The Marvel Cinematic Universe is packed to the brim with incredible talent — talent that has time and time again stunned us with its portrayals of some of our favorite Marvel Comics characters. From the very start with Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, the actors of the MCU have proved that these characters deserve a shot on the big screen as part of something greater. But the great casting didn’t stop there. Chris Evans killed it as Captain America, Scarlett Johansson successfully brought Black Widow to life, Paul Bettany went from JARVIS to Vision and Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista made us believe in the Guardians of the Galaxy. Heck, even villainous portrayals like Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki made us re-think live-action superhero flicks.
But not all casting can go so well, and sometimes the liberties taken with these characters end up making the roles, and films, fall flat. This list examines 15 MCU casting choices that ruined the comic book character they were trying to portray. Of course, this doesn’t mean the actor in question is bad, as they’re usually great, but how their portrayal as the character didn’t quite stick. Take a look.
15. EDWARD NORTON AS THE HULK
When The Incredible Hulk released in 2008, it was a fine half-step for Marvel as the company got its foothold on a cinematic universe, but Edward Norton’s portrayal as both Bruce Banner and the Hulk left something to desire, something many fans didn’t even realize until they saw Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of the character in 2012’s The Avengers.
Ed Norton seemed to bring plenty of influence from some of his other film roles to the character of Bruce Banner, the most notable of which might be of the main character in Fight Club, a tired-of-life guy who deals with some serious mental trauma as he discovers his own abilities. His actual Hulk scenes were pretty great, but we’re happy Ruffalo has taken the scientist’s reins.
14. DON CHEADLE AS WAR MACHINE
Though Don Cheadle’s portrayal of James Rhodes is fun, sometimes serious and a great complement to most of the characters he’s on screen with, he’s a pretty far cry from what fans of the comics had come to expect from a possible adaptation. And while Terrence Howard exited the Marvel Cinematic Universe just after 2008’s Iron Man, we can’t help but wonder what could’ve been had he stayed in the role.
This is no shade toward Cheadle, who is easily one of the strongest of talents in the MCU, and while there may be a better representation of War Machine out there somewhere, his version of the character has grown on his own, and we’re happy to see his recovery and evolution as the franchise continues.
13. AARON TAYLOR-JOHNSON AS QUICKSILVER
If there’s one thing Aaron Taylor-Johnson nailed in his depiction of Quicksilver in Avengers: Age of Ultron, it was Pietro Maximoff’s flashiness, and we guess the costume was pretty close. That aside, Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver lacked an incredible amount of depth, one made infinitely more intricate by his comic counterpart. His care for his sister, neglect for his parentage and pride are just a handful of things mostly lacking from Taylor-Johnson’s performance.
It didn’t help that his character didn’t survive the film, so we won’t know if the actor could’ve developed Pietro out further, much like Elizabeth Olsen has for Scarlet Witch. Though, to be fair, Olsen gave a heck of a performance in Age of Ultron, so it might not have been the same in Taylor-Johnson’s case.
12. JEREMY RENNER AS HAWKEYE
This is no knock to Jeremy Renner, who in his own right is phenomenal actor who has brought a level of emotional depth to a character we really wouldn’t expect to have any (if we’re judging by his 616 iteration as opposed to the Ultimate Universe). Renner’s Hawkeye has taken a number of detours from his main universe comic book counterpart. From his womanizing attitude to his nonchalant behavior to even his attributes, like being partially-deaf.
Renner’s Hawkeye is a family man who fights for his friends, and he’s pretty obvious about it at that. The closest live-action counterpart that feels like a comic book Hawkeye is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Hunter, who not only has an on-again off-again marriage with Mockingbird (as per Hawkeye in the comics) but regularly acts just like him. You know, except for the being British part.
11. ISABELLE CORNISH AS CRYSTAL
While much of our disappointment in Isabelle Cornish’s portrayal as Medusa’s sister Crystal comes from the direction and lack of cohesion in the Inhumans television series, some of it comes from the actual representation of the character. Crystal, the youngest member of the Inhuman Royal Family, is often a voice of reason, a high-level Inhuman who knows the ins and outs of diplomacy on both a human and Inhuman level.
Cornish’s version of the character draws inspiration from a handful of Marvel characters, with Crystal’s main role so far serving as Lockjaw’s (the Inhumans’ teleporting dog) closest companion. While this is a fair place for the character, we would have liked to see Crystal as an older hero, with someone like Kamala Khan filling the role as budding superhero and Lockjaw’s best friend. Instead, we’re left with no depth and another filler character in the chaos of Inhumans.
10. FINN JONES AS IRON FIST
Finn Jones as Danny Rand in Netflix’s Iron Fist was, to say the least, a disappointment. Following up on the mostly incredible casting and execution of Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, the magic and martial arts of Iron Fist should have been an easy one. But Jones’ lackluster portrayal of the integral Marvel hero is not only uninteresting, but offensive to the lore of the character and the integrity of his mystic arts knowledge.
Every part of Danny Rand’s character is underplayed in the series, from his parentage to his power to his origin, and its made to seem like some sort of wild joke. For a universe that already set up aliens, magic and talking raccoons, it shouldn’t have been as hard to sell an audience on dragons and glowing fists. It surely didn’t help that the fight scenes were forced and quite boring.
9. JAMES SPADER AS ULTRON
James Spader’s portrayal of Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron could have been one to remember. From the trailers, and with Spader’s voiceover, Ultron seemed like a creeping, mysterious evil that would make some cool, collected attacks on the Avengers. Unfortunately, Spader’s take on the character quickly dissolves into general cinematic fare, with Ultron becoming almost completely human in expression with odd CGI and a need to swarm a city with his robot counterparts.
One of the things that terrifies us about Ultron in the comics is his facelessness. He is, at his base, a robot engineered by Hank Pym that goes rogue with its sentience and creates and creates until he seeks perfection by eliminating basically everything. Spader’s Ultron is a prideful tyrant who gets too much power too quickly and falls victim to oversight.
8. MICKEY ROURKE AS WHIPLASH
This entry is on Whiplash as a character about as much as it is on Mickey Rourke. In Iron Man 2, Rourke portrayed regular Iron Man rogue Whiplash and took him on a handful of times throughout the film, which itself was sort of muddied by its sort-of multiple villains with their own motivations. But Rourke’s depiction of the character was overblown, turning a powerful villain into a stereotypical mess.
The closest comparison I can make would be that of Paul Giamatti’s Rhino in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, where a villain that was kind of wacky in the first place, was cranked up to ten and turned into a live-action cartoon character. This left a gaping hole in a film that might have been better served by a different villain, though the raceway fight scene with Tony Stark’s briefcase suit was pretty cool.
7. COREY STOLL AS YELLOWJACKET
Corey Stoll’s depiction of Darren Cross in 2015’s Ant-Man felt tired considering the rich lore that could’ve been pulled from for the film. That being said, he was an ample villain for the case the movie made, but things got weird when he assumed the Yellowjacket identity using the suit typically worn by Hank Pym in the comics. This allowed Cross to match wits with Ant-Man, rather than use his raw strength to fight Scott Lang.
Now, this has sort of retroactively been improved, with Darren Cross returning from the dead in the comics and gaining access to a new Yellowjacket suit, one that looks an awful lot like its Marvel Cinematic Universe counterpart. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that there were many creative liberties taken when adapting cross into live-action.
6. CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON AS MALEKITH
Christopher Eccleston’s casting as Malekith should have been incredible, but when the credits rolled in Thor: The Dark World, fans were left disappointed and distraught by not only the misuse of the leader of the Dark Elves, but of Eccleston, a great actor in his own right and a Doctor Who alum. But, alas, Eccleston’s Malekith was lacking in emotional depth, in prideful flare and in viciousness.
The film, which ended up being carried mostly by Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and cameo from Chris Evans’ Captain America, had a less than fruitful villain with a not-so-menacing costume and cadence, and a bunch of faceless lackeys wreaking havoc in London. It was a disjointed film bookended by Eccleston’s uneven portrayal of the strictly horrifying character of Malekith.
5. ANSON MOUNT AS BLACK BOLT
Of all of the mis-castings and mis-portrayals of Marvel characters, Anson Mount’s Black Bolt might be one of the biggest misses. While Mount surely looks the part, and may have been able to act the part, his time as Black Bolt seems almost mindless. Black Bolt is supposed to be one of the strongest heroes in the Marvel Universe, with extreme intelligence and a need to hold his power in.
But Mount’s Black Bolt seems like a naive child forced to keep his power at bay. This is made even more questionable by his relationship with Medusa in the Inhumans, where she’s more of a teacher than translator for Black Bolt, something that shifts their natural dynamic. When Black Bolt tries to shout, Maximus shouldn’t point a gun at him, he should be running away as fast as he can — those guns aren’t going to do anything.
4. GUY PEARCE AS THE MANDARIN
OK, so this one is a bit of a stretch, if only because we didn’t really know Pearce was effectively playing The Mandarin until the third act of the film. As Aldrich Killian, he does a fairly effective job, albeit straying from his comic book roots. But as the Mandarin, he hijacks an entire set of history and lore for a character that could have been the perfect introduction of mysticism to Tony Stark’s world (aside from Thor-level magic).
Instead, we got a half-cocked reveal that only served to make us more angry as moviegoers, well, until Killian (like most Marvel Cinematic Universe villains) gets killed before he really has a chance to do anything. Sure, he kidnaps the president, but Iron Man and War Machine make quick work of that scheme. That leaves a guy with intense fire powers, and those weren’t so great either.
3. JOHN C. REILLY AS RHOMANN DEY
There was an incredible amount of things to enjoy about the first Guardians of the Galaxy. Its colorful cast of characters were funny, emotionally-stacked and held together a fun space romp, but one thing that rubbed fans the wrong way was the portrayal of the Nova Corps. And while there’s nothing to stop individual members of the Corps from being comic relief vehicles, it felt a bit weird to get that before a leader in the form of Richard Rider.
John C. Reilly is an incredible actor, but his misplacement as Nova Prime (eventually) makes us wonder if the Nova Corps can ever really be a driving police force in the galaxy. We need what is effectively a Green Lantern Corps in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not a character full of jokes. It doesn’t help that the film’s universe treats the whole Corps like a joke anyway.
2. NATALIE PORTMAN AS JANE FOSTER
Natalie Portman’s take on Jane Foster might be one of the least explored characters in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of course, Portman is an incredible actor, but her portrayal of Jane Foster is one very blank blank slate. There is no driving force, other than scientific discovery, and the romantic sub-plot of the films feels forced and unnecessary, especially when we consider how strong Jane Foster is in the comics.
What we’re left with as moviegoers is a want for Portman’s Jane Foster to one day take on the mantle of Thor (per the character’s comic book history), but not if we don’t feel like the character has been set up properly. The Dark World attempted to make this take on Foster more important, but it fell flat, and the character is nowhere to be seen in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok.
1. LEE PACE AS RONAN THE ACCUSER
Ronan The Accuser is a hulking Kree lord who should be one to strike fear into the hearts of any enemy. In Guardians of the Galaxy, Lee Pace’s Ronan is a weak, talkative warlord whose quest for power leads to his downfall, but not before a dance-off. Much like the film’s depiction of the Nova Corps, Ronan The Accuser is relegated to comedic relief, and despite his obvious displays of power, we’re left never really thinking of him as a threat to the film’s heroes.
In the comics, Ronan has incredible emotional depth, whether it’s his defense of the Kree Supreme Intelligence or his marriage to Crystal of the Inhumans. His role in events like “Annihilation” only served to further just how intricate of a character he is, but because of his death in the MCU, it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing any of that explored any time soon.
Which of these characters is the worst to you? Let us know in the comments!
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