It’s no secret award shows fall short acknowledging actors who portray characters in the superhero/fantasy genre. This has been going on for years. Only occasionally do we witness the rarity of an actor being handed an award for Best Actor/Actress. Why it that? We rant, rave, and positively gush over superhero films and television shows that have taken over our screens, but yet, we can’t acknowledge their incredible acting abilities? Let’s take a glance as to why these actors deserve the nominations that are so scarcely handed out.
Over the past decade, we have been inundated with comic book adaptations from television to film. They have far surpassed expectations of what is considered a ‘fantasy’ genre and truly grown into a cultural phenomenon, with 34 films expected to make their way onto the silver screen over the next 4 years.
Let me say that again.
34 films of comic adaptations are being released within the next 4 years. As if that isn’t a glaring indication of how confident we are in this market…. Will the superhero craze start to falter at some point? Yes. Without a doubt, we will see some tapering, but not anytime in our immediate future, which is perfectly fine with me.
There has always been a fan base for the characters we see on our screen day in and day out long before they were brought to life with such stunning visual spectacles. So, why is it now that we have had such an explosion of blockbuster superhero films and successful televisions shows? A number of things factor into this equation – first and foremost, technology. Our technological advances with visual effects and they way we film in the industry have allowed us to push boundaries and create realities for viewers that just weren’t possible before.
Next up; the writing. One of the key ingredients to a show or film’s success is largely, the writing. MARVEL is an excellent example of successful writing. And it doesn’t boil down to any one specific writer; the successes of their films come from consistency and continuity of storylines and how those storylines carry on into other films. They’ve really set the bar high when it comes to telling a story throughout dozens of superhero characters and coming back full circle again to where we all began. That, in my opinion, is what keeps bringing me back to watch these movies. DC has had some hit or miss films over the past years, but where they shine and have truly nailed down their writing is in episodic format. To me, shows like The Flash have some of the best writing you can see on television today. It’s solid week after week, and the ratings back this up.
There are many other factors that can be justified and discussed on why comic book adaptations are so popular, but to speak on my topic today; the last puzzle piece I’m going to talk about today is the acting.
With so many successful shows and films we’ve been privy to watching over the past several years, you would think at some point we’d see more than just sparse acknowledgment towards numerous actors who have spent many years honing these beloved characters. Whether it’s superhero stigma or something else entirely, these actors deserve recognition. Maybe they don’t get taken seriously because they get lumped into the, “Oh, it’s just fantasy, there’s no serious acting going on there.” I differ entirely from this train of thought. Just because a film or show isn’t retelling a dramatic period in time or pushing the boundaries of our current times doesn’t mean there aren’t brilliant performances being portrayed on screen.
When your sense of disbelief is suspended and you are immersed in the characters you’re watching, you know you’re witnessing great acting. Actors in comic book adaptations have the huge responsibility of finding a way to ground their character and provide them depth to the outsider looking in. Without this, you don’t invest yourself into the character and therefore, your sense of disbelief is diminished.
Case In Point – The Flash (The CW Network)
Actor Example: Tom Cavanagh | aka: Harrison Wells (Earth Prime), Harrison Wells/Reverse Flash/Eobard Thawne, and Harrison Wells (Earth 2).
Someone give this guy a prime-time Emmy.
Not only has Tom Cavanagh portrayed a character that didn’t necessarily originate in DC Comics, he’s had the near insurmountable task of portraying his character, Harrison Wells, in three unique iterations within 2 seasons. We had the original Harrison Wells – who we find out was originally killed off by Eobard Thawne in the second half of season 1 and never interacted with #TeamFlash. Then we have Harrison Wells/Reverse Flash – as Eobard Thawne transforms himself into Harrison Wells and proceeds to impersonate him for the next 2 decades. In this form, we see Tom Cavanagh portray what we’re supposed to believe is the “original” Wells, friend and mentor to #TeamFlash over the course of our series; only to see Wells turn into a more villainous portrayal at the second half of the season when we learn of his true identity. Then during season 2, we find ourselves with another version of Harrison Wells. This one, hailing from Earth-2, a subset universe…which would take a while to explain, but you get where I’m going with this. This Wells had to be differentiated from the other two iterations he had already portrayed. Tom had to find a way to give this Harrison Wells more depth and character that would separate him among his other two previous Wells incarnations.
That is the epitome of great acting. Tom Cavanagh managed to find a way to get the viewer to believe that every single incarnation of Wells he’s had to portray was vastly different from the other, and make you believe they were completely separate entities and yet, one in the same.
And, he had to do it effortlessly.
Maybe I’m completely off base in my thinking – but it takes great writing and brilliant acting to dig that deep and keep the character you’re portraying interesting; so people don’t lose interest, and Cavanagh has done just that.
On a side note, the entire Flash Team is remarkable, and I stand by my comments above that this show is the best on network television that you’ll see. They deserve all the awards.
So, can we break the stigma of being pushed aside? Will there come a moment where this high caliber of acting will be recognized as the Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Veep of their time? They should, because they put just as much hard work and commitment into their characters as does anyone else.
Maybe some would suggest creating a separate category in these award nominations, but then you’re just giving them an out and cheapening their acting abilities by saying they aren’t worthy of being in the Drama or Comedic series category.
Great acting is great acting regardless of the genre. Perhaps one day someone will step up and take a chance, but until then – we thank all the actors who work tirelessly on their craft, taking the characters they portray and make them memorable and entertaining for us to watch.
Thanks for sticking around and reading my first entry. If you feel compelled to start up a discussion or simply comment on the blog post I just made, please feel free to respond below!