Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Casting Call: Marvel Cinematic Universe - Movies

Aaron Taylor Johnson
Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver
Avengers: Age of Ultron (April 2015)

One of two "miracles" introduced at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Pietro or Peter Maximoff is capable of superhuman speed. We've already seen him, played with great charm by Evan Peters, in X-Men: Days of Future Past, and the character's popularity suggests Fox will try to find a way to include him in a future film. In an unusual situation, both Marvel and Fox have a claim to Quicksilver, since he is both an major member of the Avengers, and a mutant member of the X-Men. In an odd compromise, Marvel can use both him and his sister Wanda but not refer to them as mutants, while Fox cannot make any reference to their association with the Avengers.

Quicksilver and his sister began as villains in the X-Men comics, part of Magneto's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, before swapping sides and eventually joining the second version of the Avengers. In the comics they are probably the children of Magneto, although there has been a suggestion that they're actually the offspring of Golden Age hero the Whizzer, who has similar powers to Quicksilver. (In Days of Future Past it is hinted that Quicksilver is indeed Magneto's son, but that can't be the case in the MCU.) At the end of Winter Soldier they were prisoners of HYDRA agent Baron Strucker, so may be used against the Avengers in their upcoming appearance before joining them. Both have signed up for multiple pictures, so we're bound to see them again, most likely in the big Infinity War double-picture.

Elizabeth Olson

Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch
Avengers: Age of Ultron

Twin sister of Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch is one of the most powerful and significant characters in Marvel comics. With the mutant ability to alter probability and reality - essentially magic - she has been part of the Brotherhood, X-Men and Avengers and was responsible for the terrible M-Day event that vastly reduced the mutant population. Unfortunately, none of this is within the MCU's remit, but the trailers for Age of Ultron suggest that she will be playing a significant role.

While she and her brother are mutants in the comics, they have to be something else in this version. It's possible they'll be mutants in all but name, but perhaps it's more likely that either HYDRA will have created them, or that they will be reworked as Inhumans (as Skye/Daisy was in Agents of SHIELD). Given her magical abilities, she may possibly be involved in the introduction of Dr Strange. Whatever happens, I hope they don't follow the Ultimate Comics version of events, in which the twins had an incestuous relationship.

Chadwick Boseman
Prince T'Challa/Black Panther
Captain America: Civil War (2016); Black Panther (2017)

I've seen a black panther, and met a Black Panther, but I'm still excited to see the movie Black Panther. The Black Panther made his debut in a 1966 issue of Fantastic Four, predating the infamous political party by some months (although far from being the first use of the name). The very first black character to be a true superhero, the Black Panther is the T'Challa, the ruler of the advanced fictional African nation of Wakanda. The Black Panther is the ruler of the Panther tribe, and the avatar of the Panther Spirit. He has superhumanly acute senses and enhanced strength, speed and agility, as well as access to Wakanda's magical artifacts and advanced technology.

Wesley Snipes expressed interest in bringing the Black Panther to the screen in the early 90s, before he starring as another Marvel superhero in Blade. It will be Chadwick Boseman who finally gets to bring the Panther to film after years of development stalling. His official first appearance in the role will be in Civil War, although we are expecting a possible cameo in Age of Ultron. Later he will headline his own film as part of Phase Three, and it's almost certain that he will be involved in Infinity War. One element that will sadly be missing from the films will be T'Challa's relationship with Ororo Munroe, aka Storm; as part of the X-Men franchise all cinematic rights to the character belong to Fox.

James Spader

Avengers: Age of Ultron

The villain of Age of Ultron, if you didn't realise. Ultron is a major Avengers villain going right back to 1968, an artificial intelligence created by Hank Pym (see below) who, upon attaining awareness, continually upgrades himself to become more and more powerful. Hyper-intelligent, supremely strong and capable of hacking both electronic and organic minds, Ultron is a force to be reckoned with. In the comics he is primarily composed of adamantium (like Wolverine's skeletal coating), although vibranium is also used in his construction, and it is this which he is likely built from in the movie. The Age of Ultron comic event was a major crossover piece set in a world where Ultron had conquered the Earth, but the movie seems to have just taken the name and the concept of Ultron to use. We see a lot of Ultron in the trailers for the movie, including various stages of his development, including one seemingly based on the Iron Man armour.

The synopsis of the film states that Ultron is created by Tony Stark in an attempt to "jump-start a dormant peace-keeping programme." This does not preclude the possibility that Pym is responsible for the initial development, although some intel suggests that Stark also utilises salvaged Chitauri technology in the programme. Either way, James Spader sounds extremely evil in the role.

Paul Bettany

JARVIS/The Vision
Avengers: Age of Ultron

There have been several superpowered beings called the Vision in the Marvel universe, but the main one is a mechanical "synthezoid" created by Ultron to fight his own maker, Hank Pym. The Vision's origins are pretty complicated and contradictory, and involve time travel, but he's supposedly based on the systems of the original Human Torch, an android who went by the name of Jim Hammond (and who I'd love to show up on Agent Carter, but this seems unlikely at present). His brain patterns, however, were based on Simon Williams, aka Wonder Man. I think, anyway; like I say, it's complicated. He eventually marries Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, and they even have children (with magic). A new version of the Vision has since been created from a fusion of the original's operating system and the mechanical armour of Iron Lad (who is way to complicated to go into at the moment).

The Vision is uber-powerful, able to fly, alter his mass and density, become intangible, regenerate and emit solar energy blasts. Quite what the story is behind the MCU version of the character is we don't yet know, but given that he's played by Paul Bettany, it seems highly likely he's based on the systems of Stark's AI, JARVIS. On the other hand, some publicity suggests he is indeed created by Ultron (perhaps he is freeing JARVIS from his servitude?) Judging by the artwork released, he's going to look bloody perfect. Bettany also suggests that he'll be back in the role for future movies.

Andy Serkis

Ulysses Klaw
Avengers: Age of Ultron

Just confirmed by Marvel, the character Andy Serkis is playing in Age of Ultron. Ullyses Klaw is a perennial enemy of the Black Panther (and also the Fantastic Four and Ka-Zar, one of Marvel's oldest characters). Klaw is a physicist who requires vibranium for his research. Vibranium, being an incredibly durable and rare metal, is extremely valuable material in the Marvel universe, and is used in the construction of both Cap's shield and Ultron's body. As Klaw knows how to get it, it makes sense that he would be involved in the Age of Ultron events somewhere. Vibranium is only found in Wakanda, which is what brings Klaw up against the Black Panther so frequently; in the comics, he is even responsible for T'Challa's father's death. Klaw develops a way of using vibranium to manipulate sound into a physical substance, and event ends up converting himself into a sound-based entity. It's easy to imagine Serkis playing Klaw in his human guise, before using his motion capture skills to perform as the sound-based version. It's almost certain that he'll return as a villain in the Black Panther movie in 2017.

Paul Rudd

Scott Lang/Ant-Man
Ant-Man (July 2015)

Paul Rudd is a big movie star, but he's always going to be Phoebe's husband from Friends to me. Anyway, he's a great choice for Scott Lang, the second and current Ant-Man in comics continuity and the star of the Ant-Man movie. Lang is a good sort but turns to crime when his daughter becomes seriously ill and he needs to pay for treatment, a storyline that looks to be maintained for the movie. He nicks the Ant-Man costume and technology in the comics but it looks like he's being recruited in the movie. As well as joining the Avengers on occasion, Lang becomes part of the Defenders team alongside Dr. Strange. Movie-wise, I think we can assume he'll join the Avengers for the big bash-up in Avengers: Infinity War.

Michael Douglas
Hank Pym

Michael Douglas is always good value, so if nothing else, Ant-Man should be watchable. Hank Pym is Ant-Man, originally, a physicist and entomologist (as unlikely a combination as that sounds), who discovers Pym particles and uses them to create his shrinking suit, along with a cybernetic helmet that he can use to communicate with and control ants. Pym goes right back to pre-Marvel magazine stories, and as Ant-Man, was a founding member of the adventures. He later finds a way to use his Pym particles to increase in size, and takes on various costumed identities including Giant Man, Goliath and Yellowjacket. Pym is also a schizophrenic and a wife-beater, so he's a pretty divisive character among Marvel fans. He's even more messed up in the Ultimate Universe continuity. In the movie, Pym will revive his Ant-Man programme and recruit Lang to perpetrate a heist that will help save the world.

Evangeline Lily

Hope van Dyne

Comics-wise, Hope van Dyne, or Hope Pym, is the daughter of Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne, who were founding Avengers as Ant-Man and the Wasp. This seems to be the case with Lily's version in the movie. As she says of her character: "I was raised by two superheroes. So, I'm a pretty screwed up human being. I am also fairly capable, strong, and kick-ass, which is wonderful to play, but the most fun to play was just how messed up she was from being raised by two superheroes. And the clear message sent by my name is that I'm not a big fan of my father and so I took my mother's name." 

Considering the shit Janet went through with Hank in the comics, it's perhaps understandable that Marvel are keeping that off screen and instead proceeding with Hope as the main female character. She's being presented as both Lang's love interest and an action character in her own right. In fact, she seems to be set up to become the MCU version of the Wasp, so I guess we'll have Janet van Dyne in all but name, one generation removed. In the comics, Hope goes down a villainous path, so it'll be interesting to see where she's headed on screen. 

Corey Stoll

Darren Cross/Yellowjacket

The main villain of Ant-Man, Darren Cross is the founder and CEO is Cross Industries, a major technology developer in the Marvel universe. This seems set to be the state of play in the MCU too, with Cross set up as someone who worked under Pym on the Ant-Man technology before a major falling out. He develops his own version of the tech, creating the Yellowjacket suit, which is described by actor Corey Stoll as "the next generation of Ant-Man suit." He also stresses that Cross is not wholly villainous, and is very similar to Hank Pym in his outlook. Who knows who we'll be rooting for by the end of this film? A lot of dodgy characters in play. And will the next generation of Ant-Man suit be capable of changing size in both directions? Could we be setting up the creation of Giant Man?

Daniel Brühl

Baron Zemo
Captain America: Civil War

Baron Zemo is a title handed down through German nobility. The 12th and 13th Barons became prominent Marvel villains, commonly enemies of Captain America. The 12th Baron, Heinrich Zemo, was a gifted scientist and top member of the Nazi party, who wore a hood to disguise his face in battle before it was accidentally glued to him with an indelible adhesive (really). His son, Helmut Zemo, continued his legacy as a supervillain under various guises including Phoenix and Iron Cross. Helmut is a rather more complex character than his father, and like many early Cap villains, has been given enhanced strength and slowed ageing to keep up with his nemesis. It's no surprise to see Zemo is to appear in a Cap film, although precisely how he is involved we don't know. Given that Daniel Brühl is thirty-six years old and terribly handsome, I think it likely he is playing the younger Helmut Zemo, although feasibly the MCU character might be a combination of the two Zemos.

Thomas Kretschmann

Baron Strucker
Avengers: Age of Ultron

Seen at the end of The Winter Soldier examining Loki's sceptre and holding the Maximoff twins captive, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker is set to appear in Age of Ultron and could be lined up for villainous roles in further films. The long-lived Strucker is a core member of HYDRA in the comics, and we can expect a similarly prominent role in the MCU. I wouldn't eb at all surprised if he returned on television (either in Agents of SHIELD or, if he is as long-lived as in the comcis, Agent Carter).  The character was included as a driving force in the TV movie Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD, which starred David Hasselhoff. Strucker was played, briefly, by Campbell Lane.

Benedict Cumberbatch

Dr. Steven Strange
Doctor Strange (2016)

Another long-standing Marvel hero, Dr. Strange first appeared in Strange Tales in 1963. Once a surgeon, Stephen Strange lost the fine use of his hands in a car accident. Bitter and resentful of this, he searches for a way to restore his abilities, leading him to a mystic known as the Ancient One. After some hoo-hah, Strange proves he has a noble side and is taken on as the Ancient One's apprentice, before succeeding him as Sorceror Supreme, the most powerful wizard in the cosmos. Strange's adventures lead him to bizarre parallel dimensions and pit him against vastly powerful adversaries, so his movie appearance marks a turning point for the MCU, pushing Phase Three into wilder, more magical arenas. We've only dabbled with magic so far, with the Asgardians' skills being presented more as advanced science than true magic (although we still have Scarlet Witch to come). Everyone's favourite, Benedict Cumberbatch, is confirmed to be taking the role, and he does has form as playing a supremely talented but arrogant arsehole. No word on the villain yet, but Baron Mordo, who is strongly linked to Strange's origin story, seems likely. Rumours are that Chiwetel Ejiofor is up for the part, but that is only hearsay at this stage. One thing though: if he's a surgeon, shouldn't he be Mister Strange?

Fan art, but damned good fan art.

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