I hate it when a plan doesn’t come together. This poll, which was originally meant to end several months ago, got dragged beyond its natural endpoint by me because it seemed to keep attracting votes from netsurfers randomly sent here by such Google search terms as “sexxy women boobs”, “January Jones bad actor”, “Seth Lakeman”, and, of course, “Moon Bloodgood”. Of all the things that we have done on this blog, be it incurring the wrath of Torchwood fans, incurring the wrath of Bible fans, or incurring the wrath of friends of super-actor Jesse Plemons, the response to that poll, although small compared to bigger, more professional sites, was significant for us. The temptation was there to keep it up until the next wave of superhero movies comes out, which could be a while, thanks to the writers’ strike.
However, Blogger decided to fuck me. Right now the poll states 65 votes have been counted, when last week that number stood at 74. Nine votes lost to the ether! WTF is that about? Perhaps that’s a glitch that can be explained on Blogger forums, but I’m too distraught to check. As far as I can tell Blogger hates democracy. Someone should call Greg Palast.
Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) – 24 (36%)
Christian Bale (Batman) – 16 (24%)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy) – 7 (10%)
Huge Ackman (Wolverine) – 7 (10%)
Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man) – 3 (4%)
Jennifer Garner (Elektra) – 3 (4%)
Brandon Routh (Superman) – 2 (3%)
Halle Berry (Not-Catwoman) – 1 (1%)
Ben Affleck (Daredevil) – 1 (1%)
Patrick Warburton (The Tick) – 1 (1%)
Chris Evans (Human Torch) – 0 (0%)
Thomas “Homeless Dad” Jane (The Punisher) – 0 (0%)
The Shaq (Steel) – 0 (0%)
Nicolas Cage (Ghost Rider) – 0 (0%)
Wesley Snipes (Blade) – 0 (0%)
Ang Lee In A Motion Capture Suit (Hulk) – 0 (0%)
Anyway, before any more votes can go missing, I might as well shut it down now, and reveal the final tallies. Unsurprisingly (at least to me) the clear winner is Robert Downey Jr., who did what only a couple of other superhero actors have been able to do, i.e. take a character we thought we knew and add another dimension to them. Christopher Reeve showed Superman’s fear and vulnerability, Nicholas Cage revealed that Johnny Blaze loves monkey documentaries, and Robert Downey Jr revealed that Tony Stark is funny. For too long the character has seemed like little more than an intense cypher in a suit, but Downey Jr. found the spark that brought him to life.
Of course Stark is a show-off and narcissist, traits that don’t really go away even when he comes to realise what a negative effect Stark Industries has on the world. That balancing act, between playing Stark as a charming but aloof playboy and as a committed but humorless crusader, is what makes Downey Jr’s performance so perfect. It’s such a complete and satisfying incarnation of everyone’s favourite Registration Act-supporting dickbag that, upon seeing it, I immediately hoped that he would get Oscar attention next year. Just like Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, he was so great and entertaining and instantly transformed into A-list superstar material that people came to see the movie to see him as much as they did the superheroics. Add to that his amazing work on the otherwise disappointing Tropic Thunder, and it’s so much his year that I’d bet his chances are higher than you’d expect. Of course, Tropic Thunder is too offensive to get a nomination for anything other than technical Oscars, so the buzz will transfer to Iron Man. The campaign is apparently in full swing, and though I still harbour natural doubts, there’s hope.
Second place goes to Christian Bale, who did something subtly different than Robert Downey Jr. by showing how the character was meant to work. It’s repeatedly stated in Batman comics that the character is meant to be terrifying, but the image of a guy dressed as a bat and unable to turn his head has never seemed scary to anyone. Bale (and Christopher Nolan) finally cracked how to make Batman as fearsome as his reputation demands, and while some find Bale’s Batvoice ridiculous, I totally bought it, so much so that when reading the comics, I now hear Batman’s dialogue in that insane raspy growl. That said, while I give multiple props to Bale’s intense and customarily intelligent performances, I still hear Kevin Conroy’s voice for Bruce Wayne. Fans of the legendary animated series will know what I’m talking about, especially one regular reader who loves him some Mask of the Phantasm.
Coming joint third, (unless, of course, those nine missing votes went to Shaq for his sensitive portrayal of Steel) Ron Perlman also brought his character to life, but maybe only for me. As I’ve said before, the character of Hellboy never worked on the page (subjectively), but once Perlman appeared onscreen, I finally understood what his appeal was. With the talented Perlman usually relegated to gruff bad guy roles, I’m immensely grateful to Guillermo Del Toro for giving him a chance to show how charming he can be, though I think it would go a lot smoother if he wrote Hellboy some funnier dialogue.
Even though joint third place is a good showing, I expected more votes for Hugh Jackman, whose fanboy-appeasing performance as Wolverine was the instant star-making role that gave the superhero genre its big break in film. More than anything else, the massive popular acceptance of this almost unknown song-and-dance guy as a feral killing machine with leaky tear ducts and a heart of gold made everyone who saw it realise there was a way to make superheroes work in serious movies. Without him and his fantastic hott torso (and the guiding hand of Bryan Singer), I doubt any of the subsequent superhero movies would have been possible.
Speaking of Bryan Singer, his random casting of Brandon Routh as Superman ended up paying off brilliantly, which makes the mediocrity of that movie all the more galling. With The Man of Steel seemingly stalled as of this moment, it’s a source of almost infinite annoyance that Routh, who managed to convince many fans that he could embody the nobility and vulnerability of Kal-El, will probably not get another shot at playing the role. When DC and Warner Brothers announced the Justice League movie, they caused me much sorrow by announcing he wouldn’t reprise the role, made up for it a lot by hinting that he would be replaced by Scott Porter (who is often the moral centre on Friday Night Lights), then pissed me off again by casting some other guy instead. Then they cancelled the film altogether. Whatevs. Seemingly forgotten, Routh only gets two votes, one of them from Canyon.
Though it appears to be an unpopular opinion on the net, I think Jennifer Garner is the tops. I’m pleased she got a few votes, expecting the dreadful nature of Rob Bowman’s Elektra to dissuade voters. I’m not as enthused about Tobey Maguire’s votes, as my initial glee at the casting of yet another serious actor as a popular superhero has waned over the course of three Spidey movies as Maguire seems to be doing almost no other work (nothing on this planet will make me watch Seabiscuit, so don’t even go there), so I can’t even tell whether I think he’s a talented actor any more. He’s just the guy who’s too old to play a young loser with powers, dances badly for no reason other than to make the audience put their hands over their faces in embarrassment, and looks like a stack of wet flappy pancakes when he cries. And he’s coming back for three more movies? Oy.
I can only assume that the single vote for Halle Berry as Not Catwoman was an ironic statement, because even someone utterly transfixed by her infamous beauty couldn’t ignore the ineptitude and total misunderstanding of the character on display here. A lot of fanboys complain about several recent Marvel adaptations, but even the real disasters cannot compare with DC’s run of terrible movies. Daredevil has its detractors, though I still maintain Affleck, with his single vote, was better than the haters say, and it at least made an effort to honour the characters. Ghost Rider was appalling but Nic Cage’s total commitment to the weird saves the film from total fail. The Fantastic Four movies might be kiddie versions of the bonkers science fiction adventures we FF fans love, but even when it’s hard to watch Reed Richards dancing, or Doctor Doom played like a bad guy from some 80s cheap-ass 8 frames-per-second animated shite, you’ve still got Michael Chiklis and Chris Evans (who received one votes in this poll, though I’m sure he had more at one point) honouring Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm with their valiant efforts.
What do DC offer us at their worst? The nigh-unwatchable Supergirl, with Peter “Go! High-Ah! Gehhhhlll!” O’Toole’s career worst performance? Steel, which remains the only superhero adaptation I’ve been unable to finish due to overwhelming psychic pain and disappointment? Batman and Fucking Robin? I’d rather rewatch Jonathan Hensleigh’s The Punisher any day, especially as Thomas “Homeless Dad” Jane is my hero, and to be honest the worst crime of the movie is to be a homage to Don Siegel-style economy in the age of Michael Bay-style excess (not that I think emulating Don Siegel is a crime, just a question of misjudging a mood). I predict a wave of reappraisal when the forthcoming sequel is finally released.
Batman and Robin would be the worst DC adaptation so far, except that it at least gave the world the line “You’re not sending me to da coolah!”, which is still in constant rotation in our house. It’s not much, but that vaults it above the complete failure that is Catwoman. Her weakness is insensibility upon exposure to catnip? Her nemesis is an insane cosmetics entrepreneur (played with an offensive lack of skill by Sharon Stone, no less)? That this anti-feminist fiasco was made while Daniel Waters’ brilliantly subversive script sits on a metaphorical shelf would make me doubt the existence of God if I didn’t already doubt the existence of God. A lesser blogger than I would probably write something pun-tastic like, “It was a purr-fectly hair-i-ball cat-astrophe that you should make a fe-line to avoid.” An even lesser blogger might refer to it as Scatwoman. However that kind of dismissal isn’t enough for a failure this total. It’s diarrhoea in the middle of the night. It’s vomit in a pile of freshly washed clothes. It’s nappy rash, poison ivy, tennis elbow, insomnia, and anaphylactic shock all at the same time. Never let it be spoken of again.
Zero votes for Nicolas Cage (which will sadden Johnny Blaze-fan Canyon, I’m sure), Ang Lee in a Motion Capture Suit (even after the blank Hulk Smash performance on the most recent movie failed to generate even a fraction of the character that Ang Lee did), and, most shocking of all, zero votes for Dr. Wesley T. Snipes, who kicked so much vampire bottom in the Blade trilogy? How soon we forget. Or perhaps people thought they would get hassled by the IRS for supporting him. Wimps! Haven’t superheroes shown we should stand up to tyranny? I’m tempted to hand those nine votes to him, giving the Dr. of Asskicking a third place spot. Oh, and kudos for noticing poor Patrick Warburton at the bottom of the poll. I’m glad someone threw him some one vote worth of love for his heroic blue-suited silliness.
Right. I’m done. Happy now, Blogger? ::pouts::