Marvel Entertainment has had a long and tumultuous history with adapting their pantheon of superheroes to the small screen. And while in recent years, things have been going swimmingly for them despite some negative feedback on a show or two (*cough*Iron First*cough*), they appear to have no signs of slowing down in bringing more of their characters to life on your television. However, not every adaptation is a homerun. Sometimes the characters that are marched out in front of a TV audience are not well-received. In fact, sometimes they are downright hated.
Now, it is not fair to criticize all these characters at face value. Every single actor who inhabits their roles were selected by a casting director, given lines to read by a screenwriter, and provided with explicit stage actions by a director. In short, messing up a character is truly a team effort. But there are instances where the casting choice for the character simply does not jibe with their comic book counterpart. While this may be fine for novices to the intellectual properties on screen, it means certain disheartening judgment from fans of the characters, which brings up the simple fact that often times it can suck to have a point of reference.
Okay, everyone calm down and lower your pitchforks and torches, because we are not saying Dan Stevens is bad as David Haller in FX’s X-Universe television series Legion. Actually Stevens is one of the best actors in any Marvel television show across the board. He’s charismatic, charming, and consistently fascinating as everyone’s favorite schizophrenic mutant (wait, maybe that’s actually Deadpool).
But the adaptation of Haller on the small screen is a far cry from his comic book counterpart. On a purely page-to-screen basis, the character is all wrong. Legion, in the comics, is consistently weird and at times quite menacing, whereas in the show, Haller’s weirdness is oddly subdued. While Legion still projects his personalities within the confines of his own mind, the zaniness of the character is played a bit more straight-faced, which is understandable in the current understanding of mental health.
The problem isn’t so much Ben Barnes’ portrayal of Billy Russo (who will likely take up the moniker Jigsaw next season) in Netflix's The Punisher as much as it is the direction the show went with his character. Jigsaw is one of the very few mainstays in the comic world of The Punisher. Most baddies have a very short lifespan once they run up against Frank Castle, but due to often serendipitous circumstances, Russo somehow survives The Punisher’s wrath like a cockroach.
Now where the show did Russo justice is with his broad personality traits: he’s handsome, arrogant, and has one heck of a mean streak. But the separation of Frank and Jigsaw’s backgrounds is paramount in the comic series. They both have suffered personal trauma and now fight for opposite sides of their own view of street justice. Russo and Castle being squadmates hampers that, which is lame.
There was very little fat on Netflix’s first season of Jessica Jones. There was never really an unnecessary scene when Jessica, Luke Cage, or Kilgrave were in it, but for some reason, the writers of the show felt it necessary to bad out the 13-episode length of the season with some of the most inconsequential b-plots with some lame characters from the comics who were breathed to life with lame characterizations.
One such character is Will (not Frank) Simpson (played by Australian actor Wil Traval), who is better known as Nuke in Frank Miller’s iconic run on Daredevil in the '80s. While Nuke in the comic was a metaphor for PTSD just like he is in the television show, he was also a sharp piece of satire of the action movie heroes of the era. Sadly, Traval doesn’t do much to add any levity. The character is just a drag.
Blackagar Boltagon (or Black Bolt for short) is one of the most powerful characters in all of Marvel Comics, and for some reason, he’s also one of the least recognizable by casual fans. Go ahead and ask the random person on the street if they know who Black Bolt is and they’re likely to look at you as if you had two heads.
This is precisely why comic book fans rejoiced when it was announced that Black Bolt, a man who can level a city with a whisper, was coming to the small screen. Sadly, what we got was short of spectacular. While Anson Mount is a fine actor (he’s great in Hell on Wheels), this version of the character is lame. Maybe it’s because we see Anson’s handsome face which leaves the character with zero mystique, but we will not miss him once Inhumans is off the air.
In the comic books John Proudstar (better known as Thunderbird) is somewhat of a footnote, albeit a very important footnote, in the X-Men universe. Most fans are familiar with his brother James, better known as Warpath. Now, the cultural relevance of the Proudstar it not to be glossed over, both in their representation of indigenous people and the role they play in the larger X-Men continuity, especially when it comes to John.
John Proudstar was the first sacrificial lamb in this massive mutant comic soap opera. Thunderbird’s death during the new class of X-Men’s first mission exemplified the severity graduating from Xavier pupil to avenging mutant and the potentially dire consequences that came with the role. Sadly, Blair Redford’s portrayal of the character on Fox’s Gifted seems to miss this completely. Thunderbird on the show is pretty boring (maybe that’s why Claremont killed him off all those years ago).
We could write tomes about how Marvel just simply cannot seem to get Elektra right in adapting her into live action. Maybe it’s due to Frank Miller’s less-than-desirable take on women, specifically the waning trope of modern femme fatales, or maybe it’s because the comic book version of Elektra is too much of a beast for audiences. After all, she did steal every comic she was ever in, and was even begrudgingly brought back to life by Miller due to massive fan demand.
Whatever the case, Elodie Yung’s take on the character in the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil is awful. She’s all attitude without any of the pathos or intrigue. This version of Elektra seems shoehorned into a season that was just fine without her. Surely there would have been a better way to introduce The Hand. Apparently, the show-runners thought otherwise.
People will often site January Jones portrayal as Emma Frost in X-Men: First Class as one of the many low points of the X-Men’s translation to live action. However, by comparison to Ms. Jones’ take on the iconic character is Oscar-worthy when held up to Finola Hughes’ version of her on the made-for-television film Generation X.
Now, to be fair, White Queen wasn’t the only thing that was awful in this film (more on that later), but Hughes’ still performance and self-serious delivery of every line out of her mouth is pretty painful to watch. Emma Frost, while distant, is supposed to be witty, charming, seductive, and utterly intimidating. But Finola Hughes is more like a nagging mom who can’t stop lecturing you about leaving dirty dishes in your room. It’s a portrayal of one of the best characters ever to grace the pages of an X-book that’s completely toothless.
It’s safe to say that Iron Fist is the worse of the Marvel Netflix offerings thus far. It’s boring, lacking all the crazy Kung fu mysticism we love from the comic books, and, worst of all, it is rather poorly casted (for the most part; Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing is still rad). One of the biggest offenders of the latter issue is Sacha Dhawan as Davos (or as he’s known in the comics: Steel Serpent).
Look, Sacha Dhawan is an extremely talented actor who seems like he is fully invested in the roles he takes on, but he just wasn’t selling Davos. In the comics, The Steel Serpent is Hydra’s answer to Iron First and is one of the only martial artists in the world who can Danny Rand break a sweat. This version of Davos was just another guy with a bone to pick and not much else.
Before the Golden Age of television and the era of comic book adaptations being (mostly) consistently good, seeing some comic readers’ favorite superheroes on screen was a rare occurrence, especially if those characters weren’t Superman or Batman. However, the late ‘70s was graced with the very popular television series, The Incredible Hulk.
The interest in the character and his show generated enough buzz to have CBS produce a series of television movies to finish the series. The second installment of this trilogy of films, The Trail of the Incredible Hulk, featured the very first live action adaptation of Daredevil played by actor and singer, Rex Smith. The movie acted as a backdoor pilot for a Daredevil television show, which thankfully never took off. It’s not that Rex Smith is a bad actor, it’s just a lame Daredevil and a middling Matt Murdock.
What is going on here? Entire books could be filled with the head-scratching insanity bursting through the screen in each episode of Marvel’s Inhumans, a show that somehow conned IMAX into projecting its lackluster pilot, but one of the most befuddling things in this now-cancelled (or simply completed, depending on who you ask) series is the portrayal of Medusa by Serinda Swan.
Again, this is a case of a perfectly capable actor not giving what is supposed to be a strong, fierce, female character the portrayal they deserve. This Medusa is bland, just like the rest of the show. And the bad CGI effects on her even worse wig certainly do not help matters at all. The only thing that really shines is Medusa’s loyalty to her husband and her disdain for Maximus, but both of those things are pretty much unavoidable.
Blade, the vampire hunter, is one of the coolest and least utilized anti-heroes in Marvel’s plethora of characters, despite the fact he was given a trilogy of films (which varied in degrees of quality) and even his own TV show. Perhaps it’s his limited exposure that makes him a fan favorite and an enjoyable presence when he does appear on page.
Oddly enough, the character did strike somewhat of a note with general audiences after the third and final entry in his film series Blade Trinity (which is laughably bad), and landed a continuation in the form of a television series in 2006 with Blade: The Series, starring rapper-turned-actor, Kirk “Sticky Fingaz:” Jones. While a Kung fu, sword-wielding vampire hunter should have been perfect for a weekly action show, Jones’ portrayal of the character was lackluster, especially after watching Wesley Snipes inhabit the character so perfectly.
It is often that that a story is only as good as its villain. And in the case of Netflix’s Luke Cage, that story is a tale of two baddies. The first half of the season is graced with a stellar performance by Academy Award-winning actor Mahershala Ali as the charismatic and sadistic crime lord, Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes. But the second half of the season saw the introduction of Willis “Diamondback” Stryker, portrayed by Erik LaRay Harvey.
Now, one can appreciate Luke Cage for switching things up so drastically mid-season to keep the viewers on their toes, but when that switch up leaves us with what is basically a cartoonishly evil villain for the sake of being evil, that appreciation wanes immediately. There’s no way to be certain if this choice was made by Harvey or by the show-runners, but it completely sends the season on a nosedive toward mediocrity.
We’ve seen it before time and time again: iconic characters being played by actors who are of a different nationality than the actors themselves. Usually this goes off without a hitch. Consider Heath Ledger as The Joker and Christian Bale as Batman, who are Australian and Welsh, respectively. Sure, every now and then we get what the heck Benedict Cumberbatch was doing in Doctor Strange, but for the most part, switching up nationalities doesn’t really affect a character’s screen presence.
But sometimes, this change up results into something so awful, you can’t unhear the voice in your head. Jeremy Ratchford (a Canadian actor) as Banshee/Sean Cassidy (an aggressively Irish character) in the made-for-television films Generation X is one of these vocal train wrecks. His accent is so blatant and awful you’d think he was auditioning for a Lucky Charms commercial.
Look, we love Ken Leung. He was awesome as Miles in Lost and if that live-action Chew movie ever comes to fruition, he’s our first pick for Tony Chu (well, maybe second next to Steven Yeun; it’s hard to say), but we have no idea what he is thinking as he awkwardly stumbles in the shoes of the Inhuman, Karnak.
This isn’t the first time Leung had us scratching our heads with his portrayal of a character in a superhero property (remember Kid Omega in X-Men: The Last Stand?). But somehow his portrayal of Karnak is oddly worse. In the comics, Karnak is the butt-kicking Inhuman priest to the royal family. He’s a guy you want on your side when things go bad. But Leung’s take on the character is stiff and not really threatening at all. Maybe this has something to do with his awful fight choreography.
Finn Jones is notoriously known as being one of the absolute worst interpretations of any Marvel superhero in recent memory as his tenure as the character in Netflix’s Iron Fist. His take on Danny Rand whines constantly, vacillates between psycho boss and naive man-child mid-scene and his fight choreography work is laughably bad. And while all this can almost be forgiven, somehow Finn is also exceedingly boring and milquetoast.
Never has there been a moment since superhero’s began finding their home on screen where a character has been so poorly written and underdeveloped to the point of rendering him almost completely useless. Plain and simple: This is not our Iron Fist. Danny Rand should be smart, charming, kind, while also being a Steph, powerful hero who can punch a hole through an steel wall without flinching.