British actor Benedict Cumberbatch is already known for conquering numerous entertainment mediums in his career to date, though he has yet to truly stand out in the world of film. That’s about to change this year as he reinvents himself as the go-to actor to portray some of the creepiest and most controversial movie characters seen for some time. And while his popular British show “Sherlock” shows the continuation of depicting Holmes as morally ambiguous, his role as John Harrison in upcoming “Star Trek Into Darkness” takes that far over the edge.
Other than Ben Kingsley’s elaborate portrayal of acutely nefarious The Mandarin in May’s “Iron Man 3”, Cumberbatch’s John Harrison character may exceed him in sheer evil. This appears to be done, as well, without any sense of campiness and merely a cold, calm stare during face-to-face interrogations with Capt. Kirk and crew. It’s that particular approach to villainy why Cumberbatch may soon be in demand playing the baddie everybody fears.
He obviously doesn’t want to get stereotyped into such things, though, considering he’s playing at least three of those roles this year. After audiences see him as John Harrison in “Trek”, he’ll be playing Smaug and The Necromancer in the “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” Mind you, the latter characters are motion-capture performances, but that creepy voice he can spout adeptly will still be there along with the brilliantly cold expressions.
It’s those particular expressions that may also explain why he was given the role of depicting Julian Assange for a movie in November about the formation of WikiLeaks. This one’s called “The Fifth Estate”, and Cumberbatch may end up being a dead ringer for Assange based on similar facial features. While that role has the air of ambiguity as “Sherlock” has, one has to ponder if playing John Harrison will change all perceptions about Cumberbatch’s career aspirations.
The fact is that Cumberbatch is also perfectly capable of playing warmer characters, which he’ll also demonstrate this year playing Little Charles Aiken in “August: Osage County.” Villains, however, almost always get the most attention. Don’t be surprised if his John Harrison character becomes the most talked about movie antagonist of the year next to The Mandarin.
When that happens, it means he’ll have to return as Harrison (or whoever he really is), just as The Mandarin will in a future “Iron Man” movie. It may be the same trajectory Sir Anthony Hopkins has had to endure ever since playing Hannibal Lecter. Hopkins has played myriad characters with a conscience since then, even if Hannibal is the role he’ll always be remembered playing.
In that regard, it’s a shame Cumberbatch didn’t reinvent his movie career by playing Sherlock Holmes on the big screen. Had he done that, it would have left more room for him to play characters where you’re not quite sure if he’s off the wall evil or out to make the world a better place.