Wednesday, July 15, 2015

5 people I wish weren't in a superhero movie

Is no one immune?

Has the superhero movie, as a cultural phenomenon, become so inescapable that every working actor either has been in, will be in, or is currently working on a superhero movie?

My latest bout of despair over the all-consuming suffocation known as the comic book movie has been brought on by learning that Oscar Isaac plays the villain in the next X-Men movie.

Oscar Isaac, my current cinematic darling if any single actor could fill that role.

I'll watch anything Oscar Isaac is in. Which means, I suppose, I will be watching X-Men: Apocalypse.

Alright, alright. I knew I'd be watching X-Men: Apocalypse anyway. Not only have I watched every main series X-Men movie, but I've watched each one in the theater, and The Wolverine as well. In fact, the only X-Men byproduct I have not seen in theaters was X-Men Origins: Wolverine -- and I kind of liked that movie anyway. So this argument is sort of a straw man.

But still, I kind of think Oscar Isaac is above it, and I wished he'd considered himself that as well. Just because someone offers you the money, it doesn't mean you have to take it.

To be experiencing this disappointment over Isaac's choice seems especially strange, given that one of the next movies we're going to see him in is Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He's already busted into the big time, and if that movie isn't based on a comic book (which of course it isn't), the distinction is probably splitting hairs. But that doesn't make my disappointment any less palpable.

So since Isaac is obviously my #1, without any further ado, let's get into the four others -- listed in no particular order -- I wish had not "sullied themselves" by bowing to the holy comic book movie dollar.

2. Benedict Cumberbatch 
Role: Doctor Strange in Doctor Strange (2016)
Why it disappoints me: I'm not in love with "The Batch" or anything -- in fact, I found his Oscar-nominated turn in The Imitation Game (along with the movie) a little overrated -- but I do consider this actor to have a natural dignity, a Shakespearean quality that should place him above this "low" comic fare. Especially since he's not playing a main, known quantity, but digging deep into the Marvel catalogue to play the title role in next year's Doctor Strange movie. That said, I do own some Daniel Danger artwork that was inspired by this comic, which was a cherished wedding present from a dear friend, so I'm sure I will be watching this movie with a bit of added curiosity.

3. Mark Ruffalo
Role: Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk in The Avengers (2012) and The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Why it disappoints me: What I love about Ruffalo is also what I love about Isaac -- his eternal, unimpeachable naturalism. I'm pretty sure that's what Joss Whedon, or whoever cast him as the Hulk, liked about him too. And it's not that he's bad in the role -- I could only judge that from one of the two movies, as I haven't seen the second one yet -- but that the movie doesn't deserve someone as real and believable as Ruffalo. He's not a star; he's like a character actor that you cast as your lead if you want your movie to burst with a certain indie vitality. He has straddled that line between commercial films and indie films, as most working actors must, but it feels like a compromise indeed for him to have stepped into the Hulk's ripped jean cutoffs. The fact that he needed the money enough to do it is the sad part -- or maybe I'm holding him on too high of a pedestal, and he just thought taking the role would be a hoot.

4. Kate Winslet
Role: Jeanine in Divergent (2014) and Insurgent (2015)
Why it disappoints me: Do these count as superhero movies? They are YA novels and the main character is superheroic, so ... sure, for our purposes let's count it. Because it was the same "What was she thinking?" factor at play when I saw the trailers for these and saw "Kate the Great" front and center as their villain. Now, I have not actually seen either of these movies, so she could actually be great in them for all I know. But I trust the general consensus that these are not good movies, and even if they were better than I have heard, it would still not be a particularly encouraging turn of events that she had signed on to do one of them in the first place. I suppose I should condition myself to expect a little less from a woman who also saw it fit to appear in the disastrous omnibus comedy Movie 43.

5. Michael Shannon
Role: General Zod in Man of Steel (2013)
Why it disappoints me: Sometimes a bit of casting can seem like a great idea, and still end up a big letdown. Take Shannon in the most recent reboot of the Superman story. I didn't love the idea of anyone stepping into Terence Stamp's shoes, as his Superman II villain is one of my favorites of all time, but if someone had to be the 21st century Zod, I thought Shannon was the man to do it. Well, it turned into perhaps the only performance of Shannon's that I've ever seen that I can call "bad." Zack Snyder's directing is surely in part to blame for hissy fit lines like "I will find him!", but I gotta call out Shannon as well. Stamp never needed to get in a tizzy about anything -- his supreme equanimity was key to the menace he brought to that role. Shannon, meanwhile, ought to stick to what he does best -- the types of indies he's made with Jeff Nichols.

Dishonorable mentions: Michael Fassbender as Magneto in X-Men: First Class (2011) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

What I wonder is if these people regret it, or if they think that playing an iconic superhero -- or even one that's not so iconic -- is like stepping up to the big leagues. If you've warn tights, you've arrived. Something like that?

Well, I still love them. And if they've been part of the group brainwash that has taken over our whole culture, how can I blame them?

Now excuse me so I can go figure out when it might be a good time to get Ant-Man on my viewing schedule ...


Nick Prigge said...

I liked the first Divergent movie, if only because I thought it was more Pretty in Pink than Dystopian epic. I haven't seen the second one yet, though I have read the book (I read them specifically because I knew Kate was going to be in the movies because that's just who I am) and went more for the Dystopian angle than I liked. And that's why I think if you look at Kate's character in Divergent more as the evil stepmother than the leader of whatever evil entity she's the leader of, it works better.

Don Handsome said...

I guess I'm just so worn down by the superhero movie thing that I'm happy when actors I like participate in them. I'd rather see The Batch take on Dr. Strange, for example, than some generic Face And Abs. But yeah, I bet they all will regret this phase as we all come around to resenting it.

Derek Armstrong said...

Nick, that's a reasonable way to go about it. I don't suspect I will prioritize watching those movies, but I unexpectedly watched The Giver this past weekend and loved it, so who knows.

Don, that's the other side of it. But still.