Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fan-Casting DC's JUSTICE LEAGUE: Part 3

Click here to review Part 2.

Act I:  Gotham

Mr. Freeze and his gang are robbing the S.T.A.R. Labs facility in Gotham City.  The alarm has been tripped.  Security guards arrive and are quickly frozen in solid ice by Freeze's cold gun.  We make it clear right away that this is not the Arnold Schwarzenegger Mr. Freeze. No puns with this guy.  This is much closer to the Paul Dini Mr. Freeze, that is to say, the character as depicted in Batman: The Animated Series and the video game Batman: Arkham City.

Mister Freeze/Victor Fries (Matt Frewer)

I tried not to make any casting decisions based on looks alone, but when an actor happens to look like the walking undead, well, it's pretty easy to slot him into the character space.  The rest was trying to convince myself that Matt Frewer couldn't play the part, and no such evidence presented itself.

If you're not as familiar with the character, Victor Fries was a brilliant scientist whose wife, Nora, was dying of an undiagnosable and incurable disease.  Victor put Nora in cryogenic stasis until he could find a cure.  Unfortunately, he had to steal money and resources from the company that employed him. When Victor was caught, there was a laboratory accident involving crazy comic book science that resulted in Victor needing to wear a special cryo-suit to keep his body temperature below zero degrees or he'll die.  Still obsessed with saving Nora, he now, under the alias Mister Freeze*, he robs and steals in order to fund his research in the hope of one day finding the cure and resurrecting his wife.

I'll note right here for anyone with too much or not enough imagination that the men in Mister Freeze's gang look like any other hoods.  They're not dressed like Santa's elves, they don't wear ice-skates, or parkas--normal black clothes will suffice.

S.T.A.R. Labs is the global leader in Scientific and Technological Advanced Research, hence the acronym, with facilities all over the world, including Gotham City and Metropolis.  Freeze breaks into the Gotham labs to steal a bit of experimental technology that he believes will cure his cryogenically frozen wife, Nora, from her fatal disease.  The name of the technology doesn't matter, so I'm just going to go ahead and call it the McGuffin.  Freeze breaks into the laboratory and takes the McGuffin.  Along the way he and his crew might encounter building security and Freeze shoots them with his freeze-gun, covering them with ice.

(Icing the security guards could play out several ways: On one hand, freezing the cops to death could look utterly horrifying, especially if Freeze or part of his gang pushes over the frozen body and it shatters into pieces like the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgement Day.  This could establish the genuine danger level of Mister Freeze and give him some credibility amongst viewers who only know him from Batman & Robin.  On the other hand, I want this movie to be accessible to kids without too much gratuitous death, so maybe it's enough that Freeze immobilizes the guards by freezing their arms and legs.  On yet a third hand, I was a child when I saw the smoldering corpses of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru in Star Wars and that didn't scar me for life, so maybe I'm being overly sensitive.)

At some point during the heist, an alarm is tripped.  Mister Freeze and his crew are coming out of the building as a handful of GCPD squad cars roll up to intercept them.  Gotham police aren't chumps; they are not the Keystone Cops (unlike the police in the city of Keystone, which we'll visit in film #2), but in this case they are outmatched.  Mister Freeze makes his way past the police like the Terminator in the lobby at Skynet in T2.

(I swear, I'm not trying to draw all of these Schwarzenegger comparisons to Mister Freeze.  I want you to forget all about his portrayal!)

Freeze's gang board their getaway vehicle, which could be a refrigerated truck or something.  They take off down the highway.  The cops can only watch helplessly… when suddenly, a second vehicle roars by in hot pursuit of Mister Freeze.

Batman (Richard Armitage) follows Mister Freeze and a fun little car chase ensues.  The Batmobile will try to stop the truck, but can't.  Freeze could shoot the street, covering the road with ice, but any Batman worth his salt would be prepared for that and have custom tires on the Batmobile that never lose traction.  Anyway, for some reason, Batman has to abandon the Batmobile.  He switches the car onto autopilot and hits an eject button launching him into the air.

Using either his cape as a glider or a grappling gun, he manages to land on top of the truck or inside the back of the truck with Freeze and a goon or two.  Close-quarters fighting.  We see how strong Mister Freeze's special cryo-suit makes him, but Batman clearly has the edge.  In desperation, Freeze shoots one of his own henchman, covering the guy's head with ice, then dumps him out the back of the truck, knowing that Batman won't let the man die.

(See, in these movies, heroes do everything humanly--and superhumanly--possible to prevent death.)

Batman dives out the back of the truck, whilst planting a cute little bat-shaped tracking device on Mister Freeze's suit in one graceful motion.  Batman gets to the goon with the ice block on his head and manages to shatter or thaw the ice before the guy dies.  He leaves the goon tied up for the police when the Batmobile returns to him.

Mister Freeze arrives at his hideout, which could be a big meat locker or something.  The centerpiece of his lair is the cryo-unit sustaining his beloved wife, Nora.  The cryo-unit is connected to a bank of computers and other science-y stuff.

I haven't cast anyone as Nora Fries, because she's not a character but a prop.  Putting a real actress in the role of Popsicle-Woman would be a waste of talent, most likely.  The obvious-sounding solution is to cast a model who looks good deathly pale in a water tank and doesn't need to move or speak.  But when searching for that model, remember, Nora Fries was the wife of a scientist who looked like this on a good day:

In the presence of his wife's body, Mister Freeze turns back into Victor Fries, in his demeanor, at least.  Whereas during the heist and the getaway he was emotionless--merciless--he is now a doting husband, speaking in animated, almost excited tones to his wife's cryo-unit.  Victor proceeds to do things that are involved in testing the McGuffin on his wife.  Blood tests or whatever, I don't know.

While Victor's running his tests, Batman arrives and systematically takes down all of the henchmen.  Batman enters the chamber with Nora just as Victor concludes the test, discovering once again that the McGuffin is not a cure.  Victor is despondent.  Batman admits that he had heard of the McGuffin and knew it wasn't a viable cure.  In the past, Batman has pledged to help find a cure for Nora, believing it would end Mister Freeze's criminal activities.

Freeze lashes out verbally.  He was promised this cure would work!  Batman says Victor must return to Arkham Asylum (or Blackgate Prison, since I've never seen him as really insane), but Victor--now sounding much more like Mister Freeze--refuses to go easily.  Batman quips about them fighting and…

We cut to the fight's aftermath.  Mister Freeze's helmet is broken.  He's beaten, punch-drunk, mumbling about his wife, as Batman drops him on the hood of a police car outside the meat packing plant or wherever his hideout was.  Batman takes the McGuffin and gets in the Batmobile and leaves.

(This short scene could be where we establish how the rank and file cops in Gotham feel about Batman. Are they appreciative or resentful?  Do any of them try to speak to him or do they watch him walk on by without a word.  Regardless, no one tries to arrest him now.)

Batman brings the McGuffin back to S.T.A.R. Labs.  The facility is surrounded by cops, medical personnel, staff, and reporters trying to get the story.  Batman slips through the police barricade and enters the lab where the McGuffin was being created.  In the room is Commissioner James Gordon, Detectives Harvey Bullock and Renee Montoya, and the Labs' Director of Operations **.

Commissioner Gordon (Kevin Conroy)

This is a purely self-indulgent fanboy selection, but bear with me.  No one can replace Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon from The Dark Knight Trilogy.  Oldman is one a phenomenal actor who can play just about any role, but when I heard he was going to be Gordon in Batman Begins, I broke out into applause.  I've thought a lot of casting decisions were terrible only to be surprised by how well they turned out, but Gary Oldman as Gordon was perfect.

But I wasn't about to cast him again in the same role, so the alternative was to go in a radically different direction.  And I wanted to pay homage Kevin Conroy, who voiced Batman and Bruce Wayne in Batman: The Animated Series, which to this day remains my favorite presentation of the Batman in either comics, film, or television.  Conroy's non-voiceover resume isn't as hefty as so many better-known character actors who could play Gordon, but plenty of fans would let out a "squee" of excitement when they heard him speak for the first time.  He also wouldn't have to carry any scenes, though he might steal a few, because the Gordon in my Justice League movies isn't much greater than a cameo performance.

Detective Harvey Bullock (Michael Madsen) ***

and Detective Renee Montoya (Ana Ortiz)

Two mainstays of the comics and cartoons, Bullock and Montoya are there for the fans.  Like Gordon, they're little more than cameo appearances.  In fact, their roles would be smaller than Gordon's, as this is probably their only scene.  Michael Madsen is one of those actors who I can see showing up in any movie, and he definitely has the physical stature and menace that Bullock commands.  Ana Ortiz looks tough, but she has a warmth in her eyes that the "good cop" needs when talking to a suspect or witness.  Bullock is crass, brutish, and disdainful of the Batman.  Montoya is loyal, confident, and embarrassed by her partner.

Batman hands the McGuffin over to the Director.  Commissioner Gordon thanks Batman for acting so quickly and taking down Mister Freeze before anyone else could get hurt.  Detective Bullock is less supportive of Batman's involvement, and not shy about voicing his displeasure.  Detective Montoya essentially tells her partner to shut up.

The lab director puts the McGuffin back in its rightful place, but Batman isn't convinced the case is over.  Freeze was convinced the McGuffin could cure his wife, when even a tiny bit of research into the experiment would have told him that was a false promise.  So who put the bug in Freeze's ear?  Someone who wanted Mister Freeze to break into S.T.A.R. Labs.  A distraction for the police, one of the cops assumes?  Batman doesn't think so; too many other, easier distractions.  S.T.A.R. Labs was a serious target requiring lots of prep work.  So how come they tripped the alarms so quickly, Bullock wonders?  That was the distraction, Batman concludes.  Freeze was manipulated by someone else who wanted to get into the facility.  The director says nothing else is missing, though, but Batman disagrees.

"I'll have it analyzed… with SCIENCE!"
Here we see Batman actually being the Dark Knight Detective.  He starts deconstructing the heist--Sherlock-style--doing all kinds of C.S.I. stuff, and tracking the path of a second infiltrator, all while Gordon and the others watch in wonder.  Batman's investigation leads him to a different lab and a jagged piece of green, crystalline mineral under glass for observation.

Batman asks what the piece is and the director tells him it's called Kryptonite.  Batman tells him, no, this is just glass, and shatters the faux-Kryptonite shard on the floor.  He tells the others that someone snuck into the lab to steal the Kryptonite while Freeze was drawing all the attention to himself.  Montoya asks Batman if he thinks it was Catwoman, but he dismisses the idea.  His reason could be something as simple as not detecting her perfume.

So what's so special about Kryptonite?  Batman has never heard of it before and he asks the director to tell him about it.  The director says Kryptonite was discovered a couple decades ago, it emits a low level of radiation, and--pause of emphasis--it came from Outer Space.

To Be Continued…

* I have no idea why he doesn't go by Doctor Freeze.  I guess the AMA stripped him of his license when he was in jail.

** I didn't cast the Director of Ops for S.T.A.R. Labs because it could be a generic unnamed character for this one scene.  However, it could be an easter egg for fans by naming him after an established S.T.A.R. Labs scientist from the comics.  It could even be one of the numerous scientists who become super villains, like the Atomic Skull, the Alchemist, or the Kryptonite Man.

*** If for some reason I couldn't use Michael Madsen in this totally hypothetical scenario, I would pick William Forsythe as Bullock.


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