The advent of Marvel comics coming to the big screen in the post-Jurassic Park age of incredible effects has made generations of new fans. Really beginning with 2000’s X-Men and 2002’s original Spider Man, it became apparent both to movie-goers and studios that it was a match made in heaven. The incredible powers of Marvel’s heroes made to look realistic enough to suspend disbelief, yet exciting enough to fill a two hour slot with the BAMs, THWACKs and ZINGs that fans loved from their comic books. Grade school children and middle aged parents come together in a movie experience which has given them something fun in common.
While Marvel Studios as well as 20th Century Fox have little to be ashamed of where it concerns this melding of comic and celluloid, we–the fandom of Marvel’s Universe–can still have our gripes when it comes to the methods used to flesh-out some of the iconic characters the company has birthed over the decades. We realize some of these items may be changed/corrected in soon-to-be released films but that does not matter. From overall appearance to simply being under-used, Marvel and the directors of its films have made some questionable choices. And we’re going to question them.
10. Thor and Donald Blake
It’s fairly obvious Marvel is distancing itself from the ‘secret identity’ aspect of its superheroes on the cinematic side of things. Everyone knows Steve Rogers is Captain America. Tony Stark blows his cover at the end of the first Iron Man film. Only Peter Parker maintains a semblance of secrecy but still, half the people in his life know he’s a wall-crawling vigilante. In the comic book, Thor is on earth as a very real and very average doctor named Donald Blake. He’s blonde, walks with a cane (Greg House, anyone?) and at first does not even know that he’s really the Thunder God. Later, his true nature revealed, Blake raps his cane on the ground and turns into the caped Norseman and the cane into the mythical hammer, Mjolnir.
Perhaps simply because two hours is not enough time to develop what are, in effect, two separate characters and two separate lives, the name Donald Blake is used only as a fake identity for Thor. This is a shame. While we can’t really fault Marvel for the time-anchored realities they face, having a very vulnerable center of someone who is otherwise invincible would add to his depth and also give his relationship with Jane a needed dimension.
9. Where are Nightcrawler, Lorna Dane and Angel?
Five X-Men movies … Two Wolverine solo pics … One appearance by the dark blue, teleporting elf with the thick German accent. Angel makes what turns out to be a two-scene cameo in the worst film of the lot. And Lorna who?
Fans of the original comic story line know how important Angel and Polaris are to it. Warren and Lorna are two of Professor X’s oldest students. They were integral in bringing a romantic element into the stories, making the other members seem more real and adding some needed diversity to early editions. Lorna was involved with Alex Summers (Havoc) so his introduction in the two X-Men prequels leaves us hope she will appear in future stories. She is also Magneto’s daughter which may mean she will appear as his ally.
The omission of Kurt Wagner is a complete mystery. Alan Cumming‘s portrayal of him in X2 wasn’t terrible but came off a little cartoonish and left major gaps in his overall position in the team. Then he vanished. Rumor has it he returns in X-Men: Apocalypse so let’s hope both his importance and portrayal are worthy of the level of adoration millions of fans have come to have for him.
8. The many faces of the Hulk
The Hulk is so iconic in Marvel’s world they’ve tried three separate times to get him right. The initial offering was, in this reviewer’s opinion, horrible. Eric Bana is a tremendous actor, especially in action films, but the ridiculous version of his green alter-ego, which got bigger and bigger as the movie progressed, ruined its appeal. So then they cast another great actor, Edward Norton. Another fail. Bruce Banner is a renowned scientist but is never really nerdy in the comic books. Norton came off as a weasely version of a guy who older fans remember as Bill Bixby–brooding, scared, possibly dangerous even in human form.
The Mark Ruffalo adaptation has been a much bigger success and it’s too bad he couldn’t have been cast earlier to lend some continuity to the role. You simply could not have the Avengers without the Hulk and hopefully, going forward, we won’t have the Hulk without Ruffalo.
7. The Bland, Plastic 4
It could be well argued that The Fantastic 4 made Marvel. They were the exception to the superhero rule that stated heroes must hide behind masks or keep their identity secret in order to survive. In addition, they were (at least partially) family. All three movie adaptations have taken these strengths and turned them into the most formulaic stories possible given the material.
In the first series, the relationship between Sue and Reed is a farce. Jessica Alba is insanely hot but presents none of the common sense and reserve her character was known for, instead coming off as a whiny wench even less mature than brother Johnny. The Human Torch and Ben Grimm are relegated to side notes while the story focuses mainly on Reed vs. Dr. Doom. These poor decisions made the sequel a poor decision and, along with an unnecessary wedding side-plot, ruined what should have been a pleasure to fans, the introduction of the Silver Surfer.
The Miles Teller-lead attempt at a reboot was possibly the worst super hero movie ever made. We half expected Howard the Duck to make an appearance which would have given the film more credibility.
6. Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne are MIA
It was likely Marvel’s desire to bring the Avengers stories into the 21st century that lead to the decision to not even mention Hank Pym and his wife Janet until 2015’s Ant-Man. While allowing for the need to not over complicate story lines, leaving them out of the formation of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is kind of like leaving Bill Gates out of a story of the creation of Microsoft.
Hank’s scientific creativity as well as his mental problems drove many of the early episodes. He was the original Ant-Man and added several other characters to the team like Giant-Man and Goliath. Janet was a deep character who alternately socialized and wept as her life spiraled badly with her husband’s actions. Ultimately, it is simply strange to see the origins of The Avengers minus these pillars of the team.
5. The overemphasis of Wolverine
How can we complain about Marvel (Fox) making use of one of the most popular and now iconic characters in cinema history? Like this:
His story has been told. What part of Logan’s character are we still left guessing about? Not to mention his demeanor has gone from the surly loner of the original X-Men movie to the go-along-to-get-along patsy we see in X-Men:Days of Future Past. I mean, there’s actually a scene where he tries to talk his way out of a fight. Huh?
Hugh Jackman has overall done a terrific job of bringing him to life but the constant inclusion and, let’s just say it, exploitation of his popularity has made his future dubious. It seems to set up the next generation of X-Men films for disappointment. Of course this will pale in comparison to when Robert Downey Jr. leaves his Iron Man role behind …
4. Everything about Cyclops
When we think of Cyclops, we immediately bring up the image of the blue body suit accompanied by the golden-framed ruby-quartz lens that keeps his wildly powerful optic blasts in check. Not only has his character been scaled down dramatically from the bulldog leadership role he has in the books, he’s rarely been spotted wearing his trademark battle suit.
Another crucial character who gets left out of most of the formative scenes, Scott Summers has been cast as nothing more than a wedge in the spokes of Wolverine’s yearning for Jean Grey and more like a soldier than a leader in X1, again as a supporting character to Logan, Mystique and Magneto in X2 and dead in X3. Un-X-eptable! We want Cyclops to be the kick-ass tank he has always been and have the X-Men be his team in future flicks.
3. Quicksilver’s death in Age of Ultron
There are several downsides to Marvel Studios not owning the rights to the X-Men films. Chiefly, the inability to mix the universes and have X-Dudes interact with Avengers. Since Pietro Maximoff is relatively important to both groups in the comics, a conflict was inevitable.
I doubt there is much argument that the best scene in Days of Future Past was the young Quicksilver slowing time and running around the walls in the Pentagon, changing things in his time to change things in real time. It was a clever and reasonable explanation of how his powers worked. The Avengers version, while not bad, paled in comparison.
It has been reported that if Marvel desired to continue to use Pietro in upcoming films, litigation may have been necessary with 20th Century Fox. So, they eliminated that possibility. A real bummer since the brother-sister relationship between him and Wanda worked pretty well. The good news: this is a comic book movie and if an agreement could be reached, characters coming back to life are not unheard of.
2. Mini Beast
X-Men: the Last Stand is one of the least liked flicks in the relatively short history of these modern super hero movies. It did get some things right, though. The best of those was the portrayal of Hank McCoy, the bombastic Beast.
Kelsey Grammer was an inspired choice for his voice and the few non-action scenes in which he appeared. Hank the person is a genius. He should sound like one. And The Beast that fans know is an ape-like, gymnastic dynamo, incredibly strong while still keeping his human(like) compassion and intellect.
Our problem with Nicholas Holt’s version is less with his pre-blue characterization than with the wimpy, blue baby monkey appearance when his mutation takes over. He had to be shown as a younger man who physically had not matured yet. But his Beast does little more than growl and leap around, more like a wolf than our old Beast. Here’s hoping they draw more from X3‘s version in upcoming films.
1. Spider-Man’s reboot
Just stop the reboots. Please. The original Spidey efforts weren’t perfect and Spider-Man 3 was another generally despised Marvel film but overall they were a rousing success. The recent release of The Amazing Spider-Man with a new lead actor and new love interest disappointed at the box office as well as with the die-hard fans that keep the studios in the black. We understand that origin stories are normally well received and the attempt to reintroduce a character to a new generation of fans. But there’s this thing called a DVD player and a site called Netflix where the exceptional 2002 movie can be seen. We’d like to see the characters develop rather than stop and start again. Best case scenario, Marvel learns from its mistakes and moves forward rather than constantly reviewing what we already know.