Casting in Film Adaptations

Film adaptations seem to be arriving in theaters daily. The Avengers, X-Men First ClassThe Dark Knight Trilogy, and many more are just the most recent examples. Graphic novels seem to be a hot commodity in Hollywood right now. After all, 2013 is apparently the years of “comic books, remakes, and sequels.”

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The upcoming film The Amazing Spiderman 2 certainly fits all of those categories. Plenty has already been said on whether or not that’s a good thing, so I won’t even get into that, but something else stood out to me in the news stories about this film. Mainly, this. Which, to be fair is intended to be satire, but it brought an interesting debate to light – there are already multiple posts dealing with the fact that plenty of people on the internet don’t think Shailene Woodley is “hot enough” to play Mary Jane in the upcoming Spiderman movie. (Note: I linked to posts quoting those comments rather than the original pages as I didn’t feel like sending more hits to the trolls this week)

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You mean people don’t look like this in real life?

The most important thing I took away from this debate was that no one can seriously be expected to look like their graphic novel counterpart (well, except for Samuel L. Jackson). After all, there have been plenty of posts just on this blog about how unrealistically people are portrayed in many comic books. For some reason, though, the idea of whether or not someone looks the part is always one of the first question people ask. To me, that seems ridiculous. Someone could be a dead ringer for Clint Barton or John Hartigan and not be able to act their way out of a paper bag – should they still get the part? Not to mention the fact that film adaptations are aimed at a larger audience than their source material. How many people going to the theater are actually going to care if Tony Stark is, like, a foot shorter than he should be or that Heimdall is black?

I don't know about you, but I don't remember this being in The Dark Knight Rises.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember this being in The Dark Knight Rises.

If you’re on the internet? The answer is a lot. Even professionals have started weighing in with their opinions on casting choices. See: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Creator Slams Casting of Megan Fox. Seriously? As a child of the 90s I loved that show as much as the next kid, but it’s not exactly Oscar-bait. And even in movies that were, there was no pleasing everyone. Remember the uproar when Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker? I’d make a “look who’s laughing now” joke here, but that just seems inappropriate.

The_Joker_by_DookieAdz

 

So what do you guys think? Do looks matter? What about previous acting experience? Or do you just put your faith in the director and hope things turn out well?

 

  4 comments for “Casting in Film Adaptations

  1. teh_manis
    March 26, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    I actually remember when the internet disliked the choice of Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight. I can see why people were upset about this casting seeing the track record of Heath Ledger’s career and the fact he just did Brokeback Mountain. Then again, Ledger was expanding his horizon in acting trying to prove he is indeed a great actor. The other actor from Brokeback Mountain, Jake Gyllenhaal went on to star in Jarheads after Brokeback Mountain, but was not as successful as Ledger. I actually have seen the new Spiderman movie that was released recently, and in my opinion is better than the one made with Tobey Maguire. I have not heard of the actor who played Peter Parker/Spiderman, Andrew Garfield before, and I believe he delivered a great performance in the movie and I am looking forward to the next movie. It’s really sad to see that people are upset the actor casted to play Mary Jane is not ‘hot’ enough, looking at the actor she looks like a high school student which is what Mary Jane was. This shallowness of people may also be caused by the biasness of the individual, for example someone who has read the comics and believes that nothing else is better. I myself am little like that, but I do allow wiggle room and give everything a chance. For example, Movie Bane did not look like comic book Bane but it was still a great performance. Movie Catwoman…. Well, I like Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle but not as Catwoman. I like seeing performance of new actors trying to show what they are do. I believe that everyone should be given a chance before it can be judged.

  2. Lindsay Bennett
    March 27, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    I think this question is really hard to answer correctly because people have different interpretations of how a comic book should translate onto film. I completely agree that its impossible to translate the exact image from one medium to the next especially when they are different dimensions. My biggest problem with saying someone doesn’t look attractive enough for a film is that its a different idea all together. A large element to comic books that makes them so appealing is that they AREN’T real life, and vise versa with films, they are like life so people enjoy them. It is like comparing apples and oranges at this point because they are too different, both in positive ways. Film makers also have to think about appealing to an audience, maybe they chose to hire Megan Fox to attract a young audience, I’m sure that worked. A producer of a comic book wants to appeal to artists and their loyal followers, a beautiful face in a book has a lot less of an affect than a hot lead female actress does on the big screen.

  3. Steve
    March 28, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    This is really an issue that is seen in any sort of character adaptation to film, such as biopics. A number of films such as Lincoln, J. Edgar, Nixon, W., Amelia, Frost/Nixon, Into the Wild, among dozens of others have received pre-release buzz and criticism for the lead actor’s close or distant resemblance to their real-life, historical counterpart. The general precedent set in Hollywood is that close resemblance has little effect on critical reception, but a reasonable effect on box office numbers. It’s much easier to hype a biopic of a famous person with a household face in the trailers when the lead closely resembles that face; especially if a famous person resembles that face. Sometimes, even if the film critically tanks, that facial recognition is enough for the film to post solid box office numbers. In the critical sector, character resemblance is only gravy if the performance beneath it is well-delivered. Though I suppose comic book character portrayals are perhaps different than those of real people, as they often change appearance from issue to issue and aren’t always technically capable of being faithfully resembled in live-action film. Every live-action comic book character adaptation will inherently appear different than the original.

  4. Andre Sanixay
    March 29, 2013 at 8:31 am

    You make a good point about the difference between comics and their film adaptations. I remember when I first saw the first Spider-man movie; the one with Tobey Maguire. I remember how I commented that in the comics, Spider-man always had artificial web shooters, but in the Tobey Maguire version, the web shooters are part of his body. Sometimes elements in comic books are different in the films. In the comics, Ra’s al-Ghul was an Arabian man who has lived for centuries, the Joker’s skin was bleeched when he fell into a chemical vat, and Bane was a Hispanic man who had access to a super-steroid called Venom. These iconic traits are not present in the Dark Knight Trilogy. Presumably it is to make the characters more realistic. The trilogy even gives Batman’s cape a purpose. Another change from comic book to film is the upcoming Man of Steel film. Superman’s outfit does not possess the red briefs as he does in many of his comic book appearances. It is interesting to point out the differences in film adaptations of comic books. Film makers seem to want to make the superheroes more realistic than in the comic books. Think about it. Would Wolverine be taken seriously in the films if he wore his iconic yellow spandex? But despite changes, there are some homages in the films. For example, Thor does not have a double life like he did in the comics, but his alias of Donald Blake (Thor’s secret identity in the comics) is used. The Abomination, one of the Hulk’s enemies, is only addressed by his real name, but there is an homage to the comic name. One of the characters warns Emil Blonsky (the Abomination’s real name) that injecting the Hulk’s blood into him could turn him into an “abomination”. Overall, I enjoy comparing comic books with their film counterparts because it makes me curious to see how film adaptations of comic books turn out.

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