Not everyone is cut out to be a superhero or supervillain. It takes a special blend of charm, power and comedy to create a memorable performance. Not all producers will have the foresight to know Robert Downey Jr. is the perfect choice to launch a franchise. While it’s true that some actors have been surprises once they hit the big screen, more have completely missed the mark and ruined fan perception of the character. Comic book movies have become such a regular part of Hollywood that nearly every major actor has appeared in one. Sometimes these actors are so busy thinking about box office domination, they forget about the most important factor of the films, comic book fans.
They’ve been living with these characters their whole lives and know every aspect of their origins and personalities. And, they have no problem telling the world when an actor has ruined their favorite character. From Batman’s rogues to Superman’s allies, some of comics most famous heroes and villains suffered from wooden acting, paycheck performances and bad casting. As great as the idea may have sounded on paper, these 15 actors were not meant for the comic book world and yes, this list includes Oscar winners and bonafide movie stars.
15. JENNIFER GARNER IN ELEKTRA
It’s no secret that fans don’t care for the Ben Affleck starring Daredevil movie. However, one of the film’s positives was Jennifer Garner as Elektra. In fact, Garner was so well liked at the time, the studio took a chance and gave her a standalone movie. It did not go well. Elektra is chock full of problems, from the ridiculous story to the boring action, however, one thing really stands out and it’s Garner’s complete change of character from Daredevil.
Garner no longer played Elektra as the strong, fun, mysterious woman she was in her first outing. She is now tortured and seemingly resentful of her abilities. Her take on the heroine took all the power and life out of a previously exciting portrayal. It wasn’t until Netflix revived Elektra for its Daredevil series that the character really got the proper backstory she deserved.
14. HALLE BERRY IN CATWOMAN
Catwoman is one of Batman’s most popular rogues. She’s been played on screen by true femme fatales like Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt and Michelle Pfeiffer. When it was announced Halle Berry would be the lead in a Catwoman movie, fans rejoiced. Unfortunately, it was short lived. As Patience Phillips, Berry had the unenviable task of selling the audience on a new Catwoman, with a new origin, who had no connection to Batman.
Berry’s portrayal was forced like someone who knew she was in a terrible movie and just wanted to get it over with. Her inability to balance the good and bad of Patience showed in an incomplete, uneven performance. However, over the years her sense of humor about the movie’s awful quality and her continuing appearances as Storm in the X-Men franchise has led to many fans giving her a pass on the clunker.
13. TOPHER GRACE IN SPIDER-MAN 3
Spider-Man 3 is the definition of a superhero movie doing too much. There are too many stories and villains for any of it to make sense. One of the casualties of all this confusion is Venom. The problems start with the miscast Topher Grace. Perhaps producers were looking for someone similar to Tobey Maguire for a yin/yang approach to Eddie Brock.
Whatever the thinking, Grace was more whiny than menacing, and more annoying than scary, leaving viewers uninterested in his motivations and uncaring of his fate. Venom is supposed to be a scary parasite that brings out the worst in people, but in Eddie it just enhanced the poor character development. Grace’s Eddie/Venom never once comes off as a threat to Peter Parker, which is pretty much the worst thing you can say about a villain.
12. KATE BOSWORTH IN SUPERMAN RETURNS
First things first, yes Lois Lane counts as a superhero. She is basically the glue holding Superman’s life together and often times the reason he’s battling bad guys. That being said, Kate Bosworth’s Lois in Superman Returns is more of an anti-Lois. She’s weak, indecisive and maybe worst of all, a terrible journalist. Seriously, just because she’s mad Superman left her, she writes a whole column on “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman,” then changes her mind when they make up.
She strings along her boyfriend knowing she’s probably going to break up with him because, you know it’s Superman. The worst crime in all this is Bosworth playing Lois as some normal career woman who belongs in a rom-com, instead of showing off her take charge, independent spirit and making her the heroine comic book readers have known her to be for years.
11. UMA THURMAN IN BATMAN & ROBIN
Frankly, we could spend a whole list on the bad performances in Batman & Robin, but right now let’s just focus on Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy. On paper, Thurman as Ivy seems like perfect casting. Unfortunately, in reality she was way over the top and unbelievable. Yes, she’s playing a woman who controls plants and seduces men with mind-controlling lipstick, but there is a way to make that an interesting character and not a caricature.
Her performance reeks of someone who has never read a single comic book and thought being in a Batman movie was required the same campiness of the ’60s TV show. Maybe Thurman felt she had to go big so she wouldn’t get lost in all Arnold Schwarzenegger’s scenery chewing, but when compared to some of her other famous femme fatales, Ivy falls so short it’s hard not to blame the actress.
10. SETH ROGEN IN THE GREEN HORNET
As we discussed earlier, not everyone is meant for this line of work. That statement applies to no one more than Seth Rogen as Britt Reid. Obviously, producers were going against type on purpose, but that choice set the tone that dragged the whole movie down. Casting a comedian like Rogen is telling viewers right up front that there’s no need to take this film seriously, because clearly we don’t.
For his part, Rogen did nothing new, delivering the same partly inebriated performance he uses in all his films. The character, who had his own TV show in the ’60s and is still popular in comics, deserved a far more faithful adaptation, with an actor who would put in a portrayal that could draw new fans into the story.
9. ALEXANDRA SHIPP IN X-MEN: APOCALYPSE
While it may be unfair to single out a relative newcomer like Alexandra Shipp, it’s sadly necessary. As a young Storm in X-Men: Apocalypse, Shipp really didn’t need to do anything new, Halle Berry had already laid down the road map for her. No actor wants to copy what came before, but she could have brought some of Berry’s fight and fire. Her portrayal was boring and unbelievable. It was hard to buy her as a evil Storm, since her bland performance made it seem as though she never really broke bad.
Storm is one of the most famous characters in all of comics, so there’s always very high expectations and Shipp did not live up to them. Shipp is set to return as Storm in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, so there’s always a chance for her to turn things around and make the role her own the second time around.
8. SYLVESTER STALLONE IN JUDGE DREDD
Perhaps no actor on the list was more tailor-made for their role than Sylvester Stallone as Judge Dredd. He has minimal lines and spends most of the movie shooting people. Somehow, Stallone managed to find a way to still be not good. Dredd is most recognized by his voice, something not helped by Stallone’s trademark mumbling. It’s true Dredd only cares about the law, but that doesn’t mean he’s completely void of a personality.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what moviegoers got for this cringeworthy outing. It’s obvious he had no investment in the character beyond his giant paycheck. Fans did eventually get a proper Dredd movie in 2012 with Karl Urban starring. There’s even talk of a possible TV series, so hopefully Judge Dredd’s legacy won’t be defined by Stallone’s clearly in it for the money performance.
7. JANUARY JONES IN X-MEN: FIRST CLASS
Mad Men actress January Jones had received accolades for her portrayal of the cold, unfeeling Betty Draper, so why not try her hand as the hard as a diamond Emma Frost in X-Men: First Class? As it turned out, that wasn’t great acting as much as it was her only acting choice. Her Emma delivered every line like someone was feeding it to her just off camera and she was hearing it for the first time.
In a crazy twist, her complete lack of personality is so noticeable that she draws attention away from the actual good actors in her scenes. It’s the giant black mark in an otherwise great relaunch of the X-Men franchise. Fortunately, Emma died off camera before Days of Future Past, otherwise fans would have had to sit through a painfully emotionless death scene.
6. JIM CARREY IN BATMAN FOREVER
When the all-star cast for Batman Forever was announced, Jim Carrey as The Riddler seemed too perfect. The actor was at the height of his fame, and known for crazy, over the top, physical comedy. What viewers actually got was a non-stop face-pulling extravaganza. If the scene was supposed to be a deep dive into Edward Nygma’s psyche, there was a weird face. Turn into a full on villain and decide to kill Bruce Wayne, time for a new crazy face and maybe throw in some physical comedy too!
Capture Batman and plan to kill him and Robin, show the mean face, which is really just another variation of the weird face. It literally never ended, with Carrey getting one more close-up in before the credits. In the end, all fans really got was Jim Carrey as Jim Carrey in The Riddler’s clothes.
5. KEVIN SPACEY IN SUPERMAN RETURNS
After watching him as Frank Underwood in House of Cards, Kevin Spacey makes perfect sense as Lex Luthor. However, his turn in Superman Returns came off more like a real estate con man than a super genius who can go toe to toe with Superman. Instead of bringing some of the clever, cutthroat ambition of Keyser Soze, Spacey went with jealous office mate who tries to sabotage his cubicle neighbor. Spacey is known for meticulous research on his characters, so this could be an instance of him overthinking Lex.
Perhaps the worst thing about Spacey as Lex is that he never once seemed like a genius. Frankly, he’s just not that much of a problem, which is particularly concerning since Lex Luthor is the smartest villain in comics.
4. ALICIA SILVERSTONE IN BATMAN & ROBIN
Batgirl is one of comics most beloved female heroes. Not only does she kick butt alongside Batman and Robin, she also uses her considerable smarts as Oracle. Fans waited for years for her to get to the big screen. Sadly, her debut came in Batman & Robin, a film that no one could take seriously. Adding insult to injury she was played by ’90s icon Alicia Silverstone, who’s great in Clueless, but not at all suited to be Batgirl.
The first sign of problems was when Barbara’s backstory was re-written to make her Alfred’s niece. Her mission is to take Alfred away from his life serving Bruce Wayne. Silverstone does the character no favors with her wooden, Valley Girl delivery of every line. It’s really a sad moment for Batgirl and Silverstone that she’s the worst thing in an awful film.
3. TAYLOR KITSCH IN X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE
It takes an especially terrible showing to make a character so bad, no one can figure out to bring him back into the franchise. That’s exactly what Taylor Kitsch did to Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. To be fair, he’s playing Gambit when he’s still young and isn’t an X-Men yet. However, that doesn’t make up for his one note performance.
Gambit is a showman, he stands out. There’s absolutely none of that in this movie. Kitsch’s Gambit is a card player who knows a few tricks and has an abominable southern accent (seriously, why did he even try?!). Kitsch was widely praised for his work in Friday Night Lights. Unfortunately, his movie career has exposed him as an actor with one setting, unable to display the plethora of emotions and characteristics someone like Gambit requires. He was out of his depth and it showed.
2. JESSICA ALBA IN FANTASTIC FOUR
There were so many jokes about Jessica Alba being cast as Sue Storm/Invisible Woman in Fantastic Four, no one stopped to ask if she was right for the role. The answer is a resounding no. The one volume, one facial expression performance she gives throughout the film doesn’t really convey the emotions of a person who has just had their life completely turned upside down.
She might have been able to hide in the ensemble, but as the film’s biggest star she’s in almost every scene, so there’s just no getting away from her one note acting. While it’s not Alba’s fault she’s in a role she’s not fit for (well it is a little since she said yes), it is her fault that she didn’t take the complex character of Sue and make the big screen version have the strength and heart of her comic book origins.
1. NICOLAS CAGE IN GHOST RIDER
No list about bad superhero movies is complete without Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider. It is the pinnacle of awful comic book adaptations. Cage is famous for his loud, ridiculously over the top acting. It’s his default setting. So, while many of the choices on this list have made it for lack of emotion, Cage is famous for way, way too much emotion. As Johnny he spends most of the movie yelling his lines. It’s exhausting.
And just in case there wasn’t enough overacting the first time around, Cage returned for the even more crazy sequel Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Here’s the real issue, whether he’s playing Johnny Blaze or just a regular guy, Nicolas Cage is always Nicolas Cage, so audiences can’t ever really get invested in his characters. However, the one good thing about Cage is he’s never boring.
Do you agree or disagree with this list? Let us know in the comments!
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