Comics have been around for a shade over a hundred years*. Movies are about ten years younger**, and a good deal more expensive to produce. And yet, somehow movies are more widely consumed by the general populous. This doesn’t make sense, and I’ve given up trying to understand it –we are where we are.
Besides, as incomprehensible as the preference of the masses for movies might be, it does at least open up the possibility of a fun game that we can play called “Which Actor?” – a pastime popular wherever people are possessed of an interest in stories and waaaaaaaaaaaay too much free time. To play, all you need to do is select a character from the comic of your choice and decide which actor*** should play them should their comic ever be made into a movie. As an extention to the game, you are allowed to select characters which already have made the leap from page to screen and suggest actors who would’ve been better than the one who actually got the gig.
What makes this game fun, and indeed can make it last all night if the bar stays open, is that almost anyone you reveal your insights to will disagree****. Hours of discussion may then ensue.
So, in the light of the fact that there might finally be a Judge Dredd movie in the offing*****, let’s get a game started. Now, there are some deluded people who think that Sylvester Stallone should play Judge Dredd, and yes, I’ll be honest, his chin is pretty good for the part. He’s also physically right in that he has muscles on his muscles. He is however, far too short, although now he’s in his sixties, he might well be old enough – everyone always forgets that Dredd is in fact an old guy.
Back in the eighties, when Dredd wasn’t quite as old as he is now, I always favoured Harrison Ford for the role, and since Dredd has aged almost in real time since then I reckon the older Ford we have today would still be perfect. If they wanted to have a younger guy – and I’m betting the movies would – I’m not sure who I’d pick. My initial thought was Vin Diesel – he has the muscles. But he doesn’t really have the chin, which is surely Dredd’s most important attribute. In Diesel’s favour though, I think he could do a plausible voice for Dredd – something that Stallone sort of failed at.
I’m sure you all have better ideas, and I’m open to suggestions.
In the spirit of positivity, I thought it might be nice to consider some of the comic book characters who have been well cast in the past – because now I come to think about it, there have been quite a few.
Top of the list would have to be Christian Bale as Batman. As much as I was a fan of Tim Burton’s take on Batman, I was never really convinced by Michael Keaton in the role. He made a good Bruce Wayne, but he was just a little bit flabby chinned when he put the suit on. By contrast, Val Kilmer in Batman Forever was the polar opposite – he made a good (although not great) Batman, but didn’t convince me as Bruce Wayne. Ironically, as I’ve said here before, George Clooney was actually pretty good at both, but the script for Batman and Robin was so damn awful there was nothing he or anybody else could do with it except crack open a jar of cranberry sauce and enjoy the turkey.
I’ll admit, I was cynical about Bale when he was first cast, but he really is quite excellent. Go check out the DVD of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Watch him. Look at how he carries himself, how he moves. For a start, he’s different when he puts on the suit. He stands differently, he moves differently. The great fictional detective Lord Peter Wimsey once remarked that however good a disguise might be, the way a man stands and walks will always give him away. I’m not sure you’d catch Bale’s Batman out that way.
He also sounds different. When Bale plays the character Bruce Wayne sounds like a refined and relaxed gentleman. Batman sounds like a monster. I like that – that’s the way it should be. I like it particularly because it shows that Bale****** has read enough of the source material to understand how Brice Wayne and his alter ego actually work.
There’s a lot of excellent casting in those films mind you. Bale is the definitive screen Batman and Gary Oldman may just be the definitive screen Captain Gordan. He just works so well as a world weary cop. I can believe that he actually might accept help from a nut in an armoured suit at the same time as I can also believe he’s a good cop. That’s not an easy line to sell when you think about it, because in normal circumstances a good cop wouldn’t tolerate the Batman for an instant.
Villains are often well served by the movies. Tobey Maguire made an OK Spider-Man, but Willem Defoe made an unbelievable Green Goblin. Hell, if anything he was more convincing without the suit! That said, he didn’t make a great Norman Osbourne. His har was too good.
And of course, if we’re going to talk about villains in comic book movies, we have to raise our hats to Heath Ledger, who quite simply owned the Joker. This was particularly refreshing given that the last time the Clown Prince of Crime got an outing on celluloid he was rather unconvincingly played by the normally outstanding Jack Nicholson. The fact that my wife occasionally reads this column means I can’t really comment on how suited Michelle Pfeiffer might have been to the role of Catwoman, but I think we can all agree that Halle Berry didn’t have her finest hour in the catsuit.
But back to the game.
Who should play your favourite comics characters on screen? Maybe slide on by the forum and let me know what you think!
*I’m dating the origin of “comics” from the first appearance of Alley Sloper in 1884. After some deliberation that’s when I think things that resemble the things we now call “comics” first appeared. Feel free to choose a different start date – I’m still right but that’s a subject for a different time…
**And I’m dating that from the Lumiere brothers in 1895, because most other people do, and because it suits my argument.
***Or Actress, if you prefer to use gender specific titles.
****Or not care of course, but those people are boring and not worth drinking with…
*****What do you mean there already was one? Sorry, Stallone’s version needs to be blanked from all memory. Worst damn case of “Jimping” in history!
******Or at the very least his acting coach and/or the director…