Superhero movies wouldn't be as good as they are without supervillains. The Avengers wouldn't work without Loki (Tom Hiddleston), nor would the second Superman movie starring Christopher Reed be what it is without Terence Stamp's over the top General Zod. Still, when it comes to comic book movies, there are some supervillains we would rather forget.
Here's a look at some of the most questionable updates to villains seen in superhero movies.
1. Bane (Batman And Robin)
- Year of release: 1997
- Directed by: Joel Schumacher
- Box office earnings: $125 million
Batman And Robin is infamous for many things, but its disrespectful interpretations of iconic Batman characters stands out above other sins. Instead of keeping their troubled yet colorful personas, Batman And Robin saw fit to turn villains like Bane into pale imitations of their comic book counterparts.
Bane in the comics is the perfect combination of brains and brawn, making him a suitable opponent for Batman in every aspect, to the point where he broke Batman's back after forcing him into a corner. In Batman And Robin, Bane is a brainless bodyguard for Uma Thurman's Poison Ivy, a guy who can only grunt and punch.
Ivy and Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze may be campy, but at least they could be guilty pleasures. Bane is just a 'roided-out wallflower when put beside every other character in the neon mess that killed the Batman films until Christopher Nolan came to the rescue eight years later.
2. Galactus (Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer) and Parallax (Green Lantern)
- Years of release: 2007 (Silver Surfer) / 2011 (Green Lantern)
- Directed by: Tim Story / Martin Campbell
- Box office earnings: $289 million / $219 million
Adapting a comic book set in space is difficult, and so is translating cosmic-level threats, as seen in Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer and Green Lantern. Some would chalk this up to CGI being at its infancy at the time, but the argument is moot since the technical feat Lord Of The Rings came out years before these superhero bombs.
Galactus, in Marvel lore, is a god-like entity who devours planets while Parallax is the living embodiment of fear in DC's cosmic mythos. In their movie debuts, both are turned into evil clouds that eat planets. No longer are they motivated by galactic mythology or grand designs. Instead, they're hungry space hurricanes whose appearances lack creativity and imagination.
3. The Mandarin/Killian (Iron Man 3)
- Year of release: 2013
- Directed by: Shane Black
- Box office earnings: $1.215 billion
Marvel movies are not known for great villains, but Iron Man 3 dropped the ball with one of the most divisive villain adaptations ever seen. As it turns out, Iron Man 3's Mandarin (played by Ben Kingsley) was just a front for fear-mongering plans concocted by Guy Pearce's character Aldrich Killian.
Bait-and-switch villains can work, but Iron Man 3's payoff was weak. Not only was it a waste of Kingsley's intimidating performance in Iron Man 3's first half, but the "real" Mandarin is just another forgettable MCU villain. Rather than capitalize on a fanatical terrorist leader or following the character's mystical lore, Iron Man 3 replaced Mandarin with a fire breathing ex-nerd with a self-indulgent meta twist.
Marvel movies' head Kevin Feige and director Shane Black tried to defend the twist, but the backlash forced the MCU to retcon Killian's fake Mandarin in the short film All Hail The King. Here, it's revealed that there is in fact a "real" Mandarin, promising a possible and more faithful appearance from Iron Man's arch-nemesis in the future.
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4. Everyone (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
- Year of release: 2014
- Directed by: Marc Webb
- Box office earnings: $757.9 million
Ignoring the failures of Sam Raimi's third Spider-Man film, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 not only used three villains, but butchered their origins in favor of melodramatic backstories.
Electro (Jamie Foxx) and the new Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) lost their personal vendettas against Spider-Man. Instead, they act upon creepy stalker motivations brought about by jealousy and miscommunication. Meanwhile, Rhino (Paul Giamatti) is downgraded to a stereotypical Russian gangster who pilots a Metal Gear for five minutes instead of being the force of nature he is in the comics. They may have decent redesigns and good casting choices, but they failed to be compelling characters.
Sony had plans to introduce more characters to build up to a villain team, the Sinister Six, but The Amazing Spider-Man 2's abysmal reception forced the studio to rethink the idea of sharing Spider-Man's rights with Marvel, just in time for Captain America: Civil War.
5. Dr. Doom (Fantastic Four)
- Year of release: 2015
- Directed by: Josh Trank
- Box office earnings: $168 million
Just when you thought the Fantastic Four movies from the early 2000's were bad, along comes the depressing Fantastic Four, and its take on one of Marvel's biggest villains: Dr.Doom.
Instead of Dr. Doom being the benevolent and powerful dictator of Latveria, Fantastic Four turned him into a pretentious basement dweller. He also gets his powers from an anomaly, not by creating them himself or acquiring them from a more powerful entity as he did in the comics. Add a costume that's literally made of a trashed space uniform and this updated Doom looks like it came from a cheap TV-movie.
The first two Fantastic Four movies may have simplified Dr. Doom by turning him into a generic evil CEO, but he will always be more intimidating than an edgy college student who demands to be addressed as "Doom" after he gets powers.
6. Lex Luthor (Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice)
- Year of release: 2016
- Directed by: Zack Snyder
- Box office earnings: $872.7 million
When they hear the name "Lex Luthor," the last thing a comic book fan or someone familiar with Superman would think of is a Mark Zuckerberg caricature. The only person to have thought of that is director Zack Snyder, and this is the strange vision of the classic villain audiences saw in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Superman's archenemy and foil is remembered for being one of the most manipulative people in comics who gets away with most of his schemes. Batman V Superman keeps Luthor's smug persona intact, but removes his charisma to turn him into a socially awkward savant who can only speak in nonsensical pseudo-philosophy. He may also have a fetish for urine.
Some would defend this Luthor by saying that he is in fact the eccentric son of the "real" Lex Luthor. If true, this will be an interesting take on Luthor, but it doesn't change the fact that Batman V Superman's overall antagonist was a spastic annoyance with a pointlessly convoluted plan.
Adapting superhero comics entails change, but for these particular movies the updates did more harm than good. If it's any consolation, it's safe to assume that none of these villains were redesigned out of spite. These movies were directed by people who had a specific and different vision for their chosen comic book, but by the looks of it, they forgot to ask what fans wanted before letting their creative indulgences take over.
Superhero movies are a two-way street between filmmakers and fans, and as seen here, leaning to only one side can backfire in more ways than expected. Here's hoping that these characters get another shot at cinematic redemption when the right time comes around.
For a list of characters who did things right, check out this list of bad guys who did a good job at being evil and more.