To say that movies have come a long way in their time would be understating over a century of history of an entire artistic medium which has indelibly reshaped pop culture, global politics, and societal trends. To watch and study the transformation of cinema over the decades is to study how society views itself.
Which is why it's fun to see the characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—which has singularly redefined what it means to be a blockbuster movie in the 21st century to the point where the rest of the industry is still playing a game of catch-up—reimagined as they might have been if they were released in the late 1970s, a golden age for B-movies right on the cusp of the brawny action films of the 1980s.
To that end, artist Peter Stults designed a series of four movie posters made in the style of '70s kitsch of some of the biggest Marvel characters had they been introduced to the mainstream some 40 years earlier.
Making the rounds on Twitter, one of the posters recasts Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man with Paul Newman, the de facto, classically good-looking film star of the day. Directed by the great western legend John Sturges, the film would feature a young James Earl Jones as Rhodey and Sir Rex Harrison as the treacherous Obadiah Stane. Fittingly, the poster shows the Iron Man suit in the background of Newman toasting the audience, promising that while Tony is a billionaire, playboy philanthropist, "You will know him as something more."
The second poster presents a George Miller-directed Thor film starring, of all people, Mel Gibson. It's hard to remember now, but Gibson was once the go-to movie star for savage action films. Teaming him up with his Mad Max director would guarantee that the proposed Thor would be a gritty, hard-boiled, well-paced thriller.
The cast would be rounded out with Swedish actress Lena Olin as Jane Foster, Julian Sands as Loki, and Gregory Peck as Odin. The poster shows Gibson with a more traditional Thor costume and Sands in the original Loki horned helmet.
The third poster is a take on the comedy-heavy Ant-Man. In a stroke of fantasy-casting genius, the national treasure that is Paul Rudd is recast by the late, great Gene Wilder, who was very much the relatable, tender-hearted comedy star of his day. Just remembering his performance in the original The Producers gives a good idea of how he would react if he were suddenly given shrinking powers.
However, the cake goes to the proposed 1970s Doctor Strange starring none other than the Thin White Duke himself David Bowie, and directed by cult psychedelic director Alejandro Jodorowsky. The cast goes on with kung-fu film legend Yu Wang as Wong, Oscar James as Mordo, and fantasy actress Cyrielle Clair as either the Ancient One or Dr. Christine Palmer.
Bowie's famously bizarre personality, intense performances, and penchant for the fantastical make him not so much a perfect casting choice as an assumed one, and Jodorowsky is the perfect auteur to bring to life the trippy imagery and concepts that the early Doctor Strange comics were known for. It literally couldn't get more ideal than this.