973, thirty-seven years after Robert E. Howard committed suicide, but was loosely based on Howard’s Red Sonya character. 

Millennium Films has been trying to get their Red Sonja film off the ground for nearly a decade, beginning with Robert Rodriguez and Rose McGowan’s take on the role. While Bryan Singer was already considered a poor choice for this project, I’m unconvinced that Soloway is the right choice for a film that will appeal to legions of Red Sonja fans who have never gotten the movie treatment the character deserves. Maybe I’m mistaken, but I expect a direct to DVD release for this movie sometime in the next several years.

Jamison Ashley

Comic geek, movie nerd, father, and husband - but not necessarily in that order. Current captain of this ship o' fools who is rapidly training everyone's computers and snarkphone spell-checkers to misspell 'supposebly.'