Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Thoughts on Stephen Amell being cast as Casey Jones in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2

Well, it looks like Stephen Amell, a.k.a. the brooding vigilante in Arrow, has been cast as Casey Jones in the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sequel. When I saw Variety's headline, the first thing that crossed my mind actually had nothing to do with whether Amell will be a good incarnation of the dude who loves to scream "goongala!" Instead, my first thought was, "good for him." I may have a ton of criticisms about Arrow and to be totally honest there are plenty of moments when his acting isn't the strongest around, but based on the way I've seen Amell interact with fans, I can't help but root for the actor. So, while I'm sure many knee-jerk reactions were either excited, disappointed, or all kinds of neutral, I simply thought, "way to go, man." Now, do I think Amell's the right person for the part? Let's talk about it.

It's obviously worth noting articles like these are 99.9% speculation. We can think someone is horrible for a part and then they'll make us eat our words. Or we can think someone's a perfect fit and they can disappoint. Basically, unless the person has an atrocious resume or if you just don't like them, I think it's important to apply a "wait and see" mentality. But hey, if you don't want to, that's cool as well. You do you, right? Now, this non-casting director is going to react to the casting news.
"The class is Pain 101. Your instructor is Oliver Queen."
When I think of Casey Jones, I think of someone who has an in your face personality and a blunt sense of humor. So yeah, Stephen Amell's work on Arrow doesn't make me immediately think of him having either of those qualities. But just because he hasn't done them doesn't mean he can't do them. Arrow's an overly dramatic show, attempting to constantly establish a dark and serious atmosphere. Obviously, that hasn't given Amell the freedom to goof around very much. I mean, how many times have you even seen the guy smile or crack a joke in the show? It's not very often. 

I'm not saying you need an Oscar winning performance for this movie, but if you're bringing a fan favorite to life, you have to bring the personality. Arrow doesn't give me the most faith around in his ability to pull that off, but it's worth noting he's made significant improvements since the first episode and this role will give him the chance to play a way more entertaining and easy going character. Seeing as he landed the gig, it's safe to say he's capable of embracing the personality -- how well though has yet to be seen. Now it's just a matter of seeing whether he makes the character likable and funny or abrasive and annoying. I'm really curious to see whether he'll have a bit of a New York accent, too. It's not required, but if he can pull it off, I'd love to see that happen.

"Okay, let's give this a try, funkoid!"
The good news is Amell's certainly got the look and physical skill to play as Casey Jones. The man sure can appear imposing, and if someone is going to be crazy enough to fight with these big Ninja Turtles -- well, probably just Raphael -- then yeah, I can picture Amell dressed in some sports attire and doing what he can to land some cheap shots on a sai-wielding Ninja Turtle. Seeing him with long hair or using a New York accent may be odd at first to us Arrow fans, but assuming he gives it his all and does a fine job, I can picture him being an amusing part of the movie.

If you asked me to think of 20 actors who could be Casey Jones in the movie, Amell honestly wouldn't have made the list. But I have to admit, the dude certainly has what it takes to look the part and hold his own in some brawls. That said, one small criticism I have is the guy just doesn't sell pain very well. If Raph is going to slug him across the face or if he's going to battle some Foot Clan ninjas, I really need him to sell that moment when he's the one getting struck. You just know Casey is going to take some hits, so when he does, I don't want it to remind me that he's playing make-believe with some guys in costumes or motion capture outfits. I know it sounds silly (we're talking about mutated turtles who fight crime, after all) and it kind of is, but an unbelievable reaction from an actor can really take you out of the moment and that causes the whole illusion comes crashing down. This happened to me when Flash was landing a gazillion punches on him in the awesome crossover episode and once again when he struggled against Ra's al Ghul. I think Amell is capable of pull off Jones' personality and he probably won't have his emotional range pushed with this role, but it's pretty much guaranteed he's going to be in plenty of action. When he is, I hope he makes getting hit look every bit as good as the ones he's dishing out.

"Hey, what are you, some sort of punker?"
The TL;DR version: Amell has the physique to make the character seem like a boss in fights, but everything else is pretty much "wait and see" since his character in Arrow is nothing like Casey Jones and, when it comes to his abilities as an actor, that's pretty much all I've seen from him. They're both tough, but their personalities are drastically different and that means I haven't seen Amell deliver a more amusing and animated performance. I'm rooting for Amell and I think he obviously has potential to make the role memorable, but I just can't say that with total confidence right now. However, let's be totally honest with ourselves here: even if his performance is pretty bad, I really doubt it'll be the worst part about the movie. Oh, and if an Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak relationship is called "Olicity," I guess that makes one between Casey Jones and April O'Neil "Casil," doesn't it? Although, "Caseil" sounds cooler. Sorry, I couldn't resist going there.

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