Because the MCU is into “very expensive nostalgia”
Sharon Stone revealed on The Late Late Show last Thursday that she’s joining the MCU, and while she had no details to share because of a confidentiality agreement, she said that it’s a “wee” part. Now, that could just be in reference to the size of her role, or it could be a sneaky hint that she’s actually playing a miniaturizing superhero.
Namely Janet van Dyne, aka the original version of The Wasp.
There are good reasons why that guess is a bad one. Ant-Man and The Wasp, which is where the character would appear, doesn’t begin filming until summer 2017 for a July 2018 release, and while it’s possible such a significant part has already been cast, or at least is in the stages of being cast, Stone made it sound like she’s doing the movie “now,” as in very soon.
So, she could just be playing some sort of antagonistic high school authority figure in Spider-Man: Homecoming, which is currently gearing up to film in Atlanta. Or maybe she’ll be in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which is presently shooting, or Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, or Avengers: Infinity War ‐ Part 1, all of which are due in theaters ahead of the Ant-Man sequel.
But there is a better reason why the guess is the obvious one. Having Stone play Janet van Dyne, who is believed to have died in 1987 when she shrunk too far into the quantum realm, puts her as the wife of original Ant-Man Hank Pym, who is played by Michael Douglas. And that would make it a Basic Instinct reunion. Pretty perfect, right?
Well, since we’d probably see a flashback to Pym and van Dyne in the late 1980s, with both digitally de-aged like Douglas was in Ant-Man, it would probably be more perfect to cast his Fatal Attraction co-star Glenn Close. But she’s already in the MCU. Most perfect would be Kathleen Turner, as she did three movies with Douglas back then, and the pair had incredible chemistry.
Does Marvel really want viewers to conjure up memories of Basic Instinct during their movie, though? As soon as Douglas and Stone appear on screen together, we’re all going to think about Janet van Dyne doing the panty-less leg cross while being interrogated by the heads of S.H.I.E.L.D. Especially if the scene is set within five years of that old movie’s release.
But no other role or hers is so iconic, and Hollywood loves extra-textual casting right now. Marvel just hasn’t done much yet. There’s Robert Redford in Captain America: The Winter Soldier evoking Three Days of the Condor. And Kurt Russell’s part in the upcoming Guardians sequel will surely call to mind some of his 1980s roles, particularly those in John Carpenter movies.
Nostalgia rules Hollywood these days, with most of the big movies being resurgences of old franchises. But Marvel doesn’t have the luxury of riding on the memory of old theatrical versions of its characters. Sure, there’s the memory of the comics and cartoons involved in their popularity, but nothing of positive note from the big screen.
Perhaps, then, the MCU is increasingly interested in letting its acting talent carry the weight of nostalgic interests. At a time when the movie star concept seems to no longer exist, and IPs, especially superheroes, are the only real draw, this franchise could have figured out a way for star texts to still matter. By having them function as a form of movie reference/homage.
Casting Douglas in Ant-Man as opposed to another actor who hasn’t been a major star for 40 years isn’t just about having that stature of a veteran player. It also allowed for that memorable scene where the actor is de-aged to look like he did in 1989, and the audience gets a treat by recognizing that version of Douglas, maybe associating it with how he looks in Wall Street.
Marvel’s latest, Captain America: Civil War, gives viewers a similar treat in a flashback to 1991 featuring a de-aged Robert Downey Jr. looking like he did in, say, Chances Are. Downey has literally called the bit “very expensive nostalgia.” And we can bet we’ll be seeing a de-aged Russell in Guardians Vol. 2, as well, for a scene around the time he’d have fathered Star-Lord.
This isn’t a new kind of nostalgia, however, just more costly in its technique. Just look at the way a shot of younger Gene Hackman from The Conversation is used in Enemy of the State and footage of a young Terence Stamp in Poor Cow is employed for a flashback in The Limey. And much earlier, footage of a young Gloria Swanson in Queen Kelly was used for this effect in Sunset Blvd.
Star text as a movie reference can be problematic, especially for a franchise as big as the MCU. It allows for parodic memes that develop pretend back stories illustrated through old movie stills. Below are two examples that came about recently due to Downey sharing a scene with Marisa Tomei in Civil War. The first is from their previous movie together, 1994’s Only You.
CaptainAmericaCivilWar deleted scenepic.twitter.com/aMHyjsqSD6
Things only get more complicated from therepic.twitter.com/GiaPBk736R
And of course the second is from The Wrestler, with Iron Man 2’s Mickey Rourke. It is fun and probably too innocent to be truly taken as a “problem,” but if Marvel wants to keep doing the flashback nostalgia thing, it starts to muddle the perception of the characters played by its actors over time. It makes whole careers look like cinematic universes themselves.
Here are a few more that fans can have fun with:
Related Topics: Marvel