In the world of comic books, characters change all the time. In the last ten years there have been about five different Wolverines, three different Captain Americas, dozens of Spider-Mans, and three different Batmans.
Whenever a book seems to be getting stale, publishers look for a quick fix by temporarily writing off or de-powering their titular character and replacing them with somebody else. While these changes are fairly common, almost none are long-lasting. Likewise, whenever a new artist comes onto a book, they'll shake things up by changing a character's costume and overall look to better fit within their art style. Sometimes it works, sometimes it goes horribly wrong.
This trend seems to have spilled over into the cinematic version of the superhero genre, as well. Whenever a new director comes onto the scene or the current actors aren't as much as a box office draw as they used to be, a franchise is rebooted or a role is recast with a fresh face.
Just like in the comic book world, the effectiveness of this move is hit or miss; sometimes, the new actor is amazing and makes everybody forget about why the old one was so good in the first place. Other times, the new version of the beloved character is so terrible that fans clamor for a recast or the movie just doesn't live up to the expectations set by its predecessor.
Here are 8 Superhero Recastings That Saved Movie Franchises (and 9 That Hurt Them).
17 Hurt: Val Kilmer and George Clooney as Batman
When it was released in 1989, Tim Burton's Batman was a game changer. Gone were the days of the Dark Knight dressing up in bright tights and fighting colorful criminals alongside his teenage sidekick; now, Batman was brooding, silent, and willing to take out criminals in cold blood.
The film was such a success that Burton got to make the sequel, Batman Returns and was pegged to do Batman Forever. However, the director went a little too dark with Returns, leading to his replacement on the sequel. Star Michael Keaton refused to return if Burton was not involved, and left the series after just two entries.
The first actor who tried to replace Keaton was Val Kilmer. Though Batman Forever is still considered a so-so movie, fans mostly dislike Kilmer as the Dark Knight. The actor tried to be menacing and brooding, but just came across as wooden.
In the fourth film, Batman & Robin, George Clooney took over. And we all remember how that went! Clooney didn't seem to realize that there was a difference between Bruce Wayne and Batman, and played both characters exactly the same. Of course, we can't forget about the fact that Clooney's version was full of one-liners and quips that were uncharacteristic of the Caped Crusader.
16 Saved: Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor
The MCU might be the golden standard of superhero films today, but it was 1978's Superman: The Movie that kicked off the superhero blockbuster craze. To this day, Christopher Reeve is considered by most to be the definitive version of the Man of Steel and Margot Kidder to be the definitive Lois Lane. Even Gene Hackman is seen by many to be the best version of Lex Luthor to be put on screen!
By the '90s, however, the Superman franchise was seemingly over. Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace were both critical flops and financial failures and the Tim Buron-led Superman Lives was DOA. In 2005 Bryan Singer tried to do a soft reboot to the franchise (leaving only Superman and Superman II as canon).
Stars Brandon Routh and Kate Bosworth received less than stellar reception as the Man of Steel and Lois. However, actor Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor nearly single-handedly saved the movie!
Spacey's Luthor is still, to this day, the most faithful adaptation of the comic book version.
Hackman was great in the role, but you could tell he was phoning it in for most of the sequels, and his version was much more humorous. In Superman Returns, Lex is much more cunning and downright evil without losing his signature charm - did art imitate life?
15 Hurt: Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique
Next to the Master of Magnetism himself, Mystique is probably X-Men's most iconic villain. Why wouldn't she be? The character has everything you want from a good villain: she's cunning, deadly, manipulative, shape-shifting, and looks like a female member of the Blue Man Group. Not to mention, Mystique is the second in command on the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants as well as the mother of fan-favorite character Rogue.
In the first three X-Men movies, Mystique was played by actress Rebecca Romijn. When FOX decided to do a series of prequels featuring younger versions of their characters, they got then-relatively unknown Jennifer Lawrence to take on the role of the shape-shifting villain.
Lawrence put in a decent performance as Mystique in both First Class and Days of Future Past, but the problem came when the actress skyrocketed in popularity. In the original films, Mystique was a secondary character who barely spoke three lines of dialogue.
Once Lawrence became an A-lister, it shifted the film's focus on Mystique as a lead, even going so far as to make her the defacto leader of the X-Men in Apocalypse!
This drastic change of character for Mystique has never sat well with the fans, who feel like the films could have spent more time developing more important characters.
14 Saved: Don Cheadle as War Machine
Sometimes it's hard to believe that anyone other than Don Cheadle played James "Rhodey" Rhodes in the MCU. Alas, the first Iron Man film featured Terrence Howard in the role. However, tensions between Howard and the studio (mostly over his pay in comparison to Robert Downey Jr.) led to the actor not being asked to return for 2010's Iron Man 2. From there on out, the character has been played by Cheadle, who took up the mantle of War Machine and has appeared in six different MCU films to date!
While Howard wasn't terrible as Rhodes, it was for the better that he was recast. In the comics, the character is supposed to be the more stern and cautious foil to Tony Stark's reckless, snarky, and don't-give-a-darn attitude. Though the first Iron Man tried to capture this dynamic, Howard just never really felt like the character from the comics; he was much more cocky and animated in Iron Man.
Now, whether this was because of the writing (the first film was mostly improvised) or because of the actor, we may never know. Either way, the replacement of Howard with Cheadle has been nearly universally praised as a move that was for the better.
13 Hurt: Eric Mabius, Mark Dacascos, and Edward Furlong as the Crow
The Crow is a film from 1994 based on a comic book of the same name. It starred Brandon Lee (son of kung-fu legend Bruce Lee) as Eric Draven, a man who was cruelly ended along with his fiancee and resurrected by the supernatural entity "The Crow" to avenge their passing.
The film wasn't that a huge hit when first released, but eventually went on to become one of the biggest cult classics of all time! The Crow was also tied up in one of the most tragic occurrences in Hollywood history: Star Brandon Lee was accidentally shot with a blank while filming an action scene and lost his life. The rest of the movie was finished with the use of body doubles.
Obviously, the character had to be recast in subsequent films. The first two tried to get around the dilemma by having the Crow resurrect different characters. The TV series, however, simply recast Eric Draven with actor Mark Dacascos.
None of these actors were able to live up to the high bar set by Lee in the first film; all had the unfortunate fate of starring in movies that were poorly written and sometimes even more poorly directed.
Though they all looked the part, none were able to pull off the menace and sheer gothic-ness of the original.
12 Saved: Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk
Much like War Machine, people often forget that Bruce Banner was played by somebody else in the beginning of the MCU. The Incredible Hulk was the second film in the cinematic universe, coming out the same year as Iron Man and establishing the connective tissue of Marvel's ambitious idea.
The legendary Edward Norton starred as Banner/The Hulk alongside Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, Tim Roth as the Abomination, and William Hurt as "Thunderbolt" Ross. Sadly, issues with character rights have meant that there have been no Hulk sequels since, and The Incredible Hulk is widely considered to be one of the MCU's lesser entries.
This was partly due to behind-the-scenes tension between Norton and Marvel. The actor reportedly wanted the film to be longer and more character-driven, while Marvel wanted something that was lighter and more in line with a blockbuster.
When The Avengers was announced, the company replaced Norton with Mark Ruffalo. While Norton was good (as always) as Banner, this was for the better. When announcing the recasting Marvel Studios released a statement implying Norton wasn't collaborative, and tensions could have hindered the production of every subsequent Avengers movie. Not to mention, Ruffalo is a lot more convincing as the "genius science nerd" that Banner is supposed to be.
11 Hurt: Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face
Oh, what could have been. Before he was kicked off of its production, Tim Burton had big plans for Batman Forever. Had the director had his way, Michael Keaton would have returned in a sleek new grey and black suit, Marlon Wayans would have played Dick Grayson, and Billy Dee Williams was set to star as the villainous Two-Face, with Robin Williams potentially playing the Riddler. Maybe it would have turned out just as bad, but the mere concept of Burton's Batman Forever is an intriguing one.
Most people forget that the director had been setting up Two-Face for years; Harvey Dent appeared as a minor character in the first Batman film and was originally intended to play the role filled by Max Shrek in Batman Returns. However, once Burton was gone, the entire cast needed to be replaced and Tommy Lee Jones was cast as Two-Face.
Jones is a phenomenal actor. All should have been well, right? Wrong.
Instead of playing an interesting new character, Jones just did his best Joker impression and made goofy faces at the camera.
Behind the scenes, the actor constantly had tension with his co-star Jim Carrey, who he claimed was a "buffoon." Where was Lando Calrissian when you needed him!?
10 Saved: Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth
Sabretooth is one of the biggest recurring villains in the X-Men comic books on top of being the main rival to Wolverine. Back when comic book films were still not an instant money-maker and audiences weren't as open to the more odd aspects of the lore, Sabretooth was featured as a minor villain in the original X-Men movie. He was just there to be the muscle for Magneto and to have an awesome fight with Wolverine on the Statue of Liberty. Sabretooth had little in the way of character development for the first three movies of the franchise.
In the disastrous X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Sabretooth returned and was played by Liev Schreiber. This time, he was a completely different man; Sabretooth in Origins was Logan's half-brother who fought with him side-by-side throughout their entire life until he turned to the side of evil.
The difference is so stark that there are some who claim that the two are not supposed to be the same character!
Schrieber's character in Origins is named Victor Creed, which is the name of Sabretooth in the comics, so we'd say it's the same person. This recast took a completely bland and forgettable character and turned him into one of the franchise's best villains despite the fact that he appeared in one of its worst entries.
9 Hurt: Ray Stevenson as the Punisher
Up until the character appeared in season 2 of Daredevil, most fans would tell you that Thomas Jane's big screen portrayal of the Punisher was the best. The 2004 film changed the character's origins around somewhat, but it kept to the core of the character and gave Jane a lot to work with. It also helped that the actor was a huge fan of Frank Castle, even reprising his role in the short fan-film Punisher: Dirty Laundry.
With 2008's Punisher: War Zone, Jane was replaced by Ray Stevenson. The film itself amped the violence up a notch and gave us the first on-screen appearance of Punisher villain Jigsaw (later played by Ben Barnes opposite Jon Bernthal's revolutionary small screen Frank Castle). It was also a huge flop at the box office and was reviled by critics and fans alike when it was released. Part of the problem was the performance of the lead.
Stevenson couldn't capture the same Punisher rage as previous or future versions, nor did he play the character with as much emotional range.
Instead, his Frank Castle was a emotionless criminal who didn't even show remorse when his partner was elimnated in cold blood.
8 Saved: Ross Marquand as the Red Skull
Phase 1 of the MCU was full of great villains, and the Red Skull from Captain America: The First Avenger was no exception!
Played by the great Hugo Weaving, Johann Schmidt was a Nazi officer who sought out artifacts said to have immense power. This crusade led him to the Tesseract (the Space Stone), which he used to create weapons for HYDRA. At the end of The First Avenger, Schmidt is seemingly disintegrated when he touches the Tesseract with his bare hands. Of course, many fans had theorized that the artifact was an Infinity Stone in disguise and that Red Skull wasn't really gone.
Despite having several chances to return, Schmidt never reappeared. Paired with the news that Weaving absolutely hated having the makeup done for the Red Skull, fans started to think that he truly was gone for good. Thankfully, we were all wrong!
The Walking Dead's Ross Marquad made a surprising appearance as the Red Skull in Avengers: Infinity War.
The movie finally explains what happened to the character. He was transported by the Space Stone to the planet Vormir, where he has been guarding the Soul Stone for the last eight years.
7 Hurt: The Entire Cast of The Amazing Spider-Man
The first two Spider-Man movies are often lumped up there in the conversation of "greatest superhero movie ever made." Sure, Spider-Man 3 was pretty bad, but compared to what came after it - well, it was still pretty bad.
For the longest time, director Sam Raimi was trying to get Spider-Man 4 off the ground. There were a few different directions he could have gone, but his intent was to have John Malkovich as the Vulture and Anne Hathaway as the Black Cat alongside the original stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. However, after the disappointment of Spider-Man 3 and tensions between Sony and Raimi, they decided to reboot the franchise.
Now, was The Amazing Spider-Man a bad movie? Of course not. The chemistry between the lead actors was great, the CGI was much improved, and Spider-Man was actually a smart-aleck like he was supposed to be!
The big problem? Fans just weren't as connected to the new cast as they were to the old one.
It really got bad with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, when Sony pushed aside a decent plot and character development for the chance to set up its own cinematic universe. The third film was canceled, and we got Spider-Man: Homecoming instead. Maybe this is actually a win.
6 Saved: Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachael Dawes
Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy is arguably the most solid superhero trilogy of all time. Though The Dark Knight Rises drew a mixed reception by audiences, the first two entries are talked about not only as some of the greatest superhero films of all time, but also as some of the best films of all time, period.
Though Nolan drew extensively from the Batman lore, he added a few new characters into the mix. One of these was Rachael Dawes, Bruce Wayne's childhood friend and love interest who falls for Harvey Dent. Rachel is also one of the few characters who knows Bruce and Batman are one in the same.
In Batman Begins Dawes is played by Katie Holmes. For the sequel, Nolan replaced the actress with Maggie Gyllenhaal. It was a brilliant choice; Holmes played Rachel as though she was back on Dawson's Creek, while Gyllenhaal brought her A-game to filming every single day.
The version of Rachael that appears in The Dark Knight seems like a completely different character, and that's for the better.
Gyllenhaal managed to make Dawes a memorable character and gave her much more depth than she had in Batman Begins.
Her performance is partly why it is so heartbreaking to see her taken out at the hands of the Joker during that particular dramatic scene of the movie.
5 Hurt: Ciaran Hinds as Mephisto
Yep, we're going to talk about the Nicholas Cage Ghost Rider movies. The first film in the franchise starred the likes of Cage, Eva Mendes, Sam Elliot, and Peter Fonda. Somehow, even with this talented cast, the movie was a critical flop. Fans couldn't forgive the laughably bad dialogue and poor CGI. Yet, somehow, a sequel was greenlit!
The biggest sin committed by Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance has to be the replacement of Peter Fonda as Mephisto by actor Ciaran Hinds. Even if the first movie was terrible, Fonda was the perfect choice to play the movies' big bad. Thanks to Easy Rider, the actor is synonymous with the biker world, and his charisma as the Prince of Darkness nearly made the film watchable.
Meanwhile, Hinds was just bland. It took some viewers a while just to realize who he was supposed to be playing!
Sure, the actor was good at playing the character as slimy and evil, but that's not at all how Mephisto is supposed to be.
Fonda perfectly embodied the manipulative, sly nature of the character in the first film. There's no way in hell anyone would be foolish enough to make a deal with Hinds version of the character!
4 Saved: Doug Jones as Abe Sapien
You've got to love the Hellboy franchise. The story revolves around a decades-old demon, who is raised by humans and becomes a part of the paranormal investigator unit the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense.
Hellboy features a lot of unique characters and story lines, most which revolve around the occult and the supernatural. This is probably why the series was such a good fit for director Guillermo del Toro, a man famous for creating the most amazing creatures and production designs the likes of Hollywood has ever seen. Abe Sapien is a secondary character that was a scientist in his former life, before a ritual turned him into an aquatic monster.
Yes, technically this one is cheating, as Doug Jones played Sapien in both Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. But, in the first film, he only did the body work while Frasier actor David Hyde Pierce provided the character's voice. In the second movie, the producers decided that it was Jones' time to shine.
This was definitely for the better, as it finally gave the actor a chance to stretch his fins and get his due credit for such a phenomenal performance in the role.
3 Hurt: Paige Turco as April O'Neil
Who remembers the original TMNT movies? If you've watched the new ones, chances are you probably wish to go back to those days when corny one-liners and nonsensical plots were the worst thing you had to worry about!
The first two Turtles films are regarded by fans as being excellent representations of the franchise. Even 2007's TMNT is generally viewed as decent. Then there's TMNT III and the Michael Bay films where April O'Neil is played by Megan Fox.
Originally, April was played by Judith Hoag. Hoag was excellent as the Channel 8 reporter; her performance showed April as a strong and independent character who stood up for what she believed in, yet could still turn around and have fun with her new Turtle friends. However, Hoag had some issues with the amount of violence in the film and left the series after the first movie.
Hoag's replacement, Paige Turco, wasn't bad per se, but she certainly didn't give off the same vibe as Hoag in the original film.
It might be more of the writer's fault, but Turco's April always seemed to just be a damsel in distress in the background. Not to mention, Turco's version of the character never had the same chemistry with Casey Jones that Hoag's did.
2 Saved: Michael Fassbender as Magneto
Sir Ian McKellen starred as the main villain of all three original X-Men films as well as played a large role in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Sir Ian's classical training as a Shakespearean actor made him a legendary villain; he oozed charisma and commanded the attention of everyone whenever he simply walked into a room. He had a certain elegance that made him more sympathetic than your typical superhero baddie. It also helped that he and Sir Patrick Stewart (Charles Xavier) are good friends in real life, making their on-screen friendship/rivalry seem more realistic.
It is near impossible to top Sir Ian McKellen's performance as Magneto in the X-Men movies, yet Michael Fassbender seems to have found a way.
When it was first announced that the newcomer would be replacing Sir Ian as Erik Lehnsherr, fans were skeptical. The first few bits of marketing for First Class didn't help much, as they looked like they were slapped together by an intern over the weekend. However, Fassbender was able to convince audiences just a few minutes into the movie when he confronts a group of ex-Nazis. It's one of the most intense scenes in all of the X-Men franchise and showed us that the actor most certainly had what it took to replace Sir Ian.
1 Hurt: Halle Berry as Catwoman
In 2004, Halle Berry was on top of the world. The actress had just won an Oscar for her role in Swordfish and had been in hit film after hit film. She was already a part of the superhero scene as Storm in the X-Men movies, but apparently she wanted more. And a Catwoman movie had been in development for years.
Remember how the character seemingly loses her life in Batman Returns and then pops up again at the end of the movie? Apparently this was done to set up a Catwoman spin-off with Michelle Pfieffer returning as Selina Kyle. However, the film was stuck in development hell for almost a decade until an executive at WB had the bright idea to move forward with the movie minus the original actress. Or the original character.
Seriously, in this movie the character is named Patience Phillips and has zero connection to Batman whatsoever.
A Catwoman movie starring the original actress and directed by Tim Burton would have potentially given us a new franchise and a Batman cinematic universe. Instead, we got a completely terrible film that nearly ended the careers of everybody involved.
Do you agree with our choices? Were there any that you would have swapped? Let us know in the comments!