We live in an age where comic book movies reign over the box office. In a time where re-makes and re-boots are commonplace, movies based on comic books are the closest thing moviegoers get to genuine creativity on the silver screen. As a child I remember visiting with friends, casting our favorite comic book characters and dreaming of one day seeing them on the big-screen.
Now that my childhood dreams are being fulfilled and re-filled on an annual basis, it is time to throw down the top ten castings in the opinion of yours truly.
Honorable Mention – Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth
I have all the respect in the world for Michael Caine’s Alfred—he’s awesome. When it comes to playing Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s butler and one confidante but no one beats Michael Gough. I’ll never forget the scene in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman where Bruce and Vicky Vale shared dinner while listening to childhood stories about Bruce told by Alfred.
He was the father figure Bruce grew up with and can you imagine if he would have been in the Chris Nolan movies. Just imagine Gough speaking the line: “Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” Gough had a connection with Alfred’s character that will remain timeless. If only the first four movies had given him more to do.
10. Callum Blue as General Zod (Smallville)
Some people are going to call me crazy for throwing a Smallville casting on the top ten all time castings lisr, but Callum Blue is perhaps the ideal casting for a young Zod in film or on television. This is the guy that played a Grim Reaper on “Dead Like Me,” a member of King Henry VIII’s court on “The Tudor’s,” and even a mild-mannered suitor to Anne Hathaways princess on “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement.”
Zod, as presented on Smallville, needed an actor with finesse, and Blue brought his A-game. His commanding “Kneel” statement rivals if not outdoes Terrence Stamp’s original “Kneel before Zod” command, which is definitely saying something. I would have loved to see Callum Blue attack Zod’s character with a better script with an bigger scope and vision on the big screen, because we just might have seen a Zod for the ages. I can’t wait to see what Michael Shannon does with the character on “The Man of Steel.”
9. Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man
Goodbye Spider-Man that gave us two excellent films, and hello new Spider-Man Andrew Garfield: you have tough shoes to fill. Tobey Maguire IS Spider-Man. A short and skinny guy with a geeky persona, Peter Parker needed someone who could play bashful, shy, and above all nervous. Maguire captured the emotions of the stereotypical geeky high school teenager that pines for a girl, and juxtaposed those feelings against that same teenager coming to grips with an enormous amount of power. Set that against a backdrop of grieving for a lost parental figure, and Peter Parker quickly becomes a complex character with difficult emotional situations.
While excited to see the new rendition of Marvel’s The Amazing Spider-Man, I will always love the Tobey Maguire depiction from the first two films by Sam Raimi.
8. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine
Wolverine was perhaps my favorite of the X-Men group growing up. He’s gritty, blunt, and intent on ripping apart anything that gets in his way. On first appearance Hugh Jackman seems like none of those things, but he sure plays a good cigar-smoking nomad with a chip on his shoulder. I’ll never forget his opening scenes on the first X-Men film.
From his brutal cage fights and subsequent scenes with Anna Paquin’s Rogue, Jackman’s Wolverine is clearly more than just a brute—he actually cares about other people. When I first saw Hugh Jackman associated with Wolverine, I was worried about a skinny guy playing the bulky Wolverine, but it works surprisingly well, never mind Jackman’s masterful drop of an Australian accent for the gritty speech of Wolverine.
7. Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman
Meeow. Selina Kyle has always been twisted. Dating Bruce Wayne by day and throwing down with him on the rooftops by night, Catwoman is awesome. Tim Burton’s rendition of the character was downright creepy, and Michelle Pfeiffer brought her A-game, re-defining the character in the minds of audiences from her days in the 60′s show.
From her scenes as a nervous assistant to being hell-bent on destroying Batman, Pfeiffer brings awesome versatility to the role. I particularly enjoyed the discovery scene, when Wayne and Kyle learned each-others identities. Her look of horror followed by a psychopathic grab for a gun really made Pfeiffer’s rendition of Catwoman a memorable one.
6. Ian McKellan & Michael Fassbender as Magneto
Magneto is one of those characters that are just awesome in a really bad way. Sure, he wants to twist the world to his own purposes, but at least he has a good reason. X-Men and X-Men: First Class give viewers a sympathetic, tortured vision of Magneto. In the original X-Men film, Magneto is the bad guy that lost his parents when he was young, but now he’s an old guy on a mission to make the world like him. Ian McKellan is one of the best actors in the world today, perhaps of all time, and he simply personifies Magneto down to fitting into the funny-looking helmet.
When First Class picks up on the beginning of its predecessor, it gives viewers a first-row seat to the formation of madness. Michael Fassbender, the same actor playing an insanely devoted Spartan in 300, masterfully pulls off Magneto’s origin story by being both ruthless and tortured at the same time. There is a good argument, I think, that separating Mckellan and Fassbender’s castings in each respective film is near impossible, as they fit together so well. The only thing that makes me nervous about the next film is seeing Fassbender in that helmet again—it just doesn’t fit him very well. Other than that, go forth and twist metal.
5. Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier
X-Men perfectly cast two roles in both renditions of the characters, and Professor Xavier second of the two. When I found out that Xavier would be played by Captain Picard himself, my childhood casting dream was fulfilled. I always envisioned Patrick Stewart in the iconic wheelchair, and apparently Bryan Singer agreed with me.
Stewart was born to play Xavier.
4. Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon
Tim Burton’s Batman utterly failed in its rendition and casting of Commissioner Gordon. Say what you will about Tim Burton’s films, they were good, but I really missed having a solid Jim Gordon.
When Gary Oldman was cast as the character, I jumped up-and-down for joy. Gary Oldman is one of those actors that can play just about anything and be the best in his craft at it. When I first saw Oldman on screen as a younger Gordon consoling a young Bruce Wayne, I was blown away. Now that we’ve all gotten to know the character portrayed by Oldman, I don’t think we’ll ever see another Jim Gordon in the same light.
3. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Stan Lee, creator of Iron Man, said that Robert Downey Jr. is always what I envisioned Tony Stark to be” (paraphrase). By now could anyone imagine anyone else playing Iron Man? Tony Stark is a drunken rich guy that turns his life around. Robert Downey Jr. has a history as well. Who else could possibly understand Tony Stark better than Robert Downey Jr.?
Moreover, Stark’s quick wit and arrogant attitude get extra special treatment by Downey Jr., and I can’t wait to see him interact with the other Avengers when they assemble on the silver screen.
2. Heath Ledger as Joker
The Joker is and always will be Batman’s equal and opposite. In The Dark Knight, from a character, acting, and overall awesomeness standpoint, Heath Ledger’s Joker literally steals the show. When I first found out that Heath Ledger had been cast as The Joker, I had the exact opposite reaction as with Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier. I was terrified, dismayed, shocked, nervous—all of those things a geeky fan-boy feels when a letdown is on the way. I got even more nervous when the first picture of Ledger in makeup was released. When I finally saw him in action on screen, I, along with the rest of the world, was completely blown away.
Heath Ledger’s Joker is a completely different rendition than Batman fans have ever seen. From the many cartoon renditions to Jack Nicholson’s take on the character, Joker always had a comic element to him that was simply not present in The Dark Knight. Before he died, Heath Ledger had the chance to see a screening of The Dark Knight, and reports say that he sat with a boyish smile through the screening, amazed and excited at his work. Heath Ledger will always be remembered as the man that nailed the Joker better than anyone in history, and it is a title he deserves.
1. Christopher Reeve as Superman
Superman is the icon representing all superheroes. He stands for truth, justice, and the American way, an age-old saying that extends to all human beings that deserve freedom. Superman is the icon of everything we want to be. He is kind, patriotic, self-sacrificing, and above all devoted to his friends, loved ones, and the entire world. Christopher Reeve will always be cemented into our minds as the man who is Superman.
Just as Superman is the greatest of all heroes, Christopher Reeve will always be remembered as the greatest Superman. Others have tried to step into his shoes, and another one again makes the attempt, but no matter what valiant effort is made to create a new rendition of the most powerful yet fragile superhero, all will pale in comparison to Christopher Reeve as Superman. What other character has influenced so many future renditions?
With Smallville and Superman Returns effectively paying tribute to Christopher Reeve with similar character acting, Reeve’s interpretation of Superman continues to influence the character. Richard Donner definitely had it right when he cast Christopher Reeve, the Superman looking down on us all, as the best Man of Steel.