Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Casting Call: X-Men Universe updates

Deadpool is coming! R-rated and set for February next year, this is looking good, with set photos and teasers already starting to appear, and Ryan Reynolds himself tweeting updates to keep fans interested. As well as this, casting updates are coming through for the next X-Men film proper, Apocalypse, expected May next year. Looks like X-fans of the nineties and noughties (like yours truly) are set to be entertained.


Brianna Hildebrand
Ellie Phimister/Negasonic Teenage Warhead

Not many people will recognise the name, but Negasonic Teenage Warhead is a favourite amonst certain fans. Created by Grant Morrison for his excellent New X-Men run in the early noughties, Ellie Phimister was one of the new generation of mutant students, a heavily made-up goth with exceptional powers of clairvoyance and precognition. While never a major character as such, she was significant, and managed to play an important role in ongoing developments despite dying twice. Her mutant name, as it happens, is cribbed from a song by Monster Magnet. Relative unknown Brianna Hildebrand is set to play NTW in the Deadpool movie.

T.J. Miller

Weasel, whose real identity is, improbably, Jack Hammer, is Deadpool's best mate and long-suffering sidekick. He has no powers, but he is a genius, albeit a socially awkward one. He also went to the same school as Peter Parker and Jessica Jones, not that Fox will have the rights to make any reference to this. Still, nice bit of trivia. Deadpool and Weasel are quite often at loggerheads, including one period when Weasel was tasked to bring his comrade in while posing as superhero House. T.J. Miller is a stand-up comedian and actor, although his best known film role, in Cloverfield, was almost entirely off-camera. This will be his second stint as a Marvel character; he recently voiced Fred in the excellent animated feature Big Hero 6.

Morena Baccarin
Vanessa Carlysle/Copycat

The stunning and very bankable Morena Baccarin comes fresh off her stint on Gotham to join Reynolds on the short list of actors playing both Marvel and DC characters. Baccarin is set to be Deadpool's love interest (lucky girl?), Vanessa Carlysle, who comic fans will recognise as the mutant Copycat. A shapeshifter, not unlike Mystique, Copycat can adopt the form of her targets right down to the genetic level, so that she is able to duplicate their powers as well. She took the form of the X-Force agent Domino in her first appearance, and we later found out that she became a mercenary to escape a life of prostitution after she met and fell for Deadpool. Later, however, she was captured by the Weapon X facility and altered to become one of their agents. I would expect much of this to make the transition to the film, since it seems to fit with the overall plot of Weapon X victims and escapees. Of course, given her abilities, Baccarin may not actually be Carlysle's true appearance...

Ed Skrein

The villain of the movie, Ajax, whose real name is know only to be Francis, is a mysterious and deadly individual was part of the Weapon X project. He experimented on numerous victims, taking pleasure in harming those he took exception to, most particularly Deadpool. Of course, in Deadpool's case, he's created an enemy who is virtually unkillable. Indeed, Ajax's attempted murder of Deadpool may be what costed him his sanity in the first place. A genetically and cybernetically enhanced agent, Ajax has the usual superhuman strength and endurance, plus superhuman speed and an incredible tolerance to pain due to having the bulk of his natural nervous system removed. He also has an intuitive capacity which allows him the edge in combat. Ed Skrein is an English rap musician who has segued into acting of late and looks to be on the brink of making it big in that field. He's best known as Anthony Walsh in The Tunnel but also appeared as Dario Naharis in the third season of Game of Thrones, before being recast in season four.

Colossus/Piotr Rasputin

Joining Deadpool, Xavier, Magneto, Storm, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, Moira McTaggart, Angel, Gambit and possibly Wolverine in the list of returning characters is Colossus, the powerfully built mutant with skin of steel. What we don't know, however, is who is playing him. Daniel Cudmore played the part as a student of the Xavier School in  X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, and X-Men: Days of Future Past, but he is not set to return for Deadpool.


Ben Hardy 
Angel/Warren Worthington III

No surprise at seeing this character included in X-Men: Apocalypse. Warren Worthington was one of the five X-Men in Professor Xavier's original team, but didn't appear in the movie franchise until X-Men: The Last Stand, in which he was played by Ben Foster. Given that Apocalypse is set a good twenty years before The Last Stand, this might pose some continuity problems, but perhaps we're better off forgetting all that nonsense, especially as this is a fresh timeline and all. Angel was a significant part of the Apocalypse storyline in the comics, and the corresponding arc on the hugely popular 90s X-Men cartoon series. In this storyline, Warren loses his wings, and in his desperation, agrees to side with Apocalypse in return for a new pair. Apocalypse's genetic techniques cause Warren to grow a new pair of wings formed from a sort of semi-metallic material, and as a side effect, his skin turns blue. Changing his codename from Angel to Archangel, he becomes Apocalypse's Horseman of Death. Production art for both the feathered and metallic versions of Angel has been released. Ben Hardy, aged 25, is off Eastenders, but I shan't hold that against him.

Olivia Munn
Elizabeth Braddock/Psylocke

Breaking news, this one. Olivia Munn's casting seems to be dividing people. As I can make outm, she's been in some poor productions but is generally regarded as a decent actress. Psylocke is one of the more popular and more powerful mutants in the X-Men roster, so seeing her join X-Men: Apocalypse is no huge shock. Her backstory is complicated, to say the least. Betsy Braddock is the sister of Brian Braddock, aka Captain Britain, and first appeared in his Marvel UK title in the seventies. She displayed powerful telepathic abilities, but fighting alongside Captain B. she was blinded.

In the eighties, she was brought into the X-Men franchise in The New Mutants, whereupon she received both bionic eyes and her codename, Psylocke. Her abilities increased, including teleportation and the manifestation of "psy-blades" - purple telepathic energy blades. Later, Psyclocke merged with her enemy, the ninja Kwannon, so that the modern Psylocke is actually in the body od a Japanese warrior. Also, she's died and come back to life, just like everyone else in Marvel. I think we can expect her backstory to be simplified quite drastically in the movie. I think we can count on three things: purple hair, purple psy-blades, and possibly a relationship with Angel (and American actress playing an Englishwoman and an English actor playing an American, of course). Psylocke has actually appeared in the film franchise before; Meiling Melancon portrayed a version of her in X-Men: The Last Stand, albeit in a minor fashion and without much in the way of Psylocke's characteristics.

Lana Condor
Jubilation Lee/Jubilee

Jubilee is the most nineties of X-Men characters, probably most famous for her major role in the animated series, so seeing her turn up in the eighties-set Apocalypse is going to be strange. Props though for casting an actual Asian American girl to play her. Lana Condor is so new to acting that IMDB have absolutely nothing on her except her height. She's clearly an actual teenager though, which is refreshing. Jubilee has the mutant ability to generate plasma streams, i.e. fireworks, making her an especially glam mutant. The character had entirely missable cameo appearances in the first two X-Men films, but it looks like she'll be a proper character this time round.

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