Fantasy Casting // X-Men: Days of Future Past in 1981!

With Secret Wars offering up a glimpse into the past and the recent movie sequel it seems like a reasonable time to take another crack at else-world else-time fantasy casting. This time I’m concerning myself with one of the X-Men’s most vaunted adventures – Days of Future Past!

The Rules / So here’s the rules to the fantasy casting business – I’m looking to find the most appropriate cast, primarily based on their ability to embody the role, for the characters in the original version of the adapted story; the kicker is that they have to right for the roles if the movie were released the same year as the comic.

The Book / Running to only two issues the original Days of Future Past story appeared in Uncanny X-Men #141-142 way back in 1981, written by Chris Claremont and with art by John Byrne. The story is roughly the same as that seen in the movie, although there are a few major differences (including Kitty being the time displaced the lead not Wolverine) and the central cast is quite different. That said, the X-Men are still the X-men, Mystique is still Mystique (leading a misfit brotherhood), and the future timeline (2013!) is still a Sentinel controlled hell-hole!

Kitty Pryde / Karen Allen

1981 DOFP Casting - Kitty & Karen Allen

1981 was the same year that Raiders of the Lost Ark was released where Allen played Marion Ravenwood with the kind of gutsy independent spirit that would be perfect for future Kitty. Allen also looks the part for young Kitty and has the ability to imbue the role with the necessary vulnerability.

Storm / Pam Greer

1981 DOFP Casting - Storm & Pam Greer

Leader of the X-Men and an elemental force to be reckoned with Storm could only be played by someone with an incredibly strong screen presence; Pam Greer has that in spades, along with a don’t mess with me attitude that is perfect.

Colossus / Arnold Schwarzenegger

1981 DOFP Casting - Colossus & Arnold schwarzenegger

Still a year away from taking on the role of Conan the Barbarian Arnie none the less has the right look for the big hearted metal man Colossus. He can also play a man of few, but meaningful, words as demonstrated by his breakthrough smash a few years later – The Terminator.

Wolverine / Kurt Russell

1981 DOFP Casting - Wolverine & Kurt Russell

The gruff, knowing, cynical, but beneath it all caring Wolverine would be in good hands with Kurt Russell. An actor with incredible versatility and presence.

Nightcrawler / Jackie Chan

1981 DOFP Casting - Nightcrawler & Jackie Chan

The joyous, physical, funny Nightcrawler? Who better to play him than the best action comedian that’s ever lived! The timing is perfect as this is the year Chan began breaking into Western cinema with a role in Cannonball Run.

Angel / Warren Beatty

1981 DOFP Casting - Angel & Warren Beatty

Handsome and rich and with a butter wouldn’t melt vibe; all of which would cover a certain missing something and a sense of doom in his future. Beatty would nail this role.

Professor Xavier / Patrick Stewart

1981 DOFP Casting - Professor X & Patrick Stewart

Sure he was a lot younger, but this was the same year Stewart turned in a performance full of gravitas in Excalibur. In any case, the Professor was a young man once.

Magneto / Laurence Oliver

1981 DOFP Casing - Magneto & Laurence Olivier

Magneto is seen only in the future timeline where his wisdom and gravitas are on full display. Who better than the acting legend Laurence Oliver, who just got finished playing Zeus in Clash of the Titans.

Mystique / Meryl Streep

1981 DOFP Casting - Mystique & Meryl Streep

For the character that can take any form the actress that can play any role. Streep released The French Lieutenant’s Woman the same year and already had an impeccable catalogue of roles.

Pyro / Michael Caine

1981 DOFP Casting - Pyro & Micheal Caine

The Englishman Pyro had a dangerous streak and a certain charm. Caine just finished up Escape to Victory, so maybe something a little more realistic movie would be a refreshing change!

Destiny / Sigourney Weaver

1981 DOFP Casting - Destiny & Sigourney Weaver

Potential assassin and possibly Mystique’s lover Destiny was a little older in the book, but Weaver, who completed Alien two years earlier, proved that she can handle scifi and special effects movies whilst delivering a real, emotional, and powerful performance.

Avalanche / Carl Weathers

1981 DOFP Casting - Avalance & Carl Weathers

Avalanche is not a foe to take lightly and he causes more than a few problems for Colossus and the X-Men in this issue, hence the need for a strong, charismatic actor in the role. The chance to see Weathers and Arnie go head to head a few years before fighting side by side in Predator would be too good to miss.

Senator Kelly / Christopher Reeve

1981 DOFP Casting - Senator Kelly & Christopher Reeve

Superhero legend Christopher Reeve proved beyond doubt that he made an excellent good guy, but his range was far greater than just playing heroes. Reeve could play intense, self righteous and dangerous just as well, and he would have delivered a knock out performance as Kelly.

Are there any of these that you completely love (or hate) the idea of? Let me know what you think in the comments, as well as any better suggestions you have!

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Film // List // A Few Fake Trailers that Would Make Great Films

Film marketing has become a higher art form in recent years with some expertly managed social media interactions, interesting viral campaigns, and terrifically edited trailers. The trailer itself, although a product of an analogue age, remains one of the most powerful tools in the film studios’ marketing arsenal. So much so, that over the years companies from other industries have borrowed the format for a few ad campaigns of their own.

The below trailers are for products other than movies, but part of me really wishes they were movies in their own right:

Lucky Star

Despite the uneven quality of much of his recent output I remain a big fan of the cold, blue, steel and glass digital aesthetic of Michael Mann. In 2002 Mercedes-Benz recruited Mann to produce a 2 1/2 minute advertisement, presumably in answer to the interesting short film series The Hire by BMW (the best of which is Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Powder Keg); however, Mann took a different approach and rather than produce a short, he produced a trailer for an entire fictional film. The movie, starring Benicio Del Toro, purports to be about a potential con-artist/business-man with unfailing luck and unsavoury connections. The faux-trailer is stunningly well realised and edited, with hints of a strong core story, and a host of characters, sub-plots, and scenes, and the production bears all the hallmarks of latter-day Mann. The trailer was so convincing in fact that to this day it seems like a stronger movie pitch than a car one. Apparently Mann retained the rights to product a film based on the story, but as yet no such feature has emerged.

Kairos

Ulysse Malassagne’s wonderful French language fantasy comic Kairos received the animation treatment by the tremendous Studio La Cachette in 2013. The trailer, for volume one of the comic book, plays like that of a fully-fledged movie with a strong narrative drive and some frankly incredible action scenes. I can’t read a word of French but this trailer was so good that I immediately ordered the book (and it is a lovely read even without understanding the text!). A full feature film in this gorgeous animation would be truly astounding.

The Audition

I’m not the biggest Scorsese fan, but his recent work on a short film for a couple of casinos has me oddly compelled. The trailer is actually pretty funny, taking as it’s premise the meta-conflict between former Scorsese muse Robert De Niro and current favourite Leonardo DiCaprio as they both attempt to secure the lead role in the director’s next feature. The script is surprisingly sharp, the setting sumptuous, and all three are game for a laugh. I was genuinely surprised how fun the whole thing comes across, and I’d love to see more – something I haven’t said about a Scorsese picture in years.

The Audition - Scorsese, De Niro and DiCaprio

Unfortunately this trailer appears to have disappeared from the internet recently, but I will update the post if it reappears.

Film // List // A Few Subtle & Culturally Insightful Science Fiction Fashion Trends

The fashion of a society can often be a window on to the political, economic, and cultural concerns of the day. In science fiction stories the development of unique fashion can be used to provide an effective shorthand for the society being depicted. This is most often the work of the costume and production design in movie making, and there are many examples of great world building and thematic elements developed thanks in no small part to the fashion that the characters on screen wear. There are plenty of recent examples, just take the clear distinction between the garish/excessive fashion of The Capitol and the threadbare garb of District 12 in the Hunger Games movies (and how great was Wes Bentley’s beard!).

The execution of these fashions, and the meanings they have, are not always so obvious though. I have pulled together a few examples of costume/production design that I think works to inform the culture of the film’s setting, even whilst being quite subtle or appearing at first unremarkable. These films vary in quality, but I respect that enough care was given to their crafting that there are interesting and insightful fashions on display.

Elysium (2013) – Sub-dermal Art

Niell Blomkamp’s sci-fi treatise on the diverging quality of life that the rich and the poor can expect was flawed in many ways, not least in that the inexplicably white-not-latino lead Max (ably played by Matt Damon) was massively overshadowed by the villainous Kruger (played to grim perfection by Blomkamp favourite Sharlto Copley). But amongst the subtler successes of the film was the visible expression of the difference between those who live on Elysium and those who live on Earth. The rich and care-free Elysium citizens can often be seen sporting sub-dermal artwork – patterns, shapes, and words implanted beneath the skin to create a unique look. The implants can be seen on the foreheads, cheeks, and wrists of the rich throughout the movie.

Elysium - Sub-dermal Art

Whilst the rich can have art work of their choosing added to their bodies merely for the aesthetic pleasure of it, the poor working-class people of Earth are not so lucky. Many characters in the film wear elaborate tattoos, perhaps the ancestor of sub-dermal art, but it is Max and Kruger that really demonstrate the difference in life-style. Like their rich counterparts they both have sub-dermal work too, but theirs is painful, practical, and bloody. For the poor sub-dermal implants are a cruel necessity, not playful conspicuous capitalism.

Elysium - Sub-dermal Implants

In Time (2011) – Buttons

After the sublime Gattaca writer/director Andrew Niccol’s return to near future societal angst was highly anticipated, but In Time suffers from a wealth of poor choices, including massive structural problems and interminably dry dialogue. That said, the production and costume design are pretty great throughout the movie. The concept of the film is also an interesting one: time has become a tradable commodity, and the poor die at 26 unless they can work to receive extra minutes whilst the rich have centuries in the bank. Justin Timberlake’s Will Salas finds himself mixed up in some time-trading shenanigans and the plot goes rather predictably from there.

Much like in Elysium the distinction between the rich and poor can be seen in their fashion choices (not that the poor necessarily have a choice). Although pretty conservative in design, mostly suits and gowns, the rich wear clothes that feature an enormously excessive number of buttons. Wherever buttons would normally be found, the shirt fronts, cuffs, collars, and jackets, here all of them feature just a boat load of buttons. When time is a currency only the rich can afford to spend precious minutes doing up their elaborate clothes. Such is the ostentatious importance of buttons that even the dresses feature non-functional decorative buttons for effect.

In Time - Buttons

The poor on the other hand do not have the luxury of wasting time getting dressed. Their clothes feature primarily velcro’s, zippers, and snaps. The speed with which the ‘have-nots’ change is emphasised when Will’s mother pops into the bedroom to change and emerges seconds later fully clothed and doing up a couple of zips – getting dressed and un-dressed in as short a time as possible is immensely valuable when you live in a time based economy. The aspirations of the ambitious also reinforce the fashion trends. The local thug, a man who thinks himself above the common herd, can be seen wearing buttoned shirts and jackets, though even he can only afford a two button collar.

In Time - Zippers

Inception (2010) – Subsumed Personality

This isn’t really a culturally insightful scifi fashion trend, but it does offer an interesting perspective on the events of this movie so hopefully it isn’t too out of place in this post. Christopher Nolan’s Inception is about the stealing of an idea from the mind of an unsuspecting mark; a team of trained ‘mind-thieves’ work to infiltrate and deceive via the medium of dreams. As the protagonists descend further into the multi-layered dreamscape they become less able to express themselves through their fashion choices. The team’s costumes and clothes, carefully considered personality choices, are erased and replaced with increasingly uniform outfits until they ultimately cease to be individuals at all.

In the ‘real’ world all of the characters wear clothes that, even though following similar trends (all of the men wear trousers and jackets for example) are uniquely their own (Eames, for instance, is more colourful and flamboyant than the rest of the group wearing a pink patterned shirt and antique watch, as opposed to the muted colours of Cobb’s wardrobe, whilst Ariadne consistently wears silk scarves).

Inception - Outfits 1

As the team enter the first level of the dream they wear an assortment of outfits according to role, but already Cobb and Arthur wear similar leather jackets. In the next dream level they all wear suits, each retains a unique style, but they all more closely resemble one another sartorially than before. The next dream level down requires the team to don snow camouflage/winter gear – they are now all literally wearing the same uniform and their personalities have been erased from their clothing at this point.

Inception - Outfits 2

In the finally dreamscape Cobb works through a collection of his previous looks, but at this stage the rest of the group, now devoid of sartorial personality, have ceased to exist – Cobb’s various outfits encompass them all. This idea intrigues me as there has long been speculation about the true nature of Cobb’s status in the film – if he is dreaming for the duration of the entire movie, simply trying to find his way out, then these sartorial choices would make sense. All of the other characters could be parts of his personality, creations of his mind, and so as he goes deeper to the heart of his psychosis or central dream problem or whatever that final dreamscape represents, the various splinters of his personality shed their distinct individuality and become closer and closer to the core personality. That said, it wouldn’t explain the epilogue at all, so it may all mean nothing and just be a collection of great clothes!

All images belong to the copyright holders

Comics // List // A Few Fun Comic Book Bands

For me the most exciting book announced as part of the post-convergence DC universe is the Black Canary ongoing. I’m a big fan of writer Brendan Fletcher and artist Annie Wu did some brilliant work on Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye (plus she did me a con-sketch of Storm that is beyond amazing). In fact Fletcher is in the creative teams behind two of my favourite current books (Batgirl and Gotham Academy) and Black Canary herself Dinah Lance has been a supporting player in the Batgirl book. Dinah recently took on another extra-curricular activity besides fighting crime, becoming lead singer in a band (and the band is expected to be part of her own book when it starts later this year). So what better time could there be to highlight some fun fictional bands that have appeared in comics!

Ashes on Sunday

First appearance – Batgirl #38 (2015)

Created by – Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher & Babs Tarr

Ashes on Sunday
“…You can’t have it both ways…”

Might as well start with Dinah’s band itself! Ashes on Sunday have been hinted at since the first issue of the new Batgirl (along with fellow Burnside band the Draculoids) with stickers, badges, and the occasional name drop turning up every so often. The band is even popular with the students of Gotham Academy with characters like Heathcliff listening to gig bootlegs and wearing pins. Now that Dinah is lead singer (what vocal range does her sonic scream have?) I think we can expect to hear plenty more about the exploits of the band.

Dandelion Naizen & Band

First appearance – Sugarshock (2008)

Created by – Joss Whedon & Fábio Moon

Sugarshock Band
“…I’m not saying I’m rubber, nor did I in any way suggest that you’re glue…”

Sugarshock was absolutely one of the funniest comics I have ever read. Produced by Whedon and Moon as part of the Dark Horse Presents series of webcomics on Myspace (if you remember that site!) the book follows an unnamed band as it takes part in the intergalactic musical-fight-off the Battle Royale with Cheese. There was only ever one adventure with quirky lead singer Dandelion Naizen and her band, but it is a fast paced, zany, and very funny. I do wish there had been a follow up, or even a series, but as it stands this is one of those great little moments where the concept, writing and art come together to produce a perfect book.

The Clash at Demonhead

First appearance – Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2012)

Created by – Bryan Lee O’Malley

Clash at Demonhead
“ZAAAHH”

Named for the first game writer/artist Bryan Lee O’Malley ever played The Clash at Demonhead feature Scott Pilgrim’s ex, Envy Adams, on vocals and Ramona Flowers’ ex, Todd Ingram, on bass. Unique amongst the bands in this list by the virtue of actually having music you can listen to! They were brought to life in the amazing movie adaptation of Scott Pilgrim, and the below clip is a music video for their hit ‘Black Sheep’ (performed by real life band Metric). My secret confession is that I still haven’t read Scott Pilgrim so I am only familiar with the movie version, but if the books are anywhere near as good as the film then they will be very good indeed.

Any favourite comic book bands or Dazzler songs that I missed? Throw them out in the comments!

Film // List // A Few Villains who are Better than the Films They’re In

There are plenty of movies that feature strong villains, and many where the villain just steals the show. But there are even more villains who are just plain dumb (what exactly is your plan again Lex, build a giant ugly un-even island of krypton-rocks to sell as prime real estate, I’m not sure anyone will buy that), or outrageously boring (does anyone remember anything the Red Skull said, literally anything?). This makes me get a little more invested when a film takes the time to create a bad guy who is also a nuanced character, one that has desires and emotions and quirks of their own, without simply being a punching bag for the heroes.

For me the best villains are the ones that have a reason to do what they do (even if that reason is, like with the Joker, just for the hell of it), and that are good at what they do. Strangely there are some films that whilst an utter shambles overall still manage to pull this rare feat off.

Prince Nuada – Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

Prince Nuada Photo
“We die and the world will be poorer for it”

Prince Nuada is royalty without a kingdom, his homeland has been overrun by humanity and the old ways of magic and wonder have been replaced by the chaos, pollution, and destruction that accompanies mankind.

One of the many problems in Hellboy 2 is that there are no sympathetic characters for us to root for; Hellboy, Liz and Abe are by turns grumpy, selfish, and aloof, and with Myers gone humanity’s sole representative is the cowardly and untrustworthy Manning. Even the humans that Hellboy saves in the city seem mean-spirited and ungrateful. The heroes are all doing what needs to be done because someone somewhere dictated that it should be – they don’t believe in what they are doing and they don’t value the world and people they fight to save.

Nuada on the other hand is dedicated, passionate, and logical. He has seen his civilisation almost wiped out by the unrestrained march of human progress, progress that doesn’t even care for the world that gives us life. “The humans have forgotten the gods, destroyed the earth, and for what? Parking lots? Shopping malls? Greed had burned a hole in their hearts that will never be filled! They will never have enough!” says Nauda, and the film offers no counter to this point of view. There is no human character who represents the good in mankind, or that can point to the benefits of technological innovation. Why are the humans of Hellboy’s world actually worth saving (Hellboy and gang even abandon humanity at the end of the film!). Nuada is merciless, but he acts with a heavy heart – the desecration of his people has driven him to take the violent steps he considers necessary, and he is willing to sacrifice a great deal to restore the world to balance. Luke Goss plays Nuada as someone filled with sorrow but whose resolve remains unbroken despite the tragedy he has lived through. Oh, and he is very good with a giant knife.

Gabriel – Constantine

"Are you judging me now…"
“Are you judging me now…”

Truth be told I don’t think Constantine is an out-and-out ‘bad’ film, it is just mostly average. An incredible premise and a potentially visually arresting universe are rendered in a pretty pedestrian fashion and the plot is fairly standard sub-noirish thriller with overt religious trappings. Everyone does serviceable work and there are a few nice moments, but ultimately this film isn’t a big success.

But although having very little screen time to work with Tilda Swinton’s Gabriel is a memorable and intriguing bad guy. Swinton’s elfin appearance and otherworldly presence give Gabriel a palpable strangeness – it is easy to understand how the angels of Constantine’s world get things so wrong as they are so very different to us. The costume design and effects are also a compelling choice. Gabriel is first introduced in a very fine bespoke double-breasted suit; even when appearing human Gabriel is an elitist. When revealed in full angelic form Gabriel possesses grand and expansive wings but wears understated simple contemporary clothing.

Gabriel wants to fix this world but lacks the compassion and understanding to do so. There is an attempt to do good at the heart of Gabriel’s plot, but it is obscured by the lowly pragmatism and devilry that she engages in. Gabriel wants mankind to be worthy of God’s love (and there is a bit of jealousy in their too), but she will burn the world to the ground to make us prove it. A great visual is when with no effort at all Gabriel uses angelic strength (and breath) to pin Constantine to the ground and fling him all over the place despite his best efforts.

Bane – The Dark Knight Rises

Bane Photo
“Victory has defeated you”

I don’t know if this is controversial or not, but I didn’t enjoy much of The Dark Knight Rises. The film seemed to be a rushed and illogical mess full of huge character inconsistencies (why would Bruce quit Batman immediately after The Joker’s massive crime spree? Oh and ALL crime was eradicated by one unspecified law?!). But one thing I loved about the film was Bane. Well, for most of the movie at least.

The politics of TDKR are all over the place, this is a film asking a hundred questions (is capitalism bad, are the police adequately prepared, are poor people to be feared, are the rich self-indulgent fools, is vigilantism good) and offering no answers, but the beauty of Bane as a villain is that he has no politics. Bane wants only to destroy the Dark Knight, both physically and emotionally, so his plan is relatively simple – break the Batman, and then reduce the city he protects to ruin. The intricacies of this plan make literally no sense as Nolan doesn’t seem to care about logic by this point (what is the deal with that bomb, just blow the place up already), and there are loads of arbitrarily weird things going on (the US government is just gonna sit this one out, ok Bats), but Tom Hardy does a yeoman’s job of making it work most of the time.

Hardy’s Bane is playful without descending into camp, he is physically threatening, and mentally imposing, I believe he could take on the Dark Knight in every way. His first fight with Batman is truly excellent, and his speeches are magnetic, it’s just a shame that by the end of the movie he can barely throw a punch and is revealed to have been working on someone else’s orders the whole time.

I should also note that Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman is way better than this film too.

All clips belong to the copyright holder