Thursday, May 3, 2012

Discuss: The Best Depiction of a Marvel Character on Film

Doug:  Any character from any Marvel movie -- who's tops in your book, even if you didn't like the particular film he/she was in?


Anonymous said...

Well, I thought Jessica Alba was brilliant as Sue Storm....

(don’t worry, just testing....)

Now, getting down to business....

Something that I notice is a huuuuuuge issue with the films that doesn’t really apply to the comic books is that in the comics, their alter ego’s life / situation either works or it doesn’t, adds to the overall plot / storyline, or takes away from it, but there’s no ‘performance’ issue.

With the movies, if there is an alter ego, we have a different situation because the actor will either be just basically playing the alter-ego, with a stunt-person or effects doing most of the heroing (I’m sure Downey got into the iron suit for fun, but I doubt it’s him we see) or will actually be playing the hero as such.

So, three types of hero/alter ego relationship:

1)No alter ego – Thor is just Thor.
2)The alter ego is all effects / stuntman – Hulk smash!
3)The performance as the alter-ego & superhero BY THE ACTOR is key ...I think Captain America was a good example here, although Spider Man is clearly the poster-child.

The Xmen fall into category one because although we see them in their civvies, it’s the same performance. After some consideration, I liked Halle Berry as Storm, although she was more the post-Morlock Ororo. Likewise Jackman. Visually, January Jones was a great Emma Frost, but I hated Kevin Bacon as Shaw. One thing I consistently loved about the Xmen films was the casting of known people even in small roles. Vinnie Jones thundering after Ellen Page was something I never expected to see. Casting in Thor was great. I believed everyone.

The difficulty is, as Doug says, that the best depictions may not be in the best movies. Ioan Gruffudd made a pretty good Reed Richards, I thought, given that they had to make Reed younger, but not too much younger. I loved the Ghost Rider effect, visually. Jennifer Garner looked the part as Elektra. The Surfer looked superb and was well characterised & depicted.

It’s tempting to just say Downey because, let’s face it, he IS Tony Stark, but I might go for Alfred Molina as Doc Ock.

Oh no, wait, where’s my head, I’m forgetting Howard the Duck.


Anonymous said...

Gut reaction for me: Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. I think he nails the millionaire playboy better than Tony was portrayed in comics and certainly better than the hokey playboy by Adam West. I think when the movies get it right is when the get the essence of the character and make these people adults instead of watering things down or feeling the need to pander to kids.

It's tough to take a character who has had 40 some odds years of development and sum him up in a couple of two hour movies. But for me, the Iron Man movies get Tony's relationship with Pepper, Rhodey, alcohol, etc. pretty darn good.

So maybe an obvious choice but I'm biased towards Iron Man anyways. He was my first favorite.


Anonymous said...

Tom, super heroes ARE for kids.

jaerdaph said...

Ian McKellen as Magneto - brilliant. Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier for a very close second.

david_b said...

Richard.., you nearly had coffee spit over the keyboard over the Howard mention... (2nd to Alba's name mentioned..).

My first inclination was Ioan Gruffudd as Reed Richards.. It's great when you can have an actor in that role that really makes you believe he's a genius, to almost see his mind going, calculating equations, etc.., yet totally clueless about life's simplier joys.

On the case regarding Sue, I've said before that if the movie was done say 20yrs ago, Laura Dern would have been a PERFECT Sue Storm.

I'd 'third' the nomination for Downey as Stark. Yep, he pretty much nails the millionaire swagger and style, yet totally believable in the cave, hammering away at iron in the first movie.

If I could meekly enter non-Marvel characters, I'd vote for Billy Zane as the Phantom, followed closely by the Rocketeer.

Doug said...

Consider Nightcrawler and the Sandman as two of my personal nominees, and I just decided to amend the original post with another of my faves: J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson!


humanbelly said...

Comments prefaced with the disclaimer that I am an easy mark when it comes to surrendering to even a not-great film (Hey, I liked both Hulk movies, Green Lantern, AND Ghost Rider-!) (Wow, neither FF film, really, though.).

That being said--

I feel like there are just so many solid, solid casting choices. I don't think there's a viable "best one ever", 'cause when a character's fully realized-- you've pretty much hit the upper plateau. And happily that's happened a number of times, IMO.

I'll go ahead and first just echo Tom's comment about liking Tony Stark's movie personna (and believing it) more than I ever have in the comic book. Big one right there.

JK Simmons as Jameson, yessir.
Rosemary Harris as Aunt May.
Cliff Robertson as Uncle Ben.
LOVED Tobey Maguire as Peter/Spidey.
Green Goblin/Doc Ock/Sandman-- movie versions breathed unsuspected life into the characters.
James Marsden as Cyclops-- dead-on.
Magneto & Professor X (in the initial series), yes & yes.
I'm in the minority, but I find Hugh Jackman's Wolvering MUCH more human & interesting than the comic book version that we've been drowned with. Definitely not the same character, though.
Same with Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique-- a riveting peformance, but certainly a departure from the character we know (and again, I prefered her take on it).
Oh man-- Idris Elba as Heimdall would be very near the top of any list I'd make.
Chris Hemsworth, yes.
Hiddleston, yes.
Anthony Hopkins, yes (although I still would have preferred Brian Blessed, despite age and girth).
Samuel Jackson as the Ultimates version of Nick Fury, yes.
I did think the cast of the FF proper was fine (although I never bought Jess Alba being a blue-eyed, blond-haired caucasion NOR an older sister to Chris Evans), but the script of both films just gave them NOTHING to work with, depth-wise.

What I have noticed also is that the casting tends to run either homerun or strikeout--- there doesn't seem to be much middle-ground. Because the bad choices are GLARINGLY off. Probably worthy of a whole 'nother thread, I'm thinkin'.(!)


Anonymous said...

I thought Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart brought a believability and gravity to their roles that I never got from the comic book versions of their respective characters.

--Matt alias Anonymous

Anonymous said...

Laura Dern as Sue Storm? I thought Invisible Girl was supposed to be goodlookin'?

William said...

Christopher Reeves as Superman and Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor were both brilliant.

The original Superman 1 and 2, still remain some of the most faithful comic book to big screen adaptations ever.

Martin Molloy said...

I love many of the answers here but I'm going to vote for Willem Dafoe's hair in his depiction of Norman Osborne.

david_b said...

'Laura Dern as Sue Storm'..?

Heck yeah, remember I said '20 YEARS AGO', when she did 'Jurassic Park' or earlier..

Pretty, mature, determined, smart, nice jaw line, she would have complimented a brainiac like Reed Richards just fine, yet show nice mature feminine mystique, MUCH better than some Alba-type eye-candy actress would.

Anonymous said...

Hi David....but to be fair, she had great legs too.


Anonymous said...

Superman is a Marvel character?

--Matt alias Anon

William Preston said...

Agree with many comments here, but I couldn't accept the Reed Richards we were saddled with. I'm sure the script was largely to blame: to write dialogue for a super-smart character, you've got to be pretty clever yourself, and there was little sign of that in the FF scripters. The standout who always surprised me in those films was Chris Evans; I thought he did a great deal with what he'd been given. He was comfortable with the role and walked the cockiness/bravery edge he needed to walk.

I think Thor was the most well cast of any of the Marvel films.

Anonymous said...

I think Chris Evans as Captain America was one of the best we've seen in recent times.

- Mike from Trinidad.
PS - like many fanboys the world over I am positively drooling to see the Avengers movie - and I'm 41! :)

William said...

"Superman is a Marvel character?"

--Matt alias Anon"

Oops! Missed the "Marvel" in the description of this topic.

In that case, almost none have really been up to snuff as far as I'm concerned.

If we are going by just looks, Spider-Man worked pretty good, as did Sandman, (but I've never seen him fly around as a sand cloud in any comic). The most comic accurate character from the Spider-Man movies was J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson.

As for the X-Men, they were all too far removed from their comic looks for me. Black on black leather motorcycle outfits are not even close to resembling anything the X-Men ever wore in a comic. The only character that was comic accurate was Patrick Stewart as Prof. X. Nightcrawler was definitely cool, but he was still pretty far off model from the comics. I still greatly enjoyed the movies though (well the first two at least).

I thought the Hulk was done pretty well in the second movie. Abomination, not so much.

Iron Man of course was just about spot on, both look and character-wise. I would have liked some kind of homage to his classic (silver and bronze age) look though. That could have at least been his first prototype when he got back to his lab (either Mark II or Mark III).

As far as physical appearance and personality, most of the FF was done pretty well, and I thought that the Silver Surfer looked great. However, both the movies were lacking in depth. (Especially the first one). Dr. Doom totally sucked.

The Captain America movie seemed to go so far as to actually make fun of his classic comic look. I'm happy to see they are embracing it more in the Avengers flick.

As far as Thor goes, I kind of miss the helmet.

Rip Jagger said...

There's a moment in the first Superman movie with Christopher Reeve when he's using his own super body to drill down to Lex Luthor's lair, the moment when he breaks through and his cape whips around. That split second is as close to convincing me superheroes were real on screen as anything I've ever seen. I totally bought that moment. He was Superman!

Rip Off

Edo Bosnar said...

McKellen as Magneto and Stewart as Xavier were perfect. Downey as Tony Stark is close to perfect - perfect would be Tom Selleck if, as per david_b, it were about 20 or 30 years ago (I think one of the reasons I liked Magnum PI so much was because it reminded me a bit of Michelinie/Layton's Iron Man - or was it the other way around?)
Also, sticking with david_b's 20 years ago idea - and I mentioned this on another comments thread before - the perfect casting choice for Wolverine would have been Fred Ward.

Chuck Wells said...

No question that the Marvel films have gotten the casting right more often than not, but "Thor" was slightly diminished by the decision to politically correct certain cast members (there were no soul brothers or samurai in Norse mythology, and yes those actors were fine in the roles - but still). Here are my top ten favorites in no particular order:

Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Ian McKellen as Magneto
J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson
Anthony Hopkins as Odin
Chris Evans as Captain America
Patrick Stewart as Prof. X
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
CGI “Ghost Rider”
Wesley Snipes as Blade

ChrisPV said...

For me, I think the Marvel movies have been pretty well cast as a rule. There are a few exceptions (Ben Affleck, Jessica Alba, and Nic Cage spring to mind) but overall, way more hits than misses. The rest of the FF were really solid, the X-Men movies were brilliant, and the Avengers movies have all been awesome.

As for Superman, I think we should retire it as a live action role. Just call it a day and hang up the cape. Nobody will inhabit that role like Reeve did. Nobody. That scene where he's considering telling Lois and he goes from Clark to Superman and back again in about thirty seconds using only body language is one of the best bits of physical acting I've ever seen.

William Preston said...

Hey, Chuck Wells: There weren't any Australians in the Norse pantheon either. So why do you have a problem with Heimdall but not Thor? Only when ethnicity is noticeable is it a problem? "Soul brother"? Man, this is the first time I've had such a bad vibe from the comments on this site.

Anonymous said...

I can see where Chuck Wells is coming from re: the casting of Idris Elba and Tadanobu Asano in Thor. It does feel less faithful to Norse mythology.

On the other hand, these are more enlightened times that we live in, and I think that audiences in general find a lack of believable racial representation less and less acceptable as time goes on. That's a good thing if you ask me.

Most of our favorite comic books are products of the golden and silver ages, when racial (and gender) roles in media was sadly uninlightened. So I understand it when things have to be updated. My version of the Justice League is firmly set in the silver/bronze era. So I was disappointed when Hal Jordan and Hawkman were replaced by John Stewart and Hawkgirl for the cartoon. But that disappointment was momentary at best. The execution was handled exceptionally well, and those two characters helped make the show richer and richer as it kept evolving.

Similarly, my Nick Fury is the cigar-chomping wisacre Sgt. from WW2 that Kirby and Steranko drew. But, as re-conceived, he couldn't be in better hands than Samuel Jackson's.

Will Smith as James West in the Wild, Wild West did bother me. Smith is great in other roles, but from Robert Conrad to Will Smith was just too great a leap for me. Actually, the film looked so bad that I never did see it. But I loved the TV show.

Here's an idea for an interesting social experiment: A remake of Shaft with Russell Crowe as Shaft. Or Tom Cruise. Wonder how that would pan out?

I think Elba in particular is an excellent actor, and did a great job with a minor role in Thor. Check out The Wire sometime to see what he can really do.

I've tried to word this post very carefully, and apologize if I've offended anyone. These are still some hot button topics

James Chatterton

William Preston said...


I appreciate your thoughtful post. As for your "Shaft Thought Experiment": the problem there is that the character of Shaft is, necessarily, from a particular context. Had there not been the Ultimate series that detaches Nick Fury from WWII and makes Fury black, it would have been an odd leap in the movie. (Actually, my problem with race in the Cap movie is that the film reimagines an integrated U.S. armed forces. It's great to see more black faces on the screen, but I think the themes of the film would have been better served (and people would have been given a useful dose of history) had there been some comment about segregation in the armed forces. That would have made Gabriel Jones, who is a character in the Howlin' Commandos comics, a more notable figure.)

The thing about Thor, as I wrote on my blog last year, is that you're dealing with myths to begin with. So what if the Norse imagine their gods to be white? This kind of literalism is what, for me, so damages Peter Jackson's LOTR movies: all of the "good" human races are white; the bad guys are either jet black (orcs, which is where Jackson stuck all aboriginal actors, sadly) or swarthy (those sort-of-Turks atop the elephants). That's just a sign that someone's not thinking, or that they're rather selective with how they're applying their imagination. It doesn't matter that Tolkien pictures whites folks as the good guys: he's drawing from the Eddas but making up the geography and history to suit his own tale. Should we be troubled that Gandalf is played by an openly gay man? Again, I think people stumble over color in unique ways, but partly because they don't think through--as you suggested in your Shaft analogy--what exactly is so problematic in any given situation.


Humanbelly said...

We had a lengthy discussion over on the Avengers Assemble boards last year about the multi-racial Norse gods convention. And it really doesn't take too much hair-splitting to resolve it-- especially when one considers the Marvel Universe line that these "gods" are in fact very, very old races of powerful beings who (even individually) predate human civilization.

The big mistaken assumption is that the Norsemen "created" these gods (the ones in the movie and the MU). In this case, they didn't. They simply identified someone who already existed. So, whether or not the ancient Norsemen knew of other races on earth is irrelevant. Contact between Norseman and Norse god would certainly been limited, and for the purpose of communication and trust, it's not hard at all to imagine that the few "god" representatives would have been selected from the racial group that most closely resembled that group of mortals'.

In other words, racially-diverse Asgardians could have been there all along, and circumstances simply kept the mortals from identifying them.

Of course, this ISN'T how Asgard was ever depicted in the comic book. But it could also go a long way toward unifying the existence of the bajillion different pantheons of god-races that seem to hover in the ether above the Marvel Universe. Maybe. . . they're all of a common ancestry as well?

Inner fanboy's been workin' on hyperdrive (naturally) for a couple of days now. . .


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