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Friday, July 25, 2008

Captain Jack = Captain America?

Urk, I really don't know what I think about this rumor.

I like John Barrowman well enough. And he certainly fills out a WWII era uniform well. Cap? Really?

I know I've argued that Cap is a role that doesn't necessarily require an actor so much as someone who can do more expression work with their bodies. As Cap is more the stoic sort of fellow more prone to quiet sadness and minor expression work than he is for the soliloquies or over-the-top emotion.

But I also don't think Barrowman's particularly GOOD at acting with his body. I liked him in Doctor Who and thought he was no better or worse than most of the Torchwood cast, but he's not, in my opinion, a very physically-expressive actor. His expressions of melancholy look more like constipation to me. I can get past the fact that I wouldn't call his physique "super-soldier" material, but it's harder to get past the fact that he's not yet shown, in my opinion, the physical expressiveness I think the role needs.

On the other hand, to be fair, I do think Captain Jack is a role that's written very limited and not one that would allow even Laurence Olivier to show off incredible acting talents. Barrowman can pull off self-effacing charm, which I think is good for Steve in quieter moments. And as shallow as it is, he has a nice warm smile. And I do think that's important for Cap. It's not a deal breaker, but it's something I personally think the character ought to have.

And it is possible, being that he's apparently done a fair bit of West End musicals, that he's better at physical expression than he lets show in Torchwood/DW. I'm assuming dancing is involved and as dancing tends to involve physical expression, I may be writing him off too soon. For that matter, theatre in general requires more physical expression than tv/movies, so that may be a good sign.

There is the plus that at least Barrowman has experience with one comic book-type role. I think a lot of decent actors' performance ends up broken in comic book or science fiction movies because they can't quite deal with the suspension of disbelief involved in talking to the aliens-who-aren't-yet-there or babbling technobabble or ridiculous statement of fact. And then there's the problem with the stupid costume. Cap's costume is not going to look anything but ridiculous no matter what they do with it. Ultimate tried taking off the wings, but ultimately the wings are not the problem. It still looks stupid.

It's weird but sometimes a mediocre actor can give a much better performance in a comic book movie than a good actor, if he's more comfortable with the trappings of the role. See as example: Chris Evans and Ioan Gruffudd in Fantastic Four. Chris Evans is not what I'd consider a particularly good actor, where anyone who sees Horatio Hornblower can attest that Ioan Gruffudd has the capacity to be phenomenal. But most critics/reviewers vastly preferred Evans to Gruffudd, and while some of that's the character (Johnny IS more fun than Reed) I think a lot of it did have to do with the actors' comfort in their roles. (And Gruffudd was much improved in Silver Surfer, I think. When he'd gotten more used to the whole thing.)

I remember watching the commentary for I think it was the Talented Mr. Ripley, where the director was talking about how difficult it was to cast certain characters. Because American culture is so different nowadays, it was difficult to find actors who could particularly resonate with the America of that time period. He chose a lot of British actors for that reason. I don't know if it's true that British actors really are better suited to playing 1940s Americans or not. I do think Barrowman has some sort of old fashioned quality that may well suit the character in his native time period. Well, more precisely, I think the guy always seems like he walked off a forties movie set. But that'd work really well, especially opposite other, more modern, Avengers)

(As a side note which may not make sense to anyone but me, Barrowman also might be a good choice for another reason. I've always felt part of Cap's appeal is that he lacks a certain amount of machismo that a lot of modern men/heroes have. I think Barrowman manages to infuse Captain Jack with that same quality. He's tough and sometimes badass, and very masculine, but without that machismo. If that makes any sense at all.)

Hmm, initially I was kind of aghast, but I'm actually warming to the idea. The key I think will be in the writing (and I heard GHASTLY gossip about THAT), but Barrowman is still ages better than those rumors of McConaghey or DiCaprio.

I'm actually starting to get enthusiastic about the idea. At the very least, I think it's a sign that the movie makers are on a good track.


  • At July 25, 2008 4:20 AM, Blogger LurkerWithout said…

    The important thing is, no matter what, he won't be worse than any of the guys before him. Seriously, how the hell did they make TWO Reb Brown Captain America movies? TWO!?!

  • At July 25, 2008 7:45 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Heh, you definitely have a point there.

  • At July 25, 2008 9:22 AM, Blogger Jer said…

    I hadn't thought of Barrowman, but he's probably one of the best choices you could get for the part, despite not being blond. Cap doesn't actually need to be blond, but I'm sure people will scream about it if he isn't.

    Of course, they'll be drowned out by the folks screaming about the fact that they're casting a British actor for the part of Captain America. Even though he lived and worked in the US for a good chunk of his life.

    And THOSE folks will be drowned out by the ones screaming about the fact that they're casting a gay man for the part of Captain America. Sigh.

    (His wikipedia entry is full of interesting little factoids - like the fact that he was trying for the part of "Will" in "Will & Grace" and was rejected because he seemed "too straight". Which tells you all you really need to know about the people who brought us "Will & Grace", I think. That show might have been watchable if some of the "gay" men on it had actually been gay. At least I wouldn't have had the uncomfortable feeling that it was trying to be something akin to a modern-day minstrel show...)

  • At July 25, 2008 11:12 AM, Blogger tavella said…

    Well, I think we've already established that you and I have very different standards for what would be a good Captain America -- you were enthusiastic about the idea of wrestlers, I want a skilled actor who can project inner life -- but even within those limits, Barrowman isn't a very good idea unless you want overtly hammy/stagy acting.

    Nice guy, but tends to bring West End musical style acting everywhere he goes.

  • At July 25, 2008 12:53 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Wow, you are rapidly starting to irritate me. I'm going to write that off, however, as me reacting to what is amounting to a very frustrating morning at work and not a genuine reflection of what seems like you wilfully misrepresenting everything I've said on this subject.

    No, Tavella. I was enthusiastic about the idea of a very specific Gladiator who I thought may have the qualities necessary to be a good Captain America. I even posted a link to that Superman/Batman clip so we could judge for ourselves.

    I do not, by default, think "OMG! A Wrestler would be PERFECT!"

    I do however refuse to dismiss someone because he has not always been an actor.

    And I've already established that I don't rule out wrestlers/athletes/gladiators because I do think in general, they are skilled with non-verbal expression.

    Which by the way is HOW an actor portrays "inner life" without opening their mouths.

    Oddly enough, though I've already been warming to the idea of Barrowman as Cap, your disagreement makes me embrace it wholeheartedly. :-)

  • At July 25, 2008 9:58 PM, Blogger Moriarty said…

    Heh. When I first read the title of your posting, I thought Marvel was trying to get Johnny Depp to play Cap.

    That would certainly have been a different take on the character. :)

  • At July 28, 2008 4:13 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

    We titled our blogs about this the exact same way.

    I think Barrowman would be great. He'd maybe have to bulk up a little bit but actors do that sort of thing all the time.

    I actually had to stop reading comments on a few sites because of how homophobic some people were getting about the mere idea of him playing Captain America.


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