Nerds have had a bad track record with criticizing casting in superhero movies. We tend to jump to judgment if the choice of actor isn’t exactly what we expected. We got mad about Mark Ruffalo being the Hulk instead of Edward Norton, concerned the former wouldn’t be able to be as intense, or brood as well as Norton’s Banner. We got mad about Michael Keaton, who was at the time mostly known as a comedian in movies like Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice, taking on the Dark Knight. Most notably, we got mad about the-then unimpressive Heath Ledger taking over what was arguably the most interesting comic book role in history. We have been wrong many times before…but still whenever a decision is made that you think might really be a Mr. Freeze-sized mistake, you can’t help but mention it. And I really don’t understand this Aquaman casting.
To bring everyone up to speed, Jason Momoa was recently cast as Aquaman in Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Jason was most notably Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones. He also played Conan the Barbarian in the 2011 reboot. He looks like this.
Now this rumor had been spreading for a while. When asked, even Jason himself said that he didn’t know anything and questioned whether or not he would be the right actor for the part. Even Jimmy Kimmel, made some jokes about how the casting was strange and he did it while interviewing Momoa. (Jimmy is a brave man). But now many people are having that same thought. And before you write this off with “Oh he’s just playing Aquaman. The real bad casting choices are Bat-fleck and Lex Zuckerberg,” think about all of the other actors that have played those characters in recent blockbusters. We have had three Luthors (if you count Smallville) and five Batmen (if you count Adam West and The Lego Movie). We have never had a big-screen Aquaman. They have to get this right.
Now obviously if DC got their act together, they could cast Ryan Gosling tomorrow and he would be a perfect Aquaman. That still, however leaves one big question. What do you do with Jason Momoa? He already signed a contract. He has to play someone. Well rest assured. We have gotten a list together of yet-unaccounted-for DC characters that would be a far better fit for Jason today’s Daily List.
6. Martian Manhunter
Let’s start here, since this was one of the other rumors that was floating around concerning Momoa. In December of 2013, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Momoa had been cast in Batman vs. Superman. A source who spoke with THR gave them two possible characters he might play. One makes more sense in the context of this larger Justice League universe. The other would just be silly (we’ll get to it) but would still probably work way better than Aquaman. The first character they suggested was the Martian Manhunter.
There are a couple of reasons I think this casting makes sense. The first is that Martian Manhunter almost always has no shirt on. Momoa is built like a tank. He wore as little shirts as possible during his GoT run, and the same held true in Conan. Aquaman is a character that, in every major costume except for one, wears some kind of orange shirt. Why cast someone with abs like that and cover them up?
What really sells me, though, on Momoa as Manhunter is the forehead. Manhunter doesn’t have a ton of recognizable features besides green skin and red eyes but he does have a big forehead with a really defined eyebrow area. It protrudes. Momoa’s forehead has the same protrusion. It’s something you really don’t see in a lot of actors. Granted it would be five dollars of simple prosthetics to achieve this look on anyone, but why waste that money?
This one is a no-brainer. Most people know Lobo as the rude bounty hunting dude who everyone loves. Even Stan Lee admitted that Lobo was his favorite DC character. Putting him in the movie may be a reach considering he isn’t a member of the Justice League and they have enough classic characters to get to, but who knows? Maybe DC will get a wild hair up their ass and put in a character that the fans love and trust that the movie audience will love him too. And DC is in luck because they have the perfect actor to do it.
Jason Momoa could not be more prepared for this role. (Lobo is another character that usually doesn’t wear a shirt). He has the same hairstyle as Momoa is known for and wore as Ronon Dex on Stargate: Atlantis. Heck, if Lobo didn’t have that chalk white skin, I would assume Momoa could just roll out of bed and onto set. Lobo is also known for riding his motorcycle and is one of the few DC characters that does so. While Momoa isn’t well known for riding a steel horse, his character Khal Drogo did ride a regular horse constantly. It would work.
Hawkman is an interesting character because, unlike Lobo, he has history on his side. Hawkman was a founder of the Justice Society of America, which predated the Justice League by twenty years. He was also a member of the Justice League in comics. He was one of the only characters who was introduced in the later seasons of Smallville that ended up looking and acting way better that we expected. Most importantly, his female counterpart Hawkgirl is familiar to viewers of the hit Justice League and Justice league Unlimited cartoons. And the character is incredibly easy to work into a story since there are so many versions of Hawkman that exist, but very few hardcore fans who would get mad if DC chose the wrong one. It could be an easy transition to make for the character.
Hawkman and Jason Momoa are basically the same guy. (Yep, they both don’t wear shirts). Hawkman traditionally follows some sort of Egyptian mythology and Momoa, as the most recent Conan the Barbarian, wouldn’t be out of place in that world. Hawkman prefers to fight with traditional weapons like swords, maces, and axes, and most folks know that Momoa has played characters that fight primarily with swords – but people forget that in Bullet to the Head he fought Sylvester Stallone with an axe, so he already has that covered too. He would just have to pick up fighting with a metal mace, and how hard could that be?
Alright, so do you remember that article from earlier that outed Martian Manhunter as a possible role? Remember how it had another role in mind? That other role was Doomsday. Fans of Superman know Doomsday from that thing that they have been trying desperately to forget about for twenty two years. He was brought in as the antagonist in the biggest publicity stunt in comic book history. In the Death of Superman series, he killed Supes by punching him really, really hard. It was awful. Doomsday could, however, be a good foil for Superman in an upcoming movie. While it might not make sense to put him in this upcoming movie, he would be a sensible villain in the Man of Steel sequel so why not tease him here?
Right off the bat, no shirt. He has never ever worn one by choice. Doomsday is a giant, insanely muscular creature. He was born and bred specifically to be an unstoppable killing machine. If you want to get a big giant guy in Hollywood, you don’t have many options. There are pro-wrestlers, but Batista has that Marvel tag on him. The Rock is likely also involved with the movie so may be playing Doomsday already. But if Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is already playing someone like Shazam or Black Adam (since he said he would seven years ago), the Doomsday spot may still be open. From what we’ve seen fromGame of Thrones, Momoa can play a rage-filled killing machine like a champion. His physique and acting abilities can even make the character more multi-dimensional for the big screen. (If they wantedThey could also just spray paint him silver and throw Hulk Hands on him, like in this video). It’s up to them.
This would be a longshot but let’s look at the facts. The conflict with Darkseid is clearly what the DC movie universe is building to. The Justice League cartoon did a really good job setting up Darkseid as the ultimate evil in the DC Universe. While he might not fight them for a while, it is really hard to imagine that the first Justice League movie won’t end with at least a similar-feeling, post-credits scene ending with Darkseid turning and smiling. It maps so well from Marvel to DC that Desaad can even have most of the lines that the quivering Chitauri leader had and it would work just fine. Someone will have to play him and DC missed their opportunity with Brolin, so why not have him look a little younger?
Obviously there are some things standing between Jason Momoa and the role of Darkseid. The big one is the shirt. Darkseid always wears one. It’s like he’s obsessed with them. On a positive note, he isn’t a big fan of sleeves, so you still get full access to the gun show. The other big negative is that Darkseid would be, like Thanos, mostly CGI so they could get ANY actor to play him. Next year we could talk about how crazy it is that Robin Williams is going to be the ruler of Apokolips. Who knows? Although I would say that the smart money is on the next and last possible character.
1. Vandal Savage
I know, right? I am not sure that this hasn’t been the plan all along. Hell, Jason and the good folks over at Warner Brothers were lying about him not being Aquaman. So why not lie a little further to throw everyone off of the truth so that they can do something truly brilliant? I have learned to not believe a thing a studio says about the casting and content of the movie until I am seeing it. For another year or so, how about we all live in a fantasy world where this if how the casting ultimately went down?
Vandal Savage is one of a million different aliases adopted by a super-powered caveman. Thousands of years ago, Vandal was hit with radiation from a meteor that gave him the ability to live forever. His mind was also altered so that he was able to evolve faster and learn at a rate that far outpaced his fellow cavemen. Eventually he took over and ruled all of humanity. He existed throughout history and ruled with aliases like Alexander the Great, Cheops, Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar, Blackbeard, and…wait for it…Cain. That’s right. Vandal Savage was the original murderer. In the comics he has proven a formidable foe for not only Superman but the entire League. In the animated series, he went back in time to win World War II. In a recent cartoon movie, he assembled the Legion of Doom and attempted to destroy humanity with a solar flare. He could be a great character to unite the League before sending them to fight bigger foes like Brainiac or Darkseid. And the best part is, he looks just like Jason Momoa.
I am not kidding here. Forget about shirts and CGI. Jason Momoa could be Vandal Savage for Halloween by dressing like Sebastian Shaw and trying his hair into a ponytail. It just really works. Savage is also formidably strong. You wouldn’t be wasting Momoa’s physique. His experience as Drogo and Conan would really add to the character of an essentially immortal caveman.
DC, it is never too late to admit you have made a mistake. Take everything back to square one. Call Ryan Gosling right now. Aquaman is supposed to be the king of a highly advanced underwater civilization. His barrier of entry, much like Thor, is our land dwelling customs. He is literally a fish out of water. That kind of subtlety is hard. Not knocking Momoa, but Justice League doesn’t have to treat Aquaman like just another barbarian bad-ass. If you don’t make these changes, DC, the character of Aquaman will be lost to a generation of young fans and Justice League movie will be a colossal disappointment to legions of older fans who have been waiting for this all of their lives. The very foundation of comic book nerd society will crumble. Or it might not. We’ve been wrong before.
Previously by Matthew Nando Kelly: