4 Supporting Characters That Deserve Their Own Movies
When was the last time you saw a movie with a totally kick-ass supporting character who completely overshadowed the lead? That's a trick question; tons of movies are like that. The function of most supporting characters is to balance out the overall experience by being just that little bit weirder / wackier / creepier / more normal than audiences are prepared to accept from the protagonist. Often, moving these characters front and center takes away from the overall experience (see: Captain Jack Sparrow). However, as I've argued before, there are a fair few characters who have practically no chance at all to ever feature in a movie of their own, despite the fact that they could totally carry one.
Want examples? Because man, do I have examples.
Gunner Jensen From the Expendables Series
When The Expendables hit movie screens, tons of my friends were surprised at the amount of screen time devoted to Dolph Lundgren's character, psychotic drug addict / sniper / knife enthusiast Gunner Jensen. To me, this wasn't a huge surprise, because I already suspected that Lundgren would easily stand out against the frankly limited acting chops of the rest of the cast. Dude can be pretty versatile, is what I'm saying:
Yes, that's four minutes of Ivan Drago singing A Little Less Conversation, dancing, playing the drums, and karate-breaking shit, and yes, you're welcome.
In fact, Lundgren's relatively low ranking in the pantheon of action heroes has always baffled me. He's been in tons of movies, but between Rocky IV and The Expendables, the vast majority of his films struggled to reach even C-movie status. Sure, his roles as Ivan Drago and He-Man give him enough 1980s cred to belong in the list of great old-school action men, but his actual legacy train seems to have stopped somewhere between Seagal Junction and Post-1990s Van Dammetown. This is despite the fact that the man is the closest thing to a real life action hero the scene has -- a Scandinavian giant whose mere picture can make criminals run for their lives, and who once legitimately punched Sylvester Stallone in the heart so hard that the man was hospitalized. Dolph Lundgren the real person did with one punch what Ivan Drago the fictional fist-god couldn't do with a thousand.
Even today, Stallone only attacks him from behind to play it safe.
Part of this is probably because after you establish yourself as the "I must crush you" guy and He-Man, there are precious few types of roles you get offered. Lundgren has spent the vast majority of his career as a stoic murder machine who lacks any defining traits (things like Seagal's kitch factor, Van Damme's splits and spin-kicks, Stallone's trademark scowl, etc.). With Gunner Jensen, he's finally gained a character with characteristics beyond "big, fights people, generally docile until--." Jensen is basically Rambo, if Rambo was your drunk uncle and kind of a shithead, and Lundgren is playing him with gusto. That's a genuinely interesting character, one I'd very much like to see in a standalone movie.
So, Mr. Stallone, if you're reading (and why wouldn't you be?): man, you've had a great run, but you can't keep starring in movies forever. You're pushing 70, while Lundgren is still a relatively spry 57. So why not move behind the camera and break the world's brain with a Gunner Jensen movie? Just give him a gritty mission where he has to drunkenly stumble his way to, say, Hong Kong, while battling a criminal syndicate (or law enforcement agency, for that matter) led by Tony Jaa and Michael Dudikoff, and we're all. Fucking. Set.
J. Jonah Jameson From the Original Spider-Man Trilogy
Dear reader of Spider-Man comics: before Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man movie came out in 2002, would you for a second have believed that J.Jonah Jameson could be a sympathetic character? This Hitler-mustachioed borderline sociopath has generally been portrayed as a petty motherfucker of the highest order. And thanks to his position as the editor-in-chief / publisher of The Daily Bugle, he's arguably one of Spidey's most enduring foes, being responsible for two of his most traditional troubles: poverty and negative public opinion. Incidentally, those are also foes he can't just punch until they go away. Rhino ain't got shit on Jameson; he's killing Spider-Man slowly with stress.
And then came the movie, and suddenly J.J.J. was seven kinds of awesome. He was still a dick, sure enough, but he was now a dick portrayed by J. K. Simmons:
Even YouTube commenters can't find anything bad to say about him.
Personally, I view Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson as one of the best comic book casting decisions ever, comparable to jackpots like Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark. Can you spot the difference between the two? That's right, Downey compromises his mustache with a goatee. Also, with a multi-picture deal worth tens of millions of dollars. I get that there are fundamental differences in the roles. Movies about a billionaire with a garage full of robot suits tend to draw more asses to seats than ones about a Nazi-faced publisher screaming bullshit at his subordinates. But that doesn't mean a character as juicy as Simmons' J.J.J. should remain in the sidelines forever.
Jameson's history in comic books is long and storied. As a young journalist, he was there to witness the rise of superheroes as we know them. He was a war correspondent during World War II, putting his neck out there with the Howling Commandos (yeah, the guys Captain America fought with back in the day). There's the family tragedy that drove him to focus on his career. There are heart attacks. There are seemingly weekly clashes with various superpowered individuals, in no small part thanks to his tendency to slander them. Oh, and at one point he was the freaking mayor of New York City.
I haven't read that arc, but I'm imagining he spent most of his tenure looking like this.
Look me in the eye, Hollywood, and tell me you can't churn out a decent script out of those ingredients. I don't really care what direction you take. Political satire? Sure. A Marvels-style historical arc where a regular dude attempts to cope with the emergence of superheroes and his skepticism about their true merits? Even better! Simmons walking down 5th Avenue in costume and swearing at random people for two hours? Baby, you just described my dream movie.
Lord Humungus From Mad Max 2
Lord Humungus, the original Ayatollah of Rock'n'Rollah and innovator of post-apocalyptic hockey mask / leather underwear fashion, looks like he's one of those characters whom the hero is supposed to dispose of by the second action scene of the script. Yet despite his penchant for gimp wear (or maybe because of it), he manages to be arguably the most articulate and quotable character of Mad Max 2. Granted, his competition on the field consists of mohawked maniacs, flying comic relief characters, and Mel Gibson, but this doesn't take away from the fact that this facially-challenged, maniac-commanding muscle man is a pretty damn interesting character. The movie only manages to scratch his surface, too. Let's look a little bit closer:
What, did you think we were going to zoom at his crotch or something? You'll need to Google search that shit for yourself.
That's Humungus' badass Smith & Wesson Model 29, the weapon he whips out when he's all out of three-pronged spears to impale people with. Say, did you ever pay attention to the case he took it from?
That's ... surprisingly sophisticated for a massive bodybuilder who commands a homoerotic bondage horde in a post-apocalyptic desert, isn't it? Just keeping the sand out of that box must take the kind of effort you'd assume wasn't a priority for a man fighting for his survival in a world he opts to see through a fucking goalie mask. And then you start noticing the little things. Namely, the various medals and military insignia, and the old World-War-I-era photograph he keeps in his precious gun case. These belongings are clearly dear to him -- otherwise, why would he keep them with his single most valuable, well-maintained weapon? Combine that mystery with the fact that when Humungus arrives on the scene, he's initially surprisingly amiable for an apocalypse warlord. All he wants is a settler group's oil refinery so he can keep his fleet going, and he's perfectly willing to let the settlers go as long as they don't try any shenanigans. It's only several shenanigans later that he says "fuck it" and tries to kill everyone.
But is Humungus truly a villain? Certainly, as far as the events of Mad Max 2 go. Then again, he's living in a definite kill-or-be-killed environment where the first instinct of even the most unassuming Gyro Captain is to try and murder you with snakes. What's more, he's in charge of a large group of people whose survival is totally dependent on gasoline. Take that into account, and the dude is downright courteous, going as far as forbidding his crew to slaughter the settlers without giving them an opportunity to surrender first.
Had Max challenged him to a dance-off, he probably would have accepted.
Look, I'mma call it right now: Humungus is not a bad guy. He's a hard guy, certainly (you'd have to be with that dress sense), and a guy who is unafraid to kill if necessary. But take the little hints of a surprisingly complex backstory the movie gives him, flesh them out in the right, suitably tragic direction, and Humungus is essentially a more heroic version of Bane in a Masters of the Universe uniform. Tell me you wouldn't watch, say, an origin movie of that character.
However, while we're speaking of Bane, the casting of this potential movie would a bit of a problem. The only guy I trust to play muscle-bound masked freaks with brains is, of course, Tom Hardy -- who, as you probably know, is already playing the role of none other than "Mad" Max Rockatansky in the upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road. Then again, since he's already attached to the franchise ... you know what? Just make the next Mad Max movie all about The Humungus and have Hardy play that role, too. Then these two fully rounded, fully Hardied characters can clash in the inevitable third installment, and we'll finally see who's the boss.
(Hint: this time, it sure as shit isn't going to be Max.)
Lando Calrissian From Star Trek
Yeah yeah, I know. He's really a Doctor Who character.
Now that the rabid fanboys are in the comments section screaming that I'm a dickless idiot for mixing Lando with Geordi LaForge or whatever, let's attempt to do the impossible and have a civilized talk about Star Wars. As everyone and their gerbil knows, the franchise has a bit of a buzz going at the moment, and the world is busy arguing about when the first spinoffs will emerge, and who will star in them. There are several popular options, of course, and from what I can tell, the current ringleaders are Han Solo and the always bafflingly popular Boba Fett.
My civilized and reasonable opinion: screw Boba Fett. Dude's utterly useless. He's a fancy spacesuit filled with a black hole's worth of suck, which is kind of strange, considering he's the clone-son of a guy who once managed to hold his own against a Jedi.
Of course, daddy's other Jedi battle was ... less successful.
I'm not too into a Han Solo movie, either. He's a cool enough character, but unless J.J. Abrams pulls some serious aces from his sleeve, Han's Hero's Journey is pretty much done. His future appearances are likely limited to relatively minor mentor roles, and maybe getting to fly the Millennium Falcon a bit in some inevitable climactic battle. Also, much like Indiana Jones, he's too dependent on Harrison Ford being all charming and youthful, and we all know what happened to the latter when they tried to dig him up in his advanced age. "But what about recasting the character?" you ask. Sure, they could do that, but why tread muddy water when you have a whole damn universe to explore? It's not like Solo will ever have an adventure that surpasses the ones he had between 1977 and 1983.
But you know who might? Yep, Lando Calrissian, that's who. His name rarely emerges when talking about these things, which is a shame, because he's the exact thing that would benefit the franchise. Think about it: Lando is basically Han, only we know jack shit about his adventures. Expanded universe aside, this is what we know about him: Calrissian is the baron administrator of Cloud City, is an old friend of Solo, and has no problem betraying him when the Empire comes calling. But he eventually proves to be a jerk with a heart of gold, saves people, rises to the rank of a Rebel general, and kicks the second Death Star's ass. But where did he come from? How did he acquire control of Cloud City? How come he's able to pull stunts like that? And, above all, how does he accomplish all that while being so goddamn suave?
Billy Dee Williams, that's how.
Here we have a clearly Han-Solo-type, charismatic, and shady-in-just-the-right-way character who is virtually a blank slate, apart from being well-known and cool as hell. Recasting shouldn't hurt if it's done well. Plot-wise, literally anything's possible. All in all, if you're going to picket for one character in the existing Star Wars cinematic universe to get his own movie, I can't for the life of me think of anyone better.
So now that I've said this out loud, expect them to announce a trilogy of Jar-Jar Binks standalone movies within a month.
For more from Pauli, check out 4 Deadly Weapons Clearly Designed by a Cartoon Character and 4 Famous Mysteries With Really Obvious Answers.
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