Why Nicolas Cage Should Stop Playing Superheroes

It's a pretty standard piece of pop culture trivia that Nicolas Cage is a big fan of all things comic books. The actor, whose real name is Nicolas Kim Coppola, took his last name from Marvel's Power Man, Luke Cage. He had, at one time, one of the most impressive celebrity comic book collections, and the dude even named one of his children Kal-el. So, Cage's fanboy nature is pretty well established, which should make him an obvious choice for most any of the umpteen million superhero films that are in the works for the foreseeable future. And of course, he already has stepped into the superhero genre a few times already (Ghost Rider and Kick-Ass) with, to put it charitably, mixed results. Yet, despite all of these factors, it's pretty clear that no studio should ever let Cage near a superhero script again.

He hasn't been a good actor in years

It didn't have to be this way. At one time, Cage was an actor with amazing range, starring in a wide array of films like Raising Arizona, Leaving Las Vegas, The Rock, and City of Angels – if you're keeping score at home, that's an all-time great Coen brothers comedy, a brutal existential drama (for which he won an Oscar), a Michael Bay-directed action extravaganza, and an American remake of a German love story. In addition to acting chops, Cage had the pedigree of being related to Francis Ford Coppola and seemed to be staking out his territory as one of the "great American actors" of his generation, to be mentioned in the same breath as Pacino, Duvall, or DeNiro.

So what happened? If we had to choose a turning point, you could do a lot worse than Neil LaBute's 2006 Wicker Man remake. From that point on, Nicolas "NOT THE BEES!" Cage seemed to choose roles that were increasingly bizarre, barely attempting to head back into more serious fare. Over the last decade, Cage has appeared in such films as Next, Season of the Witch, Knowing, Drive Angry, and The Croods. Whatever you may think of these films individually, on the whole, they don't stack up to his previous output. Appearing in a comic-based film might give a quick jolt to his bank account and put some shine on his eccentric reputation, but placing a beloved character in the hands of a lunatic would be a one-sided benefit, at best.

With great power comes great financial irresponsiblity

While Cage certainly had a desire to play the Man of Steel in Tim Burton's ill-fated Superman Lives, it seems like he learned his eccentric spending habits from Lex Luthor. At one point, the actor was banking $40 million a year. Apparently, that kind of money was burning a whole in Cage's pocket, so he began buying all kinds of crazy items, from to the sublime (a private 40-acre island in the Bahamas) to the ridiculous (a 67-million year old dinosaur head that he outbid Leonardo DiCaprio for).

To make Cage's spending spree even worse was how he was found to not be paying his taxes. Uncle Sam dropped a $6.2 million tax penalty on Cage, forcing him to part ways with number of his prize possessions, including a haunted mansion (obviously) in New Orleans and an honest-to-goodness castle in Germany.

No fan would take him seriously

Every major announcement of a new superhero film raises the inevitable question as to who will bring the often iconic characters to life. Obviously, comic books have devoted fan bases and, in the past, they have had, let's say "concerns" about certain casting decisions. Michael Keaton's Batman, Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man, and Heath Ledger's Joker come to mind as times that fan concerns were completely unwarranted, as each actor gave excellent — even award-winning — performances. On the other end of the spectrum, we have Ryan Reynolds' Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, Eric Bana's Bruce Banner/Incredible Hulk ... and Nicolas Cage's Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider. So we've already seen Cage's attempt at bringing a superhero to screen, and it wasn't pretty.

His excessive acting style, as well as his Bond-villainesque spending habits, means that he would be an improbable fit for any superhero story, since superheroes exist to defend common people who cannot defend themselves. When was the last time that Cage, safely ensconced in one of his multi-million dollar homes, cruising around in his personal jet, driving one of his nine Rolls Royces or drinking mai-tais on his personal tropical island, encountered a common person?

Too over-the-top, even for superheroes

Cage has become known for his over-the-top performances, which might seem appropriate when you're sharing the screen with a giant green dude, a demigod, and a tech wizard who built his own suit of armor. But if you look at the performances of each of the main actors in Marvel's universe, you tend to notice that they are the grounding forces amid the chaos otherwise happening on screen. Each hero has some level of humanity and vulnerability that allows them to connect with the audience. Heck, even a robot can cry in the Avengers! When was the last time that Cage was asked to play anything resembling an actual human being with real feelings and insecurities? Cage's recent work in big-budget movies suggest that his antics, instead of calming things down, would only throw more gas on the fire, making it difficult for audiences to identify with him, or engage in the world the movie would seek to build.

Good luck getting him to listen to anybody's ideas

With so much of Cage's early career earning him both critical and commercial success, it's a pretty fair bet that he would be impervious to collaborating with his fellow cast members or directors to make a quality superhero film. Cage's still-considerable star power and reputation for, at one time, being able to deliver amazing performances may afford him so much power on set, where he may just as well be credited as a producer and an actor, that his creative choices will not meet any resistance.

For how this kind of celebrity/industry power can go wrong, one need look no further than the most recent offerings of Johnny Depp, Tim Burton, and George Lucas. If Cage has any hopes of ever slotting into another major superhero film, he is going to need to understand that his portrayal of a character and the movie he would be appearing in would be in service to a larger narrative, as in the cases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or the DCEU.

He'd only be doing it for himself

In truth, Cage's desire to take on another superhero role would only feed into his delusions of grandeur, hurting both himself and the character he would be hired to play. On his path to becoming an Oscar-winning actor and and massively bankable star, he has followed the well-worn path of another eccentric/acting great, Marlon Brando. Generally, to be mentioned in conversations with Brando would normally be a career highlight for an actor, but not in this instance. Cage, like Brando, has become a caricature of himself. And while one could look at other actors who are cast because of their eccentricities and not in spite of them(Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Walken come to mind), it appears that they are at least in on the joke. Cage seems to take himself too seriously to recognize that the world has given up on the idea of Cage as any kind of hero, except for some made-up one even Deadpool would find too annoying to let live.