Luke Evans first hit mainstream Hollywood back in 2010 when he appeared as Apollo in Clash of the Titans, and it feels like we’ve been hearing his name ever since. It’s a little bit of an odd film to mark a popular actor’s emergence, given that the film itself was entirely unremarkable. In fact, NY Mag’s review even described it as not being a train wreck because a train wreck would be memorable.
But if Clash of the Titans was generic, forgettable nonsense, Evans seemed promising. Sure enough, he started to see a lot of relatively major roles heading his way. The problem was that the bulk of them ended up being somewhat similar to Clash of the Titans, soaking up big budgets and generating attention before flopping with critics and audience members.
He did have a small role in 2010’s Robin Hood (the Russell Crowe one), but the next time he was particularly noteworthy was in The Three Musketeers, a horrible 2011 adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas novel. Evans played the role of Aramis, one of the titular musketeers, and purely in terms of “type” he fit the role rather well. He seemed to offer a more serious take on the character than Charlie Sheen (albeit pre-insanity Charlie Sheen) in the 1993 Disney version of the story. And Evans was actually a bright spot in the film. But overall this was a disaster, bringing reckless silliness and total absurdity to a tale that ought to be handled with care. If Evans and everyone else involved had gone years without securing more major roles, it wouldn’t have been a surprise.
This fall, we’ll see him in what could turn out to be his biggest role yet, as Scott Hipwell in The Girl On The Train.
Curiously, Evans’s next major role, later that year, was as an Olympian god once more. In this case it was as Zeus in Immortals, which should have been a very popular film almost by default. People are fascinated by the ancient gods of Greece and Rome (which is why Clash of the Titans was green-lit in the first place). Similar mythology worked in Troy, in 300, and in the television show Spartacus, and recently the same gods have sparked their own online gaming series. Gala’s jackpot titles now include several spins on an “Age Of The Gods” concept in which a number of godly figures are spattered across slot reels. On the reels and in bonus features, you’ll find Apollo, Athena, Atlas, etc., and, of course, Zeus. These are the characters that appeared in (more or less) human form in Immortals, offering what was perhaps a wholly unique take on the Olympians—and Evans was in command. A young, dashing Zeus was a brand-new concept and he handled it well in providing some of the film’s better moments, even if it wasn’t a terrific movie.
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Evans followed this up with a mistake, appearing as Detective Fields in The Raven, which was a miserable adaptation of some of Edgar Allen Poe’s greatest work. But soon thereafter he began to translate the glimpses of promise from his previous efforts into a bit of a hot streak.
This began with his introduction as Owen Shaw in Fast & Furious 6, right when it became evident that the high-octane action franchise was becoming something bigger than anyone anticipated. Interestingly enough, Evans introduced his character in quotes at Digital Spy as a villain from a ‘higher bracket’ than those in the past films. And accordingly, Fast & Furious 6 is when everybody’s favorite street racers really did jump up to a new level, moving past street gangs and urban crime-fighting to something more akin to international special ops. It’s an absurd transition of course, but it was made easier by the slick entry of Shaw to the story. Evans reprised the role in Furious 7.
In between those two sequels, there was the mild debacle of Dracula Untold (okay, it’s kind of fun, but it's not actually good), but Evans also arguably stole the show as Bard in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. And in the time since Furious 7, he made perhaps his biggest impression yet on critics as the drunken but sensible Wilder in the bizarre dystopian picture High-Rise. Tom Hiddleston got most of the publicity from this film, and in truth the whole story was a bit of a mess. However, Evans’s Wilder was the most human presence in it, and it was probably the most demanding test the actor has taken on yet. He aced it.
The trajectory, then, is quite clear for this actor who’s still just 37 years old. And this fall, we’ll see him in what could turn out to be his biggest role yet, as Scott Hipwell in The Girl On The Train. Based on a best-selling thriller by Paula Hawkins, this promises to be one of the bigger films left in 2016. Its October release will see it seeking to bridge that tricky gap between summer blockbuster entertainment and late-year Oscar-quality production—making it something like this year’s Gone Girl. If it’s successful, and if Evans again distinguishes himself, we may begin to see him being taken even more seriously.