Adapting comic books onto the big screen is no easy feat. What works in the comics doesn’t always translate well onto film, and general audiences may not always be as accepting of certain norms as comic book readers are. That tends to lead tosource material changes. (Example: Fox using nothing but black leather in the original X-Men trilogy because the characters’ traditional costumes apparently would look silly in live-action.)
Dozens of superhero movies have released since the turn of the century, beginning with X-Men, Spider-Man, The Dark Knight trilogy, and now the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe, among others. Each movie has made the decision about what to keep from the comics and what to change. And while it’s not always a bad thing to make alterations here and there, sometimes things can get out of hand, and that’s when Hollywood tends to commit figurative crimes against fans.
In no particular order, here are 15 Crimes Superhero Movies Committed Against Fans.
15. Venom in Spider-Man 3
Spider-Man has one of the best rogues galleries in the entire Marvel Universe; one that rivals that of Batman — and that’s saying something. With Sony and Marvel pushing out three separate Spidey franchises over the last two decades, audiences have seen their fair share of web-slinger villains. Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Sandman, Vulture, and Electro have all appeared (or will appear) in at least one Spider-Man movie, but what’s noticeably missing from that list is Venom. It’s best to disregard the existence of Venom in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3.
Topher Grace played Eddie Brock in Raimi’s final Spider-Man film, who later bonded with the Venom symbiote and became Spidey’s perennial enemy. While Grace portrayed Brock somewhat accurately, the way the writers wrote Venom couldn’t be saved by Grace’s performance. The villain was poorly conceived, to put it simply, but at least they got the character’s look right. We’ll have to see if Sony’s upcoming Venom movie will salvage the villain’s cinematic reputation, just like Fox did with Deadpool in 2016 (more on that later).
14. Wolverine never wore the yellow costume
The comic book movie world has changed significantly since the early 2000s, when Bryan Singer’s X-Men series took the genre through a coming-of-age of sorts, along with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man series as well as Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. While the Spider-Man movies featured comic-accurate costumes, for the most part, the X-Men movies chose to stick with black leather. Why? Because they looked cool. When Singer boarded X-Men: Days of Future Past, he promised no more leather suits. And then, when production was gearing up for X-Men: Apocalypse, he once again promised comic-accurate costumes.
While he did deliver on the no-leather promise, and we did get a chance to see a few X-Men in their original costumes toward the tail-end of Apocalypse, there is still one costume fans never got to see: Wolverine’s yellow suit. It’s the most iconic costume in the entire X-Men franchise, and with Logan, Hugh Jackman’s final film as the Canadian superhero, fans thought we might get a chance to see Jackman suit up in the yellow costume. When speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Jackman said the reason he never wore the suit is because they could never find a way to incorporate the costume without detracting from the story — and the tone.
13. Cyclops’ death in X-Men: The Last Stand
Unlike most of the other crimes committed against fans on this list, which have to do with character portrayals, the crime the filmmakers committed with Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, in X-Men: The Last Stand was the way they killed him off — cheaply, and without any fanfare whatsoever. Early on in the movie, we see Scott return to Alkali Lake, the place where his fiancee, Jean Grey, died at the end of X2: X-Men United. After unleashing his power on the lake, Jean appeared to him, and while they kissed, she killed him; or, at least, the Phoenix did.
Just like that, one of the most prominent members of the X-Men was killed off, possibly to serve the story of Jean turning into the Phoenix. But the real reason was that James Marsden, who played Cyclops in the original X-Men trilogy, was only available for a limited filming scheduled due to his commitment starring in Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. At least we got to see him return, alive, at the end of Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past.
12. Dark Phoenix Saga in X-Men: The Last Stand
The events of Bryan Singer’s X-Men and X2: X-Men United culminated into a final battle in Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand, between the X-Men and the Brotherhood, the latter of whom had a wild card at their side: the Dark Phoenix. The Dark Phoenix Saga is widely considered one of the greatest comic book stories ever told, especially by Marvel, and combining that with the mutant cure introduced by Joss Whedon in the comics gave the filmmakers a lot to work with. Unfortunately, neither storyline was properly developed, and the result was a terrible conclusion to an otherwise ground-breaking superhero trilogy.
Franchise producer Simon Kinberg has discussed the possibility of revisiting The Dark Phoenix Saga in a future franchise outing, with Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey becoming the new Phoenix. Considering the events of X-Men: Apocalypse, it seems like Jean becoming the Phoenix is an inevitable outcome. And with the next X-Men installment currently operating under the working title of “Dark Phoenix,” perhaps Jean’s transition from being a student to one of the most powerful beings in the galaxy will happen soon rather than later.
11. Bat-nipples in Batman & Robin
Whenever a comic book movie is about to release, legions of fans dissect the new superhero’s costume. It’s that important to us; costumes are identifiable aspects of a superhero’s identity, aside from their logs. While filmmakers tend to do alright with their costumes, occasionally, things get a bit out of hand. Late ’90s Bat-nipples definitely come to mind there. The Batman, Robin, and Batgirl costumes in Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin contained pec adornments, among other things, which irked fans so much that they’ve become the most infamous aspects of the film (as well as its immediate predecessor, Batman Forever).
“There’s no way I can explain it to you other than I had no idea that putting nipples on the bat costume were going to [create] international headlines. The bodies for the suits—the inspiration for them are Greek statues that have perfect bodies. And, so, we’re molding this perfect body in rubber, and they’re anatomically erotic. So, it never occurred to me not to put nipples on the men’s suits because I didn’t know the male nipple was a controversial body part,” Schumacher once said in a Batman & Robin special.
10. Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin
Of all the Batman movies ever to release, the worst is, without a doubt, Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin. We’ve already covered the ridiculous use of nipples on the superhero costumes, but those weren’t the worst things in the movie; another crime against fans was the portrayal of Mr. Freeze, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
It’s not that Schwarzenegger is a bad actor; he’s given numerous performances over the years that demonstrated his intimidating side. In Batman & Robin, however, all we got was a cartoony version of Mr. Freeze. The sad part is, the character’s origin story in Batman: The Animated Series, which actually was a cartoon, is considered one of the best episodes of the entire show. It was also nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program. To go from that level of excellence to Batman & Robin just a few years later was a true heartbreaker for fans of the character.
Schwarzenegger recently expressed interest in playing another Batman villain in the future, possibly in a DCEU movie. Depending on the character, and the story, the famous Austrian may just be given the opportunity to redeem himself in the eyes of comic book fans.
9. Tony Stark creating Ultron, instead of Hank Pym
It’s no secret that comic book movies tend to play fast and loose with the source material. That’s why it’s never a good idea to consider what you see on screen to be official canon. While certain aspects of a superhero’s origin story in the movies are taken directly from the comics, several story elements change from the page to the screen — and the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t immune to this sort of change. Take the original of Ultron, for example.
The famed Avengers supervillain debuted in the ’60s when the superhero, and original Ant-Man, Hank Pym created him. Pym is one of the smartest characters in the Marvel Universe, and he modeled Ultron’s intelligence after his own. Of course, Ultron’s intelligence later expanded, and he became a major bad guy. Something similar happened in the MCU, but instead of Pym creating the villain, Tony Stark did. Since Pym hadn’t been introduced yet, Joss Whedon felt bringing a third scientist on board the Avengers wouldn’t fly, so Stark and Bruce Banner served as Ultron’s creators. Many fans felt shortchanged by the alteration.
8. Doctor Doom’s portrayal in both Fantastic Four series
So far, the Spider-Man franchise has been rebooted three times within the past two decades, and it looks like 20th Century Fox is trying to give Sony a run for their money by rebooting the Fantastic Four series a bunch, too. They’ve already rolled with two iterations of Marvel’s First Family, and both have featured horrendous characterizations of Doctor Doom. What seems to be the issue is that Fox makes a Fantastic Four story and then try to cram Doctor Doom somewhere in the middle. Obviously, that’s not how an arch-nemesis should be developed.
The supervillain’s depiction by Fox has been atrocious so far, so much so that Tony Kebbell, who played Doom in Josh Trank’s movie, thought it would be best if Doom faced more heroes than just the Fantastic Four. He suggested that Fox lend the character to Marvel Studios to fight people like Thor, Iron Man, and Namor the Sub-Mariner (if Namor ever appears in the MCU). While he stopped short of saying Fox should give the Fantastic Four rights back to Marvel, he did get his point across about the studio botching Doom’s story.
7. Galactus in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Aside from misusing Doctor Doom — twice — Fox had trouble properly developing Galactus in Tim Story’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. He is one of the greatest villains in the Marvel Universe, and being a cosmic entity makes him one of the strongest as well. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the character so that they could escape the supervillain paradigm in the ’60s. Unfortunately, Fox ignored everything Marvel established about the character in the comics for a cliched villain, albeit one more overpowering.
The one thing the studio got right about the character was that he was a planet killer, a being whose sustenance is fueled by devouring worlds. But the biggest crime here was turning him into a large cloud, instead of using something remotely resembling his traditional comic book look. Shortly after the movie released, writer J. Michael Straczynski said the reason they didn’t explore Galactus’ origin or motivations in Rise of the Silver Surfer, and why he looked the way he did, was that they were saving all of that for the Silver Surfer’s solo movie, which never came to pass.
6. Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine
If studios want a guide on how to get a character completely wrong, take a look at Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The character technically made his cinematic debut in 2009, but the version in that movie is so dissimilar to the character in the comics that many fans have opted to forget its existence.
Firstly, we’ve already explained how significant costumes are to a superhero’s identity, and that was disregarded entirely for Deadpool; the only similarity between his comic and movie costumes was that they were both red (well, when he was actually wearing a shirt, anyway). Secondly, a character whose nickname is the Merc with a Mouth literally had his mouth sealed shut. While the writers tried to justify the action with Wade’s interactions with Col. Stryker, it didn’t translate well at all.
There are countless reasons to dislike Deadpool’s characterization in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but thankfully, the ill-fated attempt of adapting one of the Marvel Universe’s most popular characters eventually led to him receiving the proper treatment in a solo movie, one that holds the record for highest-grossing R-rated movie of all-time. See? Get a character right, and people will come.
5. Gambit barely Cajun in X-Men Origins: Wolverine
As if X-Men Origins: Wolverine didn’t break enough hearts already with Deadpool, another character who was mischaracterized was Remy LeBeau, aka Gambit, played by Taylor Kitsch. The hero’s overall portrayal wasn’t the worst part; it was the fact that he wasn’t even Cajun. Gambit’s discerning characteristic, aside from his getup and the fact that he throws explosive cards, is his thick, Cajun accent. The dialect was practically nonexistent in Gavin Hood’s film, or at least, it wasn’t as prominent as it should have been.
Fans are hoping that the studio does better with the solo Gambit film, with Channing Tatum currently set in the title role. At this point, though, who knows if the movie will ever release. The project has traded directors several times, and interest is beginning to wane. If the studio does end up moving forward with the film, hopefully, they get the character right. They redeemed themselves with Deadpool last year, and Logan was an astounding success, so perhaps they have enough momentum (and confidence) to keep the ball rolling in the right direction.
4. Wolverine replaces Kitty Pryde in X-Men: Days of Future Past
There has been a healthy amount of criticism towards the X-Men franchise for focusing too heavily on Wolverine and not as much on other screen-worthy mutants. When it was announced that Wolverine would be taking Kitty Pryde’s place in Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, the news bolstered that belief. In the comic, she’s the one who traveled back in time, via her consciousness being transferred into her younger body, but that wouldn’t work with the film because she wasn’t born yet in 1973 — at least not in the movie universe.
When asked about the trade, writer Simon Kinberg explained that it wasn’t because Wolverine was the franchise’s linchpin, but rather due to his intimate relationship with Charles Xavier. “[Wolverine] could now mentor Xavier the way Xavier had mentored him,” Kinberg said. “…Not only do we logically have an explanation, we have emotional justification for why we’d make such a big change. Kitty really has no level of relationship, the same debt to Professor Xavier. Telling this version of the story with her wouldn’t have had the same gravity.”
3. Joker in Suicide Squad
One of the biggest draws to David Ayer’s Suicide Squad was the inclusion of the Joker. The iconic supervillain’s debut in the DC Extended Universe was highly anticipated, especially since he was being played by Oscar winner Jared Leto. Just like virtually everything else in the DCEU, though, Leto’s portrayal of the Joker was met with mixed responses. Many people were disappointed with the character’s appearance for numerous reasons.
One common critique was that franchise fans felt that his take on the character was too radical and far from comic accurate (though there were aspects of Leto’s portrayal that were ripped straight out of the comics). The real problem was the script, which severely underutilized the Joker’s presence in the movie and his effect on Harley Quinn.
Another reason was that the majority of Leto’s scenes were cut from the film. Despite shooting enough scenes for an entire movie, the Joker appeared in less than 15 minutes in the final cut, which led the studio to release an extended cut on home video — but was it enough? Probably not. Hopefully, Leto’s next appearance as the Joker will redeem his performance in the eyes of his detractors.
2. Mandarin twist in Iron Man 3
The MCU has been quite successful thus far, but there’s no denying that Marvel Studios has a problem developing their villains. That was made abundantly clear with the Mandarin in Shane Black’s Iron Man 3. After being led to believe that Ben Kingsley was playing the Mandarin in the film, the leader of the Ten Rings organization introduced in the first Iron Man movie, the filmmakers pulled a fast one on audiences. As it turns out, Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian, who was another villain entirely, was the “real” Mandarin, and Kingsley was actually playing a British actor named Slattery.
The twist wasn’t necessarily about making Killian the Mandarin, but more about him perpetuating a legend to fit his own goals and beliefs. That doesn’t mean the supervillain doesn’t exist somewhere in the MCU, however. In the Marvel One-Shot short film All Hail the King, Kingsley reprises his role as Slattery and is approached by the real Mandarin’s agents. That certainly got people talking. Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige later suggested that fans should believe a true version of the Mandarin exists somewhere in the MCU, so now, at least, longtime comic book readers shouldn’t feel completely shafted by the ill-advised twist. Or perhaps they should, because as of now, there’s no telling if the villain’s true form will ever even see the light of day.
1. Quicksilver/Scarlet Witch no longer mutants in MCU
One of the biggest issues plaguing Marvel Studios is that they don’t have access to all their characters. The rights to numerous heroes, villains, and teams are held by different Hollywood studios. When the folks behind the scenes decided that they were going to use Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel needed to figure out a clever way to circumvent the rights issue. And they did ending up creating underwhelming versions of two of the best mutants in the Marvel Universe.
In 2015, shortly before the twins made their big screen debut in the MCU, Marvel altered their origin stories in the comics. They were no longer mutants, and therefore had no connection to the X-Men — or to 20th Century Fox. Instead, they were the results of experimentation by the High-Evolutionary. That origin was mirrored somewhat in the MCU, where Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch were considered miracles, not mutants. Their superhuman powers were obtained by undergoing testing at the hands of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, who used Loki’s scepter from The Avengers during the experiments.
What other crimes have superhero flicks committed against the fanbase? Let us know in the comments!