An adaptation is a tricky thing, and there’s few adaptations trickier than the transition from comic book to movie screen. Comic book fans are loyal folk, and sometimes messing with what they know and love isn’t the best idea. That said, in an era where a new superhero movie is released every other month, it’s only natural that a few really terrible creative decisions would be made at some point, with actors ending up in roles they’re grossly unfit for. It would seem not everyone is meant to be a superhero (or super villain, in some cases), as evidenced by the awful casting choices detailed below. Whether an individual was too outgoing or too meek, too animated or too withdrawn, and in some cases just downright terrible in a role, we’ve decided to outline the 10 Worst Casting Choices in Comic Book Movie History, so as to share our lament with all our fellow comic book readers out there.
10. George Clooney as Bruce Wayne (Batman & Robin)
Before Batman & Robin, the 1997 abomination of a film directed by Joel Schumacher, you’d have been hard pressed to convince us there was a role George Clooney couldn’t play. After all, with those looks, that charm, and a dedicated bachelor lifestyle to his name, the man seemed capable of filling most any leading man role, and most especially the one of Bruce Wayne, with whom he seemed to share more than a few similarities. And perhaps in a different Batman film, Clooney would’ve made for a fine Caped Crusader. As it stands, he’s by far the worst actor to have ever taken up the cowl, and Batman & Robin rates among the worst comic book movies ever made (and perhaps just movies in general, now that we think on it). Not only is Clooney woefully miscast here, but just about everyone else is downright wretched in their roles as well (we’ll have more on that later).
Should Have Cast: Val Kilmer (He was not the problem in Batman Forever)
9. Jessica Alba as Sue Storm (The Fantastic Four)
Despite the mediocrity which seems to pervade most every element of Tim Story’s Fantastic Four (we’re speaking of the 2005 version, not the recently released reboot which we won’t claim to have even watched), we actually like most of the actors cast in their respective roles; Ioan Gruffudd is convincingly intelligent and awkward as Reed Richards, Michael Chiklis gets the attitude (if not the look) of Ben Grimm right, and Chris Evans is arguably a better fit as Johnny Storm than he is as Steve Rogers in the Captain America series. So where’s the outlier? It’s nestled right in Jessica Alba’s atrocious dye job and her wooden acting, where she takes the role of Sue Storm, one of the most potent and empowered women in the Marvel comics, and makes her little more than a piece of eye candy in a body suit. While we hate to pick on Alba, as we find her more tolerable than most in her other creative endeavours, there’s no denying that she’s simply not a good choice for the role of Sue Storm.
Should Have Cast: Scarlett Johansson (Pre-Avengers, of course)
8. Terrence Howard as James Rhodes (Iron Man)
We won’t lie to our readers, there’s something about Terrence Howard we just don’t like. Now, whether that taints our opinion on his portrayal of Colonel James Rhodes in Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, we can’t say. What we will say is that we’re pleased with the fact that Howard was reportedly fired after the first film and replaced with the more believable Don Cheadle, who takes up the role with a confidence and charm that Howard’s performance always lacked. Cheadle, who plays much better with star Robert Downey Jr. than Howard did, seems poised for an expanded role in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, something that’s well deserved after playing a limited role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man 2.
Should Have Cast: Don Cheadle (the studio got it right the second time around)
7. January Jones as Emma Frost (X-Men: First Class)
If anyone reading this is familiar with the comic book version of Emma Frost, it becomes immediately apparent why the studio cast Mad Men actress January Jones in the role for X-Men: First Class. A character who spends the majority of her time lounging around in lingerie and telepathically abusing those around her, Emma Frost is a vicious and icy cold character whose significant talents were wasted on the bored acting of Jones, who did indeed spend a good deal of the film in lingerie but failed to present herself as any kind of real threat during the course of the film. It’s a shame, too, as the rest of the cast is pleasantly solid in their roles, including Kevin Bacon as the film’s primary antagonist and Jennifer Lawrence as a young Mystique. That said, it’s hard to look past Jones poor portrayal of one of comic book history’s most iconic villains.
Should Have Cast: Charlize Theron
6. Edward Norton as Bruce Banner (The Incredible Hulk)
We’re big fans of Edward Norton here at Goliath, but there’s no denying the guy has a reputation for being a pain to work with. A notorious control freak, Norton was apparently too difficult for Marvel Studios to consider bringing back for The Avengers, and he was subsequently replaced by Mark Ruffalo (who does a far better job of conveying the fragility of Banner’s psyche than Norton did). For his part, Norton wasn’t a bad Bruce Banner, and The Incredible Hulk, directed by Louis Letterier, isn’t the forgettable movie that some fans of the Marvel films might lead you to believe. That said, there’s little doubt in our minds that Ruffalo is a significant improvement over Norton, who always seems to be at his best when he’s playing someone with a little more edge and a little less psychotic green monster just waiting to get out.
Should Have Cast: Mark Ruffalo (That’s the second time Marvel Studios fixed a mistake)
5. Kelsey Grammar as Hank McCoy (X-Men: The Last Stand)
Were it not for the shameful collection of scenes that is X-Men Origins: Wolverine (we’re hesitant to call something that bad a movie), Brent Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand would undoubtedly be the worst in the franchise. A sloppy movie that butchers not one but two of the very best X-Men arcs of the last thirty years: the “Gifted” story arc, which was written by Joss Whedon, and the “Dark Phoenix Saga”, which explores Jean Grey’s relationship with her alter ego. X-Men: The Last Stand also featured a number of notoriously poor casting decisions, not the least of which was Frasier alum Kelsey Grammar as Hank McCoy (a.k.a Beast). While we’re big fans of Grammar, something about his portrayal of the Jekyll and Hyde character always felt a little too refined for us (this should surprise no one, given his history), and we would’ve liked to see an actor cast who brought a little more, well, Beast to the role.
Should Have Cast: Joaquin Phoenix
4. Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan (The Green Lantern)
With Deadpool set for release in February 2016, and Ryan Reynolds clearly having a great time playing the character (rumor has it he stole a costume from set and the viral videos he’s been releasing were not mandated by the studio, but are rather just him running around pretending to be Deadpool), it’s harder than ever to go back and watch The Green Lantern, the 2011 flick directed by Martin Campbell. Reynolds, who was never a good fit as fighter pilot turned intergalactic officer Hal Jordan, plays the part like he’s phoned it in, and that sense of boredom pervades most all of what should have been an exciting introduction to the character. With the franchise set to be rebooted and incorporated into DC’s larger cinematic universe, we’re happy to see Reynolds moving on to bigger and better things with Deadpool.
Should Have Cast: Nathan Fillion (the fans were right on this one, as the Firefly star would have been great in the role)
3. Arnold Schwarzenegger as Victor Fries (Batman & Robin)
We warned you we’d circle back round to Batman & Robin, and we understand we’re trafficking in well-traversed territory by drawing attention to the spectacular misfortune that is Arnold Schwarzenegger as Victor Fries. Ice and snow related puns aside, there’s simply no excuse for casting the former action star in one of the few villain roles from Batman’s rogues gallery that actually invokes sympathy. Fries, for all of his wanton destruction and affinity to the cold, is a sympathetic character who wants nothing more than to find a cure for the disease which ails his frigid wife. Had Schumacher had a basic understanding of the character as written in the comics, he would have understood casting an actor with some chops would have helped add some gravitas to a character who says things like “Ice to meet you!”
Should Have Cast: Ed Harris (who was rumored to be considered for the role before Schumacher stepped in and vetoed it)
2. Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze (Ghost Rider)
There was a time, a long time ago, when the idea of casting Nicolas Cage as a superhero probably made a whole lot of sense (he did almost play Superman in Tim Burton’s aborted Superman Lives project), but we promise you, that time was long before production began on Ghost Rider. A poor film made poorer by Cage’s uneven performance, the character of Johnny Blaze was never supposed to be a zany, crazed individual (at least until he turns into Ghost Rider, anyways). Rather, Blaze was always a bit of a showman and a charmer, neither of which are characteristics Cage manages to convey in any meaningful sense.
Should Have Cast: Eric Bana (the actor actively campaigned for the role)
1. Topher Grace as Eddie Brock (Spider-Man 3)
What we wouldn’t give to have been a fly on the wall when the Hollywood executives responsible for Spider-Man 3 took a look at Eddie Brock, the cancer stricken body builder who eventually becomes Venom in the source comics, and said…”What about the skinny kid from That 70’s Show?” Even now, almost a decade later, the decision seems as asinine and idiotic as it must have been then. Yet here we are, with the only depiction of Spider Man’s true nemesis being one one that sees him following Peter Parker around and whining about the nature of power. It’s an unfortunate situation, especially considering how well the previous movie in the series, Spider-Man 2, adapted its villain. Alfred Molina’s Otto Octavius still rates as one of our favorite superhero movie villains of all time.
Should Have Cast: Dominic Purcell