Even though we are years away from needing a new James Bond, Richard Madden is currently the favorite heir presumptive, thanks to his compelling turn in Bodyguard. But yesterday The Wrap reported that Madden is in talks for The Eternals, the Marvel movie that will star Angelina Jolie. I realize James Bond is an iconic character, but let’s be honest about blockbuster cinema in the twenty-first century—Marvel is a WAY better deal. Especially as The Eternals will be an ensemble a la Guardians of the Galaxy, which means you get all the benefits of being in a Marvel movie, without having to carry the whole thing on your shoulders.
Do you want to play 007, a character weighted by decades of expectation in a franchise that is uneven, at best? Or do you want play a random comic book guy with no expectations in the biggest franchise-builder in the world, which is also famous for not making bad movies? Bond is iconic, yes, but Marvel is the biggest franchise-builder in the world, and a solid run of Marvel movies can make an actor iconic, too. Do you remember that nine years ago we were dubious of Chris Evans? We wondered if he could even stand up to RDJ in shared scenes. Go back and tell your 2010 self that Chris Evans is now one of the biggest stars on the entire planet, beloved by millions around the world, and watch your 2010 self laugh in your face. Bond is not the only iconic franchise, is all I’m saying.
Also, if there is any truth to those rumors about Madden and Brandon Flynn, Marvel might be the kinder place to be right now. Bond is a symbol of old-school, womanizing, toxic masculinity (all the more reason to cast Dev Patel and start dismantling the symbolism of the character), but Marvel is out here looking for their first openly gay superhero. IF the rumors are true, and Madden does land at Marvel, at this time it seems he would get more support to live openly than he would with Bond, whose producers remain very strait-laced. Not that Marvel should suddenly win a GLAAD Award—that “first openly gay character” thing is a huge overstatement—but they are at least trying to catch up to where the rest of us live in 2019.
As for the role, once again, we have no idea who Madden could be playing. The best guess is Ikaris, the dude who has A Complicated Thing with Sersi, who will likely be played by Angelina Jolie. But we don’t really know, because the Eternals is a whole new corner of the MCU and director Chloe Zhao has a wide open sandbox to play in. Presuming Madden is playing Ikaris, though, he would be a super-space dude who is kind of cross between Captain Marvel and Jean Grey. I really can’t wait to see what they do with the Eternals, they’re a bonkers Jack Kirby team and the movie is rumored to include not just Angelina, but also Train to Busan’s Dong-seok Ma, and Kumail Nanjiani. This is shaping up to be a helluva cast. And if Madden does join Marvel, that could clear the path for the true once and future Bond: Dev Patel.