Lawrence's Fantasy Draft: Robotech: Nolan, Fassbender, McAvoy, Neeson
(Editor's Note: The following is part of The First Cosmic Book News Fantasy Hollywood Draft; keyword being "fantasy")
By: Lawrence Napoli
My fantasy Hollywood film is a live action adaptation of Robotech. This film is a sci-fi/action/war genre hybrid that I would prefer to be rated R for adult content, but PG-13 is negotiable. There has been so many rumors concerning a live action adaptation of Harmony Gold’s IP for years, and none of them have produced didley-squat in terms of real commitments and actual production. For some odd reason, the rumored adaptation was tied to one Tobey Maguire because somebody got it in their head that he is “the perfect Rick Hunter.” That statement couldn’t be less accurate unless it was compared to something like "Tobey Maguire is the perfect Shaft." Long story short, Maguire is not right for the Macross Saga done correctly: Namely taking it seriously, making social commentary about the human condition in regards to racism, war, and genetic manipulation and being able to distinguish true evolution from technological advancement.
I only envision two films to get Robotech: Macross City to end with the events that culminate within the Force of Arms episode of the series (a massive invasion of Earth, the destruction of 90% of it, while the SDF-1 and allies survive). The only circumstance I’d consider a trilogy for is if we take Hunter, Hayes and the original crew on the SDF-3 to depict their expedition to find the Robotech Masters on their home turf.
I love the story of Robotech because despite all the great action, technology and transforming robots, the story is rooted in heavy drama, deep character development and is driven forward by intense emotions like love, despair, rage, serenity and loyalty. It’s also a story about the bubbles humanity chooses to live in various degrees because of our professions, our acquaintances, our gender and every other possible way we divide ourselves. This irony is ultimately defeated in Robotech because the humanity contained within the SDF-1 sets aside its collective BS amongst themselves and those considered “aliens” which allows them to succeed.
Here’s the breakdown for my draft picks as well as my supplemental cast:
Chris Nolan (Director) #3 overall pick
This man is arguably, the best director in the game right now not just because he directs critically acclaimed and commercially successful films, but because he also writes them. Nolan is known for edgy grit and anchoring even fantastic scenarios in the real world with real consequences (see his Batman trilogy). He is the most important addition to this production because the stakes will be even higher (the survival of the human species) and with all the transforming mecha running around in space, the tone of this film needs to stay disciplined in drama. Nolan can insure that happens and I would think he would be interested in helming a production that goes to space.
Rick Hunter played by James McAvoy, #26 overall pick
Rick is the main character of the Macross Saga and James McAvoy has considerably more impressive acting chops than Tobey Maguire. The original animation goes out of its way to present Rick as a naive boy in the beginning and this is something I’d like to tone down in my vision for Rick. Yes he’s still a rookie, yes he loves to fly, yes he’s not too keen on killing, but his need to protect (specifically Minmei) allows him to overcome his ignorance/apathy of the Zentraedi invasion that evolves into his own personal sense of duty to his mentor Roy Fokker, his Vermillion squadron, the women he loves (Lisa and Minmei) and the SDF-1 in general. McAvoy is on the extremely short list of actors that can turn vulnerability into strength, plus he’s got those baby blue eyes.
Roy Fokker played by Michael Fassbender, #31 overall pick
Yes, I realize I have transplanted the 2 main characters from X-Men: First Class, but the relationship between McAvoy and Fassbender’s characters is reversed in this adaptation. Lieutenant Commander Roy Fokker is the best pilot in the RDF; a real hot shot when it comes to killing proficiency and style while doing it. He also has personal history with Rick having flown in Hunter’s aerial circus in his younger days. It is the reason Rick refers to Roy as “big brother” throughout the saga as Roy acts as a guiding mentor for the talented young pilot. Roy is 50% hubris and 50% disciplined duty and that’s exactly how I’d classify Fassbender’s acting prowess and general demeanor. Roy knows he’s the best, but that is not what drives his sense of duty. Being able to temper arrogance with responsibility is Fassbender’s calling card.
Lisa Hayes played by Sasha Alexander, supplemental pick
Commander Hayes is the first officer on the bridge of the SDF-1 and is the third person in a love triangle with Rick Hunter and Lynn Minmei. A career military woman and quite beautiful to boot requires an actress that has more than a pretty face. Thus I present Rizzoli and Isles Sasha Alexander (you’ll remember her as Pacey’s hot sister from Dawson’s Creek). The scientific and procedural demeanor she displays on Rizzoli and Isles proves she can carry herself in an equally disciplined, military manner while the softer side she showed on Dawson’s proves she can open up an insecurity in an attempt to pursue the younger Rick Hunter with whom she has become attracted to for his intense bravery and skill in defending the SDF-1.
Lynn Minmei played by Hikaru Utada, supplemental pick
Minmei is easily the most complex character to cast for because as one of the few civilians featured prominently in Robotech, her contributions to the war effort are derived from the character’s ability as a singer and actress. A better known actress having her singing sequences dubbed over simply will not do. Thus, I present Hikaru Utada (the signature voice behind the Kingdom Hearts theme songs) and quite a lovely Asian flower with whom Rick Hunter could easily be enamored with as another character in the love triangle. Minmei represents an immature, yet extremely attractive budding pop star that becomes the SDF-1’s number one celebrity, but her singing ability introduces the Zentraedi race to the concept of true beauty (non-physical) which is so foreign, shocking and upsetting to them as individuals, their ability to assault the SDF-1 is severely diminished. Hikaru may need additional support from Nolan with her acting performance (as it gets intimate with Rick), but her focus must remain within song.
Breetai played by Liam Neeson, #12 overall pick
Breetai is the commander of the invading Zentraedi armada who is known for his ruthlessness as well as a somewhat honorable dissection of the enemy in combat. As I projected the kinds of actors for my cast, Neeson seemed to fit this violent combination quite well, but he was also the biggest “name” on my list, so I took a bit of a gamble by drafting him before my main characters. Like all Zentraedi, Breetai is a hard man shut off from most of his emotions, but the song of Minmei eventually turns him into a believer that the Micronians (Earthlings) must control “the proto-culture” or the combined genetic, technological and behavioral means to evolve life to a higher plane of existence.
Captain Henry Gloval played by Gary Oldman, #17 overall pick
Veteran actors seemed to be going like hotcakes early in the draft so I was compelled to go after my first choice for the captain of the SDF-1 earlier rather than later. Oldman, a veteran actor capable of producing a satisfactory Russian accent seemed the obvious choice for the leader of the isolated slice of human civilization aboard the SDF-1. Gloval’s distinguished military record designates him as a warrior but his priorities shift to more of a statesman when simply surviving the relentless Zentraedi pursuit is the only course of action. Oldman has a commanding presence making him an appropriate foil to Breetai, but his ability to pull back on the intimidation makes him an ideal actor to portray Gloval as also a man of peace.
Maximillion Sterling played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, #40 overall pick
Max is an up-and-coming ace pilot under the command of Rick Hunter who demonstrates nerves of steel, but is uncharacteristically polite and well-mannered for a soldier of his caliber. Although he’s become a seasoned actor, Gordon-Levitt can still sell a boyish charm vital for Max as a character. His somewhat receding hairline is somewhat of a concern for me seeing how I’d need his hair to be closer to what it was during his Third Rock from the Sun days. His hair would look fine in a shade of blue.
Miriya Parina played by Olivia Wilde, #45 overall pick
Miriya is the stone-cold ace pilot of the Zentraedi fleet who puts Roy Fokker’s arrogance to shame. Unbridled confidence is the name of the game for Miriya and Olivia Wilde has got that all over! She must also demonstrate an ability to shift to humility as Miriya is bested on the battlefield by Max with whom she becomes obsessed with assassinating for the only defeat she has suffered in life. This humiliated obsession turns into attraction when she infiltrates the SDF-1 looking for Max. Miriya then becomes adorable for her desire to fit in on the SDF-1 despite her ignorance of Micronian culture. I’m pretty sure Olivia pulls off “adorable” quite well (see Tron: Legacy).
Exedore played by Tim Roth, #54 overall pick
Exedore is the quirky Minister of Affairs for the Zentraedi fleet and is Breetai’s chief consultant who has an intimate knowledge of the concept of “proto-culture,” the understood ultimate goal for all Zentraedi third to war and conquest. Tim Roth has got “quirky” in the bag, but his past roles called for combining that with extreme violence (Planet of the Apes, The Incredible Hulk). The challenge for Roth will be to substitute the violence with a scientific, deductive paranoia that allows Exedore to be constantly questioning Micronian tactics to the point that he too becomes a believer in Earthling “proto-culture” and a proponent for peace. Roth will have to tap into the same kind of charm he demonstrated as “Pumpkin” in Pulp Fiction.
Khyron played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, supplemental pick
Khyron is yet another arrogant leader within the Zentraedi armada who gets called up as the first wave of reinforcements to capture the SDF-1. Rhys Meyers has all but perfected the art of ruthless arrogance (see his work on The Tudors), but he’ll have to work in a little incompetence to his performance because Khyron’s ability as a commander and combatant is not what one would classify as “marquee.”
Claudia Grant played by ZoÃ« Saldana, supplemental pick
Claudia is the second bridge officer of the SDF-1, best friend of Lisa Hayes and current lover tied to Roy Fokker. Ms. Saldana is strictly playing a support role that exists to provide a more mature counter-point to the opinions expressed by Lisa and Roy so confidence tied with casual friendliness is the order of the day for Claudia.
Azonia played by Vera Farmiga, supplemental pick
Azonia is the leader of the female battalion of the Zentraedi forces who gets called up by Breetai as additional reinforcements and as a means of getting Khyron’s shenanigans under control. If Vera could duplicate the same level of commanding indifference she displayed in Source Code, she nails this support role.
Ben Dixon played by Jason Segel, supplemental pick
For some reason, everyone on the internet sees Ben Dixon as the token funny fat guy of Robotech, so naturally everyone wants Seth Rogen to play this role. WRONG! Sure, Ben is a big lug that has many cheesy lines, but that needs to be reined in a bit and Jason Segel is the man for the job. Segel can be as loud and obnoxious as the rest, but Ben is a character that puts up that front to mask his genuine fear of the overwhelming odds the SDF-1 faces. Scaling back the absurdity to a degree of seriousness is something I see Segel doing quite well, plus his tall stature in relation to Rick Hunter (McAvoy) and Max Sterling (Gordon-Levitt) makes him more physically appropriate for the role.