Thursday, 28 August 2008

Jumping On The Casting Speculation Batwagon

As The Dark Knight's box office gross approaches fifteen googleplexes or whatever it is on today, yet more and more speculation surrounds the next movie in the series, and who would feature in it (even though not a single plan has been put in motion yet). The old rumours about Johnny Depp and Philip Seymour Hoffman playing The Riddler and The Penguin are doing the rounds, which is only slightly less imaginative a suggestion than Angelina Jolie sleepwalking through a part as Catwoman. Come on! We've had the definitive Catwoman already. Why would we want to mess with that casting? Even the utterly insane rumour that Cher will play Selina Kyle as "a vamp in her twilight years" couldn't be better (and besides, it depends on Cher agreeing to play someone described as old; surely anathema to her).

Anyway, in the interests of offering yet another opinion to the overflow of currently existing speculation, here are my thoughts on casting choices for the third film in the series, The Batman Is A Badman On The Run With His Bike (official title). Luckily, I don't have to think about who could play Robin. Nolan has pretty much ruled out his inclusion, which is good news for all who have yet to get over the painful memories of Chris O'Donnell in The Schumacher Debacles (which was also the title of an unpublished Robert Ludlum novel). I've got nothing against the character (the current incarnation, Tim Drake, is terrific), and right now I think Nolan, Nolan and Goyer can make even the lamest character relevant, but I do recall the amazing Batman Animated Series becoming about 13% less amazing when Robin was introduced, so I'm fearful of the impact he would have on the series. This is in no way linked to the fact that DC Comics have made Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, and the tragic Jason Todd all look so generic that it's utterly pointless trying to come up with suggestions for who could play any of them. Any chisel-jawed and nimble brown-haired male aged between 15 and 24 could play them. So that's no fun.

Though Catwoman seems to be one of the main choices for an appearance in Batman 3: Growly Growly PunchSneer, I reckon there are other possibilities for a female antagonist, something the franchise would benefit from now that the only female character in the series has been vaporised (and barely registered onscreen prior to said vaporising). Though The Joker has been incarcerated (and probably won't ever appear again, due to unfortunate real world events), his moll could still turn up. If so, who better to play Harleen Quinzel (aka Harley Quinn) than prat-fall specialist Anna Faris?

If I were to be honest, I was so impressed by the treatment of Ra's al Ghul (and Ducard) in the first movie, that I was almost disappointed at the end of that film when we were given a hint that the next film would feature The Joker instead of Talia al Ghul, which seemed to be a more natural progression. Of course, upon seeing Heath Ledger's performance, I forgot my objections. Still, the character could be a great addition to the Nolan-TheBatmaniverse, and who better to play the perfect woman than internet search engine hit magnet Moon Bloodgood!

Not all of the females in the Batman comics are antagonists, of course, and one of our hero's biggest allies was Dr. Leslie Thompkins. Until she went all unhinged and angry and became responsible for the death of poor Stephanie Brown. Except she was actually keeping her alive and hidden somewhere. Ah comics, if you were sensible half the fun would disappear! If this longrunning character was brought to life, I can't think of anyone better than Frances Sternhagen, last seen throwing things at Marcia Gay Harden in The Mist.

Of course, the success of The Dark Knight, and the amount of money it has made, will make the studio even more interested in the making of the third film, leading to the inevitable interference from suit-wearing coke-hoovers who think their job is to get in the way of "Creative". In which case, aged and kindly Dr. Thompkins will be played by acting colossus and pretty-clothes-wearer Jessica Alba.

Speaking of allies of The Batman, after Bruce Wayne was knocked out of action during Knightfall, his role as Gotham's protector was taken over by Jean-Paul Valley, who eventually became Azrael and then died or something. I don't know. I'm not the biggest The Batman fan, and only read him when he has a good writer on, like Grant Morrison. Anyway, there is a possibility (mooted by crazed Azrael fans, of which there are probably legion) that Azrael will appear in The Batman 3, and if that happens, there is only one possibility to play the long-haired foreigner; supermodel Fabio!

His name is Foreignese for Fabulous, you know. Of course, Jean-Paul Valley took over the Batman mantle after Bruce Wayne's back was snapped by the evil Luchadore of Lameness, Bane, who sadly appeared in Batman and Robin and Batgirl Too, which is of course one of the ten worst films ever made. Let's just say my response to the mention of Bane is similar to The Batman's reaction here.

Bane is ass. But, if we're going to have to put up with him stinking up the next movie, let's get a real luchadore to play him. Nacho Libre!

And Nolan needs to make sure Bane gets his ass handed to him by a weird goatboy thing just like in this photo, because there is no way he would beat the Dark Knight. It's just so wrong. Besides, there is a much more interesting villain mastermind out there (it's the brainy ones that stick in the collective memory, not the lumps of muscle). Many have suggested that Bats needs to go up against the evil genius Hugo Strange, whose slight frame hides a keen intellect. Who better to play such a character as late-period Richard Dreyfuss?

It's also nicely symmetrical casting, what with his real world familial similarity to Christian Bale.

Of course, the chances of the movie featuring multiple villains are high, which means Bats would need some new allies. If Nolan is serious about resisting the temptation to include Robin on the team, perhaps he will end up with someone different. Helena Bertinelli (aka Huntress) has promise, being just as tortured as Bruce Wayne, and tripping along the line between good and evil just like Catwoman, though coming down more readily on the side of justice. Who could play such a dark and haunting character? A man in an expensive suit says, "What about that Eva Longoria chick that's on that Desperate Housewife Swap thing?"

Another suit would leap up, spilling his cocaine everywhere. "Fuck that, you jag-off. It's got to be Megan Fox. She's on the front of Maxim and GQ and Esquire and Loaded and Sports Illustrated and Boobs Not Covered By Clothes Monthly. I get an erection when I see pictures of her."

A battle would inevitably rage about which vapid and inexplicably lauded shell of a human should get the part, with Longoria losing out due to age (sorry Eva!), and Fox being disqualified because no one is sure how well she can work without cue-cards, which means the suits play safe and hire thespian powerhouse and smiling addict Jessica Alba.

That she is the wrong ethnicity as well as being about six inches too short to play the character means nothing. Warner will be happy with the inevitable slew of lad's mag covers featuring Alba wearing her "intense" face. Nevertheless, this is a better outcome than if Nolan decided to introduce Kathy Kane (aka Batwoman), whose deviant sexuality and liberal mindset is so disgusting to God-fearing folk that DC have had to disappear her character (and cancel plans for her own comic) as if she was a red-headed, gay, crimefighting Jimmy Hoffa. Is this because someone somewhere blames the last couple of Crises in the DC Universe on God taking vengeance on it for not heeding his fictional call? Only Pat Robertson can tell us, as he has friended God on MyopicassholeSpace.

Speaking of despicable real world people who have an iron grip on the minds of millions and who use that power to make them hate people who have never done anything to harm anyone else their whole lives, many people have noticed the similarity between The Penguin and trigger-happy Vice President Dick Cheney. Though it would give me great pleasure to imagine that he (non-fatally) shot Harry Whittington with a gun hidden in the handle of an umbrella, I have to say I think he is much better suited to play the obscure villain Kadaver.

If you don't believe me, check out this passage from his DC Database page.

Mortimer Kadaver is a murderous criminal possessing a morbid and sadistic obsession with inflicting pain and death. His hideout is filled with a wide variety of means of murder and torture, including an iron maiden, a guillotine, a hangman’s noose, and even a pool of quicklime. Kadaver enjoys feigning his own death by methods such as dressing as a vampire and emerging from a coffin, but he takes even more pleasure in meting out suffering and death to others who cross his path.

Except that Nolan would be smart enough to make sure Kadaver would never refer to what he does as torture. It's just Exxxtreme Question Asking.

To be honest, casting speculation about The Batman's gallery of amazing villains can be a lot of fun, but it often means we end up going over the same villains again and again, many of which have been portrayed in the previous Batman movies, with varying degrees of success. Do we need to see Mr. Freeze again, after being definitively portrayed by Arnie? Or Poison Ivy? Maybe as a cameo with her as a crazed eco-terrorist, as hinted at by Uma Thurman in the Schumacher movie, except this time played by actual redhead Amy Adams. One fan, whose dedication to the cause is to be saluted, has even posited an appearance by The Riddler as a Zodiac-style serial killer, which is an amazing idea. That's the kind of thinking I really respect. It's not the kind I use myself, though, so here are my thoughts on using some of the more obscure (or not-so-obscure) The Batman villains just to mix things up.

Cassius Clay Payne, aka Clayface, a blob of sentient shape-changing clay (perhaps reimagined as a master of disguise) could be played by human chameleon Mike Myers (well, if chameleons were very good at pretending to be different kinds of camera-hogging lech).

Tragic scientist Kirk Langstrom (aka Man-Bat), whose desire to heal ends up dooming him, could be reimagined as a Goth romantic whose desires lead to murder. Who better than Nick Cave?

Drury Walker, aka Batman mirror image Killer Moth, could be played by Jake Busey, because their chins are kinda similar.

That rationale also applies to Nathan Finch, aka the second Gearhead, whose cryogenic freezing and subsequent life as a cyborg could be reflected by Nolan's effort to use manipulated footage of Jack Palance to play this villain. Surely the enduring popularity of this character demands this level of effort and CGI wizardry.

Mark Desmond, aka Blockbuster, is a scientist who took drugs to become stronger, and ended up becoming an irrational brute, and so adding him to the new movie's roster of villains means we can have someone like Bane without having to have Bane in it. Therefore, bonus points. However, when I say he should be played by acting genius Nick Nolte (seriously, I <3 him), I'm inspired more by his terrifying performance as The Faux-Absorbing Man in Ang Lee's Hulk than any real life resemblances. That this mug-shot echoes Blockbuster's appearance is merely a coincidence.

Paul Dekker, aka Crazy Quilt, can control people using a helmet that manipulates colours and light. As lookalike John Waters once offended me with the excessive use of pastels in Hairspray, I say he should get the part of a murderer who incapacitates his victims using bright lights, just like the Princess Diana conspiracy theorists believe.

Bat-Mite, aka Bat-Mite, is a crappy reinvention of Mr. Mxyzptlk that no one really likes much, though Grant Morrison has just reinvented him as a possible figment of Batman's imagination. Typically bold Grant Morrison stuff. Could Nolan do such a thing? Recreate this nuisance in such a way as to make audiences like him? Only with a further, even more radical, reinvention.

You know I'm right.

Tom and Tad Trigger, aka The Trigger Twins, a pair of cowboys riding around Gotham and creating mayhem in a way similar to that of Woody Harrelson and Kiefer Sutherland in the mostly unwatched action comedy The Cowboy Way. As those guys are busy working with Paul Schrader or saving the world, The Trigger Twins, who surely need no Nolan-esque reinvention, should be played by two Owen Wilsons, because I really like Owen Wilson in Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights.

Arthur Brown, aka Cluemaster (the father of female Robin Stephanie Brown), is a bit like The Riddler, only less interesting. Nolan could make him more interesting by changing him from a mere murderer into a band of evil psychedelic musical murderers played by The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown.

Otis Flannagan, aka Ratcatcher, is often considered to be a gamma level threat (he is targeted by an OMAC in the current continuity in order to negate the possible complicating effects of his incredible powers), but why would Nolan choose to add someone like that to his movie? Instead, let's just hire someone who looks a bit like a rat. Jon Heder. That'll do. (N.B. I hate Napoleon Dynamite like it was a sickness.)

If any of these casting predictions come true, I trust I will get my due for being prescient. Of course, I could be horribly wrong with all of them, and as I'm prone to reflexively hedging my bets, let's just assume Warner Brothers suits have no imagination but lots of power, and replace all of those possible actors with Johnny Depp.

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