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Why Aquaman scene-stealer Djimon Hounsou is the unsung hero of comic book movies


Given the plethora of comic book movies that have hit the big screen in the last decade, there are a number of actors who have appeared in more than one.

Captain America himself, Chris Evans, was the Fantastic Four's Human Torch before wielding the star-spangled shield. Ryan Reynolds donned a CGI green outfit in Green Lantern, which he later ruthlessly mocked as Marvel's Merc with the mouth, Deadpool.

But the one actor who never seems to gain a mention alongside these A-listers is Djimon Hounsou. We therefore hail him as the unsung hero of comic book movies…

Who is this unsung hero?

Djimon Hounsou hails from the West African country Benin. After emigrating to France at a young age, the actor spent some time living rough before being introduced to modelling and, eventually, acting.

In addition to his comic book roles, you will no doubt recognise him from huge hits such as Gladiator (in which he played slave Juba opposite Russell Crowe's Maximus), Furious 7 and Blood Diamond (for which he was Oscar nominated).

Dabbling in DC

Djimon's first foray into the comic book genre was in director Francis Lawrence's 2005 adaptation of the DC graphic novel Hellblazer, titled Constantine for the big screen after its lead character.

Starring opposite Keanu Reeves (doing his best to appear sullen and world-weary), Hounsou stole every scene he's in as the enigmatic Papa Midnite. An ex-witch doctor who now sits neutrally between heaven and hell, Midnite is a club owner and friend to our demon-battling anti-hero John Constantine, assisting him with his knowledge of magic and powers of the underworld.

Hounsou of course brings his charisma and, even in such a small role, manages to out-act everyone around him as he switches from smooth club owner to intimidating sorcerer.

A superhero push

Although it doesn't stem from a comic book source, the movie Push contains all the elements we expect from the superhero genre, including mysterious powers, a shady government agency and Captain America himself, Chris Evans.

Here, Hounsou is on villain duty as the manipulative Carver, an agent of said shady agency, known as the Division. It's a role that could quite easily have been a paint-by-numbers bad guy, yet in Hounsou's capable hands we're given something a little more: a captivating, intense villain who is just so much fun to hate.

The first Black Panther

Before Marvel's Black Panther became the superhero success story of the year, the story of Wakanda and its ruler received the television miniseries treatment, with Hounsou voicing the lead.

With its distinctive art style and faithfulness to the source, the series was loved by audiences, and acted as a lot of people's introduction to the character. Hounsou's rich vocals bring the kind of regality and natural gravitas that the role requires and, while Chadwick Boseman has done a wonderful job bringing the character to life in the live-action movie, one can't help but wonder what Hounsou would have brought to the role.

Mingling with Marvel

Hounsou's Marvel henchman Korath the Pursuer played a vital part in the marketing of the studio's surprise 2014 space-adventure hit Guardians of the Galaxy. The actor's humorous delivery of 'Who!?' in response to our hero Peter Quill's (Chris Pratt) revelation of his self-given nickname, Star Lord, was a clear sign this was going to be a more flippant, offbeat Marvel movie than we'd seen before.

Although the role amounted to little more than a cameo, Korath returns in next year's Captain Marvel, appearing opposite Brie Larson's space-dwelling superhero. The movie is released on 8th March 2019.

Unsung heroics to come...

Speaking of more screen time, Hounsou is set to score a superhero hat-trick with appearances in two DC films and one Marvel movie in the coming months.

In addition to his appearance in Captain Marvel, Hounsou is unrecognisable as The Fisherman King in DC's Aquaman, an underwater ruler drawn into a wide-ranging battle with humans. It remains to be seen whether he'll be on the side of Jason Momoa's Arthur Curry/Aquaman, the hero drawn back beneath the surface to claim his rightful place as the heir of Atlantis.

The movie is released in December and, after that, he dons a decidedly less cumbersome but still excessive white wig and beard ensemble for the lighthearted Shazam! Hounsou's character is a mystical sorcerer who grants a young teenager the ability to transform into a superhero. Shazam! is released in April 2019.

We want to hear from you Djimon Hounsou fans out there – tweet us your favourite superhero role of his @Cineworld.

Aquaman is released on 14th December – check out the trailer below.

Jon Fuge is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.