For years, it seemed like Joaquin Phoenix would never warm to the idea of starring in a comic book adaptation… or, I should say, a second comic book adaptation. He actually did appear in an episode of Superboy (an obscure, late ’80s predecessor to Smallville, of sorts) as a Herculean high schooler, but would later pass on two different roles in the Marvel movies - the first being the new Hulk, followed by Doctor Strange. By then, it was assumed that such a blockbuster was not in his destiny until Joker changed everything.
The now 46-year-old’s performance as Arthur Fleck, a mentally disturbed aspiring comedian (supposedly) destined to become Batman’s arch nemesis, earned him his first Academy Award. It appears that waiting for the right comic book movie role and finally finding it in Todd Phillips’ bleak 2019 psychological thriller really paid off nicely for him. That being said, it seems to me like Joaquin Phoenix no longer has any excuse to say no the next time Kevin Feige and co. give him a call.
The man has already achieved the ultimate goal of any actor with none other than a billion dollar blockbuster that is, technically, a superhero movie without as many capes. So, why not follow in the footsteps of Brie Larson, Mahershala Ali, Lupita Nyong’o, and many more Oscar-winners and have a little fun by joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe? In fact, I have five Marvel characters who might just be exactly right for a man Joaquin Phoenix’s ability and taste, starting with a villain he once could have fought against.
As I have already mentioned earlier, Joaquin Phoenix once passed on the chance to be Doctor Strange (now portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in the MCU) only a few years before he played the lead role of Joker. With that in mind, I cannot think of a more satisfying "switcheroo" than to cast him as a character one could, in certain ways, call the closest equivalent to the Joker among Doctor Strange's greatest enemies.
The July 1963 issue of Strange Tales #110 was not only the first appearance of the Sorcerer Supreme, but also the demonic Nightmare) - whom you may already have guessed is, essentially, Marvel's own Freddy Krueger for his flagship ability to capture people into his extra-dimensional realm while they are asleep. He is a villain of striking physicality, a taste for clever theatrics, and genuine indulgence in the torment he puts people through - all things that Joaquin Phoenix has already proven he can master to prize-worthy perfection.
Speaking of comic book villains who take pleasure in others' suffering, Mojo is one such creature of freakish appearance who finds grand entertainment in his insufferable acts. Of course, to someone as incurably obsessed with television as he is, it is more than entertainment, but his way of life. Ann Nocenti even created this X-Men villain to poke fun at TV network executives, which explains the similarities between the political structure he developed for his own dimension, the "Mojoverse," and the Nieslen Ratings System.
The heavy-set, partially mechanical alien-like being kneels to the "if it bleeds, it leads" philosophy which informs his indulgence in pitting heroes against each other in deadly competitions like a sadistic game show host. Having once played someone who orchestrates fights to death in Gladiator, this is a dark place that Joaquin Phoenix would have no trouble getting to. Matching Mojo's motormouth dialect and attention span on par with a pinball machine, however, is just the kind of challenge that would really lure the actor in.
Speaking of partially mechanical beings, by how hard Joaquin Phoenix fell for his computer in Spike Jonze's Her - an Oscar-winning Black Mirror-esque story brilliantly disguised as a romantic tearjerker - you might have thought he actually wanted to become a machine if it meant being closer to her. That being said, he probably would have envied Michael Korvac.
Once a normal, human computer technician (ironically) with a tragic past, he was later made into a cybernetic organism by an alien race by fusing his torso with a flying, mechanical lower half. Of course, instead of courting Scarlett Johansson's voice, he used his mechanized components to store a digital database of every known superpower, making him one of the most unstoppable enemies of the Marvel Universe. I think this makes Korvac a great candidate for the MCU's next "big bad," but only if someone like Joaquin Phoenix steps in to unlock the humanity hidden deep within.
Kraven The Hunter
Speaking of which, probably the greatest challenge that I can think of to put in front of Joaquin Phoenix would be to portray some semblance of humanity in Sergei Kravinoff - otherwise known as Kraven the Hunter to Marvel fans. I mean, it would be challenging for any actor to find a redeeming quality in someone so bored by his own expertise in big game hunting that he switches to pursuing humans - Peter Parker, specifically. Yet, choosing a strict vegan like Phoenix to tackle the role could really make things interesting.
My recommendation for the actor to play the Russian-born Spider-Man enemy is not out of irony for his vehemently different lifestyle choices. I just feel that, with Kraven the Hunter being the subject of his own upcoming film, it will require a special sort of portrayal that exceeds the typical mustache twirling ruthlessness that comic book villains are so often and so easily relegated to. Joaquin Phoenix has already given such a performance, but this would be uniquely transformative experience.
You know, I feel bad for talking up Joaquin Phoenix as an actor of great versatility and an inspiring drive to try new things and all I have done so far is recommend him for more villain roles. So, before I subject the Joker star to any further typecasting, let's give him a hero to play. Of course, it cannot be any kind of hero and the most unique, unlikely, and fun idea I have is Corsair - the leader of a group of space pirates known as the Starjammers.
Before you pull out Guardians of the Galaxy comparisons, this crew adopted a genuine swashbuckler aesthetic (as close as they can achieve in outer space, that is) into their clothing, old school weaponry, and mastery of sword fighting (and not with sabers of the "light" persuasion). Plus, Corsair (real name Christopher Summers) is also the father of Cyclops, giving us a prime objective to bring the X-Men to space in the MCU and bring Joaquin Phoenix back into it for the first time since SpaceCamp in 1986.
What do you think? Is a swashbuckling space traveler just what Joaquin Phoenix needs to continue exceeding the expectations of other comic book movie actors, or do you just see more villainy in his future? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check back for additional information and updates on the Oscar-winning actor, as well as even more hypothetical comic book movie casting sessions, here on CinemaBlend.
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Jason Wiese writes feature stories for CinemaBlend. His occupation results from years dreaming of a filmmaking career, settling on a "professional film fan" career, studying journalism at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO (where he served as Culture Editor for its student-run print and online publications), and a brief stint of reviewing movies for fun. He would later continue that side-hustle of film criticism on TikTok (@wiesewisdom), where he posts videos on a semi-weekly basis. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.