The Correct Casting and Costume Combination is a Crucial Part of the Creative Process with Bringing Comic Book Characters to Life on Screen
For the solid success of any creative property — whether it be for television, film, the stage, new media, or the printed form — it’s all about the writing; getting the story right (write!) and flushing out the proper development of the characters.
When it comes to the superhero genre, in particular, attaining the proper casting and wardrobe (i.e the costume) plays heavily into the creative process in very real, tangible and pertinent ways.
Disney/Marvel have hit the nail on the head with Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, if not with the X-Men film franchise, which was ignited by Bryan Singer (The First Class film featured atrocious casting and acting, while the earlier X-Men destroyed the colorful costumes, displayed so wonderfully in the comics and the animated TV series from the early 1990s.)
I wish to the heavens that DC Comics/Warner Bros., proprietors of the Superman and Batman franchises, would get that.
But unfortunately, they keep missing the mark.
And I just keep scratching my head as to why that is the case.
What exactly is the problem — especially with the casting, which should be a no-brainer?
For example, only tall, dark, handsome and broad-shouldered actors need to apply for portrayals of the Clark Kent/Superman and Bruce Wayne/Batman characters.
And not just tall actors — but actors who are at least 6’ 5” in stature (minus their Super or Bat-boots).
And not just actors with “okay shoulders” — but rather those actors with way-larger than average shoulders.
Yes, Henry Cavill, the star of the new Man of Steel, is a nice-looking guy and yes, Brandon Routh, of Superman Returns (also produced — and directed — by Bryan Singer) nicely-resembled the late, great Christopher Reeve (who will, to some, always be considered the definitive Superman).
But neither Cavill nor Routh are larger-than-life handsome.
As to the Bat cavalcade of stars: Christian Bale was wonderfully brooding in the Dark Knight trilogy. Michael Keaton delivered a nifty “everyman” spin as Bruce Wayne in the earlier round of B-man films. And George Clooney, if Gary-Grant handsome, and Val Kilmer just didn’t measure up as The Batman (or whatever they’re calling him these days, with or without the “The”).
But again…none of these actors possess the super-spectacularly-handsome looks that are required for the Super or Bat roles.
I’ve yet to see anything close to the overtly charismatic likes of a Christopher Reeve or George Reeves (from the classic Superman TV series), for that matter.
And although Henry Cavill was relatively unknown before he was cast as the new Man of Steel — and casting an unfamiliar face is always the best way to go with these types of franchises (as not to confuse star power with character draw), he just doesn’t have the presence.
And although the new Man of Steel is making a bazillion dollars at the box-office success, I additionally wish that someone in the DC/Warner Bros. feature film division would please wise-up and start hiring the genius writing team from the animated Batman, Superman and Justice League series to scribe the next live-action Superman (or Wonder Woman) movie — and certainly the live-action Justice League feature film itself. (Those guys know their stuff!)
Into this mix, just imagine if unknown, super-handsome actors were cast in the B and S leads? And just imagine if the assigned writing dream-team would make certain to incorporate the proper costume designs (from the original comic book visions — instead of messing with some kind of newfangled look)?
EVERYONE would be pleased — on so many levels.
To reiterate: in ANY creative venue — with any creative property, be it for the big screen or small, Off-Broadway or right smack on top of it, writing into the script the proper casting and costume is just as crucial as developing the story and characters. And when it comes to remaking or representing Superman and Batman in particular, two of the most popular superheroes and media/pop-culture icons of all time, well, ya’ just can’t mess around.
The Dark Knight trilogy was a success because it was different, and it made sense (there was indeed a good story and great character development). And the Man of Steel flick is fast becoming a success because the audience might be desensitized to or just may have plainly given up on the DC/WB powers-that-be to get it right. The Super-movie-goers might just now be figuring, “Well… it’s better than nothing.”
Meanwhile, too, the studio may just not have the guts to admit they were wrong (again!) with blowing another Superman film (especially one that cost as much to make and promote as Man of Steel).
Either way, I’m reminded once more of The Brady Bunch. That’s right: The Brady Bunch….how Barry Williams’ Greg Brady, of all characters, was hired by certain unscrupulous entities because he “fit the suit” as Johnny Bravo in that famous fifth-season opener of The Brady Bunch.
Fortunately, at least Greg had the integrity to walk away from the shallow, singular success that was offered him with the false bravado of the fabricated Johnny Bravo, and instead returned to his family’s more-sincerely rooted musical brother-sister group.
As such, when it comes to getting it right with the creative casting and costuming of Superman and Batman, it looks like WB/DC group should take an applicable lesson from the G.B. troupe…and stick to the original larger-than-life but loyal comic book renderings.
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