With superhero movies undergoing a boom period right now, it seems that any and every hero is fair game when it comes to getting the big screen treatment. Of course, with the transitioning of these characters from comic book pages to movie screens comes an often-prickly response from certain quarters.
First and foremost, comic book fans are known for being a bit too sensitive when it comes to their favorite characters. Fanboys can sometimes be a little too precious with beloved characters, waiting for even the slightest excuse to b****, moan and whine about how filmmakers are going against the very fundamentals of what a character represents. There are even concerns over whether or not a certain actor is an inch or two too tall to play a particular character. It seems that even the smallest features can be quibbled over.
For decades now, fans have moaned about so many casting decisions when it comes to superhero pictures. Some of this moaning has turned out to be justified and an actor has absolutely stunk up the joint in a certain role, whilst many of these casting decisions have ultimately led to audiences eating a nice ole’ scoop of humble pie after a performance has completely wowed viewers and proved that, yes, maybe we don’t know as much as we’d like to think we know.
So with that said, let’s take a look back at 16 times that we’ve b****ed, moaned and complained about casting decisions in superhero movies over the years.
16. Jessica Alba as Sue Storm
The Invisible Woman has been a major staple of the Marvel books for decades. A serious, stoic, good-hearted foundation of the Marvel world, Sue Storm is a sounding board for many, a helping hand for all, and one of the more well-rounded, intelligent, morally-driven mature members of the Marvel family.
When the character was brought to the big screen by Tim Story’s Fantastic Four movies of the 2000s, many fans were flat-out disgusted when Jessica Alba was cast in the role.
Alba herself had proven to be a relatively capable actress when given the right sort of material, but could she bring the gravitas needed for Sue Storm? No, she most certainly could not.
Despite throwing a pair of glasses on her and various attempts to give her some “serious” dialogue, it didn’t take long before Alba’s Sue was stripped down to her underwear, making it even clearer why the young actress was given the gig in the first place.
15. Michael Douglas as Hank Pym
The problem that many had here wasn’t particularly anything to do with Michael Douglas necessarily, more with the fact that Marvel Studios and Disney had decided to have Hank Pym be a mentor to a new Ant-Man (Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang) rather than Pym being front-and-centre as the focal point of Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man.
In the comic book world, Hank Pym is one of the most interesting, troubled characters to have ever graced comic book pages. From being a super-genius to being a size-changing hero to his marriage to Janet van Dyne and to the various different monikers and mantles he’d take on depending on his mindset or motives at that particular period in time, Pym has been a key cog of Marvel Comics for decades, even being a founding member of The Avengers. So fans were eager to see how this iconic character would play out as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Many envisioned Pym as a member of the MCU’s Avengers line-up, taking part in battles alongside Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, etc. Instead, many a longtime comic book fan was left hugely disappointed at the casting of Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, which was an immediate indicator that Pym wouldn’t be taking centre stage in Ant-Man.
14. Nicolas Cage as Ghost Rider
With this one, you can’t help but feel genuinely sorry for poor Nicolas Cage. A lifelong comic book fan and someone who’d come as close as possible to playing Superman on the big screen, not to mention naming his son after the Man of Steel, Cage was finally given the chance to bring a genuinely badass superhero to the big screen in the shape of 2007’s Ghost Rider.
Unfortunately for Cage, this was at a time when a lot of the luster around him was long since gone, with his career having bounced from one blunder to the next. Gone was the majority of the credit accumulated from some brilliant performances in the early and mid-’90s. Instead, many fans were frothing at the mouth when it was announced that Cage was to bring Ghost Rider to life.
In fairness, the end product of both Ghost Rider and its sequel, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, was so-so at best, with Cage being let down by paper-thin scripts and some low-budget special effects.
13. Chris Evans as Captain America
In the grand scheme of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and superhero movies in general, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America is pretty much as pitch perfect casting as you can get. That said, there was still a whole lot of complaining when the decision was made to hand Evans Cap’s iconic shield.
The problem that so many had, and arguably rightfully so, was that Evans had already had two previous outings as another Marvel superhero, The Fantastic Four’s Johnny Storm.
As The Human Torch, Evans was brilliant, managing to perfectly capture the cocksure nature and deep-rooted sincerity of Johnny. Yet, it did seem a tad odd to then cast the actor in another big Marvel role.
In fairness, many have completely forgotten that Evans ever played the previous resident hothead, which is a testament to the fantastic job he’s done as the MCU’s Sentinel of Liberty. Still, out of all of the entries on this list, you really can see where fans were coming from when they moaned about how having Evans turn up in a Marvel superhero movie but not as Johnny Storm may confuse casual moviegoers.
12. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
Criticisms over Gal Gadot’s casting included her being too short, too petite, not busty enough, and not enough muscles. Those were just some of the comments made from fans complaining about Gal Gadot’s casting as the legendary Amazonian, Wonder Woman. Like some other casting decisions, though, many were won over by Gadot’s take on Diana Prince when she arrived on the big screen in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice earlier this year.
In fact, amongst the hugely mixed reception to Batman v Superman, there were only really two elements that came out of the movie universally approved by all: Ben Affleck’s Batman and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman.
Gadot’s role in BvS may have been minimal, but seeing her join the action to battle Doomsday towards the movie’s conclusion was a genuine goosebumps-inducing moment that will have stayed with many a viewer.
11. Brandon Routh as Superman
Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns was ultimately a bit of a letdown, with Singer’s Supes movie being a little too much of a soppy love story for some, whilst the addition of Superman having a kid was also poorly received by many. As for the Man of Steel himself, though, that was certainly a mixed bag in terms of fan reaction.
Many a fan saw relatively unknown Brandon Routh as a perfectly understandable pick to play Superman, as he had the classic look of the big blue Boy Scout down pat. Unfortunately for Routh and Singer, however, there was a very vocal group who had a major, major problem with Routh’s casting: the problem was that he wasn’t Tom Welling.
By the time Superman Returns was released in 2006, Welling’s Clark Kent had been doing the Superman-in-waiting shtick for approaching six seasons in The CW’s Smallville. So good was Welling as the young Clark, there was a huge hope to see him transition the role to the big screen in a loud-and-proud Superman movie, complete with tights and a cape.
10. Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man
Whilst it may seem impossible to fathom right now, Robert Downey Jr.’s casting as Tony Stark/Iron Man went down like a lead balloon ahead of 2008’s first Iron Man movie.
Downey Jr. at that point was best known for his battles with drugs and alcohol, sadly being what defined his career, or what was left of it. Despite having wowed many with some of his earlier work, RDJ had fallen off the wagon so often and to such an extent that most had him down as one of Hollywood’s greatest missed opportunities. Fear not, though, for redemption was around the corner.
These days, it’s unthinkable to think of anybody else being able to pull off Tony Stark as well as Downey Jr. Sure, the cinematic Stark may be a little different to what longtime Iron Man fans grew up with, but RDJ has firmly put his stamp on the character and made him his own.
When it was first announced that the troubled, struggling Downey Jr. was to headline Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, many saw it as an instant kiss of death to a movie that many were worried may fail anyway. Could you really trust this man to launch what would become known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
9. Miles Teller as Mister Fantastic
Reed Richards is one of the very greatest minds in the comic book world, a seasoned, mature figure who is so often sought out by other Marvel heroes for his mind and his savvy advice. Granted, everyone has their younger days, but were fans really calling out to see Reed’s childhood and teenage years on the big screen? Simply put, no.
Regardless, that’s what we were given with Josh Trank’s doomed Fantastic Four, a movie that absolutely bombed upon its release and is viewed by many as one of the worst superhero films of all time.
Amongst its many problems, the focus being on a young FF team was a major turn-off for many a moviegoer. And as such, the actors behind the titular team were always fighting a losing battle before the film was even released. At the front of this was Miles Teller.
Teller is a great talent, as shown in Whiplash, but he just couldn’t be taken seriously as the FF’s Mister Fantastic, especially given his extremely boyish, young looks. Fans didn’t want to see it, and they made their voices heard.
8. Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze
Mr. Freeze is a Batman villain who had been around for decades, but it was with the use of him in the stunning Batman: The Animated Series of the early ‘90s that saw him reach new heights of popularity due to how he was beautifully portrayed as such a truly tragic figure. Essentially, all Freeze wanted to do was save his wife. To do that, he was willing to do whatever it took, and that involved using enough ice-based puns to sink the Titanic.
When the rogue was revealed to be a part of Batman & Robin, some were hoping to get a unique, intriguing, multi-layered take on a villain who had been given a new lease on life thanks to the fantastic team behind B:TAS. Instead, we got Arnold Schwarzenegger at his pun-tastic best.
As soon as Schwarzenegger was cast in the role, all hopes of a genuinely delicate and engaging take on Freeze were shattered. The result was that many gave the casting decision (and the movie in general) the cold shoulder, which in turn would leave the Batman movie franchise out in the cold.
7. Ezra Miller as The Flash
We’ve literally seen mere seconds of Ezra Miller as the Scarlet Speedster so far, but already a large number of comic book fans are moaning about Miller being cast as the big screen Flash.
The problem that many have with this is that there’s a perfectly good Sultan of Speed elsewhere, that being Grant Gustin in The CW’s, The Flash.
Despite the huge popularity of both Arrow and The Flash, Warner Brothers made it clear from the get-go that their cinematic DC Extended Universe was to be viewed as a totally separate entity to the DC shows that are on TV these days. As such, that sadly meant that we wouldn’t be getting to see Stephen Amell’s Green Arrow or Gustin’s Flash turn up alongside Henry Cavill’s Superman or Ben Affleck’s Batman.
What irked fans the most here is that Gustin as Barry Allen has been giving viewers a near-definitive take on that version of The Flash during the series’ two seasons to date. Many felt it was sacrilege to see someone else cast as The Flash, especially since it was the Barry Allen version.
The logic of most was that it would be better to use a different version of The Flash, likely Wally West, for the DCEU given how there’s no way that Miller’s Barry Allen can top Gustin’s Barry Allen. Instead, Warner decided to go ahead with their initial plan of a big screen Barry, angering and confusing many in the process.
6. Topher Grace as Venom
Ever since Venom debuted “proper” in The Amazing Spider-Man #300 (following the symbiote/alien suit itself debuting in The Amazing Spider-Man #252), fanboys had been clamoring to see more and more of the character. When Sam Raimi brought Spidey to big screen live-action in the early 2000s, the hope was that somewhere, somehow we’d all get to see the crazed, eerie and vicious Venom brought to cinematic life. Yet when we did, many really wished we hadn’t seen it.
The comic book Eddie Brock, the main human host of the Venom symbiote, was a huge, hulking brute of a guy with a hatred of Peter Parker. Upon bonding with the symbiote, Brock became an unrelenting, near-unstoppable force of twisted nature who would target Peter in his “regular” life as well as when he donned the iconic red and blue duds.
Who would you cast as the brutish Brock? Well certainly not that skinny, unintimidating fella from The ‘70s Show, right?
Sadly that was exactly what we got, and Topher Grace’s Venom was one of the (plentiful) reasons why The Amazing Spider-Man 3 signaled the end of that particular Spidey franchise.
5. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine
It’s hard to imagine it now, but Hugh Jackman’s casting as Wolverine was initially responded to with a whole bucketload of hate. Ever the meticulously-detailed type, longstanding comic book readers were in an uproar over Jackman’s casting. The reason for that was actually the actor’s height.
Since debuting in 1974, the comic book Wolvie was always depicted as being a short, stocky ball of angst and rage that was ready to explode at any given opportunity. To be precise, he was generally drawn as being around the 5’3” range when it came to his exact height.
When unknown Aussie Jackman was cast as Logan, his 6’2” frame caused some passionate comic book fans to deem the casting as nothing more than a mockery, and as something that showed how not in-tune with the established comics’ characters Bryan Singer’s X-Men was to be.
Of course, Singer’s X-Men, and more-so X2, changed the game and helped kickstart the boom of superhero movies that we see to this day. As for Jackman, he’s played Wolverine in eight movies to date (a ninth, Wolverine 3, is currently shooting), and has won himself a place in the hearts of many a moviegoer.
4. Nicolas Cage as Superman
Whilst Nicolas Cage as Superman ultimately never managed to make it to the big screen, it was still a casting decision that had many scratching their heads. At the time, Cage was one of the hottest names on the planet, whilst Tim Burton had already put out Batman and Batman Returns and now wanted to try his hand with Superman. So, Cage was cast as the Last Son of Krypton for a film titled Superman Lives.
The movie would fail to ever actually make it past pre-production, and its development and collapse was the stuff of Hollywood infamy, particularly thanks to being highlighted by Kevin Smith or by Jon Schnepp’s recent documentary, The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened?
The problem that so many had with Cage is that he was just so un-Superman-like. Whilst he may have been seen as a fine actor at the time, the thin face, the receding hairline, the slighter frame, and the lack of what many deem a Superman-esque jawline, saw comic book fans losing their mind at the prospect of Cage as Superman.
3. Ben Affleck as Batman
The news that Ben Affleck had been chosen as the man to don the iconic cape and cowl in Warner Brothers’ DCEU pretty much, as the kids say, broke the Internet. And not in a good way.
It had already been made known that Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel follow-up was to feature Batman, but the mystery and anticipation lay with just who would be next to bring the Dark Knight to the big screen. Josh Brolin was seemingly the clear favorite, with a few other names floated around by fans and rumor sites. Then, out of nowhere came Affleck.
After being derided by many for his turn as Daredevil, and then seeing his career seemingly fall off a cliff in the aftermath of the whole “Bennifer” thing, Affleck had made some huge waves with his directing work on the likes of Gone Baby Gone and Argo. Sure, he may have also starred in Argo and received props for that performance, but those ever-dour sorts out there were still down on Affleck as an actor.
So from seemingly nowhere, Ben Affleck was announced as the new Batman, resulting in social media exploding with hate and vitriol. And in a case of sticking it to those doubters, Affleck’s appearance in Batman v Superman saw him easily be the best thing about that movie and also saw him prove so many of the haters wrong.
2. Michael Keaton as Batman
To many superhero fans, Michael Keaton being cast as Batman was the first time that they really remember a major uproar being made about a comic book movie casting decision.
At the time, Keaton was best known as a “funny man” who had appeared in a couple of TV shows and big screen outings such as Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice. Was this really the guy who was seen as taking on the iconic role of the Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight, the World’s Greatest Detective, the Batman? To many, Keaton as Batman was a frankly ludicrous piece of casting.
Yet, things changed by the time Tim Burton’s Batman was released in 1989, since most naysayers were instantly won over by Keaton’s portrayal. An intense, brooding, menacing, and always-troubled figure, whether in or out of the cape, this new take on a legendary pop culture figure made huge waves and saw the Dark Knight’s popularity soar to heights not seen in decades. So well-received was Keaton’s portrayal, he’d return for Batman Returns in 1992, and many still see him as “their” Batman to this very day.
1. Heath Ledger as The Joker
There was an immediate backlash that came once it was announced that Heath Ledger was to play The Joker in The Dark Knight. Of course, Ledger would absolutely mesmerize audiences with his take on the Jester of Genocide, in turn winning a posthumous Oscar for his mind-blowing performance in the second of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy.
The turnaround of the opinion of Ledger as Mr. J is the stuff of legend, with pretty much 99 per cent of people just absolutely hating the casting decision initially. By the time the film hit the big screen, every single one of those doubters had been forced to eat humble pie as Ledger delivered one of the most iconic performances ever seen in the history of superhero and comic book movies.
When fans instantly jump the gun these days and berate the idiocy of a casting decision, Heath Ledger as The Joker is always the first thing to take into account. Just because you didn’t see it initially, doesn’t mean that something special isn’t around the corner.