In an often repeated critique by moviegoers and critics alike, it seems that Hollywood is just about all out of ideas. To combat this dearth of new ideas, many successful movies and characters from the past are receiving “reboots.” Here are four iconic roles that have been played by multiple actors.
Despite being one of the most popular superheroes of all time and a major part of American pop culture for nearly half a decade, Spider-Man did not hit the big screens until 2002 when Tobey Maguire was tapped to play Peter Parker and his alter-ego. Maguire played the character as primarily subdued, nerdy and likable. His approach seemed to hit the right notes in the first two installments of the Sam Raimi-directed franchise as the films were generally well reviewed by critics and incredibly lucrative for Sony. His take seemed to wear thin in the third film, however, and his emo kid persona after being infected by an alien symbiote in “Spider-Man 3” was just bizarre.
After discussions fell apart for Raimi to direct further installments with Maguire, Sony ordered a reboot to the franchise. Just four years after “Spider-Man 3” was released, “The Amazing Spider-Man” hit theaters with Andrew Garfield being the one inside the spandex suit. Garfield’s take on the character is more complicated as he plays Peter Parker as a smart, generally good-natured but immature teen who has experienced great loss in his life and has to navigate what to do with incredible superpowers he has obtained.
My choice: Perhaps it’s just that the third Spider-Man with Maguire has left a bad taste in my mouth, but I have to give a big nod to Garfield. His take on the iconic character seems to jive more with the Spider-Man in the comic books, and he has added an element of humor that was absent in Maguire’s flicks. Plus, his chemistry with co-star Emma Stone (playing Gwen Stacey) is much more believable and engrossing than Maguire’s romantic relationship with Kirsten Dunst (playing Mary Jane Watson). My one knock on Garfield is that he could afford to beef up a little bit for the role.
Character: James Bond
With 23 installments in the franchise, it is inevitable that so many actors have taken on the iconic role of James Bond — the suave, charismatic but deadly British spy who works for MI6. With so many different actors, it is also not surprising that the films have had very different feels to them. Connery is the Bond that most movie buffs look to as the standard with his mix of charm and cold-blooded performing of his duties. Moore added a tongue-in-cheek element to his films. Lazenby … well, there’s a reason he only appeared in one film. Dalton’s two entries are representative of gratuitous violence in 1980s action films and he was Bond when the series was completely running on empty. Brosnan will probably be best remembered for being 007 for the Nintendo 64’s version of “Golden Eye” rather than any of his actual movies (which, in the case of “Die Another Day” in particular is probably better for him).
And then there is Daniel Craig. With the franchise completely out of juice after the embarrassing “Die Another Day” entry, producers decided to make substantial changes to the feeling of the character and the movies he is in. Daniel Craig has turned the character into a roguish, cold-blooded, frightening man who happens to be attractive and alluring. Craig’s take on the character mirrors Matt Damon’s gritty Jason Bourne creation with the added element of tailored suits.
My choice: As a bit of a cop-out, I choose both Connery and Craig. Connery will always be the classic Bond that comes to my mind, but Craig’s fresh take on the character is exactly what was needed to propel the franchise into the 21st century.
Character: Sherlock Holmes
Although there have been many actors who have portrayed the reclusive private detective with extraordinary deductive reasoning skills, Cumberbatch and Downey are the two actors most associated with modern takes on the legendary character. Cumberbatch is fresh off of his third season in the BBC series that features the legendary sleuth in present-day London. Downey is the title character in the Guy Ritchie directed films that were released in 2009 and 2011.
Despite being set in present day London, Cumberbatch’s turn as the detective with the funny hat is probably truer to the character most fans are familiar with. He is incredibly intelligent and observant with absolutely atrocious interpersonal skills (he repeatedly reminds associates that he is a “high functioning sociopath”). His ability to crack difficult cases is primarily based on this intellect.
On the other hand, Downey is a much more hands-on private detective. He is much brawnier and violent than most people associate with the iconic character. While there are definitely still scenes where Holmes’ intellect is displayed, Ritchie’s films are more categorized by high levels of intense action.
My choice: While I thoroughly enjoyed both of the Downey films, I have to give Cumberbatch the nod on this one. He is excellent as the cold, aloof and calculated crime-fighting genius. His take is much truer to the source than Downey’s testosterone pumping turn. Still, I hope the BBC version will spend less time on Sherlock’s bromance with Dr. Watson next season and again shift its focus to developing intricate and fascinating cases as it had in the first two seasons.
In the original Tim Burton series, Nicholson was tapped to play Joker. As he had been in some of his other films, Nicholson was excellent at playing an emotionally disturbed person (his parts in “The Shining” and “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” prepared him well to take on the iconic role). The scene where he laughs hysterically and dances while shooting to death the person responsible for his disfigurement is very disturbing and creepy. Still, Nicholson’s take on the character has a definite cartoonish and comic book feel to it.
At the end of Christopher Nolan’s reboot, “Batman Begins,” there is a teaser for what was to come in “The Dark Knight” when near the end of the film, Lieutenant Gordon hands Batman a playing card with a Joker left at a crime scene. The move was surprising as Nicholson’s take on the character was considered genius by many. Heath Ledger’s even darker take on the psychotic killer, however, was received with tremendous approval by fans and critics alike. The deeply disturbing performance had a tremendous price with various reports that Ledger’s tragic death due to an overdose of drugs was at least contributed to by the toll that playing the character had on his mental health.
My choice: When comparing the two performances, I think of the ghost of Babe Ruth’s quote in “The Sandlot”: “Heroes (or, in this case, villains) get remembered but legends never die.” Nicholson’s take is dark and creepy but, like the Tim Burton series itself, more and more forgettable as time passes. Ledger’s performance was in one of the highest grossing movies and perhaps the most universally critically well received superhero adaptation of all-time. His Joker was a major contributor to the incredible success of “The Dark Knight,” and there is a reason he was awarded with a posthumous Academy Award.
Which actors did you like best in these roles?
Dylan Cannon is a regular contributor to KSL.com and OK.com. He can be reached at his email account at firstname.lastname@example.org.