Marvel films have done a fantastic job when casting. Characters from all levels of a film are portrayed by performers that are absolutely perfect. Many of them represent a perfect translation of the character from the comics (Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor, etc.). Others represent a pivot from the character in the comics to what is required to serve the film narrative (John C. Reilly as Rhomann Dey is as wide a pivot as you can have).
Sometimes, however, it’s just a perfect blend of both.
In the first Guardians of the Galaxy, Benicio Del Toro presented a very different version of the Collector when compared to the character of the comics. However, the Collector (pictured in the middle of the featured image) has never been all that consistent, in the comics, having at least two radically variant appearances; one of which was boring, and the other of which was kind of dumb; and a wide variety of secondary motivations (the primary always being ‘collect things’).
Del Toro’s Collector represents the most concise version of the comic book character within the context of the film. He has a clear motivation (‘collect stuff’) which drive the plot of the film and allows the events to fall into place. He also serves as perfect means to explain ‘cosmic stuff’ to the audience. Anyone who knows people who collect things know they love talking about their collection. Seeing a being who qualifies himself as an Elder of the Universe geek out about his latest acquisition is a fantastic moment of cinema meant only for those who appreciate geeks on a very different level.
But if Del Toro’s performance is perfect as the Collector, it’s possible that the next Elder of the Universe to show up in the MCU will be even better.
Thor: Ragnarok will introduce the Grandmaster (pictured on the right of the featured image) as portrayed by Jeff Goldblum.
Grandmaster is the Elder of the Universe who likes to play games. He is obsessed with games of chance and has pit many a Marvel character against one another for the purposes of gaining some prize or another. He is the ultimate chess master, though, rarely competing himself but often able to stack the deck in his favor in order to overcome a foe with a higher degree of strategic acumen. Notably, the Grandmaster was a reoccurring foe of the Defenders, a group that included Hulk, Doctor Strange, and Valkyrie, all of whom will be appearing in the third Thor film.
I anticipate this will be a tour de force performance. Goldblum is a master of landing character just right while still maintaining his signature style and the Grandmaster’s bombast will likely come across in this. It’s exciting to know nothing about this performance as press on Ragnarok has primarily focused on the appearance of the Hulk.
(Notably, the two Elders’ focuses, collecting and gaming, seem to align with nerds and geeks of many types. Is this a statement to the fanbase from the MCU? Hmm…)
So are these all the Elders that have shown up (or will show up), so far?
Well, I have a theory that the answer is ‘no’ and I will be discussing this next week. I think you’ll find that my theory embraces the a wonderful pivot of translation from comics to film and has been cast perfectly…