Monday, August 11, 2014

The Ten Best Comic Book Movie Castings

In conjunction with J&J Productions (and by happy coincidence), I am ranking down my Ten Best & Worst Comic Book Movie Castings (though he is going for 25).  My Top Five will be found in the podcast I did with James (which was a lot of fun).  This therefore will include only my Top Ten, though perhaps I will revisit it in the future.  James' list includes heroes and villains, but for the moment I have chosen only heroes.  I have a separate Villains List which I will include as a 'bonus' feature later on.

Looking over James' list (which is quite good), I'm putting in my own criteria.  I based this only on the films themselves, as I don't have a comic book background.  I never read comics as a kid and really don't know the difference between DC and Marvel.  I based this list on the actual performances, how I reacted to both the performances and characters, and whether I was convinced that they 'were' the characters. 

For now, let us begin our countdown.


Scarlett Johansson as
The Black Widow

I know Scarlett Johansson hates the "ScarJo" nickname, but sorry, I think it's a good one.  I was one of may people who dismissed Johansson as 'just another pretty face', a beautiful woman who had only her physical to recommend her for parts.

Then, slowly and steadily, she surprised me by becoming a deeper, stronger actress.  In this she reminds me of Marilyn Monroe.  Both, initially dismissed because of their beauty, became solid, legitimate actresses of the first order. 

As Natasha Romanoff aka The Black Widow, she is unique in this Marvel Universe in that she is the only woman to fight alongside all the men, and more importantly, thought of as a full equal.  Perhaps there are hints of romance with the other Avengers, but nothing overt and to be honest, no one seems to think of Natasha as 'the girl' or 'the potential love interest'.  It may be because most of the men have girls of their own, but it is also because Black Widow and Johansson as B.W. communicate that she isn't there to serve that role.  She's there to be an Avenger.

There are women in the Marvel Universe, but as far as I know, only one who takes part in the fighting and is considered a superhero (or heroine).  Even more fascinating, Black Widow, like her counterpart Hawkeye, doesn't have any 'superpowers' per se.  It is only her incredible skills and intelligence that puts her in the same ranks as a billionaire genius, a genetically altered super-soldier, and a Norse God.  Johansson has made her intelligent, strong, and more than capable of holding her own.  She is a woman my daughter (when I have one) can look up to.

Number 9

Christian Bale
as Batman
There have been great Batman portrayals (you'll see another Dark Knight on my list), and there have been awful Batman portrayals (you'll see another Dark Knight on another list).  For now, most of this generation will think Christian Bale IS Batman, and I don't blame him.

Bale is one of those actors that I think are sometimes too intense for their own good (or sanity).  However, as serious as Bale is on and off-screen, his Bruce Wayne/Batman was the most rational in terms of fitting into 'our' reality.  Other Batman films worked (or didn't) because they took place in another world, one similar to ours but not exactly.  Bale made his Batman one who could be plausible in reality.  He still had that playboy persona, but it was never played up.  He also got the brooding part down pat, and Bale's performances in the three Batman films kept a balance between the darkness and despair of Gotham while not either spoofing them or diving into total nihilism.

If only for the decision to alter his voice as Batman....

Number 8

Samuel L. Jackson as
Nick Fury

Is Samuel L. Jackson technically correct as S.H.I.E.L.D. head Nick Fury?   Wasn't Nick Fury, well, white?  Does it matter?  I say NO!

Let's be honest: even for comic book readers, I would argue Sam Jackson IS Nick Fury, the strong, powerful, tough S.H.I.E.L.D. impresario who by hook or crook gets his way and gets the Avengers to work together for the common good.  Using his trademark bombast Jackson has made Fury into this tough, imposing figure, one with little sense of humor but who is devoted to his mission.  He isn't particularly nice, but he is effective. 

He is one of the links to the Marvel Cinematic Universe which has had smashing success in keeping both continuity within the arc of the film series and within their individual films.  Sometimes his roles have been mere cameos (Iron-Man), other times he's been central to the story (Captain America: The Winter Soldier).  Jackson has created this fantastic character, one we admire and wouldn't want to go up against. Jackson's fury works with Jackson's Fury. 


James McAvoy as
Charles Xavier/Professor X

First, I am an unapologetic James McAvoy fan.  I think he can do just about anything (action: Wanted, romance: Atonement, children's films: Arthur Christmas, comedies: The Last Station, fantasy: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe).  Really, what CAN'T he do?

Selecting McAvoy and his interpretation of Charles Xavier is by no means diminishing Sir Patrick Stewart's take on the role in the original X-Men films.   Why I picked one over the other is simple.  Stewart's Xavier was by the time we met him almost so saint-like that he was in many ways excessively noble.  McAvoy's Xavier on the other hand, was obnoxious, sexually promiscuous, aware of his own abilities and not above using them for his own advantage (though never out of evil intent).

McAvoy's Xavier was someone who had plunged into the depths of darkness, who wanted to give up on the humanity that he so desperately wanted mutants to live in peace with.  His evolution from dissolute to resolute is what makes it possible to believe that McAvoy's Charles Xavier BECAME Stewart's Charles Xavier.  It was in both First Class and Days of Future Past a magnificent set of performances.  So far, McAvoy is the only actor I have on my shortlist for my pick as a Best Supporting Actor nominee, and in a fair world he will receive a nomination.  I know it won't happen but one can dream, can't one.

James McAvoy just proves me theory that if you cast a serious actor in a "not-so-serious" role, you will get a fantastic performance because he/she will take it seriously.

Oh yes, one more thing.  At 5'7" McAvoy makes all us short guys stand taller...

Number 6

Clark Gregg as
Agent Phil Coulson
I have recently learned that Agent Coulson is not original to the comic books and was created for the films.  Well, since I am judging only the films...

Besides, I simply love Gregg as Coulson, devoted S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.  If memory serves correct he first started out as a straight, by-the-book agent, but over time Gregg as Coulson has allowed humor to enter as his character has evolved. 

Performance-wise his best was in The Avengers, where he was not only a man with a mission but an unabashed fanboy with regards to Captain America.  Gregg brought a lightness to his role in The Avengers, and his 'death' scene impacted me greatly.  Perhaps it was because among all those with superpowers, Coulson was about as regular a person as one could find.  He was the audience identification.

So great was Gregg's impact as Coulson in the Marvel Universe that in one of the few 'political' acts I have been involved in I signed a petition to get Agent Coulson his own action figure.  He also is the only character to have a spin-off television series (Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and whose presence is so beloved that while he started out as unique to the films he has now been integrated into the comic books.

Numbers 5-1 are on the Podcast.


  1. Excellent picks across the board Rick.

    Scarlett Johansson has really done an excellent job as Black Widow. She got a lot of flack after Iron Man 2, but she has turned into a truly capable action heroine and actress in general in The Avengers and Winter Soldier.

    While I still consider Christian Bale very good as Batman, he did not make my list. For some reason, I was never able to connect with his version of Bruce Wayne/Batman. Also his Batman voice is hilarious, in a bad way. Otherwise, he did a solid job.

    Another great pick with Samuel L. Jackson. At first when I saw him as Fury, I was thinking: "But Fury is white?" But after that I got into the Ultimate version of the character, which is based off of Sam L, and he is one of my top ten as well.

    I agree with you James McAvoy's acting in general. McAvoy is an almost sure win at this point for Best Supporting Actor at my awards. He has a ton of range. I cannot wait to see more of him the next X-Men film.

    If I had original characters on my list, Clark Gregg would have made it as well, but I am glad you included. In the first half of the Avengers, he did a lot to make Coulson a compelling character and make his death mean something. I had not heard about the petition until you told me, but that is crazy that there was no Coulson action figure!

    I will let you know when the podcast is posted. It will probably be sometime next week.


  2. Hopping over from James's blog; enjoyed the podcast you two did together! :) I like this list as well; I'm very happy to see Coulson ranked high as he was a great character! He is one of the few characters who I don't mind coming back to life. :)


    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. Hopefully school won't get in the way of another list I'm working on (My Top Ten Comic Book Movie Villains).

      Coulson still remains a personal favorite, though I'm going to wait for the DVD of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.


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