26 October 2021 489 Views

Midweek Movies. With BATMAN! Oi: Stop getting PENGUIN WRONG!

by James Murphy

Oswald Cobblebot: We are yet to see him done ‘right’ onscreen. ‘IMHO’..

I saw THAT trailer for THE BATMAN. Covered it last week. I neglected to mention COLIN FARRELL is playing PENGUIN. Actually, tell a lie: I left him out on purpose. I just am not ‘wowed’. That is no reflection on a performance which I cannot judge in its entirety, based on one or two trailers. Instead? I am simply baffled by his casting. That’s a feeling which I can explain, via a few points:

1: Why Colin? YES he is a good actor. But..

(I stop short of calling Colin great. Consistently good: yes; Robert Downey Jr/Daniel Craig level great: no, imho: sorry!). Sure, he has transformed himself, physically. But WHHHHYYYYYY???? At NO stage does ANYONE think ‘yeah, Penguin: gotta be that Colin bloke!’. Danny DeVito, I understood, as he was small and great at playing sleaze. Burgess Meredith also nailed the cigarette holder /top hat routine. Somewhere between those iterations is a perfect Penguin. As in..

2: ..The WHOLE point with casting Batman baddies is to somehow cast the MOST obvious candidate.

There is little to no virtue in the expectation subverting business when casting Gotham City rogues. JACK NICHOLSON was a BORN JOKER! As indeed, was HEATH LEDGER (and no I was not surprised by his casting, as I could see the logic, from TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, onwards).

A USP, even in the ‘Nolan-verse’ Dark Knight era was seeing how a specific actor was made up to fit the villain they were playing, whilst somehow matching their own existing back catalogue. TOM HARDY = obvious BANE, due to his turn as BRONSON. And so on.

3: There are exceptions that prove the rule.

TOMMY LEE JONES, though a GREAT actor/star and a worthy Jack Joker successor in playing Two-Face? Proved woefully miscast. ROBIN WILLIAMS begged to turn up as a Bat baddie yet was never given the chance (their loss: just watch ONE HOUR PHOTO via MRS DOUBTFIRE for a glimpse of his Riddler/Joker/Hugo Strange etc).

SCHWARZENEGGER was, contrary to fan belief, actually an obvious Bat-antagonist choice, be it as MR FREEZE or some other character (Bane?). But one expected him to be directed as a version of TERMINATOR rather than a walking ice/freeze/chill pun. So, things can go wrong.

Opportunities can be missed and certain rumours never amount to reality. Scarecrow was once almost Jeff Goldblum, Howard Stern, Tom Cruise, Nic Cage, Ewan McGregor? Riddler = Michael Douglas/David Tennant/Eddie Murphy? Mad Hatter played by Hugh Grant or Mel Gibson? Ras Al Guhl as Sean Connery, Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Gary Oldman? Madonna, Sienna Miller, Gemma Arterton and many others mooted for Catwoman, down the years and reboots.

I could be here all day, speculating. Point is? In each case of casting, be it fulfilled or simply debated, there remains some grain of curiosity in seeing the actor meet the role, via costume/prostheses/destiny/back catalogue of similar parts and star power. Colin as Penguin might seem to follow that tradition. But it doesn’t. Trust me! Even if he is very good in the final film.

4: IN ANY EVENT? 

THE BATMAN trailers indicate this Penguin will be an Al Capone type. All gangster ‘new yawk’ Jimmy Cagney via Scarface stuff. Fine. That is one possible ‘take’. It is certainly in line with the ARKHAM games’ version, for example? And it takes us further away from the bile spewing grotesque freak show depicted by BATMAN RETURNS.

But it’s very easy to ham this part up, even for Farrell and yes, even in realistic -ish gangster mode?

So: there remains, to my mind, a definitive take on Penguin, yet to be realised and somehow fusing all iterations.

Think of an ousted American aristocrat of sorts; more English than the English? He does come from money and all the trappings of influence and power yet somehow lost those facets, before rebuilding all, via criminal arms dealings. He can be BOTH a refined and elegant snob AND a brutal, ugly, nasty thug: playing both within and beyond his league.

A kind of frat boy bully with added menace? So the ideals, to my mind would have been Philip Seymour Hoffman (RIP, alas) or Jonah Hill (who, rumour has it, refused to play the role but was indeed considered?). 

 

BEST OF LUCK TO COLIN AND ANYONE ELSE PLAYING A BAT-BADDIE. HAPPY MID-WEEK! BATMAN WILL RETURN 😉 X

 



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