When done right, a plot twist is a fantastic way to subvert its audience’s expectations in a satisfying way, creating genuine shock while taking the story in a new direction, often re-contextualizing the events of the entire story in the process. When done badly however, a plot twist can come off as obvious, contrived or flat out ridiculous, making a bad movie worse, or in more severe cases, ruining an otherwise great movie. Unfortunately there have probably been more awful twists in cinema than not, and superhero movies aren’t immune to this.
Given the decades upon decades of complex continuity and character development in comic books, it’s no secret that the medium is filled with its own unexpected twists and turns, so it makes sense that some of these plot twists make their way to big screen during the adaptation process. Comics and movies are two completely different formats however, and not everything that works in a comic book works in live action, while attempts to distance a movie from its comic book origins are often equally disastrous — and that’s certainly the case with the following plot twists. Here are the 15 absolute worst plot twists in superhero movies.
Spoilers for several superhero movies ahead.
14. SANDMAN KILLED UNCLE BEN
It’s a fairly common tactic in any movie trilogy to drop a huge bombshell in the third entry — particularly if that bombshell changes the perspective of the whole series. Sometimes this works, effectively adding a new wrinkle to a character’s origin to truly test how far they’ve come over the course of the series. Sometimes it simply doesn’t play well in the slightest however, which is unfortunately the case with Spider-Man 3.
It’s revealed that despite Uncle Ben’s death at the hands of a petty criminal back in the first movie, it’s actually famous Spider-Man rogue and father of the year Flint Marko (aka Sandman) who pulled the trigger — unintentionally. Not only does the reveal lack any real impact, but it robs several scenes from the first movie of their impact too, all while making Sandman feel less like a sympathetic villain and more like a bumbling crook.
13. LEX LUTHOR CREATES DOOMSDAY
Ignoring the fact that the trailers for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice decided to give away the movie’s entire final act, it’s pretty clear that Doomsday’s creation at the hands of Lex Luthor was initially meant to serve as a third act plot twist of sorts. In the end though, the reveal and subsequent slugfest was widely criticized by fans and critics alike and for good reason.
With Doomsday serving as one of the most intimidating villains in Supes’ rogues gallery, the movie seemingly went out of its way to make the character as uninteresting as possible. With the character’s creation explained away by vague pseudo-science that’s ridiculous even for a superhero movie, Doomsday was nonsensically rushed on screen in the film’s third act and left not long after, wasting both a potentially formidable villain for a future movie, and BvS’s entire final act.
12. WADE WILSON’S FATE
Not exactly a twist in the traditional sense of the word, the fate of Wade Wilson (aka Deadpool) in the final act of X-Men Origins: Wolverine certainly felt like a twist for Deadpool fans, as the character was the complete polar opposite of his comic book counterpart. Neglecting to give Deadpool anything even closely resembling his classic costume, X-Men Origins: Wolverine also gave him a completely different set of powers, including wrist-mounted blades and laser vision similar to that of Cyclops.
Perhaps most egregiously of all however, was that Wade’s mouth was also sewn up, taking away perhaps the most important facet of Deadpool’s character, which ultimately turned a merely terrible movie into an unforgivably bad one, drawing the ire of comic book fans worldwide. Thankfully, 2016’s Deadpool served as a perfect adaptation of the character, much to the celebration of avid Deadpool fans — Ryan Reynolds included.
11. AMANDA WALLER’S REAL PLAN
Although the concept behind Suicide Squad is undoubtedly cool — bringing together a disparate band of supervillains to tackle an even greater threat — the reveal of the team’s true mission, which they’ve been pursuing for a significant portion of the movie, leaves a lot to be desired. When the Squad eventually reaches their destination, they discover that Amanda Waller has sent them there to help her escape, as she attempts to bury her involvement in The Enchantress’ destructive campaign.
Waller’s vast short-sightedness in the whole Enchantress/Suicide Squad plan undermines the very core of the character, whose ruthlessness, tactical prowess and genius intellect is imposing to even the likes of Batman. In addition to this, the reveal that the Squad has been sent to clean up Waller’s mess makes the events of the movie up until that point feel hollow on subsequent viewings — and that’s a real problem.
10. LOKI BECOMES ODIN
Generally considered one of the more forgettable movies in the MCU, Thor: The Dark World still managed to be fun. Despite its weak villain, distracting side characters and often uninspired action, the central relationship between Thor, Loki and Odin really made the whole journey worth it and culminated in a beautiful moment of redemption for the Trickster God, who capped off his arc by selflessly sacrificing himself for the greater good. Or so we thought.
It’s soon discovered that Loki in fact faked his own death in order to pose as Odin for as of yet unknown reasons. While the moment is relatively true to the character, it also negates his entire character arc, retroactively making the movie less satisfying without giving the audience context as to why Loki made this decision. Here’s hoping this gets cleared up in Thor: Ragnarok.
9. SUPERMAN KILLS ZOD
Perhaps one of the more controversial moments on this list, the death of Zod during Man of Steel’s climactic scene caused quite the stir with fans. While some argued that Superman would never willingly take a life, others responded that if the alternative was the death of an innocent family, he’d have no other choice.
Regardless of your position on the subject, there’s no denying that the scene could have been done with more subtlety. Having Superman snap Zod’s neck is just too dark and visceral for a Superman story, especially in his first outing in the DCEU. Introducing the idea of Superman’s moral code — and whether or not killing a genocidal supervillain fits into that code — is a potentially interesting theme for Supes, but taking a character synonymous with hope and then making him anything but hopeful makes for a “twist” that fans won’t soon forget.
8. PROFESSOR X AND CYCLOPS DIE
One of the most critically panned superhero movies to come out since the genre’s popularization, X-Men: The Last Stand was a perfect storm of bad decisions that disappointed and angered fans. Among the movie’s myriad of issues were the unexpected and flippant deaths of central characters Professor X and Cyclops at the hands of Dark Phoenix.
Seeing the two core X-Men killed off so unceremoniously with such little consequence felt like a forced way to manufacture drama and stakes, but ended up doing the complete opposite, sucking any sense of coherent storytelling and character development out of the movie. To make matters even worse, Cyclops was even killed off screen — a disrespectful end to one of the most important figures in the X-Men’s canon. The deaths of the two characters were barely referenced throughout the rest of the movie either, ultimately making them feel lazy and pointless.
7. BATMAN SLEEPS WITH BARBARA GORDON
Upon its initial announcement, Bat-fans were ecstatic to learn that an adaptation of Alan Moore’s seminal story “The Killing Joke” was in the works. An iconic and controversial take on The Joker character, the creators of the film attempted to address the contentious treatment of Barbara Gordon’s character in the story by fleshing out her role in the movie rather than having her serve merely as a pawn for The Joker’s depraved machinations.
Unfortunately, this attempt pissed off even more people, with Barbara’s central storyline revolving around her desperation for Batman’s approval, after which she sleeps with the Caped Crusader — much to the shock of audiences. Given the fatherly role Batman plays in Barbara’s life, the whole scene just came off as creepy, and further muddied the already divisive role Barb plays in the story.
6. YASHIDA IS SILVER SAMURAI
While the earlier half of The Wolverine was a pretty enjoyable adaptation of Chris Claremont’s classic run on the iconic character, the second half of the movie — the third act in particular — unfortunately failed to meet the expectations set up by the rest of the movie.
With silly CGI fights, corny villains and an anticlimactic final battle, the cherry on top of the movie’s sub-par climax was the frustrating reveal that Ichiro Yashida, the frail old man who brought Wolverine to Japan in the first place, was in fact the Silver Samurai donning a giant robotic suit. Not only did this upset fans of the usually awesome Silver Samurai character, with the giant robot barely resembling the classic villain, but the bait-and-switch nature of the movie’s eventual antagonist makes Wolverine’s final showdown with the metal-clad old timer severely uncompelling — and at times laughably bad.
5. NICK FURY ISN’T DEAD
It goes without saying that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a fantastic movie. The tense, twisting narrative reminiscent of a paranoid ‘70s political thriller is full of amazing moments, surprising plot points and superbly choreographed action. There’s just one brief moment that manages to let the film down a little.
After the effectively shocking assassination of Nick Fury earlier in the movie, our heroes are further motivated to root out the evil lurking within S.H.I.E.L.D., providing emotional stakes and additional drive for the characters that affords the movie some tangible dramatic weight. Sadly though, Fury’s death is short lived, soon revealing that he faked his death to get off of Hydra’s radar before returning, which ultimately deflates the palpable tension set up earlier in the movie.
4. OFFICER BLAKE IS ROBIN
In the closing scenes of The Dark Knight Rises, it’s revealed that Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s plucky cop John Blake is actually named Robin John Blake, with the character inheriting Bruce Wayne’s various crime fighting assets — including the Batcave — following the supposed death of the Caped Crusader.
While this was likely intended as a fun nod to the comic book character, it ultimately raises more frustrating questions in a movie already criticized for containing plot holes. Will Blake become Robin? Or maybe even Nightwing? Will he ever work with Batman? Would Bruce Wayne put such large amounts of trust in a relative stranger? How will Blake fight crime effectively without training from the League of Assassins? Unfortunately, given the movie’s status as the final chapter of a standalone trilogy, fans were never supposed to have those questions answered.
3. THE MANDARIN REVEALED
Still a point of contention between fans of the MCU several years on, the divisive reveal of the Mandarin as the drunken, bumbling actor Trevor Slattery in Iron Man 3 is one of the most controversial moments ever. Although the reveal works very well from a comedy perspective, with Ben Kingsley absolutely nailing it as the character, there’s no doubt that many fans were sorely disappointed following a series of trailers that made the character out to be an incredibly imposing villain.
Writer-director Shane Black was in an awkward position here, with potential accusations of whitewashing and/or racist stereotypes being a very real possibility with the character’s inclusion, but the flipside was denying fans a definitive version of one of Iron Man’s villains after teasing it for so long — which begs the question of why the Mandarin was even used in the first place.
2. SUPERMAN DIES
For those who were eagerly awaiting the arrival of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it seemed fairly obvious that Superman could perish during the movie’s climax once Doomsday appeared. There are several problems with the execution of this twist however, starting with the fact that it was simply too early in the franchise to kill off Superman.
The character hadn’t come into his own and won the world over yet, making it unlikely that the citizens of Metropolis would mourn his death as they did in the “Death of Superman” arc, which just feels plain wrong. The second, more pressing issue though, is that it’s so obvious he’ll return — sooner rather than later — due to the constantly mounting information surrounding this year’s Justice League, as well as future Man of Steel sequels, making the character’s temporary death feel hollow and pointless.
1. MIRANDA TATE IS TALIA AL GHUL
Often considered the weak link in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises’ villain, Bane, has remained a pop culture icon since the film’s release nonetheless. A tactical genius, Bane’s brains match (and often exceed) his incredible brawn, making him more than a match for the Bat on every conceivable level.
The revelation that Bruce Wayne’s business partner and lover Miranda Tate is in fact Talia Al Ghul however, ultimately undermines what was once a tremendous villain, relegating Bane to a lovesick henchman who’s easily dispatched during the movie’s climax. Suddenly redirecting the spotlight that Bane earned throughout the film is one of The Dark Knight Rises’ fatal flaws, and as great an actress as Marion Cotillard is, Talia Al Ghul never feels intimidating or dangerous — and doesn’t really do anything — sacrificing a great villain for something much less compelling.
What do you think is the worst superhero movie twist? Let us know in the comments below!
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