Bad Performances in Good Superhero Movies

MSDSTEE EC004
Steel is neither

On Tuesday, we talked about actors who gave a strong performance in a stinker of a superhero flick.  While it is always a shame to waste a strong performance in a turd of a film, isn’t is a greater sin to crap on the rug in an otherwise fine superhero motion picture?  Let’s take a look at some people who need to call the carpet cleaners, because they did just that!

Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes in Batman Begins

tomkat
Why didn’t the church recruit Kristin Chenowith for the vertically challenged Mr. Cruise?

WHY THEY STUNK IT UP: This is the gold standard.  Rachel Dawes was a bright, tough, and dynamic character.  None of these words describe Katie Holmes.  We were to believe that Katie Holmes was sharp enough to be a felony prosecutor when her onscreen presence led me to believe she’d be under-qualified to change bedpans at Arkham Asylum!  Look.  I went to law school.  Most of my friends went to law school.  So, I know how dumb you can be and still graduate law school.  You can find the mechanics of a jack-in-the-box utterly surprising and still graduate from law school.  I STILL did not believe Katie Holmes could be a lawyer.  The word “vapid” is kind. Plus, this was RIGHT in the middle of her distracting pod-people beard marriage to Tom Cruise.  She was so bad in this film, that publicity was actually a plus here.  She was mercifully recast by the adequate Maggie Gyllenhal in the Dark Knight . Holmes went on to star in Jack and Jill with Adam Sandler.

James Marsden as Cyclops in X-Men 2

I don't even believe he has fillings in his teeth.
I don’t even believe he has fillings in his teeth.

WHY THEY STUNK IT UP: Cyclops is kind of a dud in the comics, too.  Maybe James Marsden wasn’t bad?  If viewed in that light, Marsden gave the most genuine adaptation of the character in the history of cinema.  Because he was definitely a dud.  When his character is surprisingly killed in X3, the audiences neither cried nor cheered. They just said, “eh…”  It is telling that he was so unimpressive that RunPee used his death scene as one of the uneventful moments you could use the restroom and not miss anything (don’t look that up….)

Terrence Howard as James Rhodes in Iron Man

My negotiation strategy will work!
My negotiation strategy will work!

WHY THEY STUNK IT UP:  He was stiff and dull. I never believed he liked anyone in the film; let alone enjoyed a lifelong friendship with Tony.  Near the end of the film, he looked longingly at the armor and said “maybe next time”; a wink to the audience telegraphing the debut of War Machine.  Maybe, indeed.  If your name is Don Cheadle and you didn’t asked to be paid substantially more than the film’s lead.  Casting math here is Cheadle > Howard.  Don Cheadle is an upgrade over just about anyone so watch out, Gwyneth.  Cheadle could be double cast as Rhodey AND Pepper Potts!

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in Avengers

IronMan2-ScarJo
“I liked her” -Watson

WHY THEY STUNK IT UP: Turning this over to Ryan for an epic rant.

Ryan here.  Had to intervene for a second when I heard the topic.  Can we all be brutally honest for a few seconds?  Good.  Scarlett Johansson cannot act.  Nope, not at all.  Every character she has done, every line she has delivered, is utterly replaceable by every other character and line she’s done.  She has a flat, monotonous voice that conveys no emotional weight at all.  She’s Kristen Stewart but she knows how to smile.  She can do a few moves that makes it look like she can do something impressive with martial arts, but take a look at that photo above.  Her knee is touching the ground and her other leg is bent.  Even the most iconic meaningless-physical-post-except-to-say-I-learned-how-to-do-this-pose is a complete failure on her part.

Look, I’m not saying that ScarJo can’t act her way out of a wet paper bag.  I’m saying if she ever were stuck in a wet paper bag that wet paper back would give an absolutely riveting performance in comparison.  People would walk away from that scene saying “Yeah, ScarJo was okay, but did you see that wet paper bag?!?  It really committed to the role!”  

ScarJo is the action film equivalent of Old Bay seasoning.  Nobody really knows why it’s there, but you put it in anyway.  Want to know my favorite parts of any movie that she’s in?  It’s all the parts where she isn’t there.  Which is a big reason why Lucy sucked.

Joshua Dallas as Fandral the Dashing in Thor

Pictured:  Joshua Dallas
Pictured: Joshua Dallas

WHY THEY STUNK IT UP: Because he didn’t ever play Chuck on TV!  That’s why! He’s not Chuck! Plus his name sounds like he’d be better suited with a career as a poker champion, porn star.  Zachary Levi was set to play him in this film but had to drop out due to scheduling.  The producers pulled Joshua Dallas away from a game of Hardcore Strip Texas Hold’em, put a costume on him (he was only wearing one sock and a “Getting Lucky In Kentucky” t-shirt at the time), and called him dashing.  Fortunately, Chuck was available in the second Thor film and our long international nightmare was over.

Patrick Leahy as Some Rich Trust Fund Guy in The Dark Knight

Even Adam West calls this performance contrived.
Even Adam West calls this performance contrived.

WHY THEY STUNK IT UP: First, admit that you don’t know who this is.  No, no.  Don’t go to Wikipedia.  I’ll tell you.  Patrick Leahy is an 436 term Senator from Vermont.  He was actively involved in media deregulation, so the rumor is that WB cozied up to him by giving him a line in Dark Knight (he appeared in Batman & Robin, and again as a Board member in DKR).  In Dark Knight, he’s the rich old man at Bruce Wayne’s fundraiser who stands tough to the Joker.  It was clear he was a Senator and not an actor.  Fortunately, Leahy reminds Joker of his father, Ledger takes the film back into awesomeness of paternal scar stories, and all was forgiven.

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