Over the years, superhero movies haven’t been noted for their outstanding acting. They have featured great actors, yes, but rarely do you a see reviews with recurring positive remarks on the high level of performances.
There’s the odd exception, of course. Heath Ledger remains the only actor to win an Oscar for a superhero movie performance, posthumously scooping the Best Supporting Actor statuette for his memorable take on The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Other strong performances include Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon and Robert Downey Jr., particularly in the first Iron Man movie.
However, those good performances are countered with the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze, Halle Berry’s Catwoman and, well, Arnie’s Mr. Freeze again. At times, the acting has been awful and the comic book movies have garnered an unwanted reputation.
But DC has come a long way. Nearly 20 years after Joel Schumacher nearly destroyed the Batman franchise, the Caped Crusader has a new home inside the DC Extended Universe, set to launch in earnest later this month with the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel back in 2013 was officially the first movie in this new universe, but with Dawn of Justice seeing the formation of the Justice League, it’s only now the wheels are really being set in motion.
Those wheels, as it turns out, are being steered by a slew of Oscar-winning actors that stand as a symbol to the immense and unshakable gravitational pull of the superhero genre. Rose McGowan, the actress known for playing Paige Matthews in Charmed, declared that she had quit acting in November of last year because of ‘boring superhero’ movies.
That blunt, public disapproval of the genre may have started a landslide of actors forcibly distancing themselves from superhero movies, but, in fact, quite the opposite has happened. The DC Extended Universe not only sees exciting standalone projects for iconic superheroes like Wonder Woman and The Flash, it will explode on to our screens with some of the finest acting talent currently working in Hollywood. Warner Bros. have been sagacious in assembling the personnel of their most ambitious cinematic endeavour yet.
First off, Ben Affleck, whose Batman will form a central figure in the future of the DC Universe, has won two Oscars during his up-and-down career. Yes, both of them have been for a craft outside of acting itself, sharing an Academy Award with Matt Damon for Good Will Hunting before also winning Best Picture for Argo, as the movie’s director and producer. Affleck is no stranger to negative reviews pinpointing his limited acting ability but the 43-year-old has proven himself to be an astute leading man, re-shaping people’s perception of him with The Town and Gone Girl.
Affleck’s Bruce Wayne will be challenged by a new Alfred, with Jeremy Irons stepping in to succeed Michael Caine as the butler of Wayne Manor. Irons is known as one of the most elegant and talented actors on the past 25 years, with his Oscar for Best Leading Actor coming for playing Claus von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune.
In future films, we will see fellow Oscar-winners Jared Leto, playing The Joker in Suicide Squad and J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon in Justice League Part One. They won their Oscars for Dallas Buyers Club and Whiplash respectively and the fact their wins both came within the last three years shows how DC is having no problem in pulling together some of the most in-demand actors in the world.
It’s also worth noting that Amy Adams, who plays Lois Lane opposite Henry Cavill’s Superman, is a five-time Oscar nominee, regarded by many as one of the finest young actresses of her generation. Oh yeah, and both of Superman’s dads from Man of Steel are Oscar winners. Russell Crowe played Jor-El and he has been a Best Leading Actor twice in his career (Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind) while Kevin Costner portrayed Jonathan Kent, Clark Kent’s foster father. Costner won two Oscars for the same movie, Best Director and Picture for Dances with Wolves.
The DC Extended Universe is on the cusp of exploding onto our screens and there’s an embarrassment of acting riches everywhere you look. Of course, actors can often be left stranded by poor writing but Warner Bros. have been helped by the recruitment of Argo’s Oscar-winning scribe Chris Terrio. The 29-year-old has penned the scripts for Batman v Superman and both Justice League movies, while he’s rumoured to be the first-choice to co-write the standalone Batman film with Affleck. Surely that can only mean good things for the moves themselves.