Re-casts are something we all tend to hate, but they are also something that is inevitable, especially if we want new stories with our favorite characters! Re-castings are just a part of Hollywood, it has even been common to re-cast main characters between seasons of television shows; bringing in a new actor to take over for another who left. Fresh Prince re-cast Will Smith's aunt after behind the scenes drama between Smith and his co-star, Roseanne re-cast one of the daughters, and for two seasons they even bounced back and forth between actresses as the original was available, even as far back as 1969, halfway through Bewitched, they recast the leading actor: Darrin, Samantha's husband, because of his chronic back problems. A recent example is Modern Family who re-casted the role of the youngest cast member; Lily. The original child actress was less cooperative, and wouldn't speak. When they cast the new actress (two years older than her predecessor) it left an awkward gap, but we are all willing to look past it because of how wonderful Aubrey Anderson-Emmons is.
As fans we tend to hate re-casting, partly due to loyalty, and partly because we have the belief that no one can portray our character better than the actor we're accustomed to. Captain Kirk is the character that made William Shatner's career, and in many ways he IS Captain Kirk. With the reboot in 2009 we were given a new rebooted Kirk - Chris Pine. Trek fans are extremely loyal, and were angered, but Pine did a fantastic job in both of his portrayals of the character, and fans are sleeping easier, and were happy to see the fresh breath breathed back into their franchise. So you see, re-casting isn't always a terrible thing, it can give us new opportunities to see our beloved characters again.
As I was researching this I was astounded to see how many different re-casts there have been in the Superhero genre alone. Many as reboots but plenty that were re-cast for budgetary, availability, age, or any number of other reasons.
Did you know there have been six major versions of Batman? Or nine versions of Superman? Did you know Chris Evans wasn't the first Captain America? Well read on, and learn why re-casting and reboots have the potential to be a great thing for their franchises!
War Machine/James Rhodes
In 2006 Terrance Howard portrayed James Rhodes in the first Iron Man film, then Don Cheadle, played Rhoades in Iron Man 2, and 3 and again will be appearing in Avengers 2. Even though Howard didn't put on the War Machine/Iron Patriot armor, these two still share the character James Rhodes due to a contract dispute between Howard and the studio. Iron Man exceeded all expectations and Howard was hoping for a bigger paycheck to come back for the sequels, well that and his less than professional relationship with Robert Downey Jr. led to the recast in the sequel.
Nothing against Howard's Rhodes, but I really do prefer Cheadle, when I watch Iron Man 1 I do feel like something is missing, but when I watch 2 and 3 that missing element has returned.
In 2011 Cheadle also mentioned that a War Machine movie was in the mix, but nothing has since been announced.
This is a unique circumstance of re-casting as it isn't a reboot, or just another re-cast. James McAvoy plays the much younger version of Patrick Stewart's Xavier in the 1960s-1970s. Stewart appeared in the original three X-Men films, cameos in Wolverine: Origins and The Wolverine, and both McAvoy and Stewart appeared on screen together in this summer's X-Men: Days of Future Past (Stewart has appeared in six of the seven X-Men films, and is second in appearances only to Hugh Jackman's Wolverine who was in all seven.)
These two even had a psychic future-to-past communication scene that showed the most growth for the character in all of the seven films to date.
Comparing both the actors' portrayal of the character is really like comparing night and day, as the younger and older versions are so different and not necessarily comparisons. One is older, mature, a strong leader, while the younger version is still growing up and learning who he is. One of the best things of DOFP was seeing the contrast in the older versions of Xavier. Honestly, after DOFP, I love both of their portrayals equally.
Magneto is kind of the same circumstances as Xavier, both were re-cast so that their younger characters could tell stories of their origins and youth. Ian McKellen has played Magneto in the original three films, as well as cameoed in The Wolverine, and Michael Fassbender is a great add to the X-Men franchise, he makes a great young Magneto. Both actors have been very well recieved by fans, and they also both appeared as their younger and older versions in DOFP, and while the contrast and growth between the young and old Xaviers was wonderful, the villain Magneto might have been my favorite characters, the contrast between the younger more brash mastermind of metal, and the older version who died in front of Xavier asking for forgiveness for all those years they wasted fighting each other. Wonderful. Both of them! Luckily we don't have to compare the two and decide who's better since they're playing much different time periods of the same character.
She's not necessarily a superhero, but she's definitely an anchor in the X-Men universe! Rebecca Romijn plays an older version of Mystique in the original trilogy, and Jennifer Lawrence portrays her in First Class and DOFP, while Romijn appeared in a cameo, as an older Mystique, in FC during a failed attempt to seduce Magneto.
While the two, again, really can't be compared, Lawrence has been given much more to do with the character, more growth than the quiet assassin working for Magneto that was Romijn's character in the first three films, you can probably count on one hand how many lines she had in that trilogy that were actually spoken by Romijn herself, and not in some shape-shifted form.
Captain America/Steve Rogers
Even though Chris Evans Captain America is the one that everyone will think of, there was one other lesser known version before Evans had the shield.
In 1979 a TV movie portrayed the origin story of the character with actor Reb Brown, and a sequel called Captain America II: Death Too Soon. The original had mixed to negative reviews, and the sequel was reviewed with extreme negativity.
It's easy to compare these old films to the Captain America we know now because one is campy and out of date, but having never seen the original I can only rank it based off of what other reviews are saying and it sounds pretty awful.
Now that he has portrayed the iconic character three times in Captain America: The First Avengers, The Avengers, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and one more installment planned for next year in the Avengers: Age of Ultron, Chris Evans is Captain America. There is no doubt about that, after the Winter Soldier this year he has upped his game. I liked the First Avenger, and he was great in Avengers, but between the story and the characters of the Winter Soldier there is no doubt in my mind that Chris Evans will be forever immortalized in this role, and it'll become as iconic as Han Solo or Mary Poppins.
The Hulk's first appearance on television was in 1978 in the live action TV show The Incredible Hulk. Bill Bixby played David Banner (not Bruce) and his smashing alter ego was played by Lou Ferrigno in green body paint. The television show lasted five seasons and even got three TV movies. Ferrigno will probably go down in history as the only actor to play the Hulk, from here on out I presume he'll always be CGI.
In 2003, during the raising of the superhero bar, Hulk was released in theaters and included the origin story of Bruce Banner, the scientist who becomes exposed to the gamma rays and turns into the much larger, green giant when his uncontrollable rage takes over. In this film the role of Banner was played by Eric Bana. The film recieved mixed reviews, and especially in a time where both X-Men and Spider-Man had set the new standard so high this movie was not as well received.
In 2008, after Marvel had re-established the rights to the character, this film was the second installment in Marvel's Phase One, this time Banner was portrayed by Edward Norton. Instead of an origin story the film developed the character of Banner while he was on the run, with flashbacks and voice-overs explaining the story. This film also had mixed reviews, coming out in a high stakes year for superhero films, a year when Iron Man and the Dark Knight blew everyone away, and with Norton expressing no interest for returning no sequel came to be.
In 2012 Banner was re-cast again with Mark Ruffalo, and a subsequent cameo in Iron Man 3, and set to return for Avengers 2. Ruffalo has become the fan favorite for Banner, loving his character but especially loving the relationship between Banner and Tony Stark. We can still hope for a solo Hulk movie starring Ruffalo but Marvel has yet to announce anything, and rumors surrounding Avengers 2 (slated for May 2015) and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (August 2017) put Banner being sent into space by Ultron and rescued by the Guardians. Time will tell I suppose.
In The Incredible Hulk Returns, the first TV movie sequel to the Incredible Hulk television show, Thor made his first big appearance. He was played by Eric Cramer, and Steve Levitt portrayed the alter ego Donald Blake who wasn't actually Thor, but a regular human scientist working with David Banner. Blake is in possession of Thor's hammer (which isn't restricted to the worthiness of Thor test), when Blake uses the hammer to summon the Norse God, he appears and a fight between he and Banner's Hulk takes place, with an eventual team up. This TV movie was meant to open the door for a Thor television show starring Cramer, but it never got off the ground.
In 2011 Thor was released in theaters as part of Marvel's Cinematic Universe. Chris Hemsworth bulked up to play the role of the Thunder God. The film did well, and was well received. It was no "Iron Man" for Marvel, but following his subsequent appearance in Avengers, Thor: The Dark World nearly doubled the original's box office numbers. Thor is again set to appear in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and an unconfirmed Thor 3, where the cliffhanger of The Dark World will most likely be tied up.
In the 1960s Batman television show Catwoman appeared numerous times, in the first two seasons she was portrayed by Julie Newmar who made the character a fan favorite with her anti-hero persona and her cat-like mannerisms. In the third season she was played by Eartha Kitt, but due to other commitments Lee Meriweather was cast to portray the character in the television tie-in movie. Talk about continuity! Four actresses played the character in four seasons and one movie, one of the actresses was even African-American!
In the 1992 film Batman Returns which portayed Michael Keaton as Batman Michelle Pfeiffer played the role of Catwoman (even though it was offered to Demi Moore, Nicole Kidman, and Annette Being all of whom turned it down.)
In 2004 one of the most horrible superhero movies to date was released, a solo Catwoman film starring Halle Berry whom gained cat-like abilities after her employer attempted to drown her in age-fighting cream, she was revived by an Egyptian alley cat. The film was awful for so many reasons, and even Berry swore she'd never do another superhero film again (luckily she still returned for X-Men: Days of Future Past).
In the final film of the new Batman trilogy Anne Hathaway portrayed a much different Catwoman, one that was more sane, less cat-like and more of a quiet cat-burglar, she also played a heroine as she assisted Batman instead of fighting against him. As disappointed in the casting as fans seemed to be, after the movie was released Hathaway received praise for her variation on the famous character.
In the 1960s Batman television show Joker was, arguably, the main antagonist as he appeared the most out of any villain in 22 episodes and the TV movie. All of these appearances he was played by Cesar Romero. While the TV show is campy and cheesy by today's standards, this portrayal of the Joker is quite iconic, and a large part of his popularity is due to the character's role in the TV show.
In the 1989 Batman film with Michael Keaton, Batman faced off against is arch-enemy the Joker, now portrayed by Jack Nicholson. His portrayal of the famous criminal mastermind become another step up for the iconic character, and Nicholson's version made it into several charts as one of the best villains of all time.
In the second installment of the new Batman trilogy the Joker was played by Heath Ledger. This version of the Joker has become even more iconic than the other two. Ledger added to the characters humorous tone with the darkness he brought that previously didn't exist.
The Joker is a wonderful example of what re-casting can be. Romero did a fantastic job, Nicholson built on that and become an even better Joker, and then Ledger built on both of them to become a large part of modern film culture. With all three portraying the character all so well, and each being fan favorites it has also set the bar so high though that re-casting again becomes scary and unpopular, but inevitable.
Batman is one of the most iconic characters of all time, and he has been portrayed in TV and films several times. The six men above are the most notable, and can be used as the character's "major versions".
Adam West seems to be the "original" Batman, even though there were two short lived Batmans before it. In 1943 Batman made his premiere film debut during this WWII related story, and in 1949 this story was taken and re-made into a TV storyline but with different actors and re-named "Batman and Robin".
From 1966 to 1969 the most iconic Batman took place in the form of a TV series and tie-in movie. Adam West portrayed Batman and has arguably become "The Batman". The series involved Batman encountering several of the character's famous villains and characters including: Robin, Joker, Riddler, Catwoman, Mad-Hatter, Mr. Freeze, Penguin, Commissioner Gordon, Bat-girl, and Alfred. (Speaking of re-casting Riddler was played by one actor in season 1, another in season 2, then the original again in season 3. Catwoman played by one actress in seasons 1 and 2, another in 3, and a third for the movie. Mr. Freeze was also played by three different actors during the run.) Though definitely cheesy and aged by today's standards the TV show is still very much a classic, and one of the most iconic appearances of Batman to date, if not the most iconic.
In 1989 Batman was re-booted with Tim Burton with Michael Keaton as the lead, he portrayed Batman in this film and returned to it's sequel in 1992. Both films were well received by audiences, with a much different dark tone, and far from it's humorous version with Adam West.
In 1995 Batman Forever was released but without Burton or Keaton, Val Kilmer put on the cape and mask this time. This film was still considered a sequel even with the new cast. This time the tone was brighter, with more humor and fans seemed to dislike it, now missing the dark realism of the previous films.
Batman and Robin in 1997, with newcomer to the franchise George Clooney, is deemed the worst film in the entire franchise by Rotten Tomatoes with a sad 11%. Is it because the film didn't learn from it's immediate predecessor that audiences were more happy with the darker story lines? Was it the nipples on Clooney's batsuit? Was it Mr. Freeze's awfully ridiculous lines? ("What killed the dinosaurs? The ice age!", "Let's kick some ice!", "Cool party!") No matter what the reason the franchise was put on ice for several years.
With the superhero reboot of the early 2000s Batman was again recast and rebooted back to his origins in Nolan's trilogy with films in 2005, 2008 and 2012. Christian Bale portrayed the Batman in all three films and this trilogy is much more even than most superhero films, as each was extremely well received by audiences. Bale is a great example of positive re-casting, and hopefully time will make him just as culturally remembered, just as West's Batman is still iconic nearly 50 years later.
Finally we get to Batfleck, in the upcoming 2016 film "Batman vs. Superman" Ben Affleck will play the character, again completely rebooted. Only four years since Bale's well loved performance. Fans of all ages raged when Affleck was announced as the new Batman, and in my opinion it's still too soon for another reboot, especially after one that set the bar so high. My hopes for a new Batman would also be someone younger so that we had more time and consistency with a character, Affleck is 41, and if we're hoping to expand the DC multi-verse as we are with Marvel I am hoping we'd get several movies out of Affleck, but his age will make that a problem. I appreciate Affleck's work quite a bit and am excited to see how this film evolves, and what Affleck adds to this timeless character.
In 1948 the first live action Superman made his debut in black-and-white shorts that appeared before film matinees. They quickly became extremely popular, and Alyn made has made several cameos and participated in TV specials.
The popularity of the shorts paved way for a Superman TV show in 1952, and even though Alyn declined the role the show moved forward with George Reeves. The show ran for six seasons until 1958 and was very well received.
Arguably, though, the most iconic Superman was Christopher Reeve, he portrayed the Man of Steel in the original four films. All with various levels of reception; 93%, 89%, 26%, and 12% on Rotten Tomatoes respectively. That's a pretty steep drop after Superman II! Reeve also went on to cameo in Superman origin TV show Smallville before passing away.
In 1988 a live action Superman took to television and lasted until 1992. John Newton portrayed the lead in the first season, but in a weird turn for the second season they re-cast him with Gerard Christopher! Prime example of awkward re-casting! This would never happen in modern TV, primarily because the leads are contracted to their teeth, with what they can and can't do, and protected by dozens of lawyers, and they'd be hit with some crazy lawsuit for refusing to coming to work without a raise like Newton did.
From 1993 to 1997 Superman went to the small screen again with Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Clark was portrayed by Dean Cain, who was praised for his portrayal of the character, and during the show's third season it received as many as fifteen million viewers an episode, but because of network and time slot issues it was not renewed for a fifth season. However most long time Superman fans will choose Cain and Teri Hatcher (who portrayed Lois Lane) as their favorite rendition of the famous couple.
In 2001 Clark Kent was rebooted but this time as a teenager in Superman origin TV show Smallville. With a wide array of characters and cameos the show lasted for ten seasons until 2011, which makes Tom Welling the actor who has portrayed Superman the longest, not just in hours (which is 218 by the way), but the most years anyone has played the character. The show was well liked by fans, in fact many wished Welling would have gone on to play the Superman character in the new Man of Steel films.
In 2006, right in the middle of the Smallville show run, Superman Returns hit theaters. Brandan Routh portrayed Superman in this mid-quel. The idea of the film was to take place after the events of Superman I and II, but ignore the stories of III, and IV. Superman returns to Earth to find Lois has moved on with Cyclops from the X-Men, but she has been raising a child that is susceptible to krypton like Superman. The movie had mixed reviews, but did not perform in the box office like expected, and even with a 76% on Rotten Tomatoes the planned sequels were scrapped.
Finally, in 2013, Henry Cavill took up the cape, and took off the underwear in Man of Steel. While I personally enjoyed this film more than Superman Returns this film has a 55% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but made over 660 million in the worldwide box office, making it the most grossed reboot to date. While I was underwhelmed with Cavill's emotionless performance as Superman the film had a good story, and for it's 2016 sequel Batman vs. Superman I'm hoping we get less of a robotic Superman, and one with more of a personality.
Before getting to the extremely controversial comparison that is Tobey McGuire and Andrew Garfield, did you know that there was a short lived Spider-Man TV show in the 70s starring Nicholas Hammond (better known as Friedrich von Trapp) from the Sound of Music?
From 1977-1979 the Amazing Spider-Man was coming straight to your TV sets! The series began as CBS tested the waters with a two hour TV movie to see how audiences would react, it's ratings were exceptional but because of the expensive cost to produce the episodes became sporadic and lost it's viewers, and the most disappointing part of the series was the lack of "supervillains", Spidey spent most of his time fighting minor crime.
According to Wiki there were hopes to revive this franchise with the popularity of the Incredible Hulk TV show. the plan was to bring together Thor, Hulk, Spider-Man, Daredevil Captain America, and She-Hulk all of who had appeared recently on CBS (a few of which merely cameod on the Hulk television show.)
Now onto the ones we're more familiar with. In the early 2000s with the new spark that X-Men, and Spider-Man had breathed into superhero franchises Spider-Man quickly became one of the biggest films of all time, it set several box office records, and was well received by both fans and critics. This film went on to get two sequels, which again set record after record, however with the third film fans were extremely disappointed with for several reasons; Peter Parker temporarily went emo, slapped longtime on-again-off-again girlfriend Mary Jane, Venom was introduced but poorly used, Sandman and the Hobgoblin were introduced so three villains total but each with limited story and screen time, Gwen Stacy was introduced, which is backwards from the comics as Peter dates her before MJ. The film was too full of cameos and characters that the story suffered, and with the backlash and contracts of the main cast all up the rumored Spider-Man 4 never happened.
In 2012 the wall crawler was re-booted with a new cast, Andrew Garfield playing lead, this time in high school (like the comic) instead of college like the previous trilogy. Instead of MJ we got to see Peter's young love interest Gwen Stacy, who died in the 2014 sequel very similar to how she died in the comics. The reboot has used two villains that were not used int he original trilogy (Lizard and Electro), and re-used the Hobgoblin, Harry Osborn, but differently than they had in Spider-Man 3.
Who was a better Spider-Man? It depends on who you ask. I prefer Garfield, but part of that is because I prefer the new Spider-Man films. I feel that the originals were wonderful at a time where superhero movies were gaining new momentum with their real themes, and non-campy, humorous villains (yes I'm talking about the horrible attempts at Batman that were Jim Carrey and Schwarzenegger). X-Men and Spider-Man set the bar so super high that Batman Begins, and the Avengers franchise were able to be seen as a reality. The original Spider-Man trilogy had to play it safe because they were unsure of how superhero movies would perform. They went with MJ instead of Gwen because they didn't want to have to deal with the problem of killing off the leading lady, they were worried about killing off their fans too so they played it safe in a time where they really did have to. The new Spider-Man franchise doesn't have to play by those rules, they can make it darker, more realistic, and kill off a few characters that we care about because superhero movies are evolving and aren't as big a risk as they used to be. Unfortunately for Sony the Spider-Man reboot was not sold to the public very well, I really do think that people were just burned out of Spider-Man, and were unhappy with a reboot so soon, and that this is why the new franchise is in trouble. Honestly I do feel it superior to the original trilogy especially in the one simple fact that they have a plan; we know that a Sinister Six film is in production, and a Venom movie, and that the two Spider-Man films we've already seen are leading up to something huge, where as the originals were all standalone productions. I prefer bigger story arcs, teases, and the growth we see over characters in the long term. I have nothing against the Tobey McGuire films, I enjoy them, but I really do feel that the Amazing Spider-Man films are superior, and I am hopeful that they'll have the chance to continue what's already been set up, and not just flounder, disappear and be forgotten.
So as you can see there are dozens of great examples of re-casting favorite characters, as well as the disappointing re-casts of others. As a huge fan of not only the movies, but the comics as well, I have a deep love for so many of these iconic characters, and have felt quite a bit of trepidation several times re-casts and re-boots are announced, as fans it makes us nervous and uncertain of what will happen to the future of our favorite characters and franchises, but as you can see there are just as many good examples of reboots and re-casts as bad. Sometimes new actors can bring something new to a character for us to enjoy, the same way that reboots can bring new things to stories and characters that we may have not gotten before.
As we look down the road some of our favorite heroes the future seems uncertain, RDJ may do one more Iron Man film if the paycheck is right, Chris Evans has another two Avengers films and a solo film in his contract before it's over, and Hugh Jackman has expressed that he believes his age will soon get in the way of the portrayal of his iconic Wolverine, so they're soon to be filming X-Men: Apocalypse and Wolverine 3 back-to-back and we can probably expect him to be finished after what makes nine appearances. Other fan favorites such as Nick Fury, Green Lantern, Thor, Black Widow or (heaven forbid) another Spider-Man, will eventually be rebooted and re-cast because it's the only way we can continue to enjoy these rich characters, and pass them on to other generations. Reboots and re-casts should not be feared and hated, but we should be excited for their potential!
What are your thoughts on who and who shouldn't be rebooted?