Spanish born actor Javier Bardem wins Best Supporting Actor at the 2007 Academy Awards for his role in The Coen Brother's film, No Country For Old Men. A relative unknown to American audiences, Bardem's performance is truly what movie attendees remember most about a film that "cleaned up" at the Oscars, also winning for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director(s), & the big one...Best Picture.
There is an Oscar for just about everything these days. However there is one absolutely critical component that is criminally undervalued in the entertainment industry: casting.
When you think about it, casting is often make or break for a film or television series. If Bardem didn't come across as the epitome of unstoppable evil with a dash of charm and finesse, would the film have been held in such esteem? Conversely we can look at the DC Extended Universe where I believe most of the issues have been with the casting of each project. Sure, hindsight is 20/20, but did anyone other than the casting director think Jesse Eisenberg was right for Lex Luthor? Of course studios and filmmakers should take risks. Admittedly, when I heard that the unproven Gal Gadot was awarded the part of one of my personal favorite super heroines, Wonder Woman, I was extremely skeptical. Although not perfect, Wonder Woman is easily the best film to come out of this disjointed collection of bad decisions.
We now live in a time where franchises rule the box office and streaming services. The king of the jungle being the Marvel Comics Universe. When I was younger I never dreamt I'd see a competent adaptation of the X-Men let alone Ant-Man! Hell, even the most obscure characters like Cloak & Dagger have received syndication. Best selling authors like Stephan King are on round two and three of adaptions. Nostalgia is also key. Shows like Stranger Things and films like King's IT are the new hotness for soda and popcorn intake. Even Archie and Jughead have been resurrected to spotlight on the small screen for an entirely new generation of young teens.
So why hasn't Magic the Gathering gotten it's due? It's the most popular CCG of all time, and an entire industry unto itself.
Let's flash back four years ago. In 2014, it was announced that film rights were acquired by 20th Century Fox and that Game of Thrones Producer and story writer, Bryan Cogman had signed on to write the script. WOTC put together a group of four members of the R&D team which includes Creative Lead Doug Beyer and Head of Design, Mark Rosewater to ensure that the upcoming franchise would stay true to the brand. Mum's been the word so far and many fear for the future and health of the project. "Development Hell" as we in the industry say. Even the state of the studio, which is in the process of to selling to the all mighty Mouse, is as fluid as a
Blue Elemental Blast.
Will we ever get our legendary creatures and/or Planeswalkers at the box office? I'm still a foolish optimistic and say yes. It would be a lot of money to leave on the table for studios who are always looking for the next big cash cow. If it did finally happen which one of Magic's rich history of story lines would they choose? And will it be good? That's an entirely different story. This is where casting comes back into play.
Let's pretend we have free reign to cast
Burning Wish and play Casting Director targeting the MTG Movie. And since I'm casting the picture, I'm also going to pick the storyline I want to see as the stepping off point for the franchise.
The Weatherlight Saga
This one's for us old timers. The story would revolve around the most classic and cherished of all of Magic's plot lines. The tale of the
Skyship Weatherlight and her crew are on a mission to the hostile plane of Rath to rescue the ship's captain, Sissay.
In the role of
Gerrard Capashen (Weatherlight's Interim Captain) you want a Han Solo type. A charming rogue. My brain immediately goes to Alden Ehrenreich because of his role as the nerf herder. But after seeing his Solo performance...no thanks. I think another Star Wars alum is the answer here. Poe Dameron gets the nod here. The role should be awarded to Oscar Isaac.
Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist is the Cat-Warrior best friend and shipmate to Gerrard. She would have to be played by a very athletic female in a motion capture suit. The real story is who could provide the voice for the strong femme feline fatal? Personally I would love to hear trained pros like Tara Strong or Grey DeLisle. But this is a franchise!!! So we'll go with a woman with a distinct voice, who puts butts in seats with that right amount of sass: Jennifer Lawrence.
Crovax the Cursed
Crovax the Cursed is an aristocrat who becomes the central villain. This one's tricky. There are more than a dozen stellar African-American actors working in film today and we are all better off for it. The fan boy in me goes right to Micheal B. Jordan, Donald Glover, or Daniel Kaluuya. But I'm throwing you all a curve ball on this one with my choice of Sterling K. Brown. Haven't heard of him? You will soon enough. Sterling is perhaps best know for his starring role in hit drama sitcom This Is Us. But is an up and comer with more current film credits in Black Panther & The Predator. I think his cool and calm demeanor could lend to a very solemn and noble vampire.
Hanna, Ship's Navigator is not just the Captain's love interest. Hanna has one of the most interesting and tragic storylines in all the Weatherlight Saga. She is stoic, caring, brilliant, sexy, and a total badass to boot. So who could pull this off? Bryce Dallas Howard? No...too stoic. Scar Jo? Nah...too Scar Jo...ish. Fine, I'll go with the obvious choice here. Brie Larson.
Squee, Goblin Nabob. ANDY SERKIS, ANDY SERKIS, ANDY SERKIS!!!
Did I mention ANDY SERKIS?
Karn, Silver Golem also probably needs to be an entirely CGI character. Liam Neason was always Karn's voice in my head ever since reading the Rath and Storm novel. But is that the right call? Tom Hardy can do accents but that seems like a waste due to it being a voice only role. Cumberbatch? I think we are warmer here but maybe a little too obvious. I've got it! This actor is never too busy these days and has proven he can steel the hearts of movie goers with just three simple lines...I Am Groot. Vin Diesel is the pick!
Orim, Tahngarth, and Volrath
Of course there are other supporting characters in this ensemble.
Orim, Samite Healer could be played by the ultra talented Rooney Mara.
Tahngarth, Talruum Hero is where we could slot in Hardy or even Dave Batista (can you tell I like Guardians of the Galaxy?). And of course the cad of the picture, Volrath, Evincar of Rath needs to be played by an actor who is intimidating, cunning, and sly. I would actually like to see a villain role from James McAvoy here. He seems he has that type of range to bring our hero's evil step brother to life.
Last but certainly not least is my favorite member of the crew,
Ertai, Wizard Adept. I seriously don't even know where to start with this casting. If you followed the lore from Weatherlight through Apocalypse expansion sets then you know what a roller-coaster of a story arc Erati goes through. If I could make Leonardo DiCaprio twentysomething again this would be a no brainier. But the wishes in my deck only allow me to pull actors from this time period. To the furnace with the rules!
You may be thinking Jared Leto needs a redemption story after he was forced to ruin the greatest villain of all time. But I say no! No one puts the Clown Prince of Crime in the basement! For want of a time machine, I'm going to go with Cillian Murphy. He pulled off a very underrated Scare Crow in the Nolan Bat-Man films and has a history of playing morally gray roles.
If a Magic the Gathering movie finally comes to fruition I believe its success, and whether inevitable sequels get made will come down to how well it's cast. Fans have more established movie franchises to fall back on and will leave at the first sign of incompetency. Ask Henry Cavill.
Sorry, too soon?
ATTENTION! This is Hasbro! You will make a movie about The Gatewatch! Market research shows that the kids like Planeswalkers!
Somehow I knew that was going to happen. Sigh. Fine.
Magic the Gathering: The Movie: Rise of The Gatewatch###
Morgan Freeman as Ugin the Spirit Dragon
Geoffrey Rush as Nicole Bolas
All My Elsewheres
If you want to hear me talk about more Magic the Gathering I host a couple YouTube shows called The Hive Mind and Tin Street Hooligans (with Coach from the Card Bazaar, Zuby from Magic with Zuby, & Johnny Slivers writer for Cardsphere.com) on the They Said, We Said channel.
If you want to hear my talk about movies fear not! Much to my wife and children's dismay I also host film talk style video podcasts, Director's Cut (with Jason Alt from Brainstorm Brewery), Reel Actors, & YouTOONS (with Kody Smith from Fishin: A Merfolk Podcast) on that very same station.
So until next time, I'll see you out there in the Multiverse.