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Line Up the League Pt. 2

Monday, April 23rd, 2012
BY GREGORY CRUIKSHANK, APRIL 23, 2012

With less than two weeks before the debut of Marvel’s The Avengers we started to line up DC’s mightiest heroes, The Justice League. We covered a decent amount of ground, and without further ado, here are the remaining candidates:

 

Hawkman/Hawkgirl
Who they are:
The basics of Hawkman and Hawkgirl are that they are an archaeologist and his wife, who employ extraterrestrial technologies to fly and fight evil. Or they’re alien police officers posing as museum curators while they study terrestrial law-enforcement methods. Or they’re the latest in a string of reincarnations by a pair of Egyptian lovers whose souls can never leave the mortal realm. It’s complicated. Regardless, they are ruthless warriors, quick to temper, armed with wings (real or flight-harnesses, depending on the version) and weaponry forged from extraterrestrial Nth metal to combat the forces of evil.

Why they’d make the cut:
Hawkman is another DC B-lister whose name carries recognition beyond strictly the bounds of comic fans, although it is not unfair to say that more people mayrecognize his female counterpart first, thanks to the Justice League animated series. Either way, their presence in the film would add a dynamic personality to clash with some of the more level-headed members included in the group, as well as a unique power set (winged flight) which is rarely employed in live-action cinema. Opting to use Hawkgirl rather than Hawkman would also mean the possibility of including another strong female hero, and one who doesn’t fall into any of the traditional stereotypes at that.

Why they wouldn’t:
If we’re being brutally honest, winged people aren’t always rendered successfully in live-action, which is WHY they’re so rarely used. But more to the point, it’s a matter of their history. The origin of the Hawkpeople is so convoluted and difficult to explain, that crafting their own film first would need to be a priority—and simplifying the origin enough to be accessible in that movie—before either one could claim a place in the League’s first cinematic foray.

Who could play them:
Karl Urban (Star Trek, Lord of the Rings) would both make an appropriate choice for the grizzled, temperamental Hawkman, while Hawkgirl could be portrayed by rising Hollywood star Jennifer Lawrence (X-Men: First Class, The Hunger Games, Winter’s Bone).

 

The Atom
Who he is:
Two men have worn the mantle of the size-changing superhero the Atom. The first is Dr. Ray Palmer, a brilliant physicist who utilized a sample of white dwarf star-matter to fashion a lens that could shrink objects—and people, like himself—to microscopic size. The other is Palmer’s equally-brilliant protege Ryan Choi, who took over the mantle from Palmer after a series of unfortunate crises forced his retirement.

Why he’d make the cut:
A superteam needs at least one scientific mind in its roster, and the Atom, with his background as a physicist, would certainly fit that bill. Additionally, characters whose powers involve changing size are usually most conducive to team environments, in the form of reconnaissance or surprise attacks, or even serving as the guy who fixes the problem/saves the world/destroys the doomsday device while the other heroes fight the bad guy. In that respect, it would be interesting to see how the movie would employ the Atom in that function—or better yet, to see how they’d employ him outside of that.

Why he wouldn’t:
The only real disclaimer is probably the sheer amount of time, money, and effort that would go into the various enlarged realms the Atom would find himself in atminiaturized size (be they tabletops, inside circuitboards, or microscopic realms not yet conceived), the props he’d be employing (pens the size of spears, sewing needles the size of broad swords, etc), and the sheer potential available for solo adventures presented by a man who can shrink.

Who could play him:
Odds are high that fans may insist on original Atom Palmer rather than relative newbie Choi, but that studios may insist on Choi in the name of diversity. Ideally, however, they could splice the two characters into one, giving us a Ryan Choi as professor rather than graduate student, who discovers the shrinking lens instead of inheriting it from a mentor. If they opted for that, my vote would go to Archie Kao (Archie from CSI).

 

Red Tornado
Who he is:
Originally created by scientist T.O. Morrow to destroy the League, the android known as the Red Tornado was possessed by an air elemental, and developed a desire to become more human. Ultimately, he turned on his creator, and now uses his whirlwind-generating abilities for good.

Why he’d make the cut:
Although not quite as prominently featured in the Justice League cartoon, Red Tornado has been included fairly prominently as a mentor figure in the Young Justice animated series, which has given him a raised profile among those not acquainted with the comics. Moreover, Red could be argued as being one of the League’s more popular members over the years, with Brad Meltzer’s “The Tornado’s Path” story showcasing just how well Red can be employed, not only as a character, but as a member of the team. Factor in a distinctive power-set, as well as a connection to a potential villain for the League (Morrow, or Morrow’s contemporary Professor Ivo and his android creation Amazo), and there’s plenty of reasons to support the Tornado’s candidacy.

Why he wouldn’t:
Two words: Emo robot. Popular as the Red Tornado is, he has too often been compared to Marvel’s more successful android hero, the Vision, and been found wanting, criticized for becoming too easily depressed about his circumstances. And while there is storytelling potential, the odds that people would want to go out and see a robot mope around about existential matters are… OK, they’re still pretty good, but in a team context, they could hurt him.

Who could play him:
Again, the Doug Jones/Lawrence Fishburne combination could be in the Tornado’s interests, but another alternative to consider would be Eric “Ang Lee’s Hulk” Bana, who could cover the physical aspects where needed, while also contributing plenty of vocal/emotional weight to the role.

 

Booster Gold
Who he is:
A washed-up quarterback from the 25th century (no, seriously), Jon Michael Carter stole a series of superhero gadgets from a museum, fashioned a costume, and travelled back to our century to achieve the level of fame and recognition that only a superhero can attain, assisted by his robotic assistant Skeets.

Why he’d make the cut:
Booster Gold isn’t interested in doing the right thing becuse it’s the right thing, he does it to be rich and famous. That sort of character is ripe for potential inter-team conflict, as Booster’s efforts to smile for the cameras might clash with the League’s efforts to save lives. This doesn’t mean that Booster would be purely a comic foil to the League, or an obnoxious tag-along; that fame-chasing heroism also has potential for the character to grow into a true hero, as evidenced by the JLU episode “The Greatest Story Never Told”, which featured Booster in the spotlight.

Why he wouldn’t:
Obscurity. In spite of an appearance during Smallville’s final season, and the aforementioned JLU episode, Booster Gold is, at best, a C-list superhero, with almost nobody outside comic book afficionados having even the faintest idea who he is. And as with Guy Gardner, those who do would associate him more with the “Bwa-Ha-Ha” era than with his more serious-minded recent appearances, which—as said—would hurt the film’s reputation more than help it.

Who could play him:
Actor Channing Tatum recently displayed a strong comic affect in the film 21 Jump Street, and has previously been featured in a few lead roles in action movies. That, combined with his age and physique, make him one of the most appropriate choices for the sometimes-silly Booster. The other would be Chris Evans, who has a history in comic book movie roles (notably Captain America and the Human Torch) who, in addition to sharing a physical resembance to Booster, possesses masterful comic timing and delivery, while still feeling real instead of like a performer. And who else but Billy “Fry from Futurama” West would voice the role of Skeets?

 

Plastic Man
Who he is:
A former criminal, Patrick “Eel” O’Brien gained the ability to stretch and reshape his body like plastic after a failed heist resulted in his being splashed with an unknown chemical. He uses these powers to combat crime, rather than commit it, as the wisecracking, sometimes-annoying Plastic Man.

Why he’d make the cut:
At one time, Plastic Man could have been called the honorary eighth member of the League’s “Super Seven”, accompanying them on a number of major adventures during the Morrison/Waid era, including the “Tower of Babel” story-arc and the JLA/Avengers crossover story. Like the Flash and Booster Gold, he offers a much more light-hearted personality to the team, and presents a different kind of superhero persona: one who doesn’t entirely take everything seriously, or if he does, he expresses his frustrations in a more amusing way than others. And the idea of including a former criminal in the roster offers bountiful opportunity for character conflict with other, more straight-laced members of the team.

Why he wouldn’t:
The saying goes that “dying is easy, comedy’s hard”, and that’s especially true in the movies, comic book or not. Plastic Man’s comic relief could easily be abused, either by the writers or the actors, and that “sometimes” in my “sometimes-annoying” descriptor would be dropped very VERY quickly by audiences. Never mind that, second only to flying, elasticity is a superpower not easily replicated, regardless of CGI trickery.

Who could play him:
Comedian Jim Carrey seems the most fitting choice, as he is already well-known for his own comically-exaggerated expressions and wacky slapstick antics, which would suit Plastic Man perfectly.

 

Firestorm
Who he is:
Firestorm is actually a composite being made up of two individuals: Professor Martin Stein, a brilliant nuclear physicist: and Ronnie Raymond, high school jock. The two were caught in a nuclear accident involving an energy source known as the “Firestorm Matrix”, with both men’s minds inhabiting one body, possessing powers of flight, energy projection, and elemental transmutation. Though the younger, fitter Raymond was in control of their shared form, Stein could still offer “backseat” commentary and guidance. Years later, following both Stein’s death and the destruction of Raymond’s body, the Firestorm Matrix (containing Raymond’s consciousness) was absorbed into the body of Jason Rusch, a studious young man trapped with an abusive father. Jason then gained the abilities of Firestorm, as well as control of the body, with Raymond supplying a voice of experience to the newly-enhanced youth.

Why he’d make the cut:
As one of the younger characters listed here, Firestorm would offer up yet another point-of-entry character for the audience to follow. He also has the status of being an energy-wielder, which any super-team needs at least one of, and his status as two-people-in-one-body would allow for some entertaining interactions with other League members, who might be confused by an outburst directed from the controlling host to the “backseat driver”.

Why he wouldn’t:
As much as I have dumbed down the science surrounding the source of Firestorm’s abilities, the Firestorm matrix in-and-of itself is the sort of really high-concept comic-book science that could just as easily turn viewers off of the movie as it could hook them in; and indeed, given the complexity surrounding the Firestorm itself, studios and comics execs alike might rather reserve the character for his own movie instead, else too much of a team-centric film be focussed upon the character. Additionally, depending on what character combination the movie goes for—that is, to use the original Raymond/Stein combination, to use Jason in Raymond’s place, to use the Jason/Raymind combo, or using Jason and someone else—fans might be repelled from the movie due to the absence of their preferred characters.

Who could play him:
Assuming the three characters listed above as granted, one way or another, the roles of Ronnie and Jason would be most suited for young up-and-coming actors still in the process of shaping their careers, while the role of Professor Stein could be handled by a seasoned character actor such as Bill Nighy (Pirates of the Caribbean’s Davy Jones, among countless others).

 

Captain Atom
Who he is:
Captain Nathaniel Adams volunteered for a military science experiment, which involved detonating a nuclear bomb close by. As you’d expect, the experiment went horribly wrong, but rather than dying, Adams reappeared years later transformed into a being composed of pure energy, able to absorb, redirect, and manipulate energy at the quantum level.

Why he’d make the cut:
In some ways, Captain Atom is the character more likely to be used in a Justice League movie than Firestorm, even though the two share similar energy-based abilities. Like Vixen, Captain Atom benefits from a raised profile courtesy of the animated Justice League Unlimited, which featured him prominently in a number of episodes. That series also helped offer a more simplified interpretation of the Captain, as an energy-wielding superhero on par with Superman in terms of sheer power. So, if nothing else, the movie would have a viable substitute for an absentee Superman, and possibly even a possible point-of-entry character to follow, depending on the point from his origin they introduce him at.

Why he wouldn’t:
Two words: Doctor Manhattan. Though their powers aren’t exactly the same, the emotionally-detached godlike Manhattan was based on Captain Atom’s original pre-DC comic book incarnation, so there are a lot of similarities. Indeed, several comic books featuring the Captain—most recently, JT Krul’s New 52 incarnation—have often played with the idea of his having godlike abilities, and even his latest comic book incarnation very closely resembles Doctor Manhattan. Given the similarities, and assuming the writers chose to use that version of the Captain rather than the more standard “energy-wielder” version, studios might not want to invest the money in a character which they already funded, and fans might rather not watch another Dr Manhattan.

Who could play him:
Though already recognizable as Harvey “Two-Face” Dent, Aaron Eckhart would be an interesting choice to place inside the Captain’s chrome finish, as would Zachary Quinto (Heroes, Star Trek) or Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games, and giving Liam a taste of the comic-book movie fame his elder brother already enjoys as Thor).

 

Fire
Who she is:
Beatriz Bonilla da Costa started life as a model, then a showgirl, then went on to serve in the Brazilian Intelligence Agency; during this time, she was caught in a blast of energy, which granted her the ability to transform into a being of green flame. Serving for a time with the international Global Guardians, she was later invited, alongside Ice, to join the Justice League.

Why she’d make the cut:
In a super-team whose membership is recognized for having a male female ratio of about 6:1, Fire would supply another option for a prominent female presence on the team’s roster. Besides, let’s review, folks: A twenty-something South American supermodel-turned-secret-agent-turned-superhero. Odds are, Hollywood has at least a dozen scripts in queue for production that involves that exact formula.

Why she wouldn’t:
Aside from the fact that no one has heard of her outside hardcore comic book fans? And that transforming into a being made out of green fire is probably one of the costliest, trickiest superpowers to replicate? Here, the issue of inclusion in the unaired Justice League pilot rears its ugly head, as fans who are familiar with that pilot could be resistant to her being featured in a movie, as the pilot’s portrayal of her was, at best, a less-than-flattering joke.

Who could play her:
While the studios would most likely give the part to a pretty white girl (because even in this day and age, people of Spanish/South American descent are rarely played by people who actually ARE of that descent), a legitimate contender for the part would be actress Morena Baccarin (Serenity, V, Homeland). She’s beautiful, she’s talented, she’s of Brazilian heritage, she’s a fan-favourite—and she even has a DC pedigree, having voiced Black Canary on Justice League Unlimited!

 

Ice
Who she is:
The princess of a hidden tribe of Norsemen who practice ice magic (no, seriously), Tora Olafsdatter served as a member of the Global Guardians alongside Fire, before being inducted into the Justice League.

Why she’d make the cut:
Again supplying an additional female presence to the team, Ice also offers in a much more docile, sweeter personality to the team, which would certainly create some personality clashes somewhere along the way—either in defense of, or attacking her “sweet girl” demeanor. She also offers another power-set not often seen in the movies. (OK, the X-Men films and, to a lesser extent, Thor, but that’s it.)

Why she wouldn’t:
See the reasons Fire wouldn’t, minus the whole “woman-on-fire” thing.

Who could play her:
Provided she could take the time to mask her accent, Emilie de Ravin (Claire from Lost) would be most suited to the sweet, soft-spoken Ice.

 

Power Girl
Who she is:
Depending on who you ask, Karen Starr is either: Superman’s long-lost cousin who survived the explosion of Krypton, initially known as Supergirl; or the daughter of Superman and Lois Lane from a parallel Earth, who initially assumed the mantle of Supergirl; or the descendant of a powerful Atlantean sorcerer, who never went by the name Supergirl at any time. It’s complicated. No matter her origins, however, she has all of Superman’s powers, a strong sense of justice, and always strives to do the right thing, even if she is infamous for a costume that shows off a lot of breast.

Why she’d make the cut:
A strong female character who could serve as both a role model to young women and eye candy for young men? How could Hollywood NOT use her? Seriously, though, Power Girl would serve as an impressive, powerful asset to the team—if nothing else, she could fill the voids left by both Superman and Wonder Woman, assuming they couldn’t include them—and provide audiences with a strong, well-rounded, likeable female hero to root for.

Why she wouldn’t:
Wardrobe malfunction? But seriously, setting aside the potential arguments raised by her costume about negative (or, in this case, oversexualized and exploitative) depictions of woman in the media, Power Girl has been more closely associated with the Justice Society of America in comics, rather than the League itself, over the last few years. As such, DC might prefer to save her for that movie, rather than place her in the League. More than that, though, is the fact that Power Girl has the most convoluted origin/backstory this side of Hawkman.

Who could play her:
Laura Vandervoort played Supergirl in the Smallville TV series, so the studios could simply opt to save time casting, given the connection between the characters, and just offer her the role. They could certainly do worse than that, but Leslie Bibb (Iron Man, Talladega Nights) could also fill the role nicely, as could Claire Danes (Stage Beauty, Homeland).

 

Zauriel
Who he is:
A guardian angel of the Eagle Host, one of the Four Hosts of Heaven, Zauriel willingly fell to Earth in order to protect its denizens from otherworldly supernatural forces.

Why he’d make the cut:
Arguably the most popular character to arise from the Morisson-JLA era (other than Plastic Man), Zauriel would certainly have his share of fan-support behind him.

Why he wouldn’t:
Zauriel is one of those truly longshot characters to consider. He’s not very well-known outside of the comic books, and might not garner enough fan-support to warrant his inclusion. Use of Hawkman or Hawkgirl would mean there would already be a winged superhero on the team. His extensive powers and unique physical appearance would be expensive and difficult to replicate. And then, of course, there’s also a political dimension to why he would be excluded. Zauriel, remember, is an Angel—as in, a servant of the Judeo-Christian God—and certain right-wing extremists might leap on that as a means either to promote their own interpretation of Christianity; to expound on Christianity as the one true religion; or as a means to blast the movie and comics in general for using a character which could be interpreted as a mockery of Christian theology. Admittedly, that political dimension could work both ways, and increase interest in the movie to non-fans, but the more negative response seems more likely.

Who could play him:
Tom Hiddleston has already shown a talent for playing a god in Thor, and given his narrow features and aquiline nose, he could probably do an angel justice.

 

August General in Iron
Who he is:
A decorated general in the armies of the People’s Republic of China, Zhifu Fang was placed in charge of a special-ops team created specifically for encounters with extraterrestrials. 15 years ago, his unit investigated a spacecraft crash in Qinghai Province; the aliens at the site destroyed his unit, with Fang only barely surviving. His superiors had him subjected to experimental treatments which saved his life, but also gave him super-strength and coated his body in a shell of iron-like plates. Fang then became one of China’s new superhuman defenders.

Why he’d make the cut:
The August General in Iron is one of a rare, but steadily growing breed of Asian comic book superheroes, and has the advantage of being one of the most prominent in recent times, given his inclusion in the New 52′s Justice League International title. Including him in a League movie—particularly, in the first League movie—would be a very bold step in the right direction, not just for Asian superheroes, but for increased roles for Asian actors onscreen as well. Besides which, the possibilities for humourous or tense character-interactions based purely on who he is—a heavily-disciplined general from a Communist-run world superpower working alongside mostly-American heroes with almost zero experience with the military aside from fighting it—are pretty expansive.

Why he wouldn’t:
August General in Iron is still a fairly new character in DC canon, and while that doesn’t necessarily preclude his inclusion, it does hinder his chances of making it onto the silver screen before one of DC’s more established heroes. Plus, as with the Thing of Marvel’s Fantastic Four, we’d have another character presenting Hollywood with that new good-ol’ debate of whether to put a guy in a suit, or do a motion capture CGI thing.

Who could play him:
Chow Yun-Fat is probably the most suitable candidate, given how he is of the right age that his holding the rank of “General” would be believable, and his illustrioushistory in stunt-heavy action movies, notably Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, would ensure he wouldn’t be incapable of pulling off some intense physical action.

And there you have it. This is by no means a complete list of League members—hell, the ones I included make it long enough as it is—but it is long enough to give us all a large number of options to mull over, until this movie becomes a reality. If that day ever even comes.

Any other casting suggestions, character or actor-wise?