Aug 27, 2013

Comic Book Movie casting - Part 2 - The Ten Best

I've already talked about the Ten Worst comic book casting decisions, so now it's time for the best, and a couple of them might surprise you.

I took to twitter and asked my tweeps who they thought was well cast in comic book adaptations. Of course the answers were rich and varied (and often involved Chris Hemsworth's muscles), but there was a clear winner. And I think I agree.

Wait until you see the size of my Hammer!

Uh, not him...

So, without further ado, here's the ones I thought Hollywood got right:

Ten Best

Okay, I know, technically I'm Superalien...

1 - Christopher Reeve (Superman - Superman) The 70's produced some of Hollywood's most enduring icons and every one of them was up for the role of Superman. Guys like Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Warren Beatty, Nick Nolte and Ryan O'Neal were all considered for the role. Marlon Brando, in what amounted to an extended cameo, also had casting approval and vetoed Sylvester Stallone from the list. Despite all of that nonsense, the role eventually went to a virtual unknown - Christopher Reeve. No matter who they find for future incarnations of Superman, Reeve will always be Superman to me. His Clark Kent has never been bettered and when he slapped on the blue spandex, he owned it. After he snapped his spine in a riding accident and was paralyzed from the neck down, I wouldn't have batted an eye if he'd jumped up out of his wheelchair.

Baby, I hear the blues a'callin'...

2 - Kelsey Grammar (Beast - X3: X-Men United) Here's one that may surprise you. Despite being the worst of the X-Men movies, and having too many characters to keep track of, the casting of Grammar as Dr. Henry McCoy/Beast was a stroke of genius. Never in a million years would I have thought about him for the role, but he's perfect. Erudite and dry-witted, this version of the Beast was spot-on. Even Grammar's physical build meant that once he was in full make-up he looked absolutely right. Great left-field thinking from the casting people.

Rorshash, Roarsach, Roarshack...I still prefer Ginger Vengeance!

3 - Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach - Watchmen) Another surprising choice, maybe? Watchmen was an ungainly effort to translate Alan Moore's seminal graphic novel to the screen. I'd seen Haley in a movie called Little Children where he played a troubled sex offender, and that was about all I knew about him. (He was great in that role, I recommend you watch it). I didn't know what to expect from him in Watchmen, but his feral, violent and troubled vigilante was perfect. Turns out he also has a black belt and so was able to take on all the physical parts of the role with ease.

I said...who farted??

4 - Ron Perlman (Hellboy - Hellboy) The second this was announced, there wasn't a moment's doubt. Even though at first the studios wanted a bigger name, Del Toro (the director) wanted Perlman. Perlman was born to play Hellboy. The weary, blue collar attitude with the self-deprecating and dry humor, was all perfect for the actor. Even when they realized that Hellboy's "stone hand" had to be his right and so his gun had to move over to his left, it was no problem for the ambidextrous actor. Perlman also wins massive plaudits for showing up in full Hellboy make-up to help fulfill a young boy's "wish" through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Top bloke.

I could totally play Thor!
Oh? *pulls off shirt* Can you do this?
I hate you.

5 - Tom Hiddleston (Loki - Thor) Hiddleston is Kenneth Branagh's buddy from the Swedish based drama Wallander, but was still a surprising choice for the weighty role. Turns out he was considered for the role of Thor first, until Branagh decided he'd be better as Loki. He was pretty much perfect as the God of Mischief and, some would argue, came away from the movie with more plaudits and "heat" than even Hemsworth did playing the lead.

Don't get a parrot for a pet. They are bastards.

6 - Mickey Rourke (Marv - Sin City) I think the credit for all of Sin City's success comes down to two things: Rodriguez shooting it like the comic book and the casting of Mickey Rourke as Marv. Unrecognizable in the make-up, (and some would say better looking, considering all the plastic surgery he's had done lol), Rourke's low growl and bulldozer physicality sold the brutish anti-hero to the audience.

Ellen Page shown actual size.

7 - Ellen Page (Shadowcat - X3: X-Men United) First up, I know this is the second pick from X3: worst X-Men movie ever (tm), but hear me out. I'm a massive X-Men fan and the first comic I ever read was one which revolved around Shadowcat trying to fight an alien in the X-Mansion on her own. I admit I'm a Kitty Pryde fan. Her character was teased in the other two X-movies, but it wasn't until Ellen Page was cast in the third that I finally thought they'd got it right. It's one of those moments where the actress just seems totally right for the role and I was a little bummed the movie was so bad and wasted that opportunity. Page is back in the new Days of Future Past X-Movie, so I look forward to seeing her again in the role.

What? This is how I always stand.

8 - Hugh Jackman (Wolverine - X-Men) When Hugh Jackman was cast, I admit to being one of the fanboys who said it was wrong. Getting a six foot Australian, who'd only appeared in some Aussie TV, to play the short, Canadian, berserker badass from my favorite comic??? NOoooo!!! This can't be. Turns out, I was wrong. Inevitably, the movie had to change things from the comic book, but it was important they held onto what made Logan such an interesting character (and badass). Luckily, Jackman was on board and gave it all he had, and in the end he made the character his own. (I'm still not convinced when the character gets weepy and emotional, but the rest is good.) Playing Wolverine catapulted Jackman to super-stardom and, in a refreshing change for a Hollywood actor, Jackman is first to acknowledge this and willing to embrace it. His acting skills and choices have allowed him not to get pigeon-holed, but he's more than willing to come back and play the role that made him famous and appears to have genuine affection for the character. Wolverine is back in X-Men: Days of Future Past and this will be the seventh time he's played the character over the last thirteen years.

You try putting make-up on without a mirror, dammit!

9 - Heath Ledger (The Joker - The Dark Knight) I didn't know what to make of the Heath Ledger's casting initially. I wasn't a big fan, but I'd seen him play both light (A Knight's Tale) and dark (Monster's Ball) and was hoping it wasn't going to be another serving of the Jack Nicholson-style Joker. Christopher Nolan just told everyone to be patient, that Ledger was serving up something unique, but this did little to stop the fretting about what kind of Joker we were going to get. When the Joker finally appeared, he was a revelation. I remember the end of one of the Dark Knight previews: an eighteen wheeler is flipped onto it's roof and you can hear the Joker's voice say "It's all part of the plan". The Joker is then seen standing in the middle of the road with a machine gun, yelling at Batman to hit him with his Batpod. The game of chicken ends when Batman skips around the unflinching Joker and the bike slides from under him. I was sold.

Would Heath Ledger have won the Oscar if he hadn't tragically passed away? I doubt it, but just because Hollywood rarely looks at comic book movies for the acting awards. I do believe that if he was still around, he'd be an even bigger star today and would've had several more opportunities to win an Oscar.

My haircut is worth more than your house.

10 - Robert Downey Jr (Tony Stark/Iron Man - Iron Man) My survey on Twitter showed RDjr as a clear winner in this competition and I have to agree. Inspired and right on the nose, there has rarely been a better bit of casting in any movie.

Iron Man was never considered an A-Lister in the Marvel Universe. When Marvel were struggling, and had to sell the rights to certain characters, X-Men, Fantastic Four and Daredevil were all snapped up. Even Punisher and Ghost Rider were bought, but Iron Man stayed at Marvel. So, when Marvel got their act in gear, they had to take a second-string Marvel character and turn him into something the world wanted to see.

RDjr as Keanu's tie in Constantine.

Downey Jr was making his own way back into the limelight after various personal problems. Talented and charismatic he seems perfect for the role now, but there was still an element of the unknown when he was cast. He'd shown up in string of movies, but he wasn't the star in any of them. Was the audience ready to accept Downey Jr as a leading man? It turns out, yes, they were. 

RDjr is now the lynchpin of three massive franchises (Iron Man, Avengers & Sherlock Holmes), reportedly making $50 million dollars from the Avengers movie. Expect to see him front and center in a second Avengers movie and enjoying the second phase of his career.

That's the list. What do you think? Let me know here in the comments or come find me on Twitter @Spartagus and argue with me there.


Aug 26, 2013

Comic Book Movie casting - Part 1 - The Ten Worst


...earlier this week, Warner Bros. announced that Ben Affleck has been cast as Batman in the new Batman/Superman movie. Of course, this sent the internet into a frenzy and a lot of the talk was about how terrible this choice was. Now, I should clarify, I'm a fan of Affleck. I think he's a talented director, he's intelligent and he's not as bad an actor as some people contend. Sure, he had his problems with gambling, drinking and JLo, and it's entirely possible one or all of those things lead to him choosing some very bad movies to appear in. The name "Gigli" was tossed around as if that was all the evidence, one could ever need, that Affleck was the worst possible choice. I'm not going to sit and argue that Gigli is a good movie, but people tend to forget that Christopher Walken and Al Pacino opted to appear in it too. Yes, that's Oscar Winner Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter) and Oscar Winner Al Pacino (Scent of a Woman). The truth is, sometimes actors make terrible choices.

When comic book movies took off, it became clear that casting was a huge part in what sold a movie to the fans. Tim Burton's Batman came in for some flack when they hired Michael Keaton to play the Bat. Known as a comedic actor, he seemed too far away from what the fans were looking for. Conversely, Jack Nicholson as The Joker was embraced wholeheartedly. It was marketed more with Nicholson as the star. It worked. Box Office gold, but the interaction never seemed quite right. It wasn't until Bale and Ledger came together in The Dark Knight that everyone saw the potential of the dynamic between the two characters. And, just for a change, when Heath Ledger was hired as the Joker, he was lambasted by the internet. That is, until he appeared on screen.

While the internet melted down about Affleck, I wondered what I would consider the best and worst casting decisions in comic book movies. (Being a comic book nerdling). SO here is what I came up with. :) Please note, I'm only going to talk about movies made after Tim Burton's Batman and no TV movies. So, you won't see David Hasselhoff on the list, despite his Nick Fury being so bad it makes my head explode.
Here are the casting decisions I couldn't get my head around:

Ten Worst

I come in peace bleep blorp

1 - Jessica Alba (Sue Storm - Fantastic Four) - I don't mind if the movie makers want to change some physical aspects of the characters, but to hire a brunette with brown eyes (and darker skin) and proceed to make her a blonde with blue eyes was just weird. Alba ended up looking like an alien. And since she's not the most rangy of actresses, her performance came across as alien. Her chemistry with Reed Richards was non-existent.

2 - Topher Grace (Eddie Brock - Spiderman 3) - Just, UGH! I'm not a fan in the first place, but his smug and not-very-intimidating performance was completely overshadowed by the CGI Venom. I wasn't a huge Venom fan before the movie and I'm still not convinced after this showing. Grace added nothing to the picture at all.

I have the power to hold up walls sexily...

3 - January Jones (Emma Frost - X-Men: First Class) - Woefully miscast. Miss Jones' reading of the character was flat and uninspired. Emma Frost (in the comics) has bite and when she's strutting about in her undies she's the empowered one. Jones wore the underwear well, but her acting was so wooden it gave me splinters. None of the snark was there. I would've loved to see someone like Kate Winslet play Emma.

Awww, now I've pooped myself

4 - Tommy Lee Jones (Two-Face - Batman Forever) - Better known for playing the grumpy, straight man, this was a huge departure for Jones and it just didn't work. It wasn't all his fault, the movie itself was tragic. The director was aiming for the more camp TV show, so we ended up with Tommy Lee Jones mugging and bringing the ham harder than Babe the Pig. At times it was like he was competing with Jim Carrey mugging at the camera, but where Carrey mostly pulled off his Riddler schtick, Tommy Lee seemed unable to pin down his character at all.

This shampoo feels funny

Hahaha, no srsly, where's the rest of my costume?

5 - Halle Berry (Storm - X-Men/Catwoman - Catwoman) - Here's a two-for-one deal. Let me state for the record that I like Halle Berry as an actress. Her Oscar for Monster's Ball was richly deserved. Having said that, I was against her casting in X-Men from the start. I wasn't sure about Hugh Jackman as Wolverine either and was happy he proved me wrong, sadly Halle didn't. I thought Angela Bassett would make the perfect Storm: imperious, strong-willed, kick-ass and authoritative, she could inhabit the character from the comic book easily. Sadly, they were going for something different, but they weren't sure what. Through the movies they modified the look and the accent and none of it worked. Halle just wasn't a very impressive Storm.

Catwoman is more about how bad the movie was. Halle makes for a slinky and sensual Catwoman, but her backstory, costumes and, ultimately, the storyline made this movie laughable. It had a B-movie mentality with a big budget. It's hard to argue that Halle was miscast, since without her it wouldn't have been made. The movie was widely panned, but big credit to Halle for accepting her Razzie Award, beating out Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson for the win.

Is this deadly kryptonite? I wish I wasn't colorblind.

6 - Kevin Spacey (Lex Luthor - Superman Returns) - Kevin Spacey is a hugely talented actor and he's more than capable of playing the bad guy. This time though, it seemed they wanted to skew too close to Gene Hackman's Luther from the original Superman without letting Spacey work with more. I didn't expect a highly nuanced portrayal, but I SAW the acting. There was no immersion in the role and I think they should've cast someone else for the role.

Grrrr Blllrrr Arrrgh

7 - Vinnie Jones (Juggernaut - X3: X-Men United) - AAARRGH! This movie was lousy and casting Vinnie Jones sort of summed it up. Intent on painting a dumb, pointless caricature to earn a few points with the fanboys, Juggernaut was added to the cast. Rather than hire a bigger actor, or even an ex-wrestler for the role, they hired Jones (hmmm, the third Jones on the list. Coincidence?) and put him in a muscle suit. Sadly it looked like a skinnier guy in a muscle suit. then they armed him with irritating and idiotic dialogue and Jones delivered it with all the skill of an ex-footballer. Terrible all round.

Does my bum look big in this? *stab*

8 - Jennifer Garner (Elektra Natchios - Elektra) - Jennifer Garner can do no wrong in my eyes (I mean, come on, look at her!), but she wasn't right for the part of the assassin Elektra. She doesn't possess the edginess or the duality needed to give the character her anti-hero stance. She's a killer for hire but as soon as you see Garner in the role you accept her as a good person. She performs valiantly with cruddy dialogue and a dull as dishwater script, but she should've given this one a miss.

Mother of pearl, this codpiece is uncomfortable...

9 - Sylvester Stallone (Judge Dredd - Judge Dredd) - You can argue about the fact Stallone took off the helmet or the terrible idea of a comedic sidekick played by Rob Schneider, but the fact of the matter was, Stallone was just wrong for the role. The recent movie Dredd cast Karl Urban in the role and he nailed it I thought. I don't know if Stallone was too big a personality or wanted to play it too big, either way it didn't work and Urban's Dredd did.

Keanu Reeves playing Snowy in Tintin.

10 - Keanu Reeves (John Constantine - Constantine) - Hey look! It's Keanu Reeves smoking a cigarette! I didn't care they made Constantine an American or that the movie was only loosely based on things from the comic. I didn't think Keanu was right for the role though. However, having said that, I actually enjoy the movie and once you get past Keanu being Keanu, it's not too bad. Let's just say this one was borderline. It's on the list because he's not really anything like the Constantine character from the comics. They could've called this movie something else and no one would've noticed.

There you go. My top ten picks for worst casting decisions in comic book movies and somehow I managed to not pick Nicholas Cage from Ghost Rider lol.

What do you think of my choices? Are there any you disagree with? Leave a comment or come and argue with me on Twitter @Spartagus.


Aug 21, 2013

Flash fiction

Howdy amigos! 

Very soon, I should be posting some regular updates to my blog. I have more interviews on the way and I'll be blethering about movies quite a bit. First though, I'd like to mention a new Flash Fiction contest being hosted by Regina West over on her blog called Flash In The Pen. (Catchy title, no?)

FlashPen Logo

I've been struggling to write new stuff lately, getting caught up in the never ending cycle of editing, so I decided to have a go and write 500 words. Head on over, check out the entry by @SpartaGus and let me know what you think. And, by all means, join in. The more the merrier.

That's all for now. I'll let you know if I place in the contest.

Check back soon for more.


I'm shocked and surprised! Despite very stiff competition I managed to snag 3rd Place. WOOT! And I get a shiny little medal for placing...

Very happy about placing. Congratulations to all who took part. If you want to go read the entries check out the link here: