Andrew Eaton-Lewis: In a parallel universe...

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‘One movie website suggested Benedict Cumberbatch has been cast as Danger Mouse’

EDITOR’S note: Thursday’s extreme weather opened up a wormhole in time that plunged Andrew into a parallel universe, with some minor differences to its popular culture. Ever professional, he did his best to file his column from there...

Superhero news. The cast list for the upcoming Bananaman movie, director Zack Snyder’s sequel to Man Of Peel, is starting to look a little crowded. Until now, the much-anticipated Hollywood blockbuster – which doesn’t have a title yet, but is being widely referred to as Bananaman vs Barney – looked like being a face-off between Bananaman (Henry Cavill) and Barney the Dinosaur (Ben Affleck). But the announcement that Helen Mirren has now been cast as Supergran has led to speculation that other iconic characters may be set to join the fray.

Last week, one movie website suggested Benedict Cumberbatch has already been cast as Danger Mouse, leading to fevered speculation online. Will there be any room in the story for Danger Mouse’s trusty assistant, Penfold? If Cumberbatch has indeed been cast as Danger Mouse, might Martin Freeman, his co-star in Sherlock, be the obvious choice to play Penfold? Also, how likely is it that Duckula will still be the film’s chief villain? Is Supergran’s nemesis Scunner Campbell now a more likely contender?

The casting of Mirren has had a mixed reception. Many fans feel that Judi Dench remains the definitive Supergran, and that the new film could tarnish memories of director Danny Boyle’s dark reinvention of the character (featuring Robert Carlyle as a heroin-dealing Scunner Campbell and Billy Boyd and Tam Dean Burn as his henchmen Muscles and Dustin). Closer in tone to Trainspotting and Goodfellas than the 1980s children’s series starring Gudrun Ure, it was, many fans believe, cruelly overlooked by the Oscars.

Snyder has already alienated many superhero fans, who worry that the gritty, grown-up “real world” Barney they know from Christopher Nolan’s much-loved Barney trilogy will be replaced, in Snyder’s version, by something camp, cartoonish or even childish. “Ben Affleck? Are they serious?” reads one typical comment on the fan website Barney Forever. “What would he know about playing Barney? Philip Seymour Hoffman was way better.”

To be fair to Snyder, others have pointed out that, initially, Hoffman wasn’t a popular choice to play the lead in Christopher Nolan’s film Barney Begins, but his portrayal of the tortured psyche beneath Barney’s traditionally sunny exterior transformed the popular perception of the character.

The most hardcore comic book fans still aren’t convinced, though. Many have expressed frustration that Snyder’s film Man Of Peel was much more widely seen than Far From Heaven director Todd Haynes’ version of Bananaman, starring Ellen Page as a sexually ambiguous and conflicted Eric Wimp, and Donald Sutherland as General Blight. Hardcore comic book fans still regard the cult film as one of the best superhero movies ever made. “Haynes actually understood what a complex, tormented character Bananaman is,” reads an online petition titled ‘Stop Zack Snyder’s Rotten Bananaman’, which has already had thousands of signatures. “Snyder is just a hack.”

Despite these reservations, plenty of superhero fans are still looking forward to Bananaman vs Barney, although many wonder how, with so many superheroes making appearances in the film, Snyder will find the time to explore their various complicated back stories – and whether the director will respect elements of each character’s background that are considered “canon” by fans.

“The idea of Bananaman taking on Barney is quite interesting,” wrote one more supportive movie blogger last week, “although it remains to be seen how Snyder will get around the fact that they have very different superpowers. For a start, couldn’t Bananaman just escape from Barney by flying away?”

Some people are less captivated by such questions. As one Twitter comment pithily put it last week. “This is a film about a CUDDLY PURPLE DINOSAUR. Get a grip. For God’s sake, do none of you have more important things to think about?”