Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Casting Superheroes

Since we are talking comix, I might as well talk about the other news of the day. From Variety:
Chris Evans will don the star-spangled superhero suit to play Captain America for Marvel Entertainment.

Evans accepted an offer made by the comicbook publisher late last week, beating out a number of thesps who test-screened for the high-profile role.

A few weeks back, when the speculation was at a fever pitch, Alyssa Rosenberg weighed in on the possible casting of John "The Office" Krasinski with this:
But I just think Krasinski is far too much of a relatable, regular guy to take up the shield as Steve Rogers. I think that he's into the running speaks to the body type that's become so popular among young Hollywood actors today: the tall, almost willowy type that looks good in slim-fit suits. Sam Worthington may be the only actor in this particular generation with a real jaw.
(via TNC)

When I posted the news of Chris Evans' casting on facebook, it kicked off a bit of a hategasm. A lot of my friends jumped all over it, and, I gotta agree a bit. Not just because of Evans is Ryan Reynolds light (less Canadian!), but because it's easy superhero casting. And it makes me scared about the direction they're heading already.

The standard weakness of superhero casting is casting only half the role. They err on the side of casting the hero and not the person inside the mask. Especially in "origin" movies, they cast the end of the movie, not the beginning. Hence we get Dolph Lundgren as the Punisher, Brandon Routh (a blank pretty boy) or Tom Welling as Superman, Adam West and George Clooney as Batman, even Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman. I loved Christopher Reeve as Superman and he had the comic chops to pull of Clark Kent, but it was a stretch.

Part of the the superhero thing is the secret identity. It has to be believable, understandable and acceptable. The more successful casting, like Michael Keaton or Christian Bale as Batman, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Tobey Maguire in the Spider-Man movies shades towards the man in the suit. And also great actors. Superheroes are deceptively tricky parts to cast and pull off. Casting them for the jaw or the body leaves the important stuff out. And Captain America is probably more deceptive than most.

I mean, the guy basically wears an American flag, carries a big American flag shield and is all about decency, fair play and being upright and honest. You know, like America. Ahem. Moving on. In his most recognizable form, he's a perfect physical specimen, blond, blue-eyed and a leader of men and sentient robots. Of course you'd want a guy who looks like this. Or this. But to do that, you leave out his whole origin story. The whole point is that the guy was 4F, couldn't serve in WWII and volunteered for the Super Soldier Project in order to help the war effort. And then he gets turned into the perfect man. Even after that, his cover story is the classic "geek loser who turns into a god when no one is looking." We're used to letting it slide that when Clark throws on a pair of glasses no one recognizes him, but it's harder and harder to make it stick. You need someone who can act it, can make us believe that no one would ever think this guy is a hero. If he looks like a hero from the start, you have to do that much more work.

Casting someone like Chris Evans says to me that Captain America will be a dumb action movie and not much more. It will probably be sort of funny and serviceable. But, honestly, I was pulling for Krasinski. That would have a different look at the character, a more human touch (not Human Torch!). Now we get a smug, wise-cracking wiseapple who's probably going to learn some humility and the real meaning of patriotism. Whoop-dee-do. At least we can look forward to this.

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