Miscast superheroes

Comic book fans are a picky lot and for good reason. We have invested so much energy and time into these creations that we feel we know them better than almost anyone else could. Whenever a comic book hero is optioned for development for the big screen, fans writhe in agony with each announcement from plot to cast to direction. I remember sagging my shoulders when I read of director Martin Campbell’s desire to inject some humor into the Green Lantern flick. It takes so much effort for these formerly obscure creations to become a movie, that it is so heart breakingly painful when it all goes wrong.

So it should come as no surprise that there is such bile for what are regarded as miscast actors in superhero movies.

On the flipside there are the celebrated moments of genius when an actor practically falls from the skies, custom-made for the part. Even considering the less than impressive quality of many Superman movies he starred in, Christopher Reeve is still regarded as perhaps the definitive Man of Steel.
As The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers rack up profits, it’s worth mentioning that they have not always been the most well crafted of movies. Before the Richard Donner 1978 Superman movie followed by the 1989 Batman flick, superhero projects were bastard children of action, science fiction and comedy along with children’s entertainment (see Condor Man). I mean, try to pin down the Donner Superman movie for a genre and you’ll see disaster and crime drama, romance and fantasy all rolled into one package. With such a mish-mash of styles, playing a colorful square-jawed hero can be poison for an acting career.

The end result is that motion picture studios searching for their Superman, Batman, Spider-Man or other hero may be non-plussed as to what actor could play these parts. Batman is meant to be the pinnacle of human endeavor, but a muscle-bound actor wouldn’t work on screen as a level of intensity would be needed. Likewise Spider-Man is both athletic and scrawny, nerdy and handsome, depending on who drew him in the comic book.

How can you cast comic book heroes in a movie? Was Dolph Lundgren, the ideal actor at the time for such a part, a good choice for the Punisher? Is Toby Maguire, the ideal of the John Romita Sr. Peter Parker, a better Spider-Man than Andrew Garfield?

I think that it is interesting to note that this article falls on actor Michael Keaton’s birthday. When the comic actor known best for his outlandish performance in Beetlejuice was announced as the lead in the mega Warner Bros. film directed by Tim Burton, he was damned as too quirky and horribly miscast. Opinions vary, but in general he proved the critics wrong by delivering the best depiction of Batman alongside Christian Bale and of course Kevin Conroy.

I think it’s very questionable to run a list of actors miscast in comic book movies considering that it is the aftermath of actor Michael Clark Duncan. This gives him a pass since it would be in terrible taste to slam his portrayal as the Kingpin in the Daredevil film. Honestly, the entire film is miscast (from the bewildered Ben Affleck to the smirking over-the-top Colin Farell), so he’s not the only problem there.

My point is that while an actor may not be well-suited to play any of these bizarre characters who have been shown in cartoons, comic books, radio dramas and more… that doesn’t mean they are wrong for the part.

For an opposing point of view, check out these choices

22. Anna Paquin as Rogue 

I don’t assign much guilt to Anna Paquin for this, she did a fine job in all three X-Men films, but the character in those movies is not Rogue. The role of the young female that Wolverine feels an obligation to protect has been filled by two females in the comic books, at first it was Kitty Pride and later it was Jubilee, and it was their story and personality that was used for Paquin’s Rogue. The only thing this Rogue had in common with her comic book counterpart was her power to absorb other’s powers. I didn’t mind them dropping her flying and super strength for the film, but the original Rogue was, at first, a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and Anna Paquin’s rogue seemed like she was fresh out of the Girl Scouts.

21. Terrence Howard as James Rhodes 

So far, Marvel has done an excellent job with casting the movies they’re producing themselves. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and Samuel L. Jackson were all great choices. The only exception to that so far has been Terrence Howard as James Rhodes in “Iron Man.” His Rhodey seemed too skinny and soft-spoken to be the commanding, ruthless military man who would become War Machine. We know Howard can play tough, and apparently Jon Favreau directed him true to the comics, but it seems he just chose not to listen and did it his own way. At least Marvel corrected his casting for “Iron Man 2” with Don Cheadle, who was still a bit small, but had a great handle on the character.

20. January Jones as Emma Frost 

Not that she had a lot to work with, but January Jones as Emma Frost in “X-Men: First Class” was definitely a low point of a surprisingly good film. She gave a flat, completely uninteresting performance for one of Marvel’s most layered females(not that she wears many layers!). Her absolutely forgettable performance makes one wonder if she’s capable of playing anything outside of Betty Draper.

17. Dolph Lundgren as The Punisher 

Forgot about this one, didn’t you? Well, Dolph Lundgren’s Punisher was so bad no one would blame you for blocking it out of your memory. Outside of the thrown together plot and the fact that for some inexplicable reason Punisher chose to live in the sewer like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Lundgren’s Punisher was a hollow performance and every scene where he was supposed to be angry came off as completely forced. Even the scene where Frank Castle’s family is murdered seems somehow empty. People got upset because there was no skull on his chest, but there were many more reasons to hate this Punisher film.

16. Chris O’Donnell as Robin 

“Boo-hoo, I became an orphan at age thirty, please take care of me Batman!” Bottom line here was that Chris O’Donnell was just too old to play Robin. Now, maybe the producers had a problem with Batman taking an eleven-year-old boy and having him fight thugs and murderers on the streets of Gotham, but that is the character, and the idea of a grown man becoming Bruce Wayne’s ward was just silly. Chris O’Donnell as Robin was almost as bad as Val Kilmer as Batman.

15. Val Kilmer as Batman 

Speaking of which… Supposedly, Bob Kane, the creator of Batman, said Kilmer was the best Batman. Now, he died before “Batman Begins,” so I like to think he would’ve changed his mind, but, I’ll admit, up until “Batman Forever,” Kilmer looked the most like Batman should (even with bat-nipples), but he was just so wooden as both Batman and Bruce Wayne it didn’t matter. He had no torment, no anger, no inner demons and no personality.

14. Topher Grace as Venom 

Even with putting on some muscle, Topher Grace was way too skinny to play Venom, which I would forgive if his performance was somehow great, which it definitely wasn’t. Venom is supposed to be scary and I think if Topher Grace pointed a bazooka at my head he still wouldn’t be intimidating. Now, he’s hardly the worst part of “Spider-Man 3,” I leave that distinction for Sam Raimi, but the Venom from that film fulfills absolutely nothing of what I wanted to see from Spidey’s best villain.

13. Halle Berry as Storm 

This was just a bad choice all around. The only thing worse than having a Storm who wasn’t from Africa was having Halle Berry try really hard to do some sort of accent in the first X-Men film. She would then, inexplicably, drop her accent in the sequels, but nobody minded because it was so bad the first time around. In addition to being a poor casting choice, she just didn’t seem to try that hard and complained about doing X-Men at all; only in the last few years has she said she’d come back and that just seems to be because she isn’t getting much work. Oh, and let’s not forget “What happens to a toad when it gets struck by lightning?”

1. Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man 

That’s right, the number one spot goes to Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man! For an entire trilogy, moviegoers had to watch Maguire’s whiney, sniveling Peter Parker complain about how hard it is to be Spider-Man. What amazed me most about Tobey was how many people defended his portrayal. Yes, Spider-Man is supposed to be geeky, but he eventually comes into his own. And yes, part of his story is the struggle of balancing life with being Spider-Man, but Spider-Man is unique in that he enjoys himself, he has fun, but instead of a wise-cracking Spidey, we got a mopey little wuss. And let’s not forget how Spider-Man’s best story, Venom, was ruined by Tobey’s emo haircut and his stupid dance moves. I don’t know about everyone else, but I left every Spider-Man movie feeling like I could beat the crap out of Spider-Man, and it just shouldn’t be that way.

Who are your favorite actors cast as superheroes?
Who are the worst?

3 thoughts on “Miscast superheroes

  1. Whomever made that list must not have read many Spider-Man comics… ALL Peter Parker did in the early days was complain… issue 100 he grows 4 extra arms thanks to trying to rid himself of those Spider-powers that he long considered a curse… So, frankly, I thought Tobey nailed the complaining Parker fairly well.

    Also… Dolph Lundgren wasn’t the worst thing about that Punisher movie… not by a mile. I find myself in the odd position as defending Lundgren! But truly, that film’s failure wasn’t his fault.

    I’m a fan of Don Cheadle… but I thought Terrance Howard made a better Rhodey. There just wasn’t much meat in that role in either frankly… the best parts of “Rhodey” in Iron Man 2 were inside the CGI War Machine armor so no actor was required for those parts.

    I don’t want to knock Michael Clarke Duncan either… I think he could have been a fine villain too, but he wasn’t the Kingpin. That was a mistake. I didn’t hate Affleck as Daredevil, but I didn’t love it either.

    Probably the best and easiest castings had to be Christopher Reeve as Superman and Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman… sure a lot of the scripts bit… but those two people owned the roles, and you could tell they did it respectfully too… not hamming it up, but enjoyed and looked the part. You would be hard-pressed to nail those roles any better than those actors.


    • I totally agree on Lundgren and Maguire. Both fit the bill quite well, esp. Maguire. And yes, a Wonder Woman or Superman project is pretty much impossible in my opinion. Reeve and Carter embodied those roles and always will.


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