comic book movies

Do Comic Book Films Need Big A-list Names?

comic book movie actorsSo with the recent casting announcement of the Suicide Squad film, I got to thinking about how important it is to cast big name actors in comic book movies. Does WB need to cast actors like Will Smith and Tom Hardy to get people to see Suicide Squad? Does Marvel need to get someone like Joaquin Phoenix or Benedict Cumberbatch to play Doctor Strange so that people are actually interested? Let’s discuss the importance of famous actors in comic book movies.

So let’s start this discussion with the Suicide Squad cast. So the names include Will Smith, Tom Hardy, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Jai Courtney and Cara Delevingne. So pretty much everyone knows who Will Smith is. Tom Hardy is increasingly becoming a bigger name. Jared Leto is a famous actor and rock star. Margot Robbie has been catching a lot of attention since Wolf of Wall Street. Jai Courtney seems to be in every second large movie franchise there is. And Cara Delevinge may not be known for her acting, but as a model, she has a hugeeeee following. So it’s safe to say these are all pretty recognizable names and faces. So the question is, is this what WB had to do to get people interested in seeing Suicide Squad?

official suicide squad cast

DC isn’t Marvel. DC doesn’t have the brand equity that Marvel has in their film universe yet. Your average moviegoer will see a movie about characters they have never heard about, and see that’s it’s a Marvel film, and they get excited. The same can’t be said with DC yet. And I’m sure WB knows this. But looking at the state of film now, are the majority of people going to say “Oh Will Smith is in that? Now I have to see it!”. Doubtful. Will Smith may still be a big name, but he doesn’t sell the way he used to. Not many actors do anymore. However I’m sure that pulling all these big names in the one film will help the Suicide Squad movie.

When it was announced there was going to be a Tetris movie (urghh yep) a person at the studio said that brands are the new celebrities now when it comes to film. And that is true. Going back to the Marvel example, Marvel is a brand that sells. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling a talking raccoon and tree, if that Marvel brand is slapped on it, people are going to be at least interested. So at this point you have to question how important it is for Marvel to cast big names in their movies.

comic book movie actors

Let’s talk about Robert Downey Jr. He’s a pretty big name right? So that whole thing I was saying about brands being bigger than celebrities doesn’t really work in his case right? Well not necessarily. Yeah Marvel will pay him $75 million to be in their movie, because they need him. But that’s because of the Iron Man brand, not because of Robert Downey Jr. Robert Downey Junior is Iron Man, people love that, people love him as Iron Man. But what about Robert Downey Jr as not Iron Man? That love isn’t there as much. Just look at his recent film ‘The Judge’. That movie only made $75 million worldwide (funnily enough the same amount as his salary on The Avengers) on a $50 million budget. So the film most likely made a loss after including other expenses such as marketing. His name alone couldn’t sell that movie. His name along with the words Iron Man can sell a movie. Robert Downey Jr has become one with the Iron Man brand in the film universe, his name alone doesn’t have the power it does with the Iron Man brand as well. 

But obviously these studios understand that these brands are bigger than the actors. Henry Cavill was a relatively unknown name before he became Superman. The brand of Superman should be able to sell itself regardless of the name of the actor playing him. Gal Gadot is also a relatively unknown name. The brand of Wonder Woman is so recognizable that they must not believe they need a big name to carry it. But then in saying that they also got Ben Affleck to play Batman. But I believe that has less to do with the name recognition he brings, and more to do with the other stuff he brings (e.g. his Oscar winning writer, and his amazing directing skills).

comic book movie actors

Right now Marvel is in more of a position to let their brand sell for them. I don’t think they need to chase a big name like Joaquin Phoenix or Benedict Cumberbatch for Doctor Strange. Sure the character is pretty unknown, but the Marvel brand is so big now, I think many people will go see the film just because it’s a Marvel movie anyways. WB/DC is hoping the same thing happens with them. Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, these aren’t A-list names, yet they will be carrying their own films for DC/WB. If Batman v Superman is good and Suicide Squad is good, DC will have a much better brand equity in the market. So that when people see a trailer for a movie about a character they don’t know, played by an actor they don’t know, but see that DC logo, they’ll be a lot more interested in going to see it.

Overall I don’t think it’s necessary for Marvel to cast big name actors, but if they’re the best for the role then go for it! I understand WB getting big names for Suicide Squad. The brands of Marvel and DC may have selling power, but superheroes in general do as well. Suicide Squad aren’t superheroes, so people may not be as enthusiastic for it. So they must thought they needed names like Will Smith.

Anyways what do you think? Do you think that the brands are bigger than the actor names? Do comic book films need A-list names to carry them? Let me know!

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Categories: comic book movies

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14 replies »

  1. I love what you’re getting at here, but Marvel, I think, tries to get the higher, and more well known actors as a crossing point for those who aren’t already interested in the Marvel name. If you want your significant other, for example to go to a certain Hero-genre film, the likelihood of that happening is much greater when an actor/actress they know are in the Film. The longtime fans however, will always run and jump to any film (Marvel or DC) regardless of the star. Good post, and wonderful points !

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s true, I’m sure at the end of the day they would rather get a bigger name. But the Marvel brand name already is a huge selling point for them.
      And thanks! 🙂

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  2. People usual try to get big A listers for unknown movies like Guardians Suicide Squad but for more well known characters like Spiderman Superman Batman Etc They do that to attract people to an Unknown Property

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  3. Hey Girl,

    Couple quick points.
    1. Comic movies need a combination of things to be successful and big stars can be a variable in that equation. That “raccoon and tree” you mention are voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel. Two A list actors.
    2. Comic movies can be a part of the A list actors equation. These films are hot and can highlight or resurrect a career.
    3. Brands are solid, but sometimes they can be shored up even more with top gear talent. This new cast will help make Suicide Squad amazing, I’m confident.
    Gotta go. Can’t wait to read the next post.
    Cheers

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    • That is true, but at the same time bradley cooper and vin diesel weren’t really the selling points of the film marketing wise, but at the end of the day they did go with big names for those roles
      And I definitely think that especially for someone like Will Smith he needs Suicide Squad just as much
      Thanks for the read 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh i agree. I have loved Will Smith since his early hip hop act, but his latest few movies have been in decline and so a comic film may just be the remedy. I expected him to go for a role like John Stewart or J’onn J’onzz but if he needs something now, then this is a good move. And you’re welcome.

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  4. And here I thought I was overly critical when I saw the cast for suicide squad and my first thought was “wow, they really don’t have much faith in their brand”. To be fair, Marvel picked big names at the beginning, too. And if (big if, it’s still not official announced) they cast Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange, they will be going big again. But Cumberbatch wasn’t their first choice, was it? He was just one of many possible names, some more some lesser known.

    In any case, to me it felt like Marvel has more confidence in their own brand. It’s like DC is saying “Oh, well, if the first movies fail, at the very least all those stars will be a draw for suicide squad”. But then, that’s only good thinking. The majority of the audience has no idea what the suicide squad even is.

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    • Haha good timing on that Doctor Strange comment! Oh yeah and Marvel has every right to be more confident in their own brand. I honestly don’t think they needed to get someone like Cumberbatch to play Strange (even though I think he will be great)
      So with DC it does make sense that they went with these big names because a. DC doesn’t have the brand trust Marvel has and b. Suicide Squad doesn’t have the brand recognition Superman or Batman has.

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  5. The whole A-list actor isn’t anything new for superhero movies. The Christopher Reeve Superman movies had both Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando, both very well known actors. Or how the awkwardly directed, low budget Supergirl movie had a great cast including Peter O’Tool (who holds the record for most Academy Award nominations without a win) and Faye Dunaway. Even the 1979 TV movie Captain America: Death Too Soon (don’t watch it) had Christopher Lee; yes, Dracula/Saruman/Count Dooku/actual WW2 black ops operative/92-year-old metal musician Christopher Lee.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah not planning on watching that Cap movie haha
      But that is true, in the 2000s though it did seem like less and less A-list actors were willing to take on those roles especially after Clooney, but now that superhero movies have become so mainstream and huge, these actors want to be a part of them but the studios I believe don’t necessarily need them anymore because their brands are just so huge now they can sell themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

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