Thursday, June 27, 2013

The most dead-on casting in superhero films

Some superhero movies do a great job of bringing comic book characters to the big screen, capturing the essence of what made the original versions special. Good examples of this include, for instance, Henry Cavill in this year's Man of Steel, or Chris Evans in Captain America. Sometimes, though, you get George Clooney as Batman or Halle Berry as Catwoman.  
It's either frigid in the Batcave or he is VERY happy to see you.

Here are a few of my favorites. Bear in mind, of course, that I'm not limiting the list to main characters. Sometimes, as you'll see, the supporting cast can be just as delightful. 

Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler (X2: X-Men United)

-Capturing both the gentleness and the bad@$$ery of Nightcrawler was no easy feat, but Scotsman Alan Cumming did both with ease. His Nightcrawler was sweet and na├»ve, but an absolute terror in battle. Although some liberties were taken with his look (the intricate scar designs), the key aspects of his appearance remained intact, as did the character’s strong faith and love of peace. Would Cummings’ presence have been enough to save X-Men: The Last Stand? Doubtful, but it sure would have been nice to see him again, regardless. 

Anthony Hopkins as Odin (Thor)

-I could go on a long spiel about how excellent the casting in Thor was—all of it. Chris Hemsworth was excellent as Thor, Tom Hiddleston was absolutely perfect as Loki (although he was even better in The Avengers), and Idris Elba surprised a lot of people when he proved a black actor could effectively play a Norse god. Really, the only weak casting was Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, and the absolute best was Anthony Hopkins—Hannibal himself, as well as Zorro and even Hitchcock—as the Allfather Odin, he of the bristling beard and the manly eye patch. 
Ummm . . . not him, but close.

Sam Elliott as General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (Hulk)

-Now, let’s get one thing straight: I like William Hurt a lot. He can play nice (Michael), he can play complicated (The Village), and he can play stone-cold just as easily (Nightmares and Dreamscapes). And if I had only seen The Incredible Hulk (2008), I probably would have liked his version of General Ross a lot more. But I had already seen Hulk (2003), and now, whenever I think of General Ross, I think of Sam Elliott (of Tombstone fame). Hurt’s Ross was a quieter, more calculating Ross; Elliott’s chewed the scenery into a fine paste and spat it back in a rage rivaling that of the Hulk. “If you come within 100 yards of my daughter again, I will lock you away for the rest of your natural life!” Now, that’s intensity! That’s Thunderbolt Ross! That’s a guy who’s just crazy enough to carry on a vendetta against a big, green rage-engine of destruction. 
Or appear in a Nicolas Cage superhero film, for that matter.

Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus (Spider-Man 2)

-Easily one of the greatest comic book villains to be brought to the big screen, Doctor Octopus required a number of traits. First would be the look. Doc Ock is a big lump of a guy with a round face and a nearly perpetual scowl. Alfred Molina had that and the occasional devious grin, to boot. Second would be the acting chops. Ock’s a sympathetic villain in many ways, and Molina nails that aspect of the character. He also pulls off the “magnificent b@$+@rd” persona, exuding arrogance and ruthlessness (“Butterfingers!”). Plus, Ock’s bat-$#!+ insane. Molina can play crazy, too. Anybody else remember his manic chocolate binge toward the end of Chocolat
I can guarantee his stomach still hasn't forgotten. UGH!

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian (Watchmen)

-To be fair, Jackie Earle Haley was equally superb as Rorschach, but really, despite the striking physical resemblance, it was the gravelly voice that made it work. Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Comedian, however, was perfect in every single way. Not only did he look like he stepped straight out of the comic book, he absolutely nailed the attitude and the swagger. When he tells Nite-Owl he’s looking at the American dream, he says it with just the right amount of cynicism and despair. 
He might be a disgusting lout of a human being, but DARN, he's bad@$$!

Ron Perlman as Hellboy (Hellboy)

It’s no surprise that director Guillermo del Toro and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola both wanted Ron Perlman for the role of Hellboy. I mean, look at him. He’s massive, and that craggy face and deep voice go perfectly with the character. But more important than the look is the soul of the performance. Perlman’s Hellboy looked absolutely ridiculous; he was covered in red foam rubber and sported a tail, for crying out loud. But literally within minutes, I forgot I was looking at a special effect, because Perlman made me care about the man underneath the effect. Under his horrifying (and horrifyingly silly) exterior was a gentle, insecure guy who just wanted to kick back, eat some “pamcakes” and have a beer. He was the everyman in the body of a demon, and despite the cheesy prosthetics, he was perfect. And then there's this:
What kind of kid picks meeting Hellboy as his "Make a Wish"? An awesome kind.      

Christopher Reeve as Superman (Superman)

As excellent as Henry Cavill’s performance in Man of Steel was, there is one true Superman, and that’s Christopher Reeve. A full 6’4” with broad shoulders and the misfortune of actually looking believable in sky-blue tights, Reeve was the heroic ideal incarnate, taken directly from a Curt Swan/Murphy Anderson cover. And his Clark Kent—nebbish, nerdy and klutzy—was just as dead-on. Although the movies were pretty campy (and only got campier with each successive film), there was nothing silly about Reeve’s Superman. We believed a man could fly, and, more than that, we believed that man was Superman.  
As if there were any doubt.

J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson (Superman)

-No contest here—Simmons' JJJ is the best. What’s funny is that Simmons looks absolutely nothing like Jameson when he’s out of makeup. But he has the attitude in spades. Nobody—nobody—could have played the part better than Simmons, and I’m glad to see his legacy carry on in Ultimate Spider-Man, even if Marc Webb ends up not using him in his films. In character, he looks exactly like the Ditko-era Jameson, from the flattop to the stogie, and he spouts off Jameson-isms at the speed of an accomplished typist hammering out an editorial. “Meat! I’ll send you a nice box of Christmas meat!” Simmons’ portrayal of Jameson is simply a cut above everything else, even Reeve’s Superman, and I hold out hope that we’ll get to see him again someday. 
And then there's this . . .

1 comment:

  1. I have only seen one film where Anthony Hopkins has a role that I did not like. That man could fill any role and I'd watch it!