As you are all surely aware, I am a big geek when it comes to comic books and have become fully enticed by the quality of films that Marvel are steadily releasing. They are not perfect. They do not do all characters justice when compared to the source material. They DO succeed in entertaining countless people with their enjoyable take on an extremely deep universe.
Now, when it comes to DC, we are not so lucky. Yes, the Nolan Batman films were incredible. Even the somewhat maligned Dark Knight Rises. Watch it again, especially in comparison to the majority of other comic book movies, and tell me it is not a very good film. With the departure of Christopher Nolan, and the beginning of the DCEU, headed by Zack Snyder, we have, unfortunately, been tormented by a succession of poor films. Wonder Woman is an exception. It is a good film. Not great. But definitely good. The others – well not so much. Man of Steel is good up to the point that Superman decides to have a battle royale that lays waste to pretty much a whole city. BvS was just a succession of film clips chucked together in way that kind of resembled a film. Suicide Squad was unforgiveable – Batman beating a man up in front of his daughter, the Joker being anything but the Joker. And now, most recently, the travesty that is Justice League. Oh dear. How did they get it so wrong? Well part of that issue is Zack Snyder, who thinks that dark colours and sombre characters make for an interesting film. They do, but only when filmed and acted right. In these cases, they are not.
I guess that brings me on to the point of this post. After watching Justice League, I couldn’t help but hope that somehow the DCEU gets restarted and given the justice it deserves. What inevitably follows such a thought is who should be cast in the main roles if such a miracle were to happen. I have thought about this long and hard. When I say long and hard, I mean that I had a spare couple of hours one night and enticed the other half in to a conversation about it. We agreed on some, not so much on others. Either way, these were the ideas I had for casting a new DCEU.
Batman – Jon Hamm
You must start with the most recognisable DC character. Batman has always been a mainstay in the DC universe, both on film and in the comics. Casting him right builds the backbone of your cinematic universe. There are people who love Ben Affleck as Batman, saying his is the best interpretation. I would like to point out to those people that Batman does not kill his enemies. The version of Batman that Ben Affleck plays is more akin to Jean Paul Valley, who took on the mantle when Bane broke Batman’s back. He was cruel, slightly sadistic, and murderous. His actions were actually what brought Bruce Wayne out of retirement. He hated that someone so vicious was taking on the role of Batman.
I have to be honest, I have never seen Mad Men, so I haven’t actually seen Jon Hamm as Don Draper. What I have seen is the critical praise he has received playing a suave businessman. This is an essential part of what makes Batman / Bruce Wayne. So there, we have the Bruce Wayne part nailed, but what about Batman. Until recently, I would have questioned whether Jon Hamm could play someone intimidating. Then I watched Baby Driver. Aggression, threatening demeanour, the ability to coax fear. He has all of that. He also has the look. Tall, dark, handsome, mysterious. For a Batman that is slightly older, Jon Hamm is the absolute perfect choice.
The Joker – Will Arnett
Now I know this choice is a bit left field, but I genuinely believe that Will Arnett would be incredible as the Joker. First hurdle, we have to look past Heath Ledger’s version. There will never be anything like it. It was, in essence, perfect. Next, Jared Leto’s Joker. This isn’t so much a hurdle as a hiccup. A lot of people like his portrayal. I am not one of them. Take away the green hair and silly make-up and you are just left with a slightly psychotic mob boss. The Joker is so much more than that. He is a force of nature that surpasses the physical limitations of his abilities and supplants them with something far more terrifying. Jared Leto may be a brilliant actor, but I don’t think he is able to portray the manic insanity of the Clown Prince.
Nobody can deny that Will Arnett is the perfect physical embodiment of the Joker. He has the tall, slim physique, the slightly receding hairline, the wide grin, the necessary craziness to his eyes. But what about the actual character. For those who have watched Arrested Development, you can see the cunning, crazy tinge to his character. Will Arnett carries it as if it is a second skin. It comes easily to him. Now we have to look at the manic, more serious side of his persona. This is slightly different to what Arnett has played in the past, with Flaked probably being his only hint at serious acting. Even still, Heath Ledger didn’t carry much acting clout before he was cast (apart from Brokeback Mountain), with people saying he was the wrong choice. Then the Dark Knight was released, and the rest was history. This would be a gamble, but I think it would be one that would pay off.
Harley Quinn – Isla Fisher
I’ve got nothing against Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. In fact, I think she did a good job in an otherwise terrible movie. The reason I would recast this is because Isla Fisher does an incredible job as someone on the right side of loopy. You just have to see her performance in Wedding Crashers to see what she is like when she plays a crazy person. That kind of exuberance would be perfect alongside Will Arnett’s manic energy.
Nightwing / Dick Grayson – Jake Gyllenhaal
This one is easy. As an actor, Jake Gyllenhaal is a chameleon. Many people think he should be the Dark Knight himself, but, in my opinion, he appears too young to play an experienced Bruce Wayne. As an experienced sidekick of the Caped Crusader, he would be perfect. He has the right age, the right look, and the right physique to play someone who has been trained by a weathered Bruce Wayne. He also has the clout to pull off a solo Nightwing movie that, in itself, could give us a fresh look on the character of Dick Grayson that we haven’t seen before.
Jim Gordon – Jeff Bridges
This was a harder one to cast. Gary Oldman was brilliant as a worn-down Jim Gordon and would be hard to replace. I love J K Simmons, but I don’t think his performance was strong enough in Justice League. If you are a looking for a grizzled, moustachioed man, then Jeff Bridges is the ideal choice. I have thought this ever since seeing the Coen’s True Grit. If you toned down his cantankerous attitude, then Jeff Bridges portrayal in that would be perfect for a Jim Gordon who has tried to keep a crime ridden Gotham in line for decades, but to little avail.
Alfred Pennyworth – Sir Ian McKellen
I had always seen John Hurt as playing the perfect Alfred. Unfortunately, this year has seen his passing. In his stead I think Ian McKellen would be the perfect choice as the voice of Bruce Wayne’s caution. You only need to look to Lord of the Rings to see that he plays the perfect mentor figure and would be the sure voice to keep Bruce Wayne in line. He would work perfectly next to Jon Hamm’s suave Bruce Wayne and, as long as the story was written right, he could be the foil that prevents him from going that one step too far.
Ra’s Al Ghul – Mads Mikkelsen
Mads Mikkelsen has proven time and again that he is a fantastic actor. He holds an insidious cunning as Hannibal Lector. He is brutal as One-Eye in the underrated Valhalla Rising. And he even proves his worth as an action star in the not-so-great King Arthur. All of these traits set him up perfectly as the man who trained Bruce Wayne and sees him as his heir to the League of Shadows.
Talia Al Ghul – Morena Baccarin
Whereas I found Ra’s easy to cast, Talia not so much. Not at first anyway. But as I was thinking back to some of my favourite movies and shows over the last decade or so, Morena Baccarin has stood out in Firefly and Serenity. She has the look, she has the confident attitude, and she has the physicality to carry off the role as the daughter to the most dangerous assassin alive.
Red Hood / Jason Todd – Taylor Kitsch
Taylor Kitsch has had a tough break. None of his films have hit the expected heights and, as a result, he is no longer as sought after as he should be. I do think that Kitsch struggles with the responsibility of a leading role, but as a strong support character with a darker edge he would be perfect. He can carry grit in his role, like in Lone Survivor, and he would definitely hold well with the physical side of things.
Deathstroke – Stephen Lang
We haven’t seen enough of Joe Manganellio’s version of Deathstroke, but I think he is just a bit too young to play the character. Slade Wilson is older, grizzled, and carries with him decades of experience. We have seen, in Avatar, how Lang exudes a booming aggression and, in Don’t Breathe, how he can be an imposing physical threat even though he is older. He has the right look, is in incredible shape, which is necessary to play one of the world’s foremost assassins, and is intrinsically threatening.
Bane – Kevin Durand
Warner Bros have a habit of using an unnecessary amount of CGI for their villains in the DCEU. It comes across quite jarring, especially considering how poorly they have done it. For me, Bane would be the type of character they would ruin with CGI. Just like they did Ares, Doomsday, and Steppenwolf. Instead, they should build on an aura of threat, rather than a CGI monstrosity. To do this they would need someone tall, well built, and who can actually act. As Keamy in Lost, Durand showed he was cunning as well as physically intimidating. He was able to outsmart the majority of the protagonists and also beat them down in a fist fight. In Robin Hood, he bulked up and packed on a lot of muscle to portray Little John. His height, build and cunning are exactly what is needed to fulfil this role.
Superman – Armie Hammer
This was easy for me. You just have to look at him to see Superman. He can play a nuanced comic role (Man From U.N.C.L.E). He can play serious (Nocturnal Animals). And you can see from his numerous interviews that he is generally a nice guy. These are all the things Superman needs to be. I’ve heard rumours of him potentially playing either Batman or Hal Jordan. While I think he would be good in these roles, his physical presence would be perfect for Superman. Superman is dominance. He is the strongest of them all. Armie Hammer could portray all of these qualities and would be able to provide the subtle goofiness of Clark Kent as well.
Many people will laud Henry Cavill as the perfect Superman. This simply isn’t the case, and that could very well be down to the direction. He conveys the gravity of the burden that is incessant in his role, but there is no humour to him. Clark Kent is missing from this role. Even if it is down to poor direction, if I had a choice between Cavill and Hammer, Armie Hammer would win for me.
Lex Luther – Mark Strong
I can already hear the fanboys screaming Bryan Cranston’s name. Yeah, he would be a good choice, but everyone is basing that on his portrayal of Walter White. Walter White and Lex Luther are two very different characters. Walter White was threatening in a more haphazard way. He was clever, and he used that to ruin his enemies, but Lex Luther is more than that. He is cunning. His antagonism is not something he has nurtured, it is intrinsic to him. It didn’t just come about because of some adverse circumstances.
Mark Strong has all these characteristics. In every film he has starred in he has been calm, calculated, and utterly ruthless. These are natural traits in his acting ability. Yes, he may be a character actor, but those characteristics perfectly suit him as Lex Luther. Just picture his calm grin and his exuberating nonchalance that would play off all the characters around him. He would be the ultimate power, not in strength, but in guile. I haven’t mentioned Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal because that is in no way Lex Luther!
Lois Lane – Rachel McAdams
It’s hard to justify a choice for someone who has so many excellent roles. I say hard because her renown should speak for itself. Rachel McAdams has the look and the acting ability to play a Lois Lane that is unaware of Superman’s true identity, and who could fall for the boyish charm of Clark Kent and the steely nature of Superman. She does well at playing strong, attractive and smart women.
General Zod – Viggo Mortensen
He may be getting a bit older now, but there are few actors who can be quite as intimidating as Viggo Mortensen. You only have to watch A History of Violence just to see how brutal he can be. And, with his age, he could portray a more wizened Zod who has lived to see the death of his world and become warped by it. Rather than being just a one-dimensional physical threat to Superman (as Michael Shannon’s Zod was portrayed), he could become as much a psychological threat. He could play on the notions of home, while all the while dominating the screen and Armie Hammer’s younger Kal-El. Zod was a general, and generals do not just rely on their physical presence to demand respect, they rely on their authority. Mortensen could do this better than any actor out there.
Wonder Woman – Gal Gadot
I genuinely wouldn’t change this. I was dubious before I saw the Wonder Woman film, but Gal Gadot has the look and the acting ability to play a convincing Amazonian. Let’s face it she is stunning, she is hard as f**k as she was a combat instructor in the Israeli army, and she has proven that she can carry a film. No need in changing an actress who is perfect in her role.
Flash – Garrett Hedlund
I admit, Ezra Miller was one of the highlights of Justice League, but I think his character is a bit young to really hold against the more experienced heroes. One of the worst things about the DCEU is that we are given a wizened interpretation of Bruce Wayne, but the rest of the Justice League are either young, or previously held fast their anonymity. With Garrett Hedlund, they could give us a more experienced speedster who can also maintain comparative youth and naivety compared to the more serious members. Hedlund would also provide a more physical presence for when the Flash gets in to any confrontations and is an actor who has lingered in the background for some time, waiting for that perfect role.
Poison Ivy – Jessica Chastain
This was another easy choice. She was excellent in both Zero Dark Thirty and Interstellar, and has received universal acclaim in many of her roles. And she has exactly the right look; red hair, alluring features, a stern demeanour when required. This is probably the most predictable choice on my list, but that doesn’t make it without merit.
Catwoman – Olivia Wilde
Olivia Wilde may not be the most prolific of actors on this list, but there are traits that she has that would make her a great choice for Selina Kyle. First of all, she looks the part. She has striking features and a slender build that would fit perfect with an elegant, alluring, and athletic cat burglar. If you look at Quorra in Tron legacy, you get something akin to what Catwoman should be. Secondly, even though she might not be as lauded as some of the others, she is a solid actress. She has proven this in Rush, as well as her excellent performance in Meadowland. She seems to be coming in to her own as her career progresses, and it would be good to see some of her maturing nuance in this role.
Victor Stone / Cyborg – Elijah Kelley
Elijah Kelley is one of the more unfamiliar choices here. He is known more for his TV roles, but in those shows, such as the excellent The New Edition Story and the somewhat obscure The Wiz Live, he has been flawless. Kelley is a great up and comer who would be able to add charm to a role that was criminally under used in Justice League.
Martian Manhunter – Doug Jones
Doug Jones is one of the most underrated actors of the modern age. The emotion he manages to emit, even underneath a mound of prosthetics and makeup, is surreal. He brings to each and every character an ethereal charm and an almost omnipotent knowing. He is able to command every scene he is in, without stealing the limelight from others. He has excelled as Abe Sapien in Hellboy, the Faun in Pan’s Labyrinth, Saru on Star Trek Discovery, and the Amphibious Man in the Shape of Water, and each one shows how incredible he is. Each character is different, but each of them is intriguing in every way. The Martian Manhunter is one of the original Justice League and has a great depth of character. Jones would accurately be able to portray his outwardly stoic and cold demeanour, yet provide that noble and caring edge that is so characteristic of J’onn J’onzz.
Aquaman – Alexander Skarsgard
I was not a big fan of True Blood. In fact, there were times I found it absolutely ridiculous, and not in a good way. But one of the shining lights of that show was Alexander Skarsgard’s performance as vampire Eric Northman. Since True Blood ended he has managed to find a steady stream of roles in Hollywood movies, with the most notable being the latest rendition of Tarzan. The film was not great, but that was mainly down to some shoddy CGI and a poor story. What was great about the film was Skarsgard’s portrayal of Tarzan. He gave a committed, strong performance as the king of the jungle. If he transferred those traits over to the King of Atlantis, then he would on to a winner. While Jason Mamoa’s performance enjoyable, it was not Aquaman. Skarsgard could give us an Aquaman that is not only closer to the source material, but one that is actually enjoyable to watch as well.
Hal Jordan / Green Lantern – John Krasinski
I only landed on this decision after watching A Quiet Place. John Krasinski has completely changed from who we all saw him as. Gone are the days of the geeky Jim Halpert. Now we have a character that is full of fight, passion, and love for those closest to him. A survivalist. A realist. In this film he has changed not only his mannerisms, but also his physique. He looks like he can fight to save the lives of those around him. By doing this, Krasinski has proven how good an actor he really is, and how he can adapt to a completely different role. He still has that loveable nobility, offset with a quiet charm, but it is all encapsulated in to the necessary ruggedness now. Mix with that the required look that he has to play Hal Jordan, the floppy hair, the disarming smile, and it all works in his favour.
And there you have it. My main choices. There are so many other integral, strong characters within the DCEU that I could go on for days about who should play them. But with the names I’ve listed above, I think I covered the main roster, as well as some of those I would like to see get their own arcs. Many of you may disagree with some, or maybe even all, of my choices. This is just a subjective opinion based on how I see the characters and those actors who I think fit in to that vision.
I truly believe it is a shame that the current DCEU has been rendered in such a mundane way. Given the strength of the source material, the depth of the characters, and the richness of the stories, it is unforgiveable. Even if the quality does improve, the foundations are so shaky that they will taint the future of this current series.