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Space Jam: A New Legacy brings a new protagonist to the franchise in the form of NBA superstar LeBron James, who teams up with the Looney Tunes for another epic basketball game. Their opponent: Al-G Rhythm, a scheming algorithm who wants to utilize James’ social media clout to his advantage. Don Cheadle plays the role of the delightful foil to James, and it’s a bit of a change-up for the actor, who’s largely known for his heroics in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, Cheadle doesn’t quite believe his character is a basic, cut and dry villain.
Seeing as the animated Monstars of Moron Mountain were the antagonists of the first Space Jam movie, A New Legacy’s Al-G Rhythm represents a live-action threat for the Looney Tunes. And those who’ve seen the film no doubt know just how powerful and dangerous the character is. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Cheadle about the role, and he has no trouble acknowledging that Al-G is the movie’s antagonist. Yet he can also understand how the character wouldn’t view himself as one:
I would say he’s the antagonist, for sure. And obviously, if I were not me sitting in the seat, I would say he’s the villain. But I don’t think any villain in any movie or any villain in real life, they often don’t think of themselves as the villain. And I think Al-G thinks of himself as a misunderstood algorithm that just knows what’s better than everybody else for everybody else.
It’s true that in many films, a villain doesn’t actually view themselves as the villain. I mean, as far as Thanos was concerned, he was actually doing the universe a favor by wiping out half of all life. Even Darth Vader was, for a while, convinced that he was helping to bring order to the galaxy while serving the Empire. So Al-G Rhythm’s thinking certainly lines up with what we’ve come to expect from a number of big-screen baddies.
Still, Don Cheadle’s character does get to have some fun along the way. Al-G gets some notable moments, which allow Cheadle to chew up some serious scenery. And while the actor didn’t actually get to play against LeBron James behind the scenes, their characters certainly get to mix things up in the film.
Don Cheadle has played morally questionable characters before, but Space Jam: A New Legacy really gives him the opportunity to stretch his muscles as an antagonist. Hopefully, he’ll get the chance to play an equally delicious role sometime soon.