5 Bad Movies Fixed By Making The Lead Actors Trade Parts
A movie is announced, and instantly fans around the world begin to dream of the perfect performers for the lead roles. Nine times out of ten, this performer is Benedict Cumberbatch. But even if a film can't lock down the majestic powers of The Benedict and his super-chin, the actors who are chosen often provide a pleasant surprise.
None of the following movies did that. They had the actors right, but in the wrong roles, and it showed in the universal "meh" audiences gave them. These are rare cases of bad movies that could have been fixed with one simple tweak: swapping the lead actors. For instance ...
Planet Of The Apes (2001) -- Mark Wahlberg And Michael Clarke Duncan
In 1968, Planet Of The Apes, which told the story of astronauts crashing on a planet where humans had been reduced to slaves and apes have risen to dominance, was released. It's primarily known for its awesome prosthetics, twist ending, and Charlton Heston breaking the world record for Most Lines Yelled That Didn't Necessarily Have To Be Yelled. And then, in 2001, Tim Burton released a remake that had its own special twist: Mark Wahlberg and Michael Clarke Duncan being put in entirely wrong roles.
As Captain Leo Davidson, Wahlberg hands in a performance that is so wooden it seems to be done out of sheer spite. He openly struggles with displaying the right emotions in the right context, and for a bit, it appears that the ending swerve will have nothing to do with apes and everything to do with the fact that Wahlberg was a ROBOT THE WHOLE TIME. Then there's Michael Clarke Duncan as the gorilla Colonel Attar, who, while intimidating in appearance, quickly turns into a never-ending fountain of exposition and heavy-handed morals. Also, he seems bored with the role, as if to say "Oh, you wanted me to play the giant monster military thing? Of course you would."
How The Switch Would Fix It:
Mark Wahlberg has a voice that sounds like someone put every accent in the greater Boston area into a blender and then sprayed the pulp through a fire hose. In short, it's great. His expressions, on the other hand, especially the ones he needs to pull off in dramatic scenes, leave something to be desired. He has less facial dexterity than a piece of Tupperware, so by all means, we should be trying to hide it under something. And that something is built into the movie. Under the ape prosthetics of Colonel Attar, Wahlberg could focus on his greatest strength, which is snarling at everyone in the room.
This would leave Duncan as the human captain, which is the most "duh" casting decision in history, because Duncan can play any role you need. He can be the toughest guy in the room (Daredevil), he can make you laugh with his stupid antics (Armageddon), and he can turn you into a teary-eyed mess as you witness the persevering humanity behind his imposing stature (The Green Mile). The man was one of the most underrated actors in history, and it's a crime that the creators of the Planet Of The Apes remake saw him and thought "Yeah, he's nothing but a mountain of pecs. He'll be great as an underwhelming ape colonel." Giving him the human role would allow him to flex his considerable dramatic (and muscly) muscles, and it would also give him the chance to wear a loincloth, which is a win for everyone, really.
Face Off -- John Travolta And Nicolas Cage
In Face Off, John Travolta plays FBI Agent Sean Archer and Nicholas Cage plays terrorist Castor Troy, and that's about as far as we get plot-wise before it descends into madness. This madness is kicked off because both men have their faces swapped onto each other's bodies. This results in Travolta playing the bad guy stuck in the good guy's body, and Cage playing the good guy stuck in the bad guy's body.
It goes about as well as that explanation does, and leads to unending cringe as you see actors visibly losing it on screen while trying to figure out what character they're supposed to portray. And rightfully so, because this casting is ass-backward. It should be ass-forward, which I swear would be better than it sounds.
How The Switch Would Fix It:
Let's start by making Travolta the initial villain (Troy), because remember, he's the villain for only about 10 percent of the movie, while in the remaining 90 percent he has to be the good guy while pretending to be the bad guy. That's John Travolta's specialty. He's great at portraying guys who are good-esque. Through classic roles like Danny Zuko in Grease, Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction, and In Need Of A Paycheck John Travolta in Wild Hogs, Travolta has shown us that there's no one better at being a dude whom we're apparently supposed to like.
And with Cage, make him the FBI agent in the first 10 percent of the movie, before letting him off the leash to Cage it up for the last 90 percent. Cage isn't bad as a hero, but no matter how great he's being, I'd still have some questions for him before I let him carry me out of a burning building. Like, "You started this fire because you're crazy, right?" However, he's the king at pulling off full-blown insane expressions, wild proclamations, and terrifyingly broad emotional beats. His role as a terrorist pretending to be an FBI agent would elevate Face Off from its status as a cult '90s movie to a movie that you're required to watch every morning because its as important to your human survival as vitamins or oxygen. This is the power and the glory of Cage.
Spider-Man 3 -- Topher Grace And Thomas Haden Church
After the wonderful Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, everyone thoroughly expected the trilogy to cap off with an instant classic. Instead we got Spider-Man 3, which suffers much of everything. We have three villains vying for screen time in a movie that's built to handle about a third of that. Not only that, but none of the villains are really that memorable, especially not Venom (Topher Grace) or Sandman (Thomas Haden Church). I'm literally getting a headache from remembering this.
Grace can never quite muster the menace that's required of Venom. Instead of coming off as a stronger, borderline unstoppable evil version of Spider-Man, he seems like a dude who would be more comfortable giving J. Jonah Jameson constant wedgies. And Thomas Haden Church just seems downright uncomfortable, as if he's constantly coming to grips with the fact that his role is mostly grunting.
How The Switch Would Fix It:
Venom hardly gets any screen time in the film, so it's important that we at least get to know the guy who becomes him, Eddie Brock. He's a hulking jerk, the physical embodiment of jealousy and anger. I don't mean to diss Church by saying that he looks like five frowns stacked up in a sweatshirt, but ...
Church has the physical presence to pull off Eddie Brock and Venom, and the acting chops to match. He isn't just a jerk in flesh, but can be a jerk in spirit too. Just watch Sideways, that movie about him bullying poor Paul Giamatti in California wine country. That's a guy you absolutely want to see get a spider smackdown.
With Sandman, on the other hand, you need someone who thinks he's hot shit when he's actually kind of an awful dork. Yes, Sandman has some very cool powers. He can make a lot of sandwich puns whenever he wants. That's real power. But thinks he's way cooler than he is. In the first comic book issue that Sandman shows up in, he breaks into a high school classroom and demands a diploma from a teacher. His first issue, and that's his big climax. I know he's fictional and all, but what a loser. Now imagine Eric Foreman doing all of that. No one plays "I'm the world's greatest and most toilet-dunkable threat" like Topher Grace.
Terminator Salvation -- Christian Bale And Sam Worthington
I like to pretend that his movie doesn't exist sometimes. "There can't be a movie more heartless about robots than this," I thought after watching 2007's Transformers. There was seemingly no way to make a movie about robots that got both robots and humans so desperately, tragically wrong. But destiny likes to hear you declare things like that and then release Terminator: Salvation, a movie that picks up the immense legacy of the Terminator franchise and tosses it screaming off a bridge.
In particular, I have a bone to pick with Christian Bale as John Conner. His performance is a Frankenstein monster of every recycled action movie trope that's been invented in the last four decades, and it's such a letdown to see Bale reduced to Diet John Wayne. As for Sam Worthington, who plays the Terminator/human hybrid Marcus Wright, I was actually okay with his performance, but it felt amazingly limited, as if someone was shouting "STOP IT, SAM" offscreen every time he tried to show emotion.
How The Switch Would Fix It:
Bale was not made for this role, and I don't care how in-demand of an action star he was at the time. What made his performance in the Dark Knight films so great was that he mixed intense pathos with the requisite criminal punching. That means that rather than playing the "GO! GO! GO!" John Conner, he'd be much better off crushing it as Marcus Wright. He's a thoughtful action star who would give the role some much-needed depth. He's a human coming to terms with the fact that he's actually a Terminator Man. This would cause anyone to break out the diary and start toying with some intense poetry. And there is no one better than Bale at poetic punching.
As I mentioned before, Worthington's performance was fine, but felt limited, despite him arguably getting more screen time than Bale. So let's put him in the role of John Connor, because Sam Worthington was born to give commands and kick ass. He came out of the womb screaming for his troops, and he became a natural at rallying people in his roles in Macbeth and Avatar. What we don't need is Bale trying to awkwardly command people around while forcibly cramming in internal tragedy and nuance. We need Worthington, who will take charge, and look good doing it.
Batman Forever -- Tommy Lee Jones And Jim Carrey
When Michael Keaton says no to your movie but yes to Jack Frost, in which he plays a dad who gets turned into a talking snowman, you know that your movie has some problems. And the movie that we're currently talking about is Batman Forever, which works poorly as a Batman film, but really well as a way to tell your kids that you want them out of your life without actually having to say the words.
Personally, I blame a lot of Forever's failure on Tommy Lee Jones' bizarre performance as Two-Face and Jim Carrey's turn as the Riddler. To say that these roles lack subtlety is like saying that a dog turd might not make for a good Christmas present. Every line is shouted as loudly as possible, as if Carrey and Jones are trying to alert authorities that they've been trapped in some madman's Batman set dungeon. And what's worse, the lines are being shouted by the wrong people.
How The Switch Would Fix It:
Jones only played Two-Face because it was his son's favorite character, and that fact is blatantly obvious when you watch his performance. There is no depth to the Two-Face in Batman Forever. He's simply there to play with his coin and flip between two different voices. On the other hand, the Riddler is a role that he could actually sink his teeth into. The Riddler is a man that believes himself to be smarter than everyone in the world, but is crippled by the fact that he can't get on with a plan without first hinting to Batman about how he could be caught. Now picture that kind of personality, but dripping with Jones' sense of menace, and add in a dash of his Southern colloquialisms. Also, when you picture this, I prefer that you do so without the skintight green jumpsuit. It really, really, really helps.
As for Carrey, he's a master at the manic performance that Two-Face would require. Carrey is not that bad of a dramatic actor either, so it's not like he couldn't pull off all of the tragic gravitas that comes when Gotham's beloved DA Harvey Dent is hideously and irrevocably scarred. Switching between two personalities on a dime (pun intended) is Carrey's thing, and no one does it better. Not to mention he's much closer to the age of the Val Kilmer, who played Batman in Forever. Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent being friends and being around the same age helps add to the immense loss that occurs when Harvey turns evil, as seen in The Dark Knight.
I can't imagine Jones being friends with anyone, much less Kilmer's Bruce Wayne. To make Dent a sympathetic character, you need to cast an actor whom you can at least pretend people would want to hang out with. Jim Carrey's Harvey Dent could be that, while it's hard to imagine that Tommy Lee Jones has more daily personal contact than yelling at teenagers to stop riding their scooters so close to his garden.
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