Christian Bale in the Marvel Universe
As Collider confirms talks are underway with Christian Bale to join the cast of the next Thor movie Thor: Love and Thunder, web site Illuminerdi provides confirmation Bale will play an “Intergalactic Villain” in the film, a character “who is specifically stated to be the main villain of the film…. an alien species…’otherworldly’.” Speculation is now rife over which villain Bale may embody on the screen.
With the actor, known for his portrayal of DC Comics’ Iconic hero Batman in the Christopher Nolan Batman/Dark Knight Trilogy, now up for a more sinister role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we turn to Marvel’s comic book history for some ideas on who he might be.
Knowing that things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe may not always be what they seem at first glance, and understanding that Marvel now has access to intergalactic characters from the X-Men’s Universe, there’s a chance Bale could be playing a villain from the alien Shi’ar.
The Shi’ar and their empire are a part of Marvel Comics’ intergalactic pantheon, a race as powerful and populous as the Kree or the Skrulls, led much of the time by a female empress, Lilandra. They are humanoid-looking but avian (yes, bird people. Sort of), cold-blooded, and have crests atop their heads.
The Shi’ar make a great deal of sense as foils for Thor and company in the forthcoming movie — we’ve already learned Natalie Portman will rejoin the MU as Jane Foster becoming a sort of female Thor. That resembles a storyline recently in the comics, but last fall writer and director Taika Waititi’s comments to Variety downplayed any connections. Thor facing off against an empire led by a woman, however — and ultimately ceding his hammer to Jane for the final face-off against Lilandra — would neatly inform an underlying theme of female power for the film.
What does that mean for Christian Bale?
There are two distinct possibilities.
The term “otherworldly” has led to speculation that Bale might play a quasi-deity from the comics akin to Star-Lord’s father, the Celestial (Kurt Russell), like the Beyonder, who caused the original Secret Wars, or even Adam Warlock, whose cocoon was supposedly seen after the credits of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. But neither of these is likely, as the Beyonder’s introduction is tied into his own, huge saga, the Secret Wars, and much as Bale might make a magnificent Adam Warlock, it’s not likely they would “poach” the character from Guardians.
But the Shi’ar are uncharted territory for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as the Shi’ar’s stories grew out of the X-Men books, and so have been off-limits. With Disney’s takeover of 20th Century Fox, the Shi’ar are available. And Fox didn’t use them, either — though they may have originally been part of the plan for Dark Phoenix. We’ve seen the Kree and the Skrulls in the MCU, so the idea of alien races and empires is well-established.
Bale could portray Shi’ar Imperial Guardsman Praetor Gladiator — Kallark. A Strontian, he serves the Shi’ar Empire and leads their elite warriors. Gladiator has hung around with Star-Lord and the Guardians of the Galaxy, and even served for a time as Shi’ar Emperor. He is devoted to the Shi’ar and Lilandra — he has been both an enemy and a friend to humans, depending on the will of his Empire. If Thor and company were to come up against the Shi’ar, Bale as Gladiator would be their main villain through most of the film, until it was revealed he served an empress. He could become a hero — there’s ambiguity to play with there.
Though Gladiator would seem to be the big bad, the reveal of Lilandra and the Shi’ar Empire would be a worthy plot twist to fuel the third act. “Who is this guy?” — Gladiator could be attacking them for apparently unknown reasons, resolved through discovery of the empire behind him.
Yet that doesn’t seem twisty enough for Waititi, and Gladiator might not be big enough a player for a star of Bale’s magnitude. Another prominent Shi’ar-related character could provide heft suited to Bale, as well as provide a back-door entrance for mutants and the X-Men into the Marvel Cinematic Universe — the Emperor Vulcan.
Vulcan is long-lost Gabriel Summers, an incredibly potent mutant with energy manipulation powers, and brother to Scott Summers, Cyclops of the X-Men. Vulcan loves power, and eventually takes over the Shi’ar Empire. For an extra twist, the plot could work as above (with a different actor as Gladiator), only to have Lilandra turn to Thor — Jane? — when Vulcan takes over her empire. We might not even know he’s a human mutant at first.
Bale as Vulcan would provide plenty of twists, with a cool X-Men related reveal at the ending.
Again, this is all speculation. We may not see the Shi’ar. Bale could play a completely different villain, or hero who seems a villain at first. The Marvel Comics cosmic universe is packed with possible roles. For another example, if Thor and company ran afoul of the NOVA Corps, Bale could appear as Richard Rider — NOVA — who might seem a villain at first if he’s after our heroes. Though NOVA is a little like Spider-Man in space — they may be thinking of a younger person for that character, whom they’ve said would appear in future films.
All that said, it’s not a done deal yet, according to the reports. And the above is only educated speculation. But either Vulcan or Gladiator would allow Bale to play a role with complex motivations and ambiguous notions of right and wrong, a character with gravitas and weight. Which would seem to be right up his intergalactic alley.
Mike Luoma is a writer, podcaster, audio book narrator, comic book creator, and publisher from Vermont. His work can be found at http://glowinthedarkradio.com.