With Comic Con still fresh in our minds, and the recent release of the director’s cut of Zack Snyder’s Watchmen on DVD haunting our nightmares, I thought it would make a good opportunity to look back on some previous comic characters that got screwed out of their moment in the sun.
Whether it was due to script, production, casting, acting or direction, these characters would have been better off on the cutting room floor. Because so many good characters have been wasted on screen is was a little difficult to whittle the list down to just ten (okay, eleven). Honorable mentions for those who didn’t quite make the cut: Supergirl, Frank Castle, and about half of the cast of X-Men: The Lamest Stand. Enough about them, and on to the list! Here are ten comic characters that deserved better (in some cases MUCH better).
Just to get some fanboys ticked-off with me right from the start, let’s begin with…
Why not start off the list with a controversial pick? Let me start by saying I like both Kirsten Dunst and Mary Jane. However, I do not like Dunst as Mary Jane. Aside from bad casting the character is drastically altered from the larger-than-life party girl into the cute girl next door for Sam Raimi’s film. This creates further problems when the franchise tried to introduce Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) in the third movie, who, by necessity, had to come off blander than MJ. In the comics MJ is a super-model extrovert who falls for Peter Parker, not Spider-Man. In the movies she’s an aspiring actress who falls for the hero and only later for the man behind the powers. In other words, they turned her into Lois Lane.
It’s sad that the best non-animated depiction of Batgirl remains Yvonne Craig in way back on the 60’s TV-show. Other than the skintight rubber costume there’s little memorable about the Batgirl presented in Batman & Robin played by Alicia Silverstone (who wasn’t even Barbara Gordon!). And why is her costume the only one of the three without nipples? Huh? Answer me that Mr. Shumacher!
I’ll cheat a bit and slot these two together, which is where they probably belong. Although very well cast for the first movie, if you sneeze you’ll miss most the scenes involving Cyclops (James Marsden) in the two sequels in favor of more and more Wolverine. In the first movie Jean Grey (Famke Jannsen) is used well, and, I will admit she gets a nice death scene in X-2. But think back to how well that ending foreshadowed what was to come, and how much you were looking forward to the franchise tackling the character of Phoenix. What did we get instead? X-3: The Lamest Stand. What a waste! ’nuff said.
It started out so well and ended so badly. Batman Begins gives us a mysterious Ra’s al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) killed off in unceremonious manor early in the film only to give us reveal the real al Ghul (rather than play on the resurrection aspect built into the character) an hour or so later. Then kill him off again. It’s not a bad portrayal by Liam Neeson, but the character deserved better. Created by Dennis O’Neal and Neal Adams during a particularily good run, The Demon’s Head had the skill, money, and resources to prove a dangerous advesary for Batman. Complicating the issue was his daughter Talia (who has yet to make it to the big screen) whose loyalty to her father is comprimised by her love for the “Detective.”
Speaking of characters who deserved better, how about Watchmen‘s Ozymandias? The movie strips away most of the character’s complexity preferring to present him as a mad genius with a bloody plan to save the world. Because the character is stripped of almost all that makes him interesting, including the back story which explains his kick ass cat Bubastis, and little stuff – like his motivations, all we’re left with is a late twist movie baddie who gets scolded for saving the world. Zack Snyder made him a James Bond villain. And don’t get me started on that ridiculous costume which looks like something Chris O’Donell refused to wear in Batman and Robin.
It’s hard to imagine a more pathetic version of Doctor Doom than the one we’re given in 2005’s Craptastic Four. Gone from the script is any mystical or tortured part of Victor von Doom’s nature. In its place is a iron mask in a glass box which can be broken when needed. It’s hard to judge Julian McMahon too harshly, and under other circumstances he might have made something of the character. To be fair, Doom, like everything else, is better in the sequel (but, to also be fair, he could hardly be worse). The never releaed 1994 film (in which the character is played by Joseph Culp) does a better job getting the motivations of Doom right, but the film was made for the price of a turkey sub and sadly the good Doctor never comes off quite as menacing as he should.
There are many, many problems with Spider-Man 3, but Venom is certainly one of them. Again, here’s a character who is rushed onto the screen for a climactic final battle only to be dispensed with easily. There’s simply not enough time in a single film to introduce the symbiote, cover Spider-Man’s entire career with it, and re-introduce it as the new character of Venom all in one film (not to mention the many other plot points the film tries to squeeze into its 139-minute running time). Compared to Thomas Haden Church as the Sandman, he comes off as little more than an afterthought, and that’s with Topher Grace doing a good job with Eddie Brock’s character, at least until the transformation. I’m not the biggest fan of Venom (even less so today than when he was introduced), but he deserved better than this half-assed treatment.
It can be argued Michelle Pfieffer did a serviceable job to the character Batman Returns (though I won’t attempt to do so here), but I don’t really have to explain my objections to the Halle Berry version of this character, now do I? Selina Kyle, as she appears in the comics (as either cat-burglar or part-time crimefighter), still has yet to be done right in any big-screen adaptation.
There’s a moment in X-2 when we see Colossus (Daniel Cudmore) armor up and we’re geared up for… nothing. Nothing happens. Nothing. He disappears for the rest of the film only to show up recast, and lamely redesigned, in X-Men: The Lamest Stand. The character deserved better. Hell, even Jubilee and Dazzler deserve better than this!
What did Two-Face ever do to Tommy Lee Jones that made him deserve the portrayal we’re given in Batman Forever? Sigh. And as great as The Dark Knight is as a film, it too makes an unforgivable mistake of killing off the character just as he was getting interesting. Originally Two-Face was to be born at the end of the second film and become the villain for the third. How much do you wish they had stayed to that plan instead of dropping him out of a window? Aaron Eckhart’s performance as Harvey Dent is perfect, and just think of the possibilities had we been given another 150+ minutes to see him as Two-Face in the sequel. What a waste! Sigh.