Here in the Flickering Myth multiverse, we look at how a Cannon-produced Avengers epic may have been cast…
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been doing pretty well since Robert Downey Jnr kicked off a major era in movies. Some might not like the all-powerful grip that the MCU has on multiplexes, and stalwarts of cinema like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola have bemoaned the monopolisation these have had. They’re effective though and they, at least up until peaking with Avengers: Endgame, were fool-proof money-makers.
However, the popularity of comic book movies is still relatively new in cinema history. For every bonafide success like Richard Donner’s Superman or Tim Burton’s Batman, you had box office disasters like Albert Pyun’s Captain America. Speaking of which… Cannon Films threw their hat in the comic book movie ring with an ill-fated fourth Superman, tried and failed to bring Spider-Man to life, and effectively torpedoed their company (or at least half of a post-Cannon-divorce branch-off company, which produced it) with Pyun’s aforementioned Captain America.
What if though…what if Cannon had a wildly successful year in 1987 with Masters of the Universe and Superman IV: The Quest For Peace? Here I’m going to imagine an alternate Universe Cannon somewhere between 1988-1990 with Cannon still functioning with Golan and Globus together, churning out hits. They’re going to make the ultimate comic book barnstormer, having already made Spider-Man with Pyun the year previously.
First, consider the director… It might be an old stalwart slightly past their peak, like Sidney J. Furie or J Lee Thompson, or it’s going to be an arthouse director from European cinema (or American Indie) bought in (because Cannon loved to do that). However…I’m going to give the job to the late Albert Pyun, who was being earmarked for a lot of action fantasies around that time, like the successful Masters of the Universe 2 (in this alt-reality), Spider-Man and a forthcoming Captain America gig.
Now for the main event. The cast.
Captain America – Michael Dudikoff
Matt Salinger might have starred in the film Albert Pyun put out in our reality, but a lack of star power and charisma was one reason the film failed to find a willing audience. That and it was also a cheaply constructed mess. For this $35 million budget Cannon opus Avengers spectacular we need an all-American hero and who better than Michael Dudikoff? He comes hot off a run of solid Sam Firstenberg flicks (American Ninja and Avenging Force), with Jimmy Dean looks and screen presence. Meanwhile, the upcoming Jean-Claude Van Damme comes in as The Winter Soldier in what ends up being a three-hour opus (scored by Bill Conti).
Thor – Dolph Lundgren
This might be the most obvious choice on the entire list. It’s got to be Dolph Lundgren as Thor. Masters of the Universe in this realm was a mega-hit. Dolph decides action fantasy and adapting IPs is the way to go. He’s offered The Punisher in Australia or playing Thor in Cannon’s Avengers. He’s born to play a Nordic God and wield a massive hammer. He chooses Cannon, whilst Michael Pare stars in the solo Punisher and briefly appears here too.
Hulk – Lou Ferrigno
There’s no way there’s an alternate reality where Lou Ferrigno isn’t the Hulk in the pre-CGI era. Lou, well versed in Cannon fantasy thanks to his run as Hercules and Sinbad of the Seas is still the perfect choice. The editor (Anne V. Coates) refrains from having him almost entirely in slow motion like in the TV series. Bill Bixby is, of course, Banner.
Spider-Man – Corey Feldman
Casting Peter Parker needs someone young, up and coming, but experienced. It needs a Corey. You could go Haim, but we’re going Feldman. He’ll prove an affable Peter Parker. Every Parker needs an MJ of course, and Brooke Shields provides him with someone to pine for. Shields is already part of Cannon canon with her headlining turn in Sahara, which definitely didn’t bomb in this reality.
Iron Man – Eric Roberts
Pop it Jarvis!! Eric Roberts, fresh off Oscar-nominated success with Cannon’s masterwork, Runaway Train, comes in as Tony Stark (reuniting with Rebecca De Mornay as Pepper Potts). This further cements Roberts as a rising talent whose career won’t implode the following decade. Roberts anchors the film with drama and pathos. Much like the real MCU in this realm, it’s going to be Iron Man who is the most emotionally engaging character. He’ll also have to contend with Mickey Rourke as Whiplash, but this is young Mickey Rourke, with fire in his belly.
Doctor Strange – Richard Chamberlain
Richard Chamberlain comes with a wealth of experience and plenty of charisma. The star of Cannons Indiana Jones-riffing pair of King Solomon’s Mines films can bring some gravitas to Dr. Stephen Strange. Sharon Stone stars as the Scarlett Witch to reunite their on-screen chemistry.
Hawkeye – Sylvester Stallone
Stallone was one of the biggest headliners Cannon procured during their peak. With such star power on board Cannon Avengers, a full Stallone appearance is too costly, but a sparingly impactful supporting role as Hawkeye makes sense and he’s already got the bow skills locked down tight.
Black Widow – Cynthia Rothrock
Black Widow is the headline female hero in the picture. Cannon needs to get the best of the best, and before America has even caught on, they’ve heard through the grapevine about an American martial arts champion storming her way through a bunch of Hong Kong action films. Rothrock is great and since Scar Jo never needed to worry about a Russian accent, neither does she. Expect the Black Widow to scorpion kick someone upside the head for good measure too.
Black Panther – Carl Weathers
Cannon loves action and they love stars with experience in the genre. Carl Weathers has plenty and for the all-shirtless finale with the good guys charging down the faceless enemies of Thanos’ army, he’s got the six-pack to match the rest. It’s not going to have the range or commentary of Ryan Coogler’s real film, but Weathers will make a great choice for the all-practical FX action scenes. All he has to do is get by Killmonger played by the late great Steve James.
Shang-Chi – Brandon Lee
Shang-Chi makes an appearance, played by the son of Bruce Lee. The young aspiring star has natural charisma along with the physical prowess for the action sequences. Then, because this is a fantasy universe conjured in my strange mind, Bruce Lee is still alive and has starred in Enter the Dragon 2, 3 and 4 for Cannon. Who else could play the Mandarin, Shang-chi’s father but Brandon’s father? With so much talent involved in the picture, the natural charisma of Brandon Lee manages to steal the movie, as does the character’s father-son friction with the Mandarin who has a final act change of heart (sorry, spoiler alert).
The Guardians – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christopher Reeve, Charles Bronson, Chuck Norris, Mathilda May
The Guardians briefly swoop in on their ship toward the end, thanks to some visual effects from Richard Edlund (Star Wars, Masters of the Universe). Arnold Schwarzenegger is Drax because he’s a big unit who can fire off gags. Chuck Norris voices Groot. Kenny Baker dons a slightly rubbish-looking Raccoon costume to play Rocket, who is voiced by Charles Bronson. Mathilda May plays Gomora and because it’s a Cannon film and it worked so well in Lifeforce, she doesn’t wear a stitch of clothing throughout. The final piece of the guardians jigsaw is Christopher Reeve as Star-Lord. Though synonymous with a DC character, crossing over has never been against some cinematic law (see Dolph, Ben Affleck, Ryan Reynolds and more who have jumped between DC and Marvel properties). Reeve brings charisma and sincerity in the same way he did to Superman/Clark Kent.
Aside from the aforementioned antagonists, this film needs some big villains. This requires a level of scenery chewing that befits a Cannon opus.
The Red Skull – Frank Langella
Frank Langella proved to be a sensational villain in Masters of the Universe. He elevates the film no end with a very Shakespearean and theatrical approach to the role. He would undoubtedly bring the same energy to playing the Red Skull who is the orchestrator of villainy helping Thanos to collect infinity stones for his gauntlet.
Loki – Billy Drago
Loki loves to play, but in Cannon’s version, he’s darker, more twisted and creepier. Such slimy villainy needs one of cinema’s all-time great exponents of slimy villainy in Billy Drago. Drago was always the bad guy with his intense stare and distinct look. He had a penchant for quirky villains too and Cannon’s version of Loki would undoubtedly be that.
Thanos – Oliver Reed
A mighty presence. The ability to chew scenery to near-universe-ending oblivion, but always feel oddly believable. Beyond all that, and probably being the originator of the mega-pint concept, Oliver Reed could also act. A Cannon Thanos needs to be barnstorming, bold, unhinged and played by an actor who could possibly be drunk as a skunk whilst filming. Then, he needs to have an underlying complexity that makes him interesting. That came across via Josh Brolin in the real world, even through CGI, but Reed, with some slightly haphazard purple makeup would look like a more compelling flesh and blood version of the ultimate MCU villain. He’d get a Razzie nomination, but deep down fans and cinephiles will know that it was one of the all-time great blockbuster villain performances.
Which other characters would you want to see in Cannon Avengers? Name your cast or tell me where I’ve got it very right or very wrong @FlickeringMyth…
Tom Jolliffe is an award-winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has a number of films out on DVD/VOD around the world and several releases due out in 2022/2023, including, Renegades (Lee Majors, Danny Trejo, Michael Pare, Tiny Lister, Nick Moran, Patsy Kensit, Ian Ogilvy, and Billy Murray), Crackdown, When Darkness Falls and War of The Worlds: The Attack (Vincent Regan). Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see here.