Fans are a passionate bunch. We love our comic characters and are very protective of them. We become excited about the prospect of having our characters adapted into a movie or TV show. That excitement is often followed by nervousness. We all hope that they don’t screw it up. The mishandling of any comic book character can lead to long lasting repercussions to their reputation.
Remember when no one would touch Daredevil with a ten foot pole? 2003’s Daredevil led casual fans to dismiss Daredevil as ” just a lame Marvel character”. Comic fans knew they were only basing the character because of the bad movie but, they longed for a way to defend their superhero. The same thing happened to Punisher. They tried three times to get him right.Netflix released Daredevil in 2015 and all was well in the universe again. They even managed to fix Punished and Elektra in season two.
DC had their misfires too. Some fans choose to forget the failed TV pilot for Justice League of America in 1997. There would need to be another entire article to explain the level of awful that that pilot was to.If you like the JLA, consider yourself lucky for not having seen it. Let’s assume that the new Justice League movie will be better.
Now let’s retread some frustrating memories for some fans with our list of 15 Comic Characters That Hollywood Never Gets Right.
15. Conan the Barbarian
Robert E. Howard’s legendary sword wielding hero started off in novels, but his stories have been told in the pages of comics as far back as 1970.
Conan made his film debut in 1982 with Conan the Barbarian, and was a moderate success. Fans praised all the nods to Robert E. Howard’s work. Arnold Schwarzenegger played the titular Cimmerian and he was not bad. Schwarzenegger certainly had the physique for the character but, his acting was pretty raw at that time. It didn’t help that his accent was in full Arnold mode at the time. An inferior sequel called Conan the Destroyer came out in 1984 and effectively ended Arnold Schwarzenegger’s tenure as Conan. The short lived live action TV show in 1997 called Conan the Adventurer was in some ways even worse than the movie that preceded it.
It took until 2011 for fans to see Conan on screen again. This time he was played by Jason Momoa. Again, he looked the part, but came off as wooden and having little charisma. Poor reviews certainly didn’t help.
Mandarin is one of Iron Man’s most iconic villains. He is essentially, the Joker to Tony’s Batman. Iron Man 3 was Mandarin’s only live action adaptation, and it was interesting, to say the least.
Powerhouse actor Ben Kingsley played Mandarin. It should be pointed out that in the comics, Mandarin is Asian and Ben Kingsley is of Indian descent, so, there’s that difference right from the start. The movie started off well enough. It showcased Mandarin as a powerful foe to be reckoned with. Near the middle of the movie we find out that the “Mandarin” is actually just a drunken British character actor who was hired to play the part of a villain.
13. Swamp Thing
Alan Moore rebooted Len Wein’s Swamp Thing series, and quickly turned it into a deeply philosophical and thought-provoking comic. Swamp Thing’s live-action adaptations couldn’t live up to the source material.
Director Wes Craven’s well meaning but flawed Swamp Thing came out in 1982. The movie focused on action and monster tropes. It never really got to the heart of the character. 1989’s The Return of Swamp Thing was a complete mess. It didn’t know if it wanted to be a comedy or a b-movie. Heather Locklear starred as Abby Arcane and won a Razzie award as Worst Actress for her performance in the movie.
One final stab at Swamp Thing came in 1990. TV show producers valiantly tried to take Swamp Thing down a darker and more serious road but, they failed horribly. The execution was very poor. The acting was cringey, the dialogue was cheesy and the rest was unintentionally campy. The first few episodes are nearly unwatchable. Even so, it was still better than 1997’s Justice League TV movie.
12. Venom/Eddie Brock
Spider-Man has many great villains in his rogues gallery, but fans always had a special place in their hearts for Venom. He quickly rose to fame in the late ’80s and ’90s.
Director Sam Raimi had already directed two well received Spider-Man movies before he was forced to include Venom in Spider-Man 3. The movie ended up with a total of 3 villains (Sandman, Green Goblin & Venom). Many fans rightly believed Venom was a good enough character to be the only villain in a Spider-Man movie.
That ’70s Show actor Topher Grace was cast to play Venom/Eddie Brock. If you’ve ever seen Eddie Brock/Venom in comics or in animated versions, you’ll notice that Brock is a rather large bulky man, which Topher Grace is definitel ynot. Maybe when Topher Grace was in his Venom form he’d look bulkier? Not really. Plus Venom is supposed to be intimidating. You don’t really get intimidating from Topher Grace’s performance. He comes off as more whiny and annoying. They also didn’t even give him a Vemom “voice.”
11. Green Arrow
The Emerald Archer has had two live action depictions thus far. Smallville was the first TV show to introduce Green Arrow to the masses. His characterization wasn’t bad, but he felt a bit bland at times, plus the creators never gave him his trademark outfit. He didn’t even have facial hair!
Arrow saw the character’s stock rise considerably but, there are a number of vocal fans that don’t fully appreciate Arrow‘s take on their favorite archer. The show runners decided to cash in on the popularity of Batman at the time and choose to give Arrow a darker tone.
The problem is that on the show, Green Arrow is too much like Batman. There’s very little to separate the two. It doesn’t help that actor, Stephen Amell plays Green Arrow much too woodenly. He lacks the charm, humor, and wit that made Green Arrow different from Batman. The show runners also made perplexing changes. The most obvious is, losing the “Green” and leaving it only as “Arrow”. Perhaps the original name sounded too silly but, why change the name of Star City to Starling city)? At least they gave him a costume and some facial hair.
A favorite among fans, Storm is arguably the most powerful member of the X-Men. In comics, she has a rich history and a strong, yet complex personality. She’s certainly not just a side character. Thanks to the X-Men movies, Storm has had several onscreen appearances.
In all but one of those movies, Storm was played by Halle Berry. Now, Halle Berry is a perplexing actress. She’s won both an Oscar and a Razzie award, so you never really know what you’re going to get out of her performance. Storm hasn’t been a bright spot for her. In the first X-Men film she had a forced accent and some bad lines of dialogue to work with. The rest of movies improved a bit but Storm still felt off. Halle Berry can’t be blamed for the lack of characterization given to Storm. That falls on the writers.
X-Men: Apocalypse was the one movie that starred Alexandra Shipp as Storm. She looked great and had a realistic accent, but the filmmakers failed her. Storm was relegated as a side character with very little motivation or backstory. The Mohawk was cool, though.
Speaking of X-Men, now we get to Angel/Archangel. Warren Worthington III, AKA Angel, was one of the founding members of the X-Men. He started out as a fairly typical superhero until he met Apocalypse, who tricked Angel and turned him into one of his four horsemen. He became Archangel and sported a meaner look to go with his personality.
Angel first appeared in X-Men: The Last Stand. He was played by Ben Foster, who is a fine actor. Unfortunately his appearance in the movie was more like a cameo. The movie seemed like it would focus on Angel as an important character but he ended up disappearing for more then half of the movie. He didn’t even fight in the war against Magneto at the climax of the movie.
Archangel made another appearance in X-Men: Apocalypse, this time played by Ben Hardy. His acting wasn’t great and the movie missed a vital opportunity to explore the complicated history between Angel and Apocalypse. Plus, his costume was pretty mediocre.
8. Ghost Rider/Johnny Blaze
Ghost Rider is one of Marvel’s most badass looking characters and he also has several quality stories, thanks to writers like Warren Ellis and Jason Arron. But when Hollywood took a shot at adapting Ghost Rider in 2007, they focused solely on the visual of the character and left out good writing, directing, and acting.
Nicolas Cage played Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider in both movies (Ghost Rider, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance). Cage is known to go a bit over the top in certain roles but to the surprise of many, he actually underplayed the partof Ghost Rider. He, and pretty much all of his co-stars, came off as bland, boring, and cliche. The movies have some of the worst lines of dialogue ever heard in a superhero movie.
In Ghost Rider‘s case, it’s not so much getting the character wrong, it’s the execution being so bad. They figured that the visual of Ghost Rider was all that was needed to make a good movie.
7. Mr. Freeze
Mr. Freeze was actually one of the rare comic book characters who came out of the ’90s much stronger, thanks largely to Paul Dini. He wrote one of the greatest episodes of Batman: The Animated Series and totally revamped Mr. Freeze in the process. That episode was the standard for Mr. Freeze moving forward.
Joel Schumacher’s abysmal Batman & Robin regressed the character back to a laughing stock in the eyes of moviegoers. For the role of Mr. Freeze they hired Arnold Schwarzenegger. The camp and the one liners came out all guns blazing. There were at least a dozen “ice” related puns said by Mr. Freeze throughout the entire movie. Gotham currently has Victor Fries on its show but, he hasn’t become Mr. Freeze yet. Their version isn’t perfect but, at least there are no puns.
Galactus is a supreme cosmic being who consumes entire planets to sustain his life. Known as the Devourer of Worlds, Galactus is a frequent adversary of the Fantastic Four and one of the premier villains in the Marvel universe. He wields incredible power and can go toe to toe with the best of them.
The movie Fantastic Four: Rise of The Silver Surfer, finally gave fans a chance to see Galactus on the big screen. What fans got was a… cosmic cloud. Galactus was reduced to a cloud. He had no personality and no physical form, he didn’t even have a voice. The “cloud” only had about five to ten minutes of screen time.
Apparently, Galactus was supposed to be in 2015’s Fantastic Four movie but was taken out when screenwriter Simon Kinberg re-wrote the script. Galactus may not get a second chance at redemption for years to come.
5. Harry Osborn/Green Goblin
Harry Osborn is the son of the original Green Goblin (Norman Osborn) and Peter Parker’s best friend. In the comics, Harry grows to hate Spider-Man/Peter Parker and seeks to kill him. Harry Osborn featured heavily in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, where he was played by James Franco. Fans never quite liked his take on Harry. At first Franco seemed to just play himself but by Spider-Man 2 Franco came off as whiny and overly angsty. In Spider-Man 3 he would become the new Green Goblin, sporting scars instead of a mask or helmet.
Spider-Man was rebooted in 2012 and Harry Osborn appeared in the sequel The Amazing Spider-Man 2, this time played by Dane DeHaan. Unfortunately the movie was panned by critics and fans. DeHaan’s performance was just weird. He didn’t have much chemistry with Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker, and they were supposed to be friends. He certainly looked insane as the Green Goblin but that wasn’t enough to rescue his performance of the movie.
4. The Fantastic Four
The Fantastic Four have got to be the most poorly adapted Marvel characters. Hollywood has tried four times to make the Fantastic Four a household name but, pretty much failed in all those attempts. The Fantastic Four were the first superheroes to be published under the Marvel name and are considered superhero icons.
Roger Corman was hired to create a Fantastic Four movie in 1994. The movie was only made so that the Bernd Eichinger wouldn’t lose the rights to the characters; it was low budget and it showed. The movie was so bad that it was never officially released, yet even this was better than 1997’s Justice League of America TV movie.
2004’s Fantastic Four was a moderate box office success but in no way a good movie. Pretty much everyone was miscast, with the exception of Michael Chiklis as the Thing. The sequel in 2007 somehow ended up being worse than the first movie.
The forth and final movie came out in 2015. This time they made it darker, grittier and more boring. Every character is bland and awkward. They all lack personality and seem uninterested in doing anything super heroic. It is the worst reviewed superhero movie in the last five years.
3. Doctor Doom
You can’t mention the failures of the Fantastic Four without mentioning Doctor Doom. For many fans, Doctor Doom is considered to be the premier villain of the Marvel universe. He’s been in all the aforementioned Fantastic Four movies and has been badly portrayed in all of them. 1994’s The Fantastic Four stayed the truest to the villain’s costume but the acting and dialogue was dreadful.
In both of the 2000 era movies, Doctor Doom was played by Julian McMahon. He did a serviceable job despite what he was given to work with. The movies never show Doom as the ruler of Latveria, and his costume wasn’t great either. The filmmakers seemed more interested in portraying a love triangle between Reed, Sue, and Doom, rather than building Doom’s turn as a villain.
In 2015’s Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom was portrayed as a friend of the team who also gets stuck on the planet where everyone gets their powers. This leads to Doom acquiring a number of strange powers that he never had in the comics. Doom’s look here, is arguably the worst of all the movies, and the acting from Toby Kebbell is inconsistent at best. Give Marvel back the rights already.
2. Green Lantern/Hal Jordan
One of the A-list superheroes in the DC universe, Hal Jordan is often considered the greatest Green Lantern of all time. Hal Jordan made his movie debut in 2011’s Green Lantern. It was a mess in almost every way.
At first, everything looked good. The cast was solid and Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan/Green Lantern seemed like the right choice. The images of Green Lantern’s weird CGI costume were the first early signs of trouble before the movie was even released. Fans hated the costume, finding it distracting and dumb-looking. Reynolds gave a valiant effort, but even he couldn’t make Hal Jordan/Green Lantern work.
The filmmakers managed to lack imagination when making a movie about a superhero whose power relies on imagination. Hal Jordan ended up being portrayed as cliche and uninteresting. Action seemed more important rather than proper characterization.
The movie had such a negative impact on Green Lantern that he isn’t even in the upcoming Justice League movie. Fans will get another chance to see Green Lantern again but, they’re going to have to wait until 2020’s reboot Green Lantern Corps.
Victor Creed/Sabretooth is Wolverine’s greatest nemesis. He and Wolverine go back a long time, even before the X-Men. There is true hatred and animosity between the two. Sabretooth has been portrayed in only two of the X-Men’s many movies.
His first appearance came in 2000’s X-Men. Sabretooth was portrayed by stuntman turned actor, Tyler Mane. Director Bryan Singer kept Mane’s lines to a minimum. Sabretooth was reduced to little more than a mindless beast who shared a small resemblance to the comic book villain. He was seemingly killed off in the movie.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a prequel that allowed for the return of Sabretooth, this time played by Liev Schreiber. Schreiber is a good actor but he never convincingly portrays Sabretooth. He lack the size and blond hair that Sabretooth was known for in the comics. Schreiber also hammed it up a little too much, despite giving Sabretooth a much-needed voice.
It was rumored that Liev Schreiber would return to play Sabretooth in this year’s Logan but that never ended up happening. Having Sabretooth as the villain in Logan would’ve been the time to redeem the character.
Which other comic icons can Hollywood never get right? Let us know in the comments!
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