As soon as Ben Affleck was cast as Batman in the forthcoming Batman vs. Superman film, the Internet exploded into what analysts have figured was hundreds of thousands of comments, around 70% of which (in the immediate wake, anyway) were negative.
There’s been some push-back, of course; we were one of the first to say maybe there’s not quite reason to panic yet, but lots of others have followed up by saying similar things and the tide of support for Affleck is now, depending on where you look, a bit more even (a poll at Deadline puts his favorable/indifferent rating at 40%; one at Comic Book Resources has it at about 70%).
And a fair number of the people who are supportive of the Argo star taking on the cape and cowl have turned to Heath Ledger, the most recent big-screen Joker, to make their argument. That unexpected and inspired piece of casting totally changed the public’s view of Ledger and, in all likelihood, the tone and tenor of the movie.
Without overlapping too much on our list of controversial casting choices from the past (some of whom really did turn out to be wrong for the parts), we figured we’d take a look at some of the choices that made us go, “Wow! Of course!”
We’ll leave Ledger off the list, only because we mention him in the introduction and there’s really no further explanation needed; he was playing against type and widely controversial, but turned in one of the most beloved performances in comics movies and got an Oscar for his troubles.
Who else can we count among the choices that are not only great, but not immediately obvious, either?
Rourke as Marv seems like an obvious choice in many respects: he looks the part and in the time since, hes’ played a number of similar heavies including Iron Man 2‘s Whiplash and the title character in The Wrestler.
When Sin City was released, though, it had been years since Rourke had been a major player in a hit movie–and anybody who’d read the comics would know that much of the film’s success would ride on pulling off Marv.
His small role in Sin City director Robert Rodriguez’s Once Upon a Time in Mexico, though, was enough to win the filmmaker over to Rourke’s corner and he not only nailed the performance but reinvigorated his career as well.
Look, I didn’t like this movie any better than anybody else.
And, yeah, Ryan Reynolds has established sort of a bad track record with comic book movies, having starred in dogs like Blade: Trinity, Green Lantern and R.I.P.D.
Still, Reynolds as Deadpool was one of those announcements where I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of him independently but couldn’t help but say, “Oh, of course!” when they announced it. And as bad as the movie was, and as poorly as his character was handled in it, Reynolds did everything that was asked of him and elevated the material to the best of his ability.
Sometimes you have a movie that’s just objectively bad, but when you strip it all away and look at it objectively, there’s that one salvageable element of the whole thing where you walk away going, “You know, they could have had a movie there.” In this case, it’s Reynolds.
Look, this once again goes back to what we just said: sometimes you can look at a movie as a whole and admit it didn’t work, but there’s still something of value in there. In the case of the late Michael Clarke Duncan, he managed to appear in two of the least popular comic book movies of all time, and he nailed the performance in both.
Daredevil was interesting; the character was originally white in the comics, and so casting an actor of color had a bit of backlash to it from the hardcore fans…but by and large, the minute somebody heard who it was in the role, they were on board. It’s a combination of Duncan’s presence and The Kingpin not being the film’s central character that seemed to take the normally-agitated fanboys and force them to a place of, “Oh, alright, we’ll give it a chance.”
Arguably, by the time Green Lantern came around, he wasn’t a risky choice for that, but we can say this: excepting the controversy around the film’s leads (none of the three principal leads–Reynolds, Blake Lively and Peter Sarsgaard–made it out unscathed), the casting in this movie was spot-on. So mcuh so that a lot of fans have suggested you could make a sequel to the flop…just so long as you had a different GL in the lead and only had to carry over the minor players.
Look, this one’s obvious, but it has to be here. Reeve was pretty unknown when he got the role and he managed something that no other major superhero actor had ever done before Hugh Jackman: he made it basically impossible to imagine anybody else in the role. And with Superman, that’s proved problematic over the years because it’s Superman and Warner Bros. really want to take advantage of his popularity.
So every actor since the ’80s has been unfavorably compared to Reeve and in order to get away from the notion that he is Superman, the studio had to make a movie that was so far removed from the films Reeve had done that nobody could possibly mistake Man of Steel for a Superman: The Movie sequel.
Hugh Jackman as Wolverine
Some credit here apparently has to go to Russell Crowe, who helped him get the gig after the studio went to Crowe to star.
Can you imagine? Crowe might have been good, but it would have been a very different performance.
And yeah, we mentioned him above, but it’s worth repeating: Hugh Jackman as Wolverine was a brilliant casting choice, and one that’s paid off arguably even more than Chris Reeve did, since it happened at a time when comic book movies are all the rage and Jackman has been able to make a whole bunch of very lucrative films as the character.
It’s something that’s fed on itself, too; becuase Wolverine is a key part of what makes the X-Men tick, but he was not in and of himself a household name as a character before the first X-Men movie that featured Jackman, you didn’t have the “Superman curse,” where everyone saw Jackman only as Wolverine forever and ever amen. The actor has segued the role into major commercial success in other films and in turn that stardom has helped make his Wolverine solo films more plausible and successful.