Considering the crazy amount of superhero films and TV series being released nowadays, we shouldn’t be surprised by the number of recastings. Let’s face it: no one can play a character forever. In some cases, reboots frequently happen (we’re looking at you, Spider-Man) and actors move on as well. This doesn’t mean that a recast actor won’t be better than the previous one in the role, so all you Batfleck fans can rest assured that the next Dark Knight will be great (of course we’re talking about our man, Jake “Batenhaal” Gyllenhaal, here).
Unfortunately, there are instances where it’s obvious that the wrong person was chosen for the part. These train wrecks could be a result of the script, studio vision, the actors’ performances – or even a combination of all three. In fact, some of these castings were so bad that we wished there was a bottle of bleach nearby for us to wash our eyes with. So, what we’ve done is to look at 10 of the best superhero recasting and 10 of the worst in recent memory. We’re aware that there will be disagreements about our choices and encourage a healthy debate in the comments section. Obviously, this is a pipe dream but let’s try to keep it civil, shall we?
20. BETTER: HEATH LEDGER
While the internet edgelords will tell you how Heath Ledger’s Joker is nothing like how the character should be, we can bet our life’s savings that they were all left in awe after watching The Dark Knight. No, it isn’t because Ledger died that his performance is revered; it’s because it was that good, and deserves every accolade it receives.
Ledger’s portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime made the world stand up and take notice of the genre. No longer were comic book movies seen only as entertainment for children and geeks, but they were also now capable of appealing to a wider audience. If it weren’t for The Dark Knight – and Ledger’s tour de force – we don’t think we’d even be writing about these topics today.
19. WORSE: JESSE EISENBERG
You have to give credit to Zack Snyder for attempting to do something different with Lex Luthor. That said, we do wonder how different Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice would’ve been had Bryan Cranston been cast as Luthor rather than Jesse Eisenberg. Sadly, Eisenberg only played Mark Zuckberg under a different guise here.
His performance doesn’t hold a candle to Gene Hackman’s in Richard Donner’s Superman and is generally regarded as one of Batman V Superman‘s weakest spots. You never really knew if he was playing Luthor, the Joker, or even the Riddler, as the character felt incredibly schizophrenic and all over the place. Although, we must say that his appearance in the Justice League post-credits scene did seem to lean more towards classic Luthor, so there’s still some hope for him.
18. BETTER: ANDREW GARFIELD
The Amazing Spider-Man film series gets a lot of undeserved flack. Sure, it was far from perfect, but it did a lot of things right – namely, Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Garfield found the right balance between playing a goofy teenager and superhero in training, while bringing a sensibility to the character in the 21st century. Also, his reaction to the death of Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 still stands as one of the most heart-wrenching moments in comic book movie history.
So, what has Garfield gone on to achieve since this series ended? He’s starred in the Martin Scorsese film Silence, received an Academy Award nomination, and is considered one of the best actors of his generation. Now, tell us, who was the real problem here?
17. WORSE: DANE DEHAAN
The news that Dane DeHaan had been cast as Harry Osborn was a cause for celebration. Off the back of well-received performances and hype, DeHaan looked the perfect candidate to portray Peter Parker’s best friend. One only needed to look at 2012’s Chronicle to see how he was capable of switching gears from a good guy to a sympathetic villain so easily.
Unfortunately, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 tried to accelerate what Sam Raimi did in three movies and stuff it into one. Harry’s arc was rushed and there were too many subplots in the film to let his story shine or even make an appropriate impact. Additionally, his Green Goblin costume looked simply ridiculous and like something out of The Smurfs. While DeHaan did an okay job as Harry, his performance as the Goblin left a lot to be desired.
16. BETTER: AARON ECKHART
It sucks that we never got to see Billy Dee Williams become Two-Face in Tim Burton’s Batman series. The blow was softened, though, when we found out that Tommy Lee Jones would be playing the rogue in Batman Forever, since he was (and remains) a fantastic actor. Unfortunately, the film traded substance for style and became merely a marketing vehicle to sell more toys, doing nothing with Jones and the rest of the talented cast.
Thus, when Aaron Eckhart received the chance to portray Harvey Dent/Two-Face in The Dark Knight, the expectations were rather low. Out of nowhere, Eckhart delivered one of his greatest performances. Second to Ledger, he stole every scene he was in, as he nailed the pitch-perfect and quintessential portrayal of Dent.
15. WORSE: JARED LETO
Look, it takes guts for anyone to attempt to play the Joker after Heath Ledger, and Jared Leto deserves credit for even doing so. But we can’t ignore that his version of Mr. J was perhaps the worst we’ve ever seen. From the ridiculous costume design to his puppy-love obsession for Harley Quinn, this wasn’t the psychopathic clown we’ve grown to love over the years.
The situation was made even worse after we found out the level of method acting that Leto applied for the role. There were so many stories and interviews about how he transformed into the character during the filming of Suicide Squad, so it’s laughable how it all turned out. Looking back, we should’ve all known he was doomed after seeing that stupid “damaged” tattoo on his forehead.
14. BETTER: BEN AFFLECK
When the news broke that Ben Affleck was set to portray Batman, a lot of people were unhappy about it, screaming, “Really, the guy who starred in Daredevil and Gigli was going to be the Dark Knight?” The apprehension was merited since no one knew which Affleck we’d see. Well, when the first image of him in the Batsuit landed online, the hysteria changed to a more positive tone. The era of Batfleck had begun.
Regardless of what you think about the DCEU, he has been one of the shining lights of the franchise. His angrier, older Dark Knight was a breath of fresh air and showcased a different version of the hero that we’re used to seeing. Sadly, it appears as though his time as the Caped Crusader is coming to a close and he’s about to vacate the Batcave.
13. WORSE: BRANDON ROUTH
It took a long time to see another cinematic version of Big Blue after Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. While the film was the worst of the original series, Christopher Reeve was untouchable as the Man of Steel. No one wanted to go near the franchise because of this, and we were thankfully spared a weird film where Nicolas Cage would’ve portrayed Kal-El.
Then, Superman Returns was announced, with the relative-unknown actor Brandon Routh cast as the titular character. He certainly looked a lot like Reeve and had the build to play Superman, so the potential was there. Unfortunately, Routh had about as much personality as a rock and he was far out of his depth in this feature. The studio realized it, too, and pulled the plug on him as Supes after this film.
12. BETTER: LIEV SCHREIBER
There’s not a lot to cheer about in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It’s widely regarded as the worst film in the franchise and a giant mess. One thing it did do right, though, was Victor Creed/Sabretooth. In 2000’s X-Men, we saw Tyler Mane as Sabretooth and he was relegated to being nothing more than Bebop to Toad’s Rocksteady in the film, grunting and making scary noises but doing nothing else.
Liev Schreiber’s version of the character was richer and better written than Mane’s. No longer was he just a bad guy, he also had an interesting back story. It was a throwback to the days of X-Men: The Animated Series when you felt a genuine threat and menace while in the presence of Sabretooth and never quite knew if you could trust him or not.
11. WORSE: GEORGE CLOONEY
By the time Batman & Robin rolled by, we’d already had three actors portraying Batman in five years. The signs were there that this wasn’t going to end well, but when notorious playboy George Clooney was cast as the World’s Greatest Detective, it seemed like a pretty decent casting at the time. Oh, how wrong we all were…
Even Clooney isn’t shy of letting people know what he thinks about this movie, and has apologized for it numerous times. You can’t really fault him for everything that went wrong, though, since he was the product of terrible writing, costumes, and the overall direction of this candy-coated stinker. Still, he’ll forever be known as the worst Batman – and not just because of the stupid nipples on the Batsuit.
10. BETTER: TOM HARDY
“Hey, how’s the future, bro? Are we rich yet?” Yes, yes, this is pure speculation – we know – but we’re certain that Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock/Venom won’t be any worse than Topher Grace’s. Even from that short teaser, we saw more promise than what we did in Grace’s entire performance in Spider-Man 3. Mind you, that whole film was a dumpster fire and should probably be erased from memory.
First off, Hardy looks more like Brock than Grace did. Second, he’s a much better actor than his predecessor. And finally, he’ll be given an entire film to himself to shine – not just the third act of a confusing film. We have no doubt that Hardy will give us a seminal performance as Venom and we’ll all be screaming for him to join the MCU after October.
9. WORSE: JENNIFER LAWRENCE
While we all enjoyed seeing Rebecca Romijn’s Mystique as a member of the Brotherhood of Mutants, we’d seen enough of her by X-Men: The Last Stand. There are so many other mutants in the X-Men universe that we’d love to see on the big screen, but we were subjected to more Mystique in the form of Jennifer Lawrence.
Lawrence’s portrayal started off decently enough in X-Men: First Class, but you can see the bigger her star grew in Hollywood, the bigger the role she wanted in these movies. To make matters worse, she has also openly criticized the films in interviews. Um, JLaw, have you taken a look in the mirror recently? Your ludicrous amount of screen time is the major reason these films have deteriorated in quality.
8. BETTER: STEPHEN MERCHANT
To be fair, Tómas Lemarquis’ Caliban had a tiny role in X-Men: Apocalypse, so we wouldn’t even blame you if you’d forgotten that the character appeared in the film. As such, Stephen Merchant’s “bigger” role as the pale mutant in Logan was always going to be more significant than Lemarquis’.
Merchant’s gangly appearance, coupled with his nuanced performance and quirks, ensured that Caliban was a character that the audiences sympathized with and grew fond of in the movie. He might not have had a massive role like Logan, Laura Kinney, or Professor Xavier did, but his few minutes on the screen made a significant mark, moved the plot forward, and left a positive and lasting impression of both the character and actor behind him. He was yet another positive spot in this Oscar-nominated film.
7. WORSE: TYE SHERIDAN
There was absolutely nothing wrong with James Marsden’s performance as Cyclops. He looked like Scott Summers, he acted like the character, and stood out despite the writers making Wolverine the center of the X-Men universe. Heck, even Tim Pocock’s appearance as the younger Scott in X-Men Origins: Wolverine wasn’t bad by any means and felt true to canon.
Tye Sheridan, though, didn’t do anything with the role when presented with it. He came off as whiny, bland, and not much of a leader in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse. In fact, Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey appeared more like the real leader of the team than Sheridan’s Summers. He has another opportunity to redeem himself in the forthcoming X-Men: Dark Phoenix, but will he do so? Only time will tell…
6. BETTER: CHARLIE COX
Ben Affleck’s Daredevil gets a lot of flack, and maybe unnecessarily so. It wasn’t a marvelous performance, but it was far from the catastrophe so many people claim it is. All things considered, Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock/Daredevil is on another level, as the actor has managed to craft and hone emotional layers for this character throughout two seasons of Daredevil and in The Defenders.
Not only is Cox exploring the character from a superhero perspective, he’s also showcasing the damaged man behind the mask. He’s shown us that Murdock isn’t perfect and completely fallible, letting down his friends and himself on his crusade to protect Hell’s Kitchen. While Cox’s Daredevil has dominated the small screen, it would be a darn shame if the MCU didn’t bring him to the party in the near future.
5. WORSE: KEVIN SPACEY
Scandals aside, Kevin Spacey is a talented actor. He has delivered one outstanding performance after another, and he would’ve probably been remembered as one of the all-time greats had his personal behavior not proven so deeply problematic. Nonetheless, in 2006, when he was cast as Lex Luthor in Superman Returns, most people were rubbing their hands in anticipation of Spacey’s interpretation of the legendary villain.
What transpired, though, was Spacey phoning in his performance. He didn’t seem to have much enthusiasm for the character and failed to capture the magic of Gene Hackman’s original imagining of Luthor. At times, Spacey’s demeanor bordered on comical, as if he wasn’t taking the film, or its stakes, seriously at all. We might make fun of Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, but Spacey’s wasn’t much better, either.
4. BETTER: JON BERNTHAL
In 1989, Dolph Lundgren introduced us to a live-action Frank Castle in The Punisher. While it was mostly only the Punisher by name, it was a decent enough action flick. Hey, it was the late ’80s, and the standards were low then, so shoot us. In the years that followed, though, Castle failed to make a significant mark in the live-action world.
Step forward Jon Bernthal. Making his debut in season two of Daredevil, he stole the show, becoming a fan-favorite in no time. After such a warm and positive reception, a decision was made to give him his own Netflix series – and it proved to be a stroke of genius. The first season was violent and emotional – everything that we’d expect from a Punisher story – and the series has now been greenlit for another season.
3. WORSE: BEN MCKENZIE
We wouldn’t want to follow Gary Oldman’s performance as Jim Gordon. After such a remarkable and definitive display in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, anything else is subpar in comparison. Nonetheless, Ben McKenzie was presented with an opportunity to craft a younger, different version of Gordon in Gotham. He had enough room and time to do something different with the role, and much was expected of him as a result.
So, what did McKenzie do? He played Ryan Atwood in another series. His Gordon is a hypocrite, murderer, and has broken the law more times than Gotham’s criminal elite. He doesn’t represent justice; he represents his own agenda and is one of the most selfish characters on the series. It’s hard to even consider Gordon as one of the good guys on Gotham anymore.
2. BETTER: OLIVIA MUNN
Did you know that Psylocke appeared in X-Men: The Last Stand? Yip, she was portrayed by Meiling Melançon in a rather forgettable performance that resulted in her being killed off. Although, it must be said the character got lost in the pack as the mutants came at us thick and fast, so it’s not necessarily Melançon’s fault that this version of Psylocke sucked.
While a lot was made of Olivia Munn’s Psylocke in the build-up to X-Men: Apocalypse, she didn’t end up having as much of a major part as we thought she might. Still, her version of the character looked comic book-accurate and intriguing enough. She’s set to appear in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, so maybe we might finally see Psylocke become an important member of the X-Men on the big screen.
1. WORSE: MATT NABLE
When Matt Nable was cast as Ra’s al Ghul in Arrow, the fans were excited. He looked a lot like Liam Neeson’s version of the Demon’s Head from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises, and he had the necessary acting chops to deliver an equally great performance. Alas, Nable provided us with one of the blandest and weakest portrayals of this mystical villain. In short, it was extremely disappointing.
In fact, when you consider Alexander Siddig’s Ra’s on Gotham, you immediately realize how poor Nable’s version is. Ra’s is meant to be threatening and larger than life, yet he failed to provide Oliver Queen with a legitimate threat. His defeat was always inevitable and his arc is widely regarded as a low point in Arrow.
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