Remember when we all thought Heath Ledger was going to suck as The Joker in The Dark Knight? The Dude as a bad guy? We thought it’ll never work. Danny DeVito as The Penguin? Now that was perfect casting! Who’s playing Red Skull? Mr. Smith from The Matrix? Something better than seeing your favorite superhero on the big screen is seeing his or her main adversary along for the battle. The joy ranks right up there with collecting the action figures and amassing every comic issue. There is something special, something magical about taking something from paper to film, from page to screen. Hollywood is entrusted with taking a beloved villain, his or her companions and antagonists, and his or her storylines and epic battles, and making it look good in live action.
Throughout the history of cinema, there have been some overwhelming successes and some bombastic bombs at the box office. Comic book fans nitpick, digest, pull-apart, discuss, debate, and, in some cases, downright destroy a filmmaker’s vision, especially if it isn’t to his or her liking. Can we blame them? We had anticipation and trepidation when Iron Man kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for pete’s sake. Sometimes, what we want and what we get are two different things. Our vision is not someone else’s next summer blockbuster. Let us be the bad guys for once, and rundown the 15 villains who look way worse on film than the comics.
15. MALEBOLGIA (SPAWN)
How difficult would it have been for director Mark A.Z. Dippe and CGI pros to take Violator, maximize him and make him 10 times as tall and as vicious, and throw in some fire and brimstone to make Malebolgia for the 1997 Spawn movie? What we got instead was some demented-looking chihuahua growling orders in Hell. Seriously, look at that celluloid incarnation of Todd McFarlane’s take on a Hell overlord: It’s a dog with Kramer hair and horns. In fact, the horns are the only thing the filmmakers got right.
The VFX “whizzes” on the film, Santa Barbara Studios, were also the “brains” behind the werewolf sequences in An American Werewolf in Paris, which left a lot to be desired. Still, we’d rather have that than the monstrosity we got in the Spawn movie. It’s no coincidence that “Malebolgia” comes from the Malbolge in Dante’s Inferno; we’d imagine bad CGI has a place in the depths of Hell, and this goof would be the welcoming committee. For Heaven’s sake, it’s also a major embarrassment that Megatron (Frank Welker) himself had to voice this thing.
14. BLACKHEART (GHOST RIDER)
In the comics, Blackheart, the “son” of Mephisto, is a badass-looking, black figure with red eyes, quills on his head and a tail. In the 2007 film Ghost Rider, we get the weirdo bag-lovin’, filmmaking pot dealer from American Beauty, with pale skin and sharp snaggleteeth. It’s bad enough we have to suffer through Nicolas Cage’s awful acting as Johnny Blaze, and ultimately, Ghost Rider, so you’d think director Mark Steven Johnson would give us an awesome villain in Blackheart, played by Wes Bentley, that resembles the comics to make up for it. What a miss… and what a mess.
For as bad as the fire effects looked for Ghost Rider, courtesy of Sony Pictures Imageworks, perhaps we should consider ourselves lucky they didn’t translate Blackheart to the big screen in all his demonic glory. In the end, I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised — Johnson is the genius filmmaker behind Daredevil, who gave us the awful interpretation of the villain Bullseye four years prior. Speaking of which …
13. BULLSEYE (DAREDEVIL)
We’d like to imagine director Mark Steven Johnson decided the only way to make Daredevil even more awful, aside from casting Ben Affleck in the title role, is to come up with his own terrible interpretation of the antagonist, Bullseye, played by Colin Farrell. Who needs Bullseye’s typical black outfit and mask with the bullseye drawn on the forehead? Nah, let’s just carve the bullseye directly into his forehead, a la Aldo Raine from Inglourious Basterds.
Gone is the black costume in favor of a trench coat, leather pants, tattoos, a shaved head and a goatee. Apparently, it was Marvel Comics editor Joe Quesada’s suggestion to change Bullseye’s appearance in the movie, making him resemble some kind of biker. Furthermore, Farrell kept the Irish accent, which many felt unnecessarily took away from the real Bullseye’s Bronx upbringing.
12. JIGSAW (PUNISHER: WAR ZONE)
Hollywood writers Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, and Nick Santora, and director Lexi Alexander, took some liberty with The Punisher‘s main bad guy in the 2008 film. For starters, they changed his name from the sorta-Italian Billy Russo to the really Italian Billy Russotti, and even changed his origin. As detailed in Punisher: Year One #4 in 1995, Jigsaw gets thrown through a pane glass window by The Punisher at the Maggia nightclub, which destroys Billy “The Beaut” Russo’s face. However, in the film, the origin is amended to the disfigurement coming from a glass-crushing machine at a recycling plant. Minutes prior, Frank Castle had annihilated members of the mob at a party, so why not just do it there?
Since we’re talking about the looks and interpretations of villains, the portrayal of Jigsaw by The Wire‘s Dominic West was too campy, like he was trying to be another Heath Ledger Joker. The makeup was downright awful too, making the character look like a zombie or Mason Verger from Hannibal.
11. GREEN GOBLIN (SPIDER-MAN)
A couple of years after Sam Raimi’s 2002 film came out, a video hit YouTube of test footage of Willem Dafoe in costume as Green Goblin, with a mechanized mask that closely resembled the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko version from The Amazing Spider-Man #14, with that familiar purple hat, pointy ears and chin. But no, for some reason, the Green Goblin we got in the $821.7 million-making movie was a green armored version, with Norman Osborn talking behind a mask with a permanent grin.
With Raimi being a fan of Spider-Man since his youth, it’s frustrating that he went with the armor route over the more true-to-the-comic version of Green Goblin. Alternatively, you could have just slapped some green face paint on Dafoe — that man’s striking face is perfect for this role! Anyway, we’ll give it to the immensely talented Dafoe for giving Goblin a sinister style and a unique voice to make up for a corny costume.
10. BANE (BATMAN & ROBIN)
The Batman franchise was going great for a while in the 1990s… until St. Elmo’s Fire director Joel Schumacher came in, and, like some anti-King Midas, turned the franchise to crap. It would be seven years from the 1997 release of the cheesy, campy, neon-y, Batsuit-nipply disgrace that was Batman & Robin before the franchise would be revived with new life by Christopher Nolan.
Batman & Robin gave us the first film version of Bane, the infamous Batman villain who, in the 1993 “Knightfall” storyline, broke Batman’s back. He was jacked, calculating and ruthless. The film version was a goof, a wrestler in a bad Luchador mask and veiny, lizard skin, who barely put up a fight against the Dynamic Duo. A far cry from the “Knightfall” version. Luckily, Nolan and Tom Hardy redeemed the villain in The Dark Knight Rises.
9. MR. FREEZE (BATMAN & ROBIN)
Victor Fries is an intellectual, cold-hearted, intimidating Batman villain, well-known for his exosuit, bald head and glasses under the guise of Mr. Freeze. What Schumacher gave us in 1997’s Batman & Robin was Arnold Schwarzenegger in a Robocop-meets-armored-Cobra-Commander outfit, dropping cringe-inducing one-liner puns like “Chill out,” and “Let’s kick some ice.” What a joke, and what a disgrace to an otherwise underrated villain.
Patrick Stewart was originally considered for the role, which would have been perfect casting for Mr. Freeze. Alas, Schumacher wanted to portray the villain as if he was “chiseled out of a glacier,” according to the 2005 video, “Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of The Dark Knight.” What we got instead was a villain scooped out of garbage.
8. TWO-FACE (BATMAN FOREVER)
Batman Forever would be the start of Joel Schumacher’s brief takeover of the franchise, which, in essence, should be taken behind the toolshed and shot. In this film, Tommy Lee Jones portrays Two-Face as a cheesy, veiny-faced half-purple sideshow act. Jones really dialed it in on this film, and this villain. You’re a former strong-jawed District Attorney and gangland leader with half a scary face and a coin — go nuts!
At least the team behind the disaster got two things right about Two-Face. For one, the acid in the face and second, his two-sided, fate vs. luck, disfigured coin. Two-Face would never team up with a Riddler in a green jumpsuit — this guy is running his own show. The Sugar & Spice girlfriends were a nice touch, though.
7. JUGGERNAUT (X-MEN: THE LAST STAND)
In the books, Juggernaut, aka Cain Marko, who debuted in 1965 as the brainchild of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, is Charles “Professor X” Xavier’s stepbrother, whose power is attained from a gem, thus making him an unstoppable force. In the third X-Men film, Juggernaut is reduced to one of Magneto’s idiots, with no relation to Professor X.
To make matters worse, we don’t get a jacked behemoth in a red outfit and special mask where his eyes and mouth peek out. We get Vinnie Jones in an oversized football helmet. Like, his face looks like it is literally smushed inside the helmet, as if he’s trying to push his head out of a hole that’s too small. The entire costume is oversized, not to mention the drab gray color scheme. Isn’t that thing bulky? How can you smash anything in that?
6. DOOMSDAY (BVS)
Zack Snyder is slowly becoming DC and WB’s new Joel Schumacher, when it comes to Batman, Superman or any of the DC superheroes (Justice League better not suck). BvS wasn’t a masterpiece; the film had its flaws in pacing, writing, casting and plot. What it suffered the most from was a villain that was mutated with lame CGI rather than through a multi-cloning lab experiment gone perfect.
Instead of Bertron, we get Lex Luthor playing Dr. Frankenstein. Instead of being born in prehistoric Krypton, he’s part Zod, who is Kryptonian, and created in a lab. Instead of beating Superman to death in Metropolis, destroying it along the way, we… wait, we got that in the first movie, except it was with Zod. He later battled Wonder Woman and Batman, who he outright defeated in the comics. While Doomsday later mutated into a form that more resembles the one from Superman: The Man of Steel Vol. 1 #18, his debut in BvS was likened to an old turtle without its shell.
5. LIZARD (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN)
Instead of making the Lizard we love in the comics, the filmmakers behind The Amazing Spider-Man gave us a naked man-lizard. No white lab coat, no purple pants. Hell, even Hulk got clothes in The Avengers. Also, the character has more human features than lizard ones, like the way Stan Lee and Steve Ditko imagined. Just look at the face: Human nose with upturned nostrils, human eyes, human mouth.
This isn’t Lizard from the pages of Marvel. This is a Star Trek reject, a cancelled character from Dinosaurs, a guy in a bad dragon costume. Lizard is capable of intelligent speech and possesses near-genius intelligence. Why couldn’t the filmmakers have made Lizard more powerful in other ways than brutish? We could have had a Lizard that telepathically summoned numerous reptiles to help him fight, or one, like in one comic storyline, where he possessed pheromones to incite violence. At least the filmmakers made the movie Lizard being able to understand and carry out the work and plan developed by his alter ego, Dr. Curt Connors.
4. APOCALYPSE (X-MEN: APOCALYPSE)
We are still trying to figure out why Bryan Singer gave us Ivan Ooze from 1995’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie in a rejected Ronan the Accuser costume, and not the hulking, blue, body-changing terror from the comics. Apocalypse is a ruthless, dangerous force of power and strength. In X-Men: Apocalypse, he’s played like a man with magic mutant powers, dressed like a member of Blue Man Group in a robot spacesuit. It’s like they wrote the character around the plotline instead of vice versa. How is a monster born in ancient millennia this dull?
Apparently, in a MoviePilot.com article, Jose Fernandez, the head of costume design company Ironhead Studios, made a comic-book-accurate Apocalypse costume. But his company lost the bid to costume the movie. So, Fernandez ended up helping out to design the awful looks for Oscar Isaac instead, whether he liked it or not. Perhaps Fox, the studio behind the film, just didn’t care about the design, whether we liked it or not.
3. GALACTUS (FANTASTIC FOUR 2)
But, of course, Galactus looks way worse on film than in the comics. For a God, we don’t even see him, save for a silhouette of that familiar helmet, in the Fantastic Four sequel. No — Galan, the Devourer of Worlds, one of the oldest villains in Fantastic Four, and Marvel Comics history, who debuted in 1966, is reduced to a large cloud with a questionable orifice. We get it, it’s supposed to be a mouth, while the cloud shaped like a bloated caterpillar is Galactus. Eventually, the Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer defeat him. By killing him. Killing. Galactus.
Director Tim Story — and we’re paraphrasing here — said that, since Galactus can change his size at will, and travels in a spaceship, the concept of his origin and existence was “a very big concept to kind of digest” and wouldn’t translate to film. The movie was made in 2005, and there’s no excuse that the CGI could not make a decent Galactus. It’s a shame — it could have just saved the franchise.
2. COBRA COMMANDER (RISE OF COBRA)
Like many of you, we were HYPED when they announced a G.I. Joe movie. Finally, Cobra Commander, Destro and Flint on screen. Real people! No Don Johnson! Then they announced Marlon Wayans as Ripcord and Duke was the main character. Hype waning. Then they showed a pic of Snake Eyes, with a mouth. Hype fading. Then, Destro — maskless — and, finally, their version of Cobra Commander. Er, we mean, Dr. Rex? Is that right? Rexford Lewis?
Whatever the name was — it was not the Cobra Commander. It was an imposter (not you, Fred VII). We got the kid from 3rd Rock From The Sun with an eyepatch. (At least give us the ponytailed, goatee, sunglasses version.) Then, he got a fishbowl for a helmet. No blue hood. No mirror mask. No armor battle gear. Obviously, the writer of this movie either did not grow up with the cartoon series and action figure line, or didn’t care enough to give G.I. Joe’s main bad guy a decent backstory and purpose.
1. THE JOKER (SUICIDE SQUAD)
Jordan Catalano should just stick to romancing Angela Chase, not chasing after a Harley Quinn romance. David Ayer has joined Zach Snyder, Bryan Singer and Joel Schumacher as the new Wrecking Crew of comic book films. 2016’s Suicide Squad, written and directed by Ayer, gave us, among other villains, the first live-action celluloid rendition of Harley Quinn. Unfortunately, it gave us her puddin’ Mr. J, played by Jared Leto.
Most of us reacted the same way when we saw the first exclusive photo of Leto as The Joker: jaws dropped and pulling out our hair. Look, Heath Ledger set the bar when it comes to playing The Joker, with Nicholson right behind him. You have to make The Joker your own. We didn’t need a gangster version of The Joker; he is gangster in his anarchy and camp, alone. We didn’t need the strip club pimp Joker or the marker-around-the-mouth Joker — we needed crazy-funny. What we got was crazy-lazy.
Who do you think is the worst comic villain translated to the silver screen? Let us know in the comments!