Fans complaining is just about their favorite pastime next to actually watching the movies.
Henry Cavill fans are lamenting the loss of their Superman with the recent changes going on at DC, but things weren’t always so smooth even for him, and he got off luckier than others when it came to taking on an iconic role—in his case, the superhero of all superheroes. Other actors were dissed from the get-go when their casting was announced only to go onto become iconic themselves. It goes to show there’s a reason why casting directors have many qualifications but internet tough guy isn’t among them.
DC fans, who are now dealing with the departure of Michael Keaton who was set to reprise his iconic role of Batman for the upcoming slate before Peter Safran and James Gunn were hired on and switched things around, may be some people’s fondly remembered favorite version of the Dark Knight now. The backlash when he was first cast, however, recently resurrected by Twitter user The Disc Father, shows a far different feeling at the time. And it proves that fans have been griping about superhero movie casting just about as long as studios have been making them.
Give a fan something to complain about and they will—even if they haven’t actually been given anything. It’s partly inevitable when adapting a story to another medium—fans were upset back when Tom Cruise was first cast as Lestat in the 1994 Interview with the Vampire movie simply because he wasn’t blond at the time—and this was a character people had to make up in their minds since he existed purely in books! How much harder then is it for a casting director to fill a role that’s been drawn by dozens of artists over decades and decades and that fans have seen their whole lives in picture form?
Therein lies the rub. Too many fans, in their fancasts, cast visually rather than if the person is right for the role. It’s why Marvel threw them a bone and put John Krasinski in the Doctor Strange sequel as Reed Richards since fans were stumping for it simply because the latest version of Richards has a beard and Krasinski currently does, too. It’s also why Michael Keaton, when he was first announced as Batman, was described by fans as wimpy and balding and not at all the type of guy people saw for the role—even if he brought the psychological depth to it that gave audiences two Bruce Waynes—the one he shows at parties and the private one with Alfred—and a Batman that went onto become beloved and iconic, so much so that fans were ecstatic about the announcement of his return all these years later. Fans weren’t thinking about if Keaton could actually play the role, simply if he resembled Neal Adams’ ‘70s take or Frank Miller’s hulking Dark Knight.
Keaton certainly wasn’t the last Batman to be put through the fan wringer. Each successive one—Kilmer and Clooney and Bale—all got bat-backlash at their announcements. Kilmer and Clooney were too campy (never mind that it was the movies they were in), and they weren’t, well, Keaton, an irony of ironies considering fan feeling before the 1989 movie came out. Bale, well Bale was British, and Batman is American (and please ignore that it was Bale, a Brit who did such a good job as Bruce Wayne, that it helped ease a petulant fandom over the speedbump of Cavill’s Superman being played by another Englishman).
Heath Ledger, what a disaster! An Aussie heartthrob who has done romcoms playing the Joker? How dare they? Though after his posthumous Oscar win and the universally beloved take on the role that saw fans going back to see Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight over and over again, good luck finding anyone that will admit that now. And when he was announced, and before people grudgingly admitted they liked Matt Reeves’ The Batman, Robert Pattinson went through the exact same thing.
It goes to show that maybe, just maybe, there’s a reason there’s actual professionals making casting decisions and directorial choices and that they have a vision beyond seeing if an actor simply resembles a fictional person that’s been drawn by somebody from their own imagination. Robert Downey, Jr., when he was first announced as Tony Stark in Iron Man, a B-tier character at best that nobody real could be that passionate about one way or the other, also went through the abuse mill. And now his character, deceased in the main MCU, is beloved and missed by fans worldwide (and is one many hope, with time travel now a part of the MCU, might be able to cameo again someday). Chris Evans, adored as Captain America, faced the same deal—after all, fans argued, didn’t he play Johnny Storm is a lousy Fox Fantastic Four movie? Even more ironic was the fact that the other one up against him for the part of Steve Rogers was John Krasinski.
There are any number of lists available online that show how often fans complained and about whom. Michael Douglas was griped about for playing Ant-Man’s Hank Pym. Hugh jackman was nobody’s choice for Wolverine—an Aussie playing a Canadian in X-Men? And don’t get year-2000-era fans going about how Jackman is 6’2” and Wolverine is supposed to be small. (It’s why some fans still fancast Danny DeVito, a man in his late-70s as the character.) Brandon Routh was hated as Superman, Ben Affleck (who’d already tried and not succeeded as Daredevil) was belittled as Batman, and Gal Gadot faced wailing as Wonder Woman.
What all of this goes to show, more than anything else, is that for fans of comic books and superhero movies, complaining about the making of them might be the only thing that comes close to actually watching and enjoying them. It’s certainly an odd choice, to be sure, for something people allegedly claim to love, but there just might not be any breaking of the cycle—which would mean people setting aside preconceived notions based on drawings in four-color funny books—and letting the actor actually prove whether they fit the part or not.
More: Marvel Should Cast Brendan Fraser In A Future Project
Andrew McRae is a writer for Lewtonbus.net, Cracked.com, and his own fiction that can be found on Amazon.com. He can also be reached at Twitter @andrewmcraedude.