A long, long time ago, back before it was announced that Bane would be the “big bad” in this summer’s The Dark Knight Rises, Bat-Fans everywhere were talking villains. Who would square off against the Caped Crusader next, and who would play him or her?
The most popular pick was The Riddler, as he was deemed the one most suited to Nolan’s gritty, realistic world. It didn’t take long after that for people to settle on the actor most qualified to take on the role: Neil Patrick Harris.
This was popular enough to warrant at least two separate Facebook petitions, fan-made posters [see above], and even a fake movie trailer. A month before the actual film hit theatres everywhere the people at ScreenCrush decided to announce that they too thought that NPH looks like the Riddler. He was even the picked for the role in a post on this blog that I did not write; just a reminder that my fellow writers and I will (and do) not always agree.
Even more recently, I read a post on reddit titled “My personal pick for the flash.” The accompanying image was a photo of Neil Patrick Harris. I disagreed, and, before you fly into some/any sort of rage, let me defend myself.
I love How I Met Your Mother. That being said, I really, really enjoy the character of Barney and the nonstop energy and enthusiasm the actor brings to the role. It’s how most people know the guy, and I can see why most people are struck with how, well, awesome he is. But after I saw the aforementioned post on reddit and composed a reasonably put response, I knew what I had to do:
To start with, let me list the last few movies in NPH’s filmography, in descending order:
- American Reunion 
- The Muppets 
- A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas 
- The Smurfs 
- Beastly 
Comedies and children’s films. To be fair, Beastly appeals to more of a younger, Twilight-loving crowd, and it’s also where Harris plays his most serious role: a blind, wacky, wisecracking tutor.
That’s not to say that he can’t pull off emotional depth. HIMYM‘s Barney doesn’t go through every relationship like it’s nothing, and more than a few times has to face the fact that maybe he does want love, or at least stability. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which you should all watch if you haven’t, is a really enjoyable musical about a supervillain, but also has some deeply heart-wrenching moments.
In spite of all that, I just don’t think Neil Patrick Harris has what it takes to take on the role of a member of Batman’s rogues gallery, or don the cowl of the Fastest Man Alive. Just because he voiced Nightwing in the very well-done animated film Batman: Under the Red Hood doesn’t make him qualified to do anything similar live-action. The headlining role in an independently done musical is not the same as a film in a huge franchise.
If his HIMYM co-star Cobie Smulders’ performance as Maria Hill in The Avengers is any indication, he won’t do a terrible job, he just won’t do great. Neil Patrick Harris is an immensely talented actor, singer, and dancer, but I don’t believe he’s not the next big thing in comic book movies. Feel free to disagree.
I think the problem with an actor or actress having been typecast is not that they’re unable to act in a different role… it’s simply that they have difficulty getting work outside of that role. If people see Neil Patrick Harris as only a funny guy, that’s the kind of work he’ll get because they’re the audience. But if the audience wants him to play in a serious role, and he gets that opportunity? I say he should take the chance.
And Cobie Smulders’ performance isn’t any indication at all. She’s Canadian.
You’re right about the typecasting. I was going to write more about that, but I’m not sure how to word it right now. I find your comment about Canadians hurtful and offensive.