Saturday 5 March 2016

Casting Call: MCU update

A brief round-up of new characters cast for the Marvel Cinematic (and televisual) Universe.

Spoilers within, of course. If you don't want to know things you don't want to know... well, don't read them.

Finn Jones
Danny Rand/Iron Fist
Marvel's Iron Fist

Marvel have finally cast the lead for their fourth Netflix series. English actor Finn Jones is best known as Loras Tyrell in the insanely popular Game of Thrones, one of many in the cast who started out on Hollyoaks (because British and pretty). Among other roles, he was Jo Grant's son Santiago in The Sarah Jane Adventures, so he has plenty of genre experience.

Danny Rand, aka the Immortal Iron Fist, is the supreme martial artist of the Marvel world. An American man who trained in K'un L'un, a lost Eastern realm, Rand became the latest in a line of Iron Fists, gaining the ability to channel his chi. This allows him to manifest his natural energies in his hand to punch with an impervious "iron fist," plus the usual superhuman stamina, strength and reflexes. Given the more down-to-earth nature of Daredevil and the urban setting of the Netflix shows, the supernatural angle might be downplayed, although with Doctor Strange now filming, maybe not.

Following the Iron Fist series, Jones will join the other Netflix stars for Marvel's Defenders, although that may be some considerable time off.  Given that Danny Rand is Luke Cage's best mate, and formed the Heroes for Hire with him in the comics, it's more than likely he'll first appear in the Luke Cage series, which will either land late this year or early next. A lot of commentators are upset that they didn't take the opportunity to cast an Asian actor in the role, which is a fair point. The story of an Asian-American kid reclaiming his heritage rather than a white American kid appropriating it would have been preferable.

Pom Klementieff
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

A French-Canadian actress, Pom Klementieff sounds like a Star Wars character. She's naturally mostly been in French language films, including the very successful (in France) comedy Les Kaira, aka Porn in the Hood. She's most recognisable to English-speaking audiences for a role in the Oldboy remake.

Mantis is a character with a complicated publication history. Created by Steve Englehart for Marvel Comics, she was a short-term member of the Avengers, before leaving the Earth - and Marvel - to start a family. Englehart took the character with him to DC, renaming her Willow and importing her to the Justice League of America. Although under a different name, she was clearly intended as the same character. After that, Englehart went to Eclipse Comics and Scorpio Rose, where Mantis became known as Lorelei, the last issues of which were published by Image. Eventually, she was reclaimed by Marvel, going through all sorts of peculiar adventures and iterations before becoming one of the many reimagined characters who became part of the new Guardians of the Galaxy.

Originally an earthly but mystical character, Mantis was a martial artist not entirely unlike Iron Fist, later developing new abilities after communing with an alien race. She now has multiple ill-defined powers, many of them plant-based, and is, of course, green. The Guardians of the Galaxy sequel is set to hit May next year.

Kurt Russell
Star-Lord's father
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

64-year-old Kurt Rusell surely needs no introduction. If he does, go watch The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China and Stargate and feel suitably chastised. In the comics, the father of Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, is King Jason of the Sparta. Sorry, J'Son of Spartax. Writer-director James Gunn ahs confirmed that this is not the case in the movies, and that Quill's dad - who hired the Reavers to abduct him in the first place - is something quite different. Quill's mother Meredith called him "an angel." Kurt Russell does not look like an angel.

Natalia Cordova-Buckley
Elena "Yo-Yo" Rodriguez/Slingshot
Marvel's Agents of SHIELD

Agents of SHIELD has been renewed for a fourth season, just in time for the the third season to resume in the US (it's running a few episodes behind in the UK). Brett Dalton is still on the cast list, but not as Grant Ward. New to the team is Elena Rodriguez, who was part of the original Secret Warriors team in the comics. Her "Yo-Yo" nickname refers to the fact that she can run at superhuman speed but always snaps back to her original position. She also lost her arms and had them replaced by mechanical prostheses, which is obviously possible in the series since Coulson has a cyber-hand. Undoubtedly she'll be an Inhuman in this version.

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