Comics on Film: Five of the Best Second Chance Castings in Comics-Based Movies

Comics on Film: Five of the Best Second Chance Castings in Comics-Based Movies

Apr 14, 2017

One of the realities of a popular movie genre is that if you're a prolific actor and are open to the exposure that comes with a role in a comics-based blockbuster, it's likely that you'll end up appearing in more than one of these kinds of movies. This week, comic book movie fans learned that none other than actor Josh Brolin has been cast as Nathan Summers, aka Cable, in the forthcoming sequel to 2016's Deadpool. It will make for the seventh time the actor has appeared as a different comics-based character, since he appeared as Jonah Hex in that character's film in 2010, as a young Agent K in 2012's Men in Black 3, as Dwight in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For in 2014, as the vengeful lead of the Manga-based Oldboy, and as big Marvel bad guy Thanos in Guardians of the Galaxy and the mid-credits teaser in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Chances are that most people have different perspectives on which character he embodied best, but then it got us thinking: in what instances has an actor traded up to better embody a different comics character? In that spirit, we're going to take a look at five of the best examples of actors and actresses getting a second chance when it comes to portraying the iconic characters found in comics.

 

5) Tommy Lee Jones — From Two-Face to Agent K

When this renowned actor was cast as the dichotomous villain Two-Face in 1995's Batman Forever, expectations ran high, especially coming out of the darkly twisted villainous characters that appeared in 1992's Batman Returns. What would Tommy Lee Jones bring to the table to one-up the efforts of Danny DeVito's Penguin, or Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman? Unfortunately, director Joel Schumacher seemed perfectly fine with allowing Jones to portray Two-Face not as the conflicted former District Attorney from the pages of DC Comics, but instead as a vision of Cesar Romero's 1960's-era Joker on proverbial steroids. The final result was a Two-Face who was far more of a "moustache-twirler" than most fans were likely hoping.

Fast-forward to the summer of 1997, though, where Jones has been cast as senior Men in Black Agent "K" in the first adaptation of Lowell Cunningham and Sandy Carruthers' Malibu Comics franchise. While the film is definitely a loose adaptation of the material, Jones feels far more at home and engaging as the no-nonsense, war-weary defender of the Earth that we meet, ready to hand off his duties and responsibilities to his hand-picked sucessor. When it comes to this scenario, Jones most definitely traded up to a better, far more fitting role.

 

4) Ryan Reynolds — From Green Lantern to Deadpool

Is 2011's Green Lantern as bad as so many people claim it to be? If you're a fan of the material, then probably not. It's most definitely a missed opportunity and seems to misunderstand some key aspects of the mythology, but you'll likely be hard-pressed to find fans that didn't find seeing the likes of Tomar-Re, Kilowog and Sinestro on a big screen for the first time as a thrill. One of the reasons that the movie isn't as bad as some claim it to be also rests with a surprisingly dedicated lead performance by Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan, the reckless test pilot who becomes Earth's first Green Lantern.

Still, that doesn't mean that a better fit couldn't come along. Though technically Reynolds first played the wisecracking Wade Wilson in 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he didn't fully demonstrate how right he was for the part until last year's surprise R-rated superheroic hit, Deadpool. While Reynolds keeps the effort in Green Lantern a bearable experience (at minimum), he clearly demonstrates that he's the perfect man for the job when it comes to playing Marvel's Merc With a Mouth.

 

3) Zoe Saldana — From Aisha to Gamora

This is another entry that comes down to what constitutes a better fit for the performer. Zoe Saldana has proven pretty definitively by this point in her career that she's a credit to whatever production she's a part of, and while 2010's The Losers — based on the Vertigo comics series of the same name — isn't necessarily bad, its biggest problem largely seems to be that it's just not a very memorable movie overall. It was certainly eye-catching and violent, with Saldana having a lot to do with its most memorable moments, but not a lot of people necessarily came away with the idea that this particular adaptation was one for the ages.

Comparing that directly to 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy, though, tells a very different story. Another case of the performers becoming exceedingly good fits for the parts they play, Saldana's turn as Gamora — daughter of Thanos — made for a part that was instantly recognizable as very fitting for the actress, while also becoming a very memorable example of comics-based cinema. When Guardians first hit theaters in August of 2014, its success seemed to catch a lot of people off-guard. Now, we're less than a month away from the release of the second installment, with an eager public counting the days until they can eat it up. Sounds like a trade up to us!

 

2) Chris Evans — From the Human Torch to Captain America

Also an alum from 2010's The Losers, Chris Evans' first major comic book movie role was as Johnny Storm in the two Fantastic Four films directed by Tim Story released between 2005 and 2007. Although Marvel's First Family is one of their most recognizably iconic properties on the page, the film adaptations thus far have been...wanting. While the first two entries are far less offensive than the dismal release we got in 2015, many elements outside of members of the cast still left a lot to be desired. For Evans, though, he was one of the more refreshing and fitting elements that you'll find in either of those films, playing the increasingly rare carefree superhero with recognizable truthfulness: indeed, Johnny Storm may have been the most recognizable character to the source material in both of Story's films, largely due to Evans.

It's impossible to deny, though, that Evans hit absolute paydirt in the comic book film genre by becoming the First Avenger himself, Captain America. As important a player as you'll find in Marvel Studios' highly-successful cinematic universe, Evans imbues his portrayal of Steve Rogers with an authentic brand of earnestness that simply makes it impossible not to get behind. Any of the heroes of the MCU would follow Captain America to the gates of hell and back without a second's hesitation, and a significant part of that comes from the undeniable charisma and dedication that Chris Evans brings to the part. Iron Man and Spider-Man may technically be more popular, but it's hard to find someone better in the MCU than the Star-Spangled Avenger, which sounds like as much of a level up as is possible to us.

 

1) Ben Affleck — From Daredevil to Batman

Ten years can make a lot of difference in the career of an actor. Between 2003-2013, Ben Affleck went from making headlines more for his personal life to becoming one of the best, most acclaimed directors working today. When Affleck was first cast as the new cinematic Dark Knight in the summer of 2013, the immediate fan reaction centered on his 2003 performance in director Mark Steven Johnson's Daredevil, where he played the title character. Daredevil tends to have a poor reputation overall because of its haphazardness. Affleck himself was also not the film's most memorable component, as that trait likely goes to the late Michael Clarke Duncan's memorable turn as Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin. That fact makes Affleck's re-emergence in the genre all the more striking.

While you'll find a significant amount of critics for last year's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a majority of fans and critics seemed to agree that one of the film's best parts was Ben Affleck's recognizable portrayal of Bruce Wayne and Batman. Bringing a ferocity to the part that even Christian Bale seemed to only hint at in retrospect, Affleck's Batman was as physically formidable as he was intelligent. While the material that Batman is given in the movie is a definite cause for concern among the Batman faithful, Affleck's dedication to bringing the Dark Knight to life in the most visibly recognizable way yet certainly counts for a lot. While all eyes are definitely on Justice League to see if Affleck can maintain positive momentum as the incumbent Dark Knight, the shortcomings of the script for Dawn of Justice give pause only to the story. When it comes to seeing more from Affleck as Batman, that's a prospect that we can easily get behind.

 

What are some of your favorite examples of actors trading up for better roles in comic book movies? Sound off in the comments below, and we'll see you next week for an all-new Comics on Film!


Chris Clow is a gamer, a comic book expert and former retailer, as well as a freelance contributor to The Huffington Post and Batman-On-Film.com, as well as host of the Comics on Consoles podcast. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

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