Casting Friday: Batffleck, Rocket Cooper, Scarlet Olsen, and more

Each Friday, I will summarize the important casting news or rumors from the preceding week, giving you a preview of who’ll be playing who in the future!

Batffleck

affleckIn what is by far the biggest movie headline of the week, Ben Affleck was confirmed to be playing Bruce Wayne/Batman in the upcoming Batman vs Superman movie. The news coming out last night simultaneously ended months of speculation, and set hundreds of thousands of fans on a joke/complaint tirade across the internet.

This is hardly surprising, as the decision is definitely controversial. Ben Affleck has gone from being written off by Hollywood entirely, to winning several Oscars last year for Argo. His road to redemption has, however, been in more grounded films, playing simpler characters, and letting the film’s writing and directing drive the picture. Is a return to superheroics a good idea for Affleck? That being said, Affleck is clearly a capable actor, and while his resume is not characterized by very broodingly dark characters, maybe that is precisely what the Batman franchise needs. Clearly, the era of the Dark Knight is done, Christin Bale is not returning to the role. Going in a slightly different direction is what the new DC franchise very much needed.

Zack Snyder, director of Man of Steel as well as the upcoming Batman vs. Superman film had the following to say in the press that broke the story: “Ben provides an interesting counter-balance to Henry’s Superman. He has the acting chops to create a layered portrayal of a man who is older and wiser than Clark Kent and bears the scars of a seasoned crime fighter, but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne. I can’t wait to work with him.” Ben Affleck is Cavill’s senior by 11 years.

This is not the first we’ve heard of Affleck flirting with the DCU, of course – a year ago, Affleck reportedly may have been offered the director’s chair for a Justice League movie, and turned it down, sources claiming he may simply be not interested if he is not allowed to play one of the leading characters.

An interesting side-note is the fact that Affleck himself has already played Superman – or at least, worn the suit, when he played George Reeves, the 50s TV Superman, in the 2006 biopic Hollywoodland.

The same press release that confirmed the casting news, also reported on an initial release date, which is July 17th, 2015. This sets the release of the film two months after the planned May 1st release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, which is sure to be the film’s main competition in the box office. So, three years later, we have another Avengers vs Batman rematch in terms of success in the cinemas; a battle which was won by the Avengers in 2012, making over 623 mln. in domestic box office vs Dark Knight Rises‘ 448.

I suppose we really won’t know what to really expect with the direction the character is taking until we begin seeing set photos and a trailer, which will most likely be coming in a bit over a year.

ComicBookResources’ poll currently says 49.3 percent of voters said “I’m not sure – I’ll have to wait and see”, while 34.8 percent selected “He’s absolutely the wrong choice”, and 15.9% – “He’s perfect for the role – I love it!”. What do you think? State your opinions below!

Rocket Cooper

cooperMoving over to the Marvel side, last week we had news that Vin Diesel is voicing Groot in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film. This leaves one spot on the core cast available – that of Rocket Raccoon, the talking, flying, gun-toting racoon.

It may be filled shortly, however. According to Latino Review, which, while having a spotty record, has broken big Marvel news in the past (including the fact the studio is working on a Guardians of the Galaxy film), claims that Bradley Cooper is in talks to voice the character in the upcoming picture.

This news has since been confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter, making this seem all the more likely to be true.

Scarlet Olsen

olsenThe same article by The Hollywood Reporter also claimed that Elizabeth Olsen, who made big waves in the indie community in 2011 with Martha Marcy May Marlene, and is starring in next year’s Godzilla, is in talks to play the Scarlet Witch in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Her and the character’s brother Quicksilver are the two major new additions to the hero cast of the film, with all of the Avengers from last year’s film expected to return.

Olsen’s talks for the role are evidently further along than Cooper’s are for the Guardians.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson is reportedly in talks to play Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch’s brother. Quicksilver is also set to appear in next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Cumberbatch-less Peak

cumberbatchBenedict Cumberbatch has dropped out of Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak, a gothic horror film which the filmmaker says will be “the first time I get to do a movie more akin to what I do in the Spanish movies.”

According to Deadline, Cumberbatch’s departure is not due to scheduling conflicts – which means there was likely some disagreement or creative difference must have caused it. Perhaps with time, the details of the move will be released.

The film is still expected to star Mia Wasikowska in the lead role.

22 Russell Street

Wyatt Russell, who previously had roles in Cowboys & Aliens and This is 40, is confirmed to have a role in the sequel to last year’s delightfully funny 21 Jump Street, which will feature the returning characters played by Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in college. The sequel will be called 22 Jump Street and is set for a June 13, 2014 release.

Man of Steel

Poster of "Man of Steel"

Poster of Man of Steel (Courtesy of Wikipedia.org)

For fans of comic books, the last few summers have been hugely exciting. Marvel, now property of Disney, has been putting out movies based on characters from their movie universe since 2008’s Iron Man, making piles of money on even their lesser-known characters like Thor. This culminated, of course, in last year’s release of Avengers, which broke countless records in the Box Office, and was a pretty great action movie to boot. Warner Brothers, on the other hand, have been looking on in what must have been horror, as they saw their Dark Knight franchise draw to a close, as successful a close as it may be; and their numerous attempts to put a Justice League movie, based on the wealth of DC Comics characters under their ownership, all ended in development hell.

If the hype is to be believed, however, Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel will be a new start for the other half of comics’ big two. Considering it is being produced by Christopher Nolan, there were predictable changes made – characters added, changed, plot points altered, storylines condensed. All of this is understandable, and one gets the clear feeling that we are witnessing the beginning of a strong new movie franchise. Superman in this movie is angrier, edgier, and while the film overall is certainly not flawless, it is a fine start.

While it is standard for new superhero franchises to begin with an origin story, Man of Steel specifically follows the example set by Batman Begins. Both avoid a linear storyline, allowing them to avoid the obligatory boring first hour where the principal players are set up. Instead, they are able to tell the required parts of the back-story as they become relevant, in flashbacks. Similarly, the film is as much a setup as anything, the audience finally seeing the character as an established hero at the end. It is an effective technique, to be sure, and it certainly leaves one looking forward to the inevitably upcoming sequel. It does, of course, leave the film open to the obvious danger of the end goal being, in a way, the status quo.

Luckily, great care is taken with this film to ensure it is anything but boring – to the point that the excitement almost becomes dull by over-saturation. The action is intense and fast-paced, and for fans of action cinema, initially glee-inducing. This is not, as promised, your father’s Superman, and Henry Cavill is no overgrown boy scout. Unfortunately, as much as the redefinition is a welcome one, the lack of earnestness on part of the character which has always been characterised by his care for humanity leaves one with a cynical aftertaste. The one promise the film fails to deliver on is Superman saving us. Sure, he wins, as we knew he would, but despite the numerous Christ imagery, one never gets the feeling the Man of Steel does any of it for us. There’s an adversary to be bested, which is accomplished. It is as if caring was deemed “too lame” for modern audiences. Consequently, he ploughs his similarly invulnerable opponents through countless buildings, seemingly giving no thought to what no doubt must be thousands of innocents within. It is true his enemies must be defeated at any cost, and even if Metropolis is destroyed completely in the process, a military strategist would deem it an acceptable loss when weighed against saving the entire planet. Clark Kent, however, is not in the military, he was raised by farmers in the heartland of Kansas. To Superman, even a few people dying is NOT an acceptable loss, inevitable though it may be, and he must make every effort at every turn to prevent it. That’s what makes him a great, and ultimately, vulnerable character – without that vulnerability, the character would be the epitome of boredom.

The change makes sense, of course, from a marketing perspective. The film does end on a note of Superman setting himself up as the resident protector of mankind, and the hope is, I think, that now that the franchise is set up, the character will be allowed to return to his actual roots. Here, too, there is a comparison to be made with producer Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy – while in the first instalment, Batman is perfectly happy to simply allow his enemy a fall to his death, an analogous confrontation with the Joker in the second film ends in the stalemate that defines the character – he is unwilling to kill, or through inaction, allow the death of a human being. The cultural cache and the box office assured by the first film of the franchises allows for greater complexity in the follow-up.

The cast of the film certainly warrants mention. Here the supporting actors are actually better known than Henry Cavill himself, who not only looks the part, but projects the character’s strength with ease. Lois Lane is probably the best-known non-powered character in the Superman mythos, and Amy Adams’ version of the intrepid reporter is almost certainly the finest seen on film so far. She projects confidence and intelligence; gone are the days of Ms. Lane, an investigative journalist, not realizing that her subject, the man she is in love with, and colleague are the same person. I, for one, couldn’t be happier, I always thought that glasses obscuring a superheroes identity were by far the least believable element of the entire story, flying and heat-vision included. In the rest of the cast, we have Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Superman’s birth father, defending his son in both living and holographic form fiercely. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, on the other hand, teach the child in the ways of being human, the adoptive father controversially instructing his son to keep his powers hidden, for fear of prosecution. This is an interesting dynamic, but one can barely help but miss the old Pa Kent, who taught the young Clark to help others at all costs. Of course, every hero is only as interesting as his villain, and Michael Shannon’s General Zod is the embodiment of menace. While there is no particularly great complexity to the character, he is a worthy adversary, to be sure, due to the absolute conviction of the performance, his stern expression the absolute picture of grim, terrible determination.

Ultimately, therefore, purely as setup, Man of Steel is a fine film. In visual terms, it defines for what may be the next decade the way that DC universe’s superheroes fight – they are out for blood, move at terrifying speed, and their fights are akin only to natural disasters in terms of destruction. Whereas Richard Donner famously made us believe some thirty-five years ago that a man could fly, Zack Snyder showed us that a man could punch another guy through a skyscraper in the blink of an eye. And for fans of superheroes, that’s cool. We want to see that. But we also want to see our heroes care about things, have desires, suffer from their failures… So here’s hoping. In the meantime, as one of the last lines in the film goes, “welcome to the planet”, Superman!