Idris Elba and Heimdall... Typecasting? Not hardly.
Thor, God of Thunder and one of the original Avengers has not had an easy time of it. Pitched way back in 2007, the idea of a live action movie based on the story of an arrogant young god taught humility and heroism after being exiled to Earth in the body of disabled medical student Donald Blake, was originally described as, " a superhero origin story but not one about a human gaining super powers, but of a god realizing his true potential. It's the story of an Old Testament god who becomes a New Testament god" But, it took an entire year before the script got its first attachment-- Kenneth Branagh, to direct. His proclamation that the movie would be "a human story right in the center of a big epic scenario" set the geek world aflame, but as time went on, weeks, months, over a year, the fires quickly cooled. Not until the middle of 2009 did we even get news about when shooting would begin (January 2010) though originally the release date for the film was set as July 16, 2010.
A little beefcake for us ladies. A sexy Chris Hemsworth and an angry God of Thunder
But as of May of this year, it seems the God of Thunder (albeit without his human counterpart) is finally crossing the Bifrost Bridge from Asgard to Midgard, and things are back on track. With a new release date of May 20, 2011 and casting for the principal characters at last being confirmed. British classical actor Tom Hiddleston as Thor's villainous half brother Loki was the first cast, followed quickly by Chris Hemsworth (acclaimed for his brief but powerful portrayal of George Kirk in the Star Trek reboot) to play Thor, Natalie Portman taking the role of his human love interest Jane Foster. Other notables are Jamie Alexander as Sif, Stuart Townsend, Tadanobu Asano and Ray Stevenson as the Warriors Three and, in a move that would be impossible for anyone but Branagh, Sir Tony Himself, Anthony Hopkins as Odin the AllFather. Most controversial casting comes with today's announcement that Idris Elba will be playing the role of Heimdall, He of the Farseeing Eyes, who stands at the gates of Asgard.
Marvel Movie fans should be unsurprised by the casting of an African-American Actor in the role of a Norse God, considering the studio's history with non-traditional casting. Wilson Fisk AKA The Kingpin in Daredevil played by Michael Clarke Duncan. Susan Storm AKA The Invisible Woman in Fantastic Four played by Jessica Alba, and of course, Nick Fury AKA Director of SHIELD (and Marvel's most bad ass non-super powered character) played by Samuel Jackson. Whether it's for 'political correctness' or 'star power' or simply best actor for the part is up for debate, but the fact remains that as long as the character is portrayed true to the script, the film and the tone of the story (and doesn't become a stereotyped caricature-- Transformers 2 anybody?) the color of the actor's skin really doesn't matter a hill of beans.
What we should be focusing on is a matter of far greater import. As of this writing, Stan 'The Man" Lee, under whose editorial and creative direction Thor was given life, has NOT been contacted to appear in his traditional cameo role. From his appearance as the hot dog vendor in X-Men, to the man who drank the radioactive blood tainted energy drink in the Hulk, it's been a wink and a nod to the fans to see the charismatic and beloved creator of our favorite characters interacting with the flesh and blood personifications of his four color fantasies. While his Larry King-esque role in Iron Man 2 has already been announced, when asked about his cameo in Thor, Lee told MTV interviewer Rick Marshall "I had lunch with Branagh, the nicest guy in the world as well as the most talented. Months ago, when he was first starting on the movie, he said he would get a cameo for me. I haven’t heard from him since. I think he has more important things to think of at the moment with the movie — like who he’s casting in it and how he’s going to film it," said Lee. "But I’m sure they’ll have something for me. When we had lunch, I was sure he had asked me to lunch because he wanted me to play Odin, but it was a big disappointment," he laughed. "I figure I’ll end up carrying his spear."
The Examiner asks, How do you feel about the casting so far? Is Elba a good choice or does it smack of Tokenism? If Lee is stood up, is that an insult or does he simply have no place in the epic tale of Gods and Men? What's your take? Let me know and until the next time, True Believers, Excelsior!