Talented actor Chadwick Boseman has played James Brown, Jackie Robinson and the Egyptian god Thoth. And soon we'll see him as Thurgood Marshall and Black Panther.
It can be hard to keep up.
Of course, he's not the only actor casting a broad shadow; he's just one of the more egregious examples. Lest you think I haven't been paying attention, I've been thinking about this for years, especially as evidence piles up.
But, Boseman and two other things spurred me to write: the DVD and Blu-ray release of Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 (do not even get me started on Zoe Saldana and her many faces); and the Aug. 29 digital home entertainment release of Wonder Woman.
When I went to see Kong: Skull Island, it was almost comical; as in, well, look, it's just Loki, Captain Marvel, Nick Fury, Eazy-E and Dr. Dre, hanging out fighting Gollum (or Caesar, if you prefer to keep it in the family).
Khan, Doctor Strange and Sherlock Holmes have all been Cumberbatched. Magneto and Gandalf both had a McKellan. And Deadpool, Green Lantern and Hannibal King have all been Ryaned on. Need I list more? OK, if you insist ...
Michael Keaton is Vulture and Batman. And all of Middle-earth's denizens are bound to pop up somewhere, in someone's superhero universe. Here's looking at you, Hugo Weaving (Elrond to Red Skull, formerly known as Agent Smith); Martin Freeman (Bilbo to Everett Ross with a layover as Watson); and Andy Serkis (Gollum to Ulysses Klaue, also Kong and Caesar).
What's a geek girl to do?
Tip No. 1: A geek goddess can separate her universes completely. That can be hard at first, but it gets easier with each new movie or iteration of a comic book.
Tip No. 2: An old geek — or O.G. as I like to call myself — has to take the stance that it's an embarrassment of riches: good, better, best movies with roles so juicy and well-written that only the best actors will do.
Tip No. 3: Look at it as a boon to the genre. A higher class of actors demands a higher class of writers which demands a higher class of directors and so on.
Remember — I already copped to being an O.G. — when only C-list actors would do movies based on your favorite comics characters? (No shade.)
I went to see the live-action Masters of the Universe (1987, PG, 106 mins.), but it was not because of Dolph Lundgren in the title role. It was because it was He-Man! To be honest, I was a proponent of pro wrestler Lex Luger for the role. Who cared if he could act?
I also remember when an actor would leave enough time between characters that you could conveniently forget. Thank you, Weaving ...
But then Robert Downey Jr. showed up as Tony Stark, a role he was born to play. I always pictured Stan Lee as a mad chemist in a lab, growing Downey from a seed that came into maturation just as the CGI did to make Iron Man and thus kick off the first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
(Move along. This is not the Sherlock Holmes you're looking for.)
Or maybe it's all Harrison Ford's fault? Han Solo, Rick Deckard, Indiana Jones, Dr. Richard Kimble, Jack Ryan, Colonel Graff, Branch Rickey ... I digress.
Anyway, now that the scripts and effects can finally match up in terms of quality, you have A-list actors circling the properties. And A-list producers want the bank that comes along with those; heck, let's be real — so do the actors.
And, lo and behold, most of these movies are good. They have heart.
And the actors need to be just as good and just as otherworldly as the stories they're telling. (Cough, cough, Idris Elba, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, cough.)
This being Hollywood, of course, they can go too far.
Remember that one time when Professor Lupin showed up as (SPOILER ALERT) Ares in Wonder Woman? Not his fault, really, that he was so good in his Harry Potter role that it made him ill-suited for this one. But, and I say this with nothing but love in my heart, he's doing way too much.
So, danger, Will Robinson, if we're going to keep doing this, let's do it correctly!
Let's play a game, shall we? If, say, we get a stand-alone Storm or Faith movie, let's cast it. Right here, right now. Might I suggest Gina Torres, Carmen Ejogo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, or oooh, Sophie Okenedo, for Ororo. And let's go with Rebel Wilson, full stop, as Zephyr.
Hollywood, can you hear me now?
What I saw as an annoyance at one point, and then amusement, has now turned into a means to an end.
We all want our favorite actors to inhabit our favorite characters. And we've turned fantasy casting into a game we play with our geek-inclined friends.
So, I've made a promise not to laugh too loudly during Black Panther as Gollum and Bilbo Baggins hold a serious conversation about Jackie Robinson.
I will only smile when The Human Torch (Michael B. Jordan) and James Brown go toe to toe in Wakanda; please, God, let there be a dance battle a la Guardians of the Galaxy.
But, maybe, just this one next time, Boseman can sit one out.