Rival superhero universes go toe to toe in casting battleBy Drew Pendleton | 09/01/2015 3:10pm
Photo taken of the cast of "Marvel's The Avengers" at the world premiere for the film in 2012. Photo courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes.
For any movie to truly work, many elements have to come together to create the atmosphere and pace that the movie requires. When the right director, the right writer, and the right cast come together, movies can become magic. In today’s cinematic landscape, some of the most creative and ambitious casting can be found by looking at the franchises in production, from “Star Wars” to “The Hunger Games.”
Most ambitious of all, however, are the casting choices made in the two dueling superhero universes that take theaters by storm every time they release a new installment: Marvel and DC Comics. While Marvel definitely has the edge on the amount of star power it can pack into one film, DC has made some choices that have been massive hits, and some that haven’t been as well-received. However, with 2016 bringing us four films from across the two universes, there’s plenty of performances and potential ensembles that offer a lot to anticipate.
Since the Marvel Universe launched with “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk” in 2008, the star power present in their films has continued to steadily skyrocket, with Robert Downey, Jr.’s Iron Man, Chris Evans’ Captain America, Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk (although Edward Norton had the role in the 2008 film), Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye coming together to form a shining core team. However, Marvel has also made several films – both already released and on the way – that are slated to cross over later down the road and have brought fresh blood to the superhero formula, with “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Ant-Man” proving to be eclectic and fresh additions to the canon. 2016 will bring us “Doctor Strange,” with a killer cast including Benedict Cumberbatch (as the title character), Tilda Swinton (“Michael Clayton,” “The Chronicles of Narnia”), and Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave,” “Serenity”), with Mads Mikkelsen (TV’s “Hannibal”) and Rachel McAdams (“Mean Girls”) rumored for parts.
There’s also an absolutely massive cast in the mix for the recently completed “Captain America: Civil War,” even just within the characters reprising their roles: Evans, Downey, Johansson, Renner, Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier, Anthony Mackie’s Falcon, Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch, Don Cheadle’s War Machine, Paul Bettany’s Vision, and Frank Grillo’s Crossbones. Throw in the MCU debuts of Chadwick Boseman (“42”) as T’Challa/Black Panther and Tom Holland(“The Impossible”) as Peter Parker/Spider-Man; Martin Freeman (“The Hobbit”) in an unspecified role; Daniel Bruhl (“Rush”) as super-villain Baron Helmut Zemo; and a rumored appearance by Marisa Tomei as Peter Parker’s aunt May, and “Captain America: Civil War” will easily take the title of being 2016’s most anticipated and starriest film.
However, the DC universe hasn’t been slouching, either. Although I personally wasn’t a huge fan of “Man of Steel,” it’s hard to find fault with its casting. Henry Cavill makes for a solid Clark Kent/Superman; Amy Adams was a good choice for Lois Lane, and although their characters suffered from script problems, Zack Snyder got good performances from Michael Shannon as General Zod, Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, Russell Crowe as Jor-El, and especially Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Superman’s adoptive parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent. With March’s “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” adding Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”) as classic Superman villain Lex Luthor, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman (whose stand-alone film just added Chris Pine), Ben Affleck as Batman and Jeremy Irons as Alfred, it’s clear that DC is making a definite effort to match up with Marvel in terms of star power.
However, DC does possess another one of my most anticipated films of 2016: David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad.” Not only does it have an enticing plot – a band of super-villains are brought together by the government to fight crime on missions that may prove fatal – but its cast is one of the most eclectic, intriguing groups of actors in any film. After the teaser trailer dropped during Comic-Con, it appears that Will Smith will take top billing as Deadshot, but eyes won’t be on him, as Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, Jared Leto’s Joker, and Viola Davis’s Amanda Waller (the agent who supervises the squad) completely stole the show. Considering that those three actors gave some of the best performances in recent years (in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “The Help,” respectively) and the slightly comic, yet pitch-black tone of the trailer, “Suicide Squad” has a good chance of being a sleeper hit when it lands in August 2016.
While the Marvel-DC rivalry still lives on, they’ve both shown an ability to bring in great casts. Time will tell if the movies will live up to the stars they feature, but with the talent involved, there’s plenty of hope.