Friday, 27 December 2013

Marvel Heroes and Villains

So, Paul Rudd is going to play Ant-Man, Ian Hart has been set up as Graviton in Agents of SHIELD and the very young Dylan Minnette is set to appear as Blizzard in an upcoming ep. Clearly, the people at Disney/Marvel aren't afraid to cast some interesting names in their productions. They've also announced some upcoming projects on TV and film, as have Sony and Fox, owners of other characters from the Marvel comics universe. So, who should play the leads in these next blockbusters? Which other characters are crying out to be adapted for the screen? Who can make a convincing villain? Here are some thoughts. (Thanks to Sydney Richardson and Andrea Netherton for some suggestions.)

Luke Cage – Michael Jai White

A tough call, this one. Luke Cage will be one of the four characters getting his own series on Netflix, and interwebbers have been suggesting all manner of African Americans to play the part. One name that keeps coming up is Michael Jai White, who made history in 1997 for playing Al Simmons in Spawn, becoming the first black American to play a superhero lead. Spawn was an absolutely terrible film, but not due to anything on White's part, who had a real presence. A decent actor and a martial artist, he could really rock as Cage. The only problem is his age. He's 46 now – is that too old to be playing Cage? I think he could pull it off.

Daredevil – Michael C. Hall

Another character getting a Netflix series, another actor suggestion who's probably a little old for the role. But Hall is a fantastic, award-winning actor, Dexter is finishing up so he'll be looking for a new project, and Matt Murdock needs to be played by someone with the chops to convince as a confident blind man. Hall would be great as the honest lawyer with a secret – but could he handle the action part of the role? He's a pretty fit guy, so I think he'd do well.

Black Panther – Djimon Hounsou

I'm not sure I'd want Marvel to make a Black Panther movie. I have a horrible feeling that Hollywood would insist on turning the story of an African king into that of an outcast in downtown LA. However, assuming they wanted to do it, and do it properly, I would suggest Djimon Hounsou, an under-recognised actor perhaps best known for roles in Gladiator and Blood Diamond. For one thing, unlike most suggestions he's actually African, although being Beninois he is from the wrong area (the nation of Wakanda usually being related as being in eastern Africa). Looking into it, I discover that he actually has played King T'Challa in a Black Panther miniseries in 2010. A shoe-in, then, surely?

Captain Marvel – Katie Sackhoff

There have been many Captains Marvel, but the version I want to see is the latest, Carol Danvers, former Ms. Marvel. Having been a major member of the Avengers, she would make a perfect addition to what is currently a male-heavy team. We've got Natasha Romanoff, and we've got the Scarlet Witch coming up in Avengers: Age of Ultron. But Romanoff has no superpowers and the Witch's powers are non-physical, stereotypically feminine abilities. The team needs a strong, heroic, no-nonsense female character who can go toe-to-toe with Iron Man, physically as well as sardonically. Katie 'Starbuck' Sackhoff has proven she has what it takes – and she looks the part, too.

Blade – Idris Elba

I'm a fan of of Wesley Snipes's uber-macho version of Blade, but perhaps it's time for someone with a little more class. Idris Elba is everywhere right now, but that's only because he's such a talented actor with a powerful screen presence. Physically imposing, he'd be perfect as the deadly dhampir warrior. Envision him in a big, black coat, wielding a sword. Doesn't that make your knees knock?

She-Hulk – Michelle Rodriguez

She-Hulk isn't a high-brow concept. She's a hot green woman who runs about in a purple one-piece swimsuit. Sure, she's a lawyer, specialising in superhuman law, no less, but there's none of that terrible angst that Bruce Banner goes through, trying to suppress his Hulking self. She-Hulk is about looking hot, and if they ever made a movie with her, that's going to be the primary requirement. Michelle Rodriguez is a solid actor, with plenty of action experience. Now imagine her green. Yeah, that's hot.

Doctor Strange – Gary Oldman

Will there be a Doctor Strange movie? Marvel's plan for the Cinematic Universe suggests he'll turn up in Phase Three, the phases running along an earthly, cosmic, magical development. Magic in the MCU has been so far explained away as hyper-advanced magic, but Strange is a wizard, no two ways about it. The role needs someone with class, and Gary Oldman has that in spades. He's old enough to give the role the necessary gravitas, young enough to add some sex appeal, is a hugely talented character actor and looks good in a beard. I wouldn't bet on Dormammu if he was faced with Gary Oldman in a purple cloak.

Captain Britain – Jason Statham

I doubt that there will ever be a Captain Britain film. I mean, Marvel were unsure that a Captain America movie would sell worldwide; can you imagine them backing a British superhero? No, neither can I, but I wish they would. Captain Britain's adventures combine the mystical and cosmic sides of the Marvel universe, featuring a hero who protects the British Isles in his various aspects across the Multiverse, fighting aliens and elves alike. He could fit nicely into a universe that features cinematic versions of Thor and Doctor Strange. As for who to cast, I suggest rehtinking the basics of the character. Brian Braddock was originally an aristocratic, studious youth before becoming the Captain, but I don;t think this will wash. There are far too many posh English characters in American films. No, I think we need someone down-to-earth and rough, someone who thinks with their fists. Get Jason Statham – if anyone can pull off a Union Jack costume, it's him.

Apocalypse – Vin Diesel

Fox has announced the title for the follow-up to X-Men: Days of Future Past as X-Men: Apocalypse. This is good news. Whether it'll be an 'Age of Apocalypse' storyline – perhaps tying into the time travel shenanigans of Future Past – or a different storyline altogether, Apocalypse is long overdue a big screen appearance. It's obvious who needs to be cast. I'm not Vin Diesel's biggest fan, but look: he looks like Apocalypse, he sounds like Apocalypse. You'd just need to paint him silver and blue.

The Fantastic Four

Fox are also planning to resurrect the ailing Fantastic Four franchise. Now, I liked both the earlier FF films. They were unchallenging, fun, family superhero movies. I worry that Fox will try to do something realistic with them this time round, which really doesn't work for the FF. There's also talk of crossing them over with the X-Men, which sounds a bit daffy; the X-Men have so many characters and spin-offs already that they're set to operate as a self-contained universe already.

Still, it looks like it's going to go ahead and we're going to get at least one FF movie. Who to cast? Michael Chikliss was perfect as the Thing, but having him play the human-looking Ben Grimm as well was a double-edged sword. While the continuity of actor made it easier to accept continuity of character, Ben Grimm is supposed to be a particularly ruggedly attractive man, which, with all respect to him, Chikliss is not. Having a more handsome actor in the role would make his transformation into a monster all the powerful. Chris Evans was perfect as Johnny Storm, but he's Captain America now, so I can't see any possibility of him returning to the role. Ideally, we'd want someone younger, in his late teens, which might mean an unknown actor.

Reed Richards? Well, Ioan Grufudd was pretty good in the role, and is a better actor than he got a chance to show. Still, we need someone with a little more bearing, who can really dominate the screen and convince as a leader, not just a scientist. It's another ubiquitous choice, but perhaps Benedict Cumberbatch? I don't know how he is at American accents, though. Jessica Alba was miscast as Sue Storm. In the comics, she's very much the blue-eyed, blonde-haired, all-American girl. Casting a Hispanic actress in the role would have been an interesting variation – if they hadn't proceeded to dye her hair, lighten her skin and make her wear contacts. Alice Eve could work – another English actor, but good with accents, and she gives strong performances that could stand up to a major actor as Reed.

Doctor Doom was horribly miscast in the earlier movies. Julian McMahon was completely wrong, a whiney American in the role that demands a noble European with gravitas. Which would suggest the perfect actor would be someone completely unknown in the States.

The Sinister Six

Meanwhile, Sony have announced plans to expand their Spider-Man franchise using spin-off movies. The problem being, of course, that Spider-Man is a predominantly solo character, who crosses into other titles and teams but has little in the way of secondary hero characters. The solution? Base the movies around villains. There have been plans to make a Venom movie for some time, kiboshed previously by the disappointing use of the character in Spider-Man 3. As well as Venom, however, Sony are planning a Sinister Six movie. While the line-up of the Sinister Six has varied over the years, the original team consisted of Dr Octopus, Electro, Mysterios, Kraven the Hunter, the Vulture and the Sandman. The Ultimate Universe version, on the other hand, included the Green Goblin in place of Mysterio, and at one point Spider-Man himself instead of the Vulture (now that could be interesting).

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is set to involve Jamie Foxx as Electro and Paul Giamatti as the Rhino, as well as introducing Dane deHaan as Harry Osborn/the Green Goblin. I think we can assume that at least Electro and Osborn will survive to join the Six. The trailers also have little glimpses of equipment hinting at the involvement of Dr Octopus and the Vulture, so I would imagine they too will be involved in the future.

So, who to cast? For the Vulture, David Bradley: a talented septuagenarian actor with genre experience. For Dr Octopus: it's hard to top Alfred Molina, but howsabout Sam Neill? He can do the steadfast scientist and utterly unhinged. Again, though, he's probably too old for the role now. As for the Sandman, just get Thomas Haden Church back from Spider-Man 3. He was perfect.


Seriously, just get this guy.

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