Posted by Jawshco (244 posts) - - Show Bio

Sometimes getting the right guy to play the bad guy, still goes wrong...

I'm looking back on some of my favorite super villain roles in movies and wondering who might have been better, and I'm proposing that the answer might be... no one.

Case One: Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin

If I were to erase the first Raimi Spider-man movie from my memory and cast the ideal actor for Green Goblin- that actor would be Willem Dafoe. The guy has an amazing resume for the role. Did you all see him Shadow of the Vampire? I mean just paint him green and you're done. That's the perfect Goblin.

He was amazingly creepy in this role in this movie, and while it will never be as influential as the classic Nosferatu that it's based on, it might have been even more frightening. Dafoe is the supreme master of the villainous glare. I challenge you to find anyone better at that. Also, who else can pull off that nefarious voice with the credibility that Dafoe is able to pull off? I really can't think of anyone else I'd want in that role. So why did Dafoe become the cheesy, "Power Rangers" looking villain that we saw in Raimi's Spider-man?

I know it's a nitpick thing, but really... it's the costume failure that causes all the problems in Dafoe's take on the Green Goblin. It's a wardrobe malfunction that's less forgivable than Janet Jackson's tasteless Super Bowl stunt. I really loved everything else. Seriously, anytime anyone says "two weeks" around me, I launch into a Willem Dafoe impression for no reason at all. That's how much I enjoyed Dafoe as Norman Osborn. It's a performance that is burned onto the random turntable that is my mind. However, the costume is just too iconic to ignore or pass off as an insignificant mistake. When you get a costume wrong in some movies it's no big deal, but in a comic book movie it's a huge mistake. I don't know if Raimi was just over-thinking this design (since a previous costume design that was leaked out was clearly better than what we saw in the movie), or if it was something else, but it was a huge mistake and it does hamper the quality of what was otherwise a pretty great movie.

Case Two: Danny Devito as Penguin

As much as I loved Burgess Meredith as the Penguin in the 60's Batman show, to me Danny Devito has always been the guy who should play the Penguin. The very first time I watched the sitcom "Taxi," the first thought I had about Devito's character was- 'That's the Penguin.' When you say certain actors were 'born for the role' of this or that character, there's no actor and character combination that applies more to than Danny Devito and the Penguin. The fit between the two is so certain that you don't even need much of a costume. The guy already looks like the Penguin in real life, so how do you mess that up?

Enter the Burton! You mess up what should have been a perfect casting of Devito as the Penguin by devolving the villain into a Gothic, monstrous, mutant mess. What is up with Burton's love of overusing white face paint that gets caked-on to so many of his characters' faces? Is this a a zombie Penguin? He has the dead pale face and dark circled eyes that make even Herman Munster look practical in comparison. Then add the fact that this version of the Penguin seems to have no aversion to tasting raw human flesh, and I'm telling you... he's more of an Elvira marathon monster than he is an aristocratic mobster. It's just not fair that the absolute perfect person to play the Penguin wasn't allowed to play anything remotely resembling the character we know and love (well, doesn't love him, but that's another story). It's sad. Thankfully, it doesn't ruin the entire movie for me. Keaton, Pfeiffer, and Walken were all great as Batman, Catwoman, and well that creepy guy who Walken played (don't remember his character's name), and Batman Returns is still one of my favorite Batman movies.

Case Three: Thomas Haden Church as Sandman

I'll admit that when I first saw Thomas Haden Church on the TV show, "Wings," I thought this guy was a weak imitation of Bill Fagerbakke's character "Dauber" from the show "Coach." I'll also admit I was wrong. While Bill Fagerbakke is a fine actor (M-O-O-N spells a memorable role on the "Stand" TV mini-series and a career as the voice of Patrick the Starfish on Spongebob Square Pants), it's Thomas Haden Church who went on to be the more successful actor. He had some nice creepy roles in both Tombstone and Demon Knight that showcased that he could show his darker side. Then he also showed his straight ahead acting chops when he was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in the movie 'Sideways' (a movie with a woody flavor and a robust characterization that left me with an intriguing aftertaste). The guy had his share of comedically bad stinkers- i.e. George of the Jungle 1 and 2, but he definitely has the range to play a variety of characters. Add to the mix that THC is a fairly stout guy who could easily play a toughie if need be, and I see an actor who is the perfect fit to play Sandman with the full range of conflicting motivations and thuggish demeanor.

So what went wrong with Spider-man 3? Well everything obviously, but that would take too long to get into, and while I'll admit that Sandman was far from being the worst thing in that movie- he certainly wasn't impressive.

Unlike the previous two examples, I really thought that this Sandman looked great on the screen. I could totally buy into the concept of the way this character transformed into this powerful, monstrous villain. It looked and felt right to me. So what felt wrong? For starters, Sandman killing uncle Ben. Say, what!? So that huge scene from the first movie where Peter confronts the killer is now confusing and meaningless? Yup! Why, oh, why...did you pull that one on us Sam Raimi? I wish I could say that it was the worst thing about Spider-man 3, because it truly is terrible, but unfortunately it isn't. Anyway, from there we get kind of a whiny version of the Sandman, who is on the wrong side of the tracks, but deep down has a heart of gold. Seriously!? Uh-huh, this film is a stinker of superlative proportions. Lastly, the CGI of the action scenes where Spidey is fighting Sandy do look cool, but they fall flat by missing the one thing the comic books usually got right- Sandman staying a "man" even when going into full beast mode. In the comics, Sandman would create all kinds of weapons and alterations to his body that would help him fight Spidey, but we'd still see the guy behind them all smirking through the haze. In the movie we see more Sand-monster than Sand-man during the climatic fight sequences. The character was lost in all the cool effects, and when that happened- the impressive CGI action sequences seemed stale. I'm not sure what they could do to fix this last problem, but I'm certain they could have done many things to make a better Sandman than what we were given with Spider-man 3.

So that's it for now. Like always, I've ran out of time to write before I've depleted my ideas of what to write about, but that's life. At any rate, hopefully you've enjoyed this short list of where they got the right guy to play the right villain, but the movie makers somehow still managed to get it wrong.

Laters,

-Jawshco.

#1 Posted by xybernauts (858 posts) - - Show Bio

I agree that all these movie villians were cast perfectly. Truthfully, I don't have that much problem with costume design, but I see where you are coming from. It's true that DaFoe could have easily used face paint instead of wearing a metal mask, but I actually kinda like the metal mask so for me it's either/or. As for Burton's Penguin, Truthfully, if I remember correctly I think at the time Penguin hadn't really established a modern identity that worked for him. I'm not sure about the comics, but in terms of media, most people thought of the 60's Penguin. I think Burton was just trying to modernize the character. It thought it was a pretty good attempt. I think the more palletable versions of the aristocratic Mafioso may not have become popular until after that movie had been made, but I could be wrong. As for Sandman, I'm surprised you know so much about Church. As an actor, I never found him interesting enough to really pay attention to, but I must admit, I loved his version of the Sandman. I too didn't like how they made Sandman the supposed perpetrator who killed Uncle Ben, but I actually liked the characterization of the Sandman. I enjoyed the guy who was born on the wrong side of the tracks with a heart of gold concept. Of course I wouldn't say he had a heart of gold. More like a heart of fools gold. :) I also liked the special fx. I saw no problem there, although I could take issue with his origin (how he got his powers in the first place), but I won't get into that. Personally I have a problem with Anne Hathaway's Catwoman. Her performance was ok for the most part. I liked the use of the Catwoman concept, but I she never really became the Catwoman (at least not the way Michelle Pfifer did). Personally, as bad as the Catwoman movie was, even Halle Berry's Catwoman was better IMHO. She put the cat in Catwoman. If the movie wasn't so horrible and if it didn't stray from the Batman mythology, Berry's Catwoman could have been awesome. Hathaway's costume also was severly lacking.

#2 Posted by JNugent (11 posts) - - Show Bio

Maybe I should try watching it again, but I remember hating 'Batman Returns'. And it could have been due to my utter dislike of Danny Devito. I enjoyed him in 'Twins' (with Ahnahld), but I usually can't stand him. So I already had a problem with the actor portraying The Penguin, and then the character was also poorly executed, completely killing this film for me. And I'm a fan of Tim Burton. In fact, 'Batman' is one of my favorite movies, even though it probably could have been named 'Joker', considering Jack Nicholson's WAY over the top performance.

I'm surprised that you didn't like the Green Goblin's costume in 'Spider-Man'. I thought it made the character more 'comic'-like and authentic. And Defoe was perfectly cast. I suppose the lesson here is that there is more to great film-making than great casting. I can't really comment much about Sandman since I fall asleep every time I try to watch 'Spiderman 3'. I wanted it to be good, I really did. But it wasn't. It was a lengthy train-wreck.

I really liked this blog, Jawsh. You should write more, although I realize you probably have quite a busy life.

Do you still have the awesome red bass?

#3 Posted by Moonchilde (1601 posts) - - Show Bio

Good List.

I'd like to add Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool to this list. While it may be a stretch to call Reynolds a "good" actor, I certainly don't think he's a bad actor either. More importantly, I actually think casting him as Deadpool was a good choice. His comedic timing and sarcastic wit actually works well to play the "merc with a mouth." And for what it's worth, that first scene with him as Deadpool was actually pretty good, about how I felt an on-screen Deadpool should be (even if they didn't really even try with the costume). Then the director or producer or possibly both decided to take a massive dump on the film that they were making. Those of us who managed to endure the rest of "X-Men Orgins: Wolverine" eventually got introduced to the horrifying abomination now known as "Barakapool."

Barakapool
#4 Posted by The_MVPs (84696 posts) - - Show Bio

I personally think Dafoe would have made a better "Dark Avengers" Norman Osborn/Iron Patriot. Thats not to say I didnt enjoy his Green Goblin but as you point out, once they cheesed him up with the suit any mannerisms that make him the outstanding actor he is were lost.

Danny Devito, not a fan of his Penguin or the movie in general. At a glance its easy to see why he was cast, but his Penguin was more like a Morlock from the X-Franchise then he was the Penguin.

I dont know a thing about Sandman other then his look, which Hayden was able to replicate. One thing that bothered me about Sandman (and Osborn for that matter) was the hair. Their wave hair style is as important as Goblin being green and Sandman's stripped shirt. Their trademark characteristics and would have been a nice addition.

@Moonchilde: Same here. I liked Reynolds as Wade. He brought it. But whatever abomination he was turned into (lmao Barakapool) ruined the possibility of Bane level greatness.

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#5 Posted by Jawshco (244 posts) - - Show Bio
@xybernauts Thanks for the reply! Not sure about how Penguin was portrayed in the comics in '89- you've got an interesting point. I might have to research that a bit. As far as Catwoman is concerned, I actually really liked Hathaway's portrayal of the character. It was probably my favorite thing about Dark Knight Rises, but then again I a big of hers so I'm very likely biased on that one. I also loved Pfeiffer, but as much as I wanted to like the Berry version- that movie was too painful for me to sit through, LOL!
#6 Posted by Jawshco (244 posts) - - Show Bio
@JNugent Thanks Jason! Hey, did you I have something in common with Devito? We're both avid fans of Mike Patton. There's several interviews of him on-line talking about his love of Patton-music and on YouTube you can see him jumping on the stage during an FNM concert.

Red bass? Yes, and no. I had two identical red Ibenez X-series basses, but one was stolen and the other was sold to help me buy my current (and much superior) red Musicman Stingray bass. I've had the Stingray for years now. Used it on my band's first (and onky) album. Unfortunately, we had bad luck keeping guitarists- so I decided to switch to guitar in order to keep the band together. Haven't played bass much since then.