The British are Coming!

There’s a great line in Clue — one of my top 10 all-time comedies — where Howard Hessman is posing as a door-to-door religion peddler.

Beatnik: “Armageddon is almost upon us!”

Professor Plumb, deadpan: “I got news for ya, it’s already here.”

your next superman

your next superman

That’s how I felt when I heard the news Sunday about the actor tapped to play the next Superman. Henry Cavill — don’t worry who he is, within two years you’ll know more about him than you ever wanted to — will be the next Superman. And he’s not from New York, Los Angeles or even Lehighton. It’s much worse than that.

He’s from England.


You know, the country we kicked the snot out of in a couple wars. The one we saved in a couple others. The one that gave us Hugh Grant. Yeah, that England. Forget that he’s an unknown, since the IMDB resumes of Christopher Reeve, Tom Welling and Brandon Routh look like internships before they played the Man of Steel (hey, two-for-three ain’t bad). This guy from England is expected to take one of the truly American roles — the guy who proclaims to fight for The American Way, whatever that is — and knock it out of the park.

So get ready. You’re going to hear nothing but talk of NAFTA, free trade agreements or even internatioal diplomacy when people talk about an Englishman taking over the most icnoic American character ever created. Poppycock, they’ll say, in their best made-up English accents. Unpatriotic, others will lament, pointing to the proposed 28th Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing an American always will play Clark Kent. Someone might even go so far as to call Shenanigans, forcing Officer Barbrady to investigate the matter.

Without sounding like too much of an English sympathizer — where ya been? The English — and even worse yet, those darned Australians — have been stealing our American roles for years, hiding their accents underneath a cloak of Alabama twang or New Jersey dialect.

And it’s never been as rampant as it is in the comic book movie world. Of the top 25 highest-grossing comic book movies of all time, 10 of them are headed up by foreigners playing American roles (kinda). Go ahead and throw out James McEvoy in Wanted, since no one really knows that graphic novel. But he’s Scottish playing an American, just so you know. You can churck Aussie Hugh Jackman playing Canadian mutant Wolverine too since there wasn’t rioting in the streets of Calgary or anything. But there have been some extremely notable American superhero roles that went to foreign-born actors:

Eric Bana as The Hulk

seems like forever ago that eric bana played the hulk. especially since the character is now on its third actor in a decade

seems like forever ago that eric bana played the hulk. especially since the character is now on its third actor in a decade

Country: Australia

Summary: Talking about the first one, not the Ed Norton version. Norton’s still American, as far as we know. Bana seemed perfect for the role, not too many people care about where Bruce Banner is from. As long as you can pull off “HULK SMASH!!!” without sounding like a wuss, you’re OK with us.

Did it work?: No, not at all, not in any way. Not that it was Bana’s fault, the movie was done-in by two-and-a-half-hours of a woe-is-me pity party that Bana couldn’t have avoided. That mistake belonged to the writing team that saddled him with teary dialogue and a miscast director — Ang Lee, another foreigner!!! — that seemed to enjoy punishing The Hulk instead of celebrating him. That’s pretty much what happened to the Ed Norton version too, by the way.

Ioan Gruffudd as Mr. Fantastic

how can ioan gruffuld only be the second worst part of fantastic 4? jessica alba is prominently involved, that's how.

how can ioan gruffudd only be the second worst part of fantastic 4? jessica alba is prominently involved, that's how.

Country: England.

Summary: OK, this one is the actor’s fault. Gruffudd is arguably the most miscast comic superhero in any of the new wave of comic book movies to the point where the prevailing thought is, “Who cares what country he’s from, he just sucks.” His acting is second-level-of-Hell stiff, but maybe that’s what the studio was going for to make Jessica Alba somehow seem less like a cardboard cutout of a hot girl. Amazingly, that attempt was unsuccessful.

Did it work?: Not even close. The studio compounded the problem by using Aussie Julian McMahon as Dr. Doom and turning him American — even though he’s eastern European, not that anyone from Latveria kicked up much of a ruckus. Then it double compounded the problem by bring them back — BOTH OF THEM!!! — in the sequel. This is the same franchise that decided, Jessica Alba is a horrible actress, none of her movies have ever made money and she’s not blond. Screw it, can we get her?” Where didn’t this series go wrong?

Ray Stevenson as The Punisher

Country: Ireland

Summary: After the stinkbomb of Thomas Jane in the 2004 version of The Punisher, you can’t blame anyone for looking elsewhere for the title character for the Punisher: War Zone reboot in 2008. Maybe Stevenson would have been OK, but we’ll never know because of one of the most misguided, rushed and downright horrible comic book movies ever made. I’d watch any version of Blade 30 more times before I ever watched the Punisher reboot again.

Did it work?: Basically, this was Marvel putting on two different pair of Bad Idea Jeans, checking their butt in the mirror, then decided to go witha third pair. The initial idea was sound — right the wrong of what they thought was a crappy version of one of its most beloved characters and make a new one based on a later, darker and better edition of the comic. But the execution was pee-poor and they were left with one big craptastic spectacle of nonsense. Maybe Stevenson shouldn’t be held accountable — or maybe he should. It’s tough to get through this train wreck to find out who’s really at fault.

Christian Bale as Batman

Country: Wales

he might be a jerk, but he's a darn good batman

he might be a jerk, but he's a darn good batman

Summary: Now we’re talking. After the likes of Bana and Gruffudd nearly ruined the superhero movie genre for anyone with an accent, along comes Bale. He already was the guy who took a cult-ish American literary figure — Patrick Bateman in American Psycho — and fooled everyone who forgot about Empire of the Sun into thinking he was American. Then he nailed the part of Batman like he was born and raised in Gotham City.

Did it work?: Hells yeah it did. In what may have been a brilliant move, Bale decided to make his Batman voice sound like a raspy version of James Earl Jones on pot, giving fanboys other reasons to complain about his diction instead of the masking of his remarkably thick Welch accent. English director Christopher Nolan didn’t stop there, either. He took two other American Batman villains and handed them over to foreigners — Ireland’s Cillian Murphy played The Scarecrow in Nolan’s two Batmans and Aussie Heath Ledger played The Joker. Not than anyone complained about either. Geez, come to think about it, how the heck did Aaron Eckhart ever get a role in the franchise? Did he have to say, “Wait, I lived in Australia and Europe for a long time!”

Andrew Garfield as the next Spiderman

Country: England

Summary: TBD. There’s a catch here since Garfield was born in LA and moved to England when he was like 3. But he completely pulled off the American accent in Social Network, so there’s no reason to think he’ll have any problem with a Queens accent. Is there a Queens accent? If there is, Tobey Maguire didn’t have one, so there’s no reason to think Garfield should be expected to have one.

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