by Jack Henison
Nicolas Cage seems to be one of the most controversial actors of all time, this isn’t due to his reputation of course, but just the mere mention of his name will more often than not cause debate amongst people. There are those who feel that Cage is a great actor, in fact one of the best of his generation and then there are those who feel the exact opposite.
Most people my age are only familiar with Nicolas Cage through his more recent mainstream films that include ‘National Treasure’ and ‘Ghost Rider’. I can’t comment on either simply because I haven’t seen them, but the general consensus is that he is a hack who can’t act. Now a big problem is that I’m not entirely sure how many people who say such things have actually seen these films and are simply only being negative because that’s what the critics seem to say.
The next problem with Nicolas Cage isn’t necessarily a bad one, it’s just that for an actor he makes way to many movies a year and because of this it means that as an audience we often miss his well-received character driven roles, in favour for his over the top summer blockbusters. Now this isn’t exactly Cage’s fault, surely it’s the film going public who choose to spend their money on say the non-challenging, family friendly ‘Sorcerer’s apprentice’ as opposed to the more hard hitting, uncompromising, Werner Herzog directed drama ‘Bad lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans’?
The biggest problem for me when people say Nicolas Cage is a bad actor is their reluctance to look at his entire oeuvre. Yes I will not deny the fact that Nicolas Cage has certainly been in some questionable film roles but then again hasn’t every other great actor? Take Robert De Niro for example since he made ‘Heat’ in 1995 he has only appeared in handful of good film roles or perhaps Christian Bale whose had his share of bad film roles to date as well ‘Equilibirum’ and ‘Terminator Salvation’ immediately spring to mind. But why do these actors escape such criticism? Well I think the answer is simple and goes back to my previous statement, Bale and De Niro simply don’t make as many films, and therefore their filmographies are less affected than Cage’s when they do have a bad performance.
Now this is where I stand with Cage. My first introduction to him was in the late 90s when he made several popular action flicks which include a film I have no shame in saying I really like ‘Face/Off’ and guilty pleasures like ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’ and ‘The Rock’. These weren’t amazing films but heck they weren’t awful either. After that my affiliation with Cage ended until I went to university which is where I saw ‘Kick-Ass’ and if I’m honest I thought he was brilliant in it. Now like I said earlier I have not seen any of Cage’s recent popular films but judging from their plot descriptions they do sound very bad, so I figure why would I want to watch them? Do people watch these purely to dislike him, because I really am not sure? I did however see ‘The Wicker Man’ though granted it is a bad film, I actually found Cage incredibly fun to watch just like he is in his better films, something nobody could deny him of.
Anyway the point I wish to get across is just how far you are willing to explore someone’s career. Now upon seeing ‘Kick-Ass’ I then went onto discover ‘Raising Arizona’, ‘Adaptation’, ‘Leaving Las Vegas’, ‘Matchstick men’ and ‘Wild at heart’ amongst others. It made me realise that to not watch these essential films would be ignorant, as you are denying yourself a great wealth of knowledge and run the risk of being accused ‘film illiterate’ by saying he’s a bad actor.
For me I purposely chose to explore his career further by ignoring his badly received films in favour of his higher praised work and what I discovered was truly wonderful. I end on a quote by the late great Roger Ebert:
“There are often lists of the great living male movie stars: De Niro, Nicholson and Pacino, usually. How often do you see the name of Nicolas Cage? He should always be up there. He’s daring and fearless in his choice of roles, and unafraid to crawl out on a limb, saw it off and remain suspended in air. No one else can project inner trembling so effectively…. He always seems so earnest. However improbable his character, he never winks at the audience. He is committed to the character with every atom and plays him as if he were him.”