Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Nolan’

So, yet more news on the superhero blockbuster casting front, this time for Christopher Nolan and Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel, which is due on our screens at the end of next year. Given that Nolan’s previously made The Dark Knight and Snyder the remarkable Watchmen adaptation, this was always a fairly-tasty sounding project, and now they’ve actually found their Superman their angle on the legend may start to become a little clearer.

The actor in question is British actor Henry Cavill, who is famous for… er, well, nothing, if we’re honest. I’d never even heard of him, wouldn’t have even recognised his face before the other day, though my painstaking researches (Wikipedia) have revealed he’s previously appeared in costume bonkbuster The Tudors, Hellraiser VIII (hmm, classy), and Tristan + Isolde, and that apparently he was the inspiration for the Edward character in Twilight. (I really must share my Twilight limerick with the wider world one day.)

Well, given their track records I have to trust that Nolan and Snyder know what they’re doing. Rather unexcitingly I adhere to the standard view that you really have to cast an unknown as Superman, especially when the alternative is someone like Nicolas Cage or Muhammad Ali – don’t sneer, for a few queasy minutes in the Seventies the producers of the original movie seriously considered it. Everyone knows by now what Superman really looks like. Nicolas Cage could never have been Superman, only Nicolas Cage in a Superman outfit. So from this point of view Cavill’s the man for the job.

I find some of the negative reaction to Cavill’s appointment quite interesting. Not all; much of it is along the lines of ‘they should have kept Brandon Routh (from 2006’s rather underwhelming Superman Returns) or Tom Welling (from the increasingly idiosyncratic TV version of the mythos, Smallville)’. (I wonder why Dean Cain isn’t being mentioned? Hmm.) This sort of complaint seems to me to stem from a rather fannish concern with the great golden idol of continuity, over actual creativity and imagination. Why would Nolan and Snyder want to associate their shiny new version with a previous, unsuccessful one? It would be like casting George Clooney in Batman Begins. And Welling would have brought with him limiting expectations of the new movie sticking to Smallville’s style and continuity.

The voices of discontent which actually interest me are the ones complaining on the grounds that Cavill is British, and thus inherently unsuitable to play the Man of Steel. I find this attitude rather startling, to be honest; I can’t imagine anyone complaining that the cast of 300 weren’t all Greek and Iranian or that the actors in Star Wars weren’t born in a galaxy far, far away. Neither do I recall much griping when a Welshman was cast as Batman or an Englishman as Spider-Man, and they’re very nearly equally iconic characters.

An artist’s impression (of something completely different). The artist in question is the inimitable John Byrne, of course.

But then someone made a comparison with an American being cast as the Doctor, and suddenly I could sort of see what they meant. In most of the darkest moments of American-produced attempts at Doctor Who, the key people involved remained wholly committed to having a British actor in the role. (The only exception being Paul Anderson’s late-Nineties attempt at a Who movie, for which he had his sights set on Denzel Washington.) This surely isn’t just parochialism about one of our own characters – James Bond has been played by Scottish, Australian, English, Welsh, and Irish actors without being irretrievably damaged, after all. Could it be because there’s something fundamentally British about the concept of the Doctor?

And in which case, is there something fundamentally American about the concept of Superman? There may be a case to answer here – Superman is, after all, an immigrant from a foreign culture, who assimilates rather well into American society, becomes a model citizen and makes good. There are elements of the American dream in there, which aren’t present in the Batman or Spider-Man legends.

On the other hand, the job is still acting, isn’t it? The American dream is at its core one of inclusiveness, so it seems odd to say only Americans can embody it. I’m still inclined to give Cavill a chance, though I can understand American folk getting disgruntled with characters from their folklore being portrayed by foreigners – Australian and British X-Men, an English Spider-Man, a Welsh Batman and an Australian Hulk, to give just a few examples.

And I’m not even sure the Doctor embodies a British or English national myth in the same way Superman does the American dream. The Doctor’s twice been played very successfully by Scottish actors, after all. What makes the Doctor so quintessentially English, given he didn’t even grow up there and has only chosen to live in the country for an extended period once? He’s such an inconstant and chimerical figure it’s difficult to say. Possibly it’s his roots in a British tradition of a certain kind of gentlemanly pulp hero.

Even so, if I’m going to give a British Superman a chance, I suppose that means I ought to give the idea of an American Doctor a fair hearing if it ever comes up. On some level it still makes me shudder, but I don’t quite know why. As things currently stand, though, it’s still just idle speculation. Thankfully.

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And so t’internet explodes as Christopher Nolan reveals who the bad guys will be in next year’s most anticipated film, The Dark Knight Rises (Chris, if you’re reading this – at least think about changing the name). Nolan is clearly a guy who relishes a challenge: not content with trying to better a film which was a deservedly massive popular and critical success, not content with trying to beat the final-chapter-of-a-trilogy jinx, he’s also decided to do so while attempting to rehabilitate characters who were fairly comprehensively slimed the last time they showed up on the big screen.
Ever since the opening weekend of The Dark Knight there has been avid (one might even say fervid) speculation as to who Batman’s opponents were going to be in the final film. The Riddler was a popular choice for a long time, although a fake leaked screenplay recently led some people to suspect Nolan was going for a bunch of rather more obscure characters – namely Professor Strange, Talia al’Ghul, Black Mask and Killer Croc. All of which turns out to be complete hoo-hah. The winners of the Who Gets To Be In This Movie contest are… (drum roll) Catwoman and Bane.

On one level it shouldn’t be any surprise that Catwoman (to be played by Anne Hathaway) has made it into the Nolan series, as she’s in the premier league of Batman characters – created by Bob Kane in 1940 for the first issue of Batman’s own book, she was in the TV show (my favourite was Julie Newmar, other opinions are equally valid), and Batman Returns, and supported 170+ issues of her own book. Basically, nearly everyone knows who she is, and she’s not completely weird – so she’s a good fit for one of Nolan’s street-level blockbusters. 

Try not to think about this sort of thing. Yes, I know it’s difficult.

On the other hand, two words: Halle Berry. When I first wrote on this topic my opinion was that Catwoman was ‘unusable’, simply because of the toxic legacy of the 2004 Catwoman movie, which your correspondent reviewed at the time using words like ‘ham-fisted’, ‘offensive’ and ‘depressing’ (and I cut it some slack compared to a lot of people). That said, the Berry movie will be comparatively ancient history by the time TDKR comes out and if Nolan thinks he can restore Catwoman’s credibility I’m happy to believe him.

Bane, on the other hand, is a relatively new and obscure character, first popping up in 1993 when he set about terrorising Gotham City, wearing down Batman both physically and psychologically, and then breaking his spine and putting him in a wheelchair (relax, readers, this is comics: he got better eventually). In the comics, Bane’s wont to wear a slightly garish costume that makes him look like a Mexican wrestler (you can bet that Tom Hardy won’t be so attired in the movie), but the character has a lot going for him – extremely physically formidable (albeit with a major steroid problem), tactically brilliant and deeply perceptive. If they get Bane right in the new movie the results could be very exciting.



At least it’s easier to stop yourself thinking about this sort of thing.

On the other hand, two words: Joel Schumacher. Although he wouldn’t thank me for reminding people of this, Bane’s already made it to the big screen, in the notorious piece of junk Batman and Robin (I still think it’s better than Batman Forever, but that’s just me). Bane’s demoted to the position of being Poison Ivy’s chief henchman in this film and is generally a grunting, shuffling travesty of his comics incarnation (though the costume is almost exactly the same). That said, being such a minor character, he escapes the worst of the indignities heaped upon all the leads and I expect most people won’t realise that Jeep Swanson in the Schumacher movie and Tom Hardy in TDKR are actually meant to be playing the same character. Unless they see something like this blog post. Damn. Move along, everyone, forget what you’ve just read…

Anyway, at least now people can stop their endless speculations as to who the bad guys will be, and start their endless speculations about costume choices and script elements. I’m rather more interested to see what Nolan does with Bane than Catwoman, to be honest, but either way the final movie should be compelling stuff – not that we didn’t know that already, of course.

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