In a cinema awash with stories, heroes and villains it is amazing how accepting we are of the actors who pop up on our screens time and time again. Admittedly it is the bargain that we enter into when we go to the movies, we have to suspend belief and just accept that George Clooney can be an astronaut one minute and then a charming con man the next. It takes a special actor to pull this off though, and lets’ face it we all know the actors and actresses who simply play versions of themselves in whole series of unrelated films, Mark Wahlberg anyone? Yet it can work, just think of Pierce Brosnan who managed to take on two iconic roles, spy James Bond and playboy thief Thomas Crown, to arguably acceptable acclaim in both roles. Yet when it comes to Superheroes, who by their very nature, are the boldest and brightest characters to grace the silver screen but can an actor play more than one without blurring the lines?
This debate is raised by the recent announcement of Aaron Taylor Johnson previously of “Kick-Ass” who will play Quicksilver in upcoming “Avengers: Age of Ultron”. The fact that another actor Evan Peters will also play a version of Quicksilver in the forthcoming “X-Men: Days of Future Past” complicates things a little, but one would argue that Taylor-Johnson was fairly memorable in 2 Kick-Ass ventures and will soon be donning more lycra in a different franchise. The impending appearance of Ben Affleck as Batman also throws this question into light. Much has been written about the choice and the big shoes which have been left to fill, but this isn’t Affleck’s first superhero gig. Technically it’s his third. We have probably all tried to forget the gaudy travesty that was “Daredevil”, but Affleck has actually played Superman in 2006’s “Hollywoodland”, albeit playing George Reeves who was the actor who played Superman in the 1950’s TV series.
Taking these two dilemmas objectively we could apply Comicbook art house logic and say that because Batman is DC Comics and Daredevil was Marvel Comics, that Affleck has the better chance of making the duel comic book hero work. Both characters exist in completely different universes and therefore it doesn’t matter. Taking this principle on board, Taylor-Johnson is at an instant disadvantage as both Kick-Ass and Quicksilver are Marvel Comic productions and therefore could clash. Admittedly Kick-Ass exists in another world/universe from the Marvel superheroes…yet they come from the same home. 1 – 0 to Affleck’s chances.
We could take a different perspective. It is unilaterally agreed that Daredevil sucked. It came from a time when film studios had just awoken to the potential of lucrative superhero franchises after the success of Spider-man and X-Men and soon began churning out films like there was no tomorrow. It led to poor characters being coughed up on-screen with little thought to their future standing. Given Daredevil’s poorness, it could be argued that movie franchise is dead in the water, Affleck is never going to revive the blind super hero anytime soon. This then frees him up to take on the Bat with little worry. This train of thought means that Taylor Johnson again loses out. Kick-Ass was a brilliant film and while the sequel wasn’t met with the same rapturous acclaim (mainly due to the lost of Matthew Vaughan at the helm) it still worked. While I doubt we’ll see a third Kick-Ass Movie soon, he is still fresh in the mind as the slightly dweeby green suited vigilante. 2 – 0 to Affleck’s chances.
We can take these two viewpoints and apply them to other actors and actresses that have doubled up on the Superhero front. Halle Berry has made the role of Storm in 3 X-Men films (soon to be 4) her own, yet the car crash that was “Catwoman” looms in her back catalogue like a rotting corpse. Storm is a Marvel Comic creation, Catwoman a DC Comics. The X-Men films have been wholly positive in their reception and in Berry’s portrayal of Storm, while Catwoman appears regularly in the worst film ever made list. In a similar vein we find Ryan Reynolds. The DC Comic Green Lantern was laughed off by most critics and film go-ers, while only 2 years earlier he strutted around the screen as Marvel Comics Wade Wilson/Deadpool in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, which also received a lukewarm reception. While I feel sorry for the development of Deadpool as a character in X-Men Origins, Green Lantern panned not because Reynolds was too memorable as Deadpool, but because it was shocking from start to finish.
Perhaps then the real reason that actors can succeed when playing two iconic comic book roles is because of their acting talent? Chris Evans is Marvel Comics Human Torch in two Fantastic Four films, whilst also masquerading as Marvel’s Steve Rodgers in two Captain America films and two Avengers films. With the hint that the Fantastic Four series is to be rebooted, this means that the Human Torch will be recast. This could be the reason why the door was left open for him to take on the role of Captain America, but Evans does bring something to both roles. He is unlikely ever to be winning an Oscar, but there is definable difference between cheeky, wise cracking flirt machine Johnny Storm and wuss turned principled Super Soldier, and Evans carries both off with ease. When I look at Captain America, I don’t see the Human Torch despite Chris Evans staring back at me.
Perhaps this is the answer then, acting ability…but hang on, Robert Downey Jr. is a great actor and he could never be anyone other than Tony Stark…oh pants, back to the drawing board.