Bringing your favorite comic book characters to live-action life is more art than science. There are many obstacles to this process, ranging from comic costumes that don’t translate very well to real life to the difficulty of embodying those picture-perfect comic physiques.With that being said, there have been many great examples of translating Marvel characters to live action. Actors such as Hugh Jackman and Chris Evans bring their characters to life fantastically. In fact, they do such a good job that people who have never picked up a comic in their lives suddenly call themselves fans of the character.
For every success, though, there is a really terrible failure (or two, or three). There have been live-action versions of Marvel characters for over seven decades. Some of these aren’t just bad character translations: they are guaranteed to be the worst versions of these characters you have ever seen. Many of these come from Marvel’s weird history of TV movies. Others are from the kind of direct to DVD movies that you won’t find in any Redbox. And a handful are from the big screen, but all of them offer big disappointment along with their big budget.Don’t believe us? Read on to discover who the 15 worst on-screen Marvel characters are!
One of the reasons that many fans are happy about Disney acquiring 20th Century Fox properties is that we might finally get a proper Fantastic Four movie. So far, there have been three big budget, big screen movies, each more disappointing than the last. The weirdest Fantastic Four movie, however, is the one that was never meant to be released!
Roger Corman rather infamously created a terrible, low-budget Fantastic Four movie. Allegedly, this was simply meant to meet a legal obligation in order to retain ongoing film rights, and the movie was never intended for release. This is one of the reasons, perhaps, that characters like The Thing look so terrible. This is a character that is hard to get right with access to expensive CGI. For Corman, the character comes across as the kind of clumsy rock monster you’d see in a bad episode of Star Trek.
Daredevil is another character that only recently shot to mainstream fame. This is due to the success of the Daredevil show on Netflix that stars Charlie Cox. He does a great job making this blind and brooding hero someone we can believe in. However, this character was on TV once before… though it was a lot less memorable.
The made for TV Incredible Hulk movies provided a weird opportunity for Marvel character crossovers, and we saw Hulk cross paths with characters like Thor and even Kingpin. In Trial of the Incredible Hulk, we see the character as both Daredevil and Matt Murdock, and both are disappointing. As Murdock, the blind character lives outside of Hell’s Kitchen and inexplicably stares out of his window. As Daredevil, poor choreography makes him look like a flailing mugger. No doubt about it: this is your worst on-screen Daredevil.
13. NICK FURY
Nick Fury is a role that Samuel L. Jackson has fully made into his own. In fact, it’s difficult for many people to think about the gruff commander of S.H.I.E.L.D. without imagining Jackson’s scowling face. However, this was the second attempt at a live-action incarnation of Fury… and the first is pretty forgettable.
David Hasselhoff (Star-Lord’s first father substitute) played the character in a TV movie. At the time, he won high praise from Stan Lee himself for accurately portraying the character. Looking back, though, the movie is painfully cheesy, and Hasselhoff comes across as a disappointing amalgamation of action movie heroes. Nowadays, Hasselhoff’s portrayal and the movie itself have fallen off the radar for all but the most obsessive Marvel fans…and for very good reasons!
When it comes to on-screen Marvel characters in recent years, almost none of them have made as big a splash as Thor. Chris Hemsworth provides not only the body but the charm to bring this character to life. However, once you see the first live-action Thor we had, you’ll appreciate Hemsworth’s efforts even more.
Thor appeared in the TV movie The Incredible Hulk Returns. The appearance was very disappointing: not only did the actor not have the physique to easily portray a warrior god, but the physique that he did have was buried in really bizarre wardrobe choices. Imagine looking at Thor’s classic comic look (red cape, chainmail arms and legs, etc.) and dressing this guy in bare arms, brown pants, and fuzzy shoulders. This guy looks like a bad Game of Thrones cosplayer, and if they didn’t say he was Thor, you’d never guess!
When it comes to X-Men movies, there are classics (like X2 and Days of Future Past) and there are stinkers (like X-Men Origins: Wolverine). And then there’s the Generation X movie, which was a film so terrible that we’ve all spent two decades trying to forget it exists. And one of the reasons it’s so terrible is the portrayal of Jubilee.
Jubilee’s prominent placement in the classic X-Men: The Animated Series cartoon means she has a special place in many fans’ hearts. However, this portrayal is just atrocious: they took a half-Asian character and completely whitewashed her…and then tried to cover the whitewashing up with things like ugly yellow lipstick. Finally, they attempted her classic look with a sickly-looking yellow coat that looks terrible on-screen. Trust us: a few seconds of this character on-screen and you’ll be infinitely grateful for Lana Condor’s Jubilee in X-Men: Apocalypse.
The first season of Punisher on Netflix did a bang-up job on giving us a bloody and brutal Frank Castle. The show also pitted him against his classic nemesis, Billy Russo… known better as the villain Jigsaw. The show wisely only teased how deformed Jigsaw’s face had become. However, the Punisher: Warzone movie showed us a little too much about this character.
We get lots of loving close-ups of Jigsaw’s face in this movie. Chances are that the filmmakers wanted this to be unnerving to the viewer. Instead, it’s just distracting: Jigsaw looks more like a Garbage Pail Kid than he does an intimidating villain. You end up laughing at the bizarre makeup instead of feeling anything for the character. This is a classic case of less is more… in this case, the less Punisher movies, the better!
9. DARK PHOENIX
X-Men 3 was a train wreck from beginning to end. It was meant to be our epic on-screen version of the “Dark Phoenix Saga”, but it ended up being a muddled mess. In fact, they botched it so bad that the franchise is doing an official “take two” for Dark Phoenix. Unfortunately, this just makes us all too aware of how bad the original looked.
Don’t get us wrong: Famke Janssen is absolutely beautiful. But she was supposed to be portraying a fiery spirit of cosmic power, and what we got was… a lady in a red dress. It is neither intimidating nor awe-inspiring. Just take a look at Entertainment Weekly’s cover in which Sophie Turner’s hair becomes fire while her body crackles with barely contained energy. One look will confirm that X-Men 3’s Dark Phoenix was the worst!
The X-Men franchise ended up becoming successful in very short order. However, the first movie often cut corners in some weird ways. And one of the weirdest has to do with the casting of Wolverine’s nemesis, Sabretooth.
The Sabretooth of the comic is the dark side of Wolverine, mixing calculating, psychopathic intelligence with his brutal animal nature. That’s the Sabretooth we would eventually get in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. However, the first X-Men movie gave us Sabretooth as a dumb brute with almost no dialogue. If we’re being honest, he looks like exactly what he is: a beefy wrestler who was given some goofy makeup and told to growl on cue. It’s an insult to the character and a low point in a movie that was generally very good.
If you were asking people who their favorite Marvel character is, the mutant known as Skin probably wouldn’t be on too many lists. His name is basically his power: he has extra skin that he can use to stretch and expand to help out his teammates. It takes a big budget to make this look convincing on-screen… which is why they should have left this character out of the Generation X movie.
When it comes to a guy whose powers are “weird skin abilities,” it was probably going to be an uphill battle to make things look good. In this case, his stretching abilities look like they are straight out of a forgettable cartoon. How bad is it? It makes Roger Corman’s Mr. Fantastic and his stretching abilities look downright spectacular!
6. DOCTOR STRANGE
It really just took two words to make Doctor Strange a mainstream character: “Benedict Cumberbatch.” This character went from being a C-list Marvel hero to A-list status as soon as he was portrayed by the world’s sexiest Sherlock. However, we’ve seen this character in live action before…though we don’t blame you for forgetting him!
In 1978, there was Dr. Strange (yes, “Dr.” instead of “Doctor”) TV movie. Doctor Strange himself ends up looking pretty bad: a boring performance is wrapped in bright clothes and gaudy fake jewelry. How bad is it? If you show a screenshot of this Strange to your friend, they are likelier to think “craft bar owner” rather than “Supreme Sorcerer.” It’s no surprise that this TV movie fizzled without producing so much as an ongoing series.
5. GREEN GOBLIN
The Spider-Man movies basically form a parabola of quality. Spider-Man and especially Spider-Man 2 are (forgive the pun) amazing. Spider-Man 3 and the Amazing Spider-Man movies are wild missteps in terms of character and plot. Now, Spider-Man: Homecoming has restored the series to glory… but if you look back at the first Green Goblin, it’s amazing it ever got off the ground.
Willem Dafoe is captivating as Norman Osborn. However, it’s tough to take him seriously when he dons the Green Goblin armor. It literally looks like he raided a Halloween store and walked out with the creepiest goblin-themed mask. What’s worse is that you can clearly see his face through both the eye and mouth holes. Ultimately, this is like seeing the zipper on Godzilla, and you can never take him seriously as a villain again.
Let’s get it out of the way: Deadpool is a role that Ryan Reynolds was meant to play. He does a fantastic job portraying the superhero both when he is in his costume and when he’s out. However, this wasn’t Reynolds’ first rodeo as Deadpool… and after you watch X-Men Origins: Wolverine, you may wonder why he ever got a second shot.
The charm of both Deadpool and Ryan Reynolds comes from their bizarre sense of humor. In this movie, though, Deadpool’s mouth is sewn shut, and he looks like a Doctor Who villain that got weird body tattoos before fighting Wolverine. In fact, the only relief you get from looking at this ugly character is when the movie turns to even uglier CGI. Fortunately for us all, Fox let Deadpool be Deadpool for his own movie.
There was a weird period of time where the most successful onscreen Marvel movies starred the vampiric vampire hunter Blade. He spawned a successful trilogy of movies, and it should have ended there. However, Blade ended up getting a short-lived TV show that gave us the most disappointing version of Blade.
The charm of the Blade movies began and ended with the charm of Wesley Snipes, who could channel both the intensity and the comedy required to make his surreal world believable for audiences. The Blade TV show replaced Snipes with Kirk Jones, better known by his rap persona “Sticky Fingaz.” As Jones himself would admit, his performance was not enough to make anyone forget about Snipes, and audiences are left just wanting to have the original Blade actor back.
For better or for worse, Sony is going ahead and making a Venom solo movie. This film will make their second attempt to bring the character to life on the big screen. However, many fans feel they have a long way to go to make up for just how bad the first attempt was.
The Venom in Spider-Man 3 was a failure on every level. As Eddie Brock, the movie version trades the imposing, bodybuilder physique of the comics for a gangly doppleganger of Peter Parker played by Topher Grace. And as Venom, the character is just a laughable CGI monstrosity. To top it off, he had very little personality as Venom, underscoring what this character really was: just a bad special effect for Spider-Man to punch. Fortunately for Sony’s Venom movie, the on-screen version of this character has nowhere to go but up!
1. CAPTAIN AMERICA
Chris Evans has proven himself to be the quintessential version of Captain America. However, there have been many versions of this character on-screen, going all the way back to serial movies during World War II. The worst version of Captain America is someone who wasn’t actually Captain America!
There was a bizarre Captain America movie made in 1979. The character isn’t actually Cap, but someone takes the name over from his super-patriotic father. He doesn’t rely solely on his enhanced reflexes and shield…instead, he rides around on a tricked-out motorcycle that would make Batman jealous. On paper, this all sounds like kitschy fun…in reality, the character looks completely terrible, from the bizarre bike to the motorcycle helmet headpiece! This is the best proof that it took filmmakers and Marvel many decades to get Captain America right in a live-action form.
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