DC Entertainment released yesterday the news that Brandon Routh will be portraying Ray Palmer, and his alter ego The Atom, in season three of CW Network’s Arrow TV series, adding one more Justice Leaguer into the current live-action DC universe. Since Routh previously played Superman in Superman Returns, the continuation of Christopher Reeves’ 1970s Superman role, it also seems unlikely The Atom will appear in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice two summers from now.
But it’s not the first time a movie star has played two roles in the same superhero universe. Chris Evans played Fantastic Four member Johnny Storm AKA The Human Torch in Marvel’s two Fantastic Four films, then came back to headline The Avengers as Steve Rogers AKA Captain America in three big-budget Marvel Universe movies. He was great in both roles. Fans accepted it and never even questioned Evans playing both roles.
DC Entertainment previously released Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice casting decisions for the Justice League with Henry Cavill reprising his role as Superman from Man of Steel, Ben Affleck will dawn the cowl as Batman, Gal Gadot will handle the golden lasso as Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa will wield the scepter as Aquaman AKA Arthur Curry, and Ray Fisher will play the next live-action borg as Justice Leaguer Cyborg.
CW Network already features Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen aka the (Green) Arrow, and introduced Grant Gustin as Barry Allen aka The Flash to be spun off in a Fall 2014 TV series.
With Routh cast as The Atom, this leaves DC Comics’ fans begging for J’onn J’onnz AKA The Martian Manhunter, Carter Hall AKA Hawkman, and Shayera Hol AKA Hawkgirl to show up somewhere soon. We were surprised to see Cyborg, a relative newcomer to the Justice League, being cast in any live-action incarnation of the League in advance of classic Justice Leaguers like Ray Palmer. And of course, Hal Jordan AKA Green Lantern already had his solo film back in 2011 starring Ryan Reynolds. We doubt we’ll see him in the new movie or other League members from over the years like Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Firestorm, Zatanna, or even Black Canary unless the studio taps the CW for Katie Cassidy from Arrow, assuming she takes over from her sister next season.
Routh, whose Superman performance carried forward the spirit of the comic book Superman as much as Reeves’ definitive performance in Superman: The Movie and Superman II, will be a perfect fit for the new Justice League. Routh was a popular regular as an action hero on Chuck, and his experience with the genre will prepare him well for the scientist who could shrink to the realm of nothingness to fight crime. But spinning him into the TV series instead of the next film could mean the character was vetoed for a cameo in Batman v Superman, probably along with Amell’s Oliver Queen and Gustin’s Barry Allen—it’s one thing to play different superheroes in a universe segment that doesn’t overlap as with Fantastic Four and The Avengers. But it’s different when one hero comes back to play opposite such a big role that he played so recently, and likely the creators of Batman v Superman will want to avoid confusion or implications of a parallel universe Superman by having Routh appear at all.
Still, we are looking forward to even that single pan of the classic Justice League across the big screen, even if it’s only for a cameo of each character like the bounty hunter scene in The Empire Strikes Back. It can’t be that hard to put together.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is currently scheduled for release in theaters on May 6, 2016, and CW Network’s Arrow Season 3 begins August 8, 2014.