The Marvel franchise has done incredibly well transferring their material to the screen. There is no person in their right mind who would ever try and dispute that. Marvel has shown themselves capable of having not one but several successful movie franchises at the same time, with the X-Men and the Marvel Cinematic Universe being the most relevant. These franchises have been largely responsible for the great interest in superhero films to this day. Because of their incredible track record, they’ve gained a major following, and this dedicated following has been a very loyal crowd. There are those who watch with a critical eye and expect Marvel films to continue to step up their game, but there are also those who accept every decision as the best they’ve ever seen. We don’t want to fall into that latter trap. While we love superhero films, we also see some major flaws in some of their decisions.
We don’t want to make this a purely negative list. If we did that, it would not be fair to Marvel. For the most part, they’ve been very effective. For that reason, we decided to split this up. One half is dedicated to all the best decisions that Marvel has made, particularly as it relates to casting and the other half, as we mentioned, will be set aside for the bad decisions. This way everyone gets something, the harshest critics, the awestruck fanboys and everyone else in between. Here are 7 of Marvel’s BEST Decisions (And 8 Of Their Worst).
15. WORST: Deadpool/Weapon XI
Of course this has to be included in this list. We all know how much the world loves Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool. It was a match made in heaven. But the start of this relationship was very shaky. When it was first announced that Wade Wilson was to be in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, people were ecstatic. Reynolds would be an excellent Deadpool. But we didn’t get Deadpool. Instead, the great minds behind X-Men gave us “the pool, the mutant killer: Deadpool.” What the hell? Then we heard that Reynolds was basically blackmailed with the part. When he complained about the drastic character changes from the comic, they threatened to replace him. Here’s what Reynolds said about the film and character:
“It completely departed all canon and reason and he wound up being this abomination of Deadpool that was like Barakapool, with his mouth sewn shut and weird blades that came out of his hands and these strange tattoos and stuff like that. If you watch the movie, I’m actually playing only a small section, and another actor, this gifted stunt performer, is doing the lion’s share of that work. The conversation at the time was, ‘If you want to play Deadpool, this is your chance to introduce him. And if you don’t want to introduce him in this fashion, we’ll have someone else play him.'” Bad move guys. Bad move.
14. BEST: Robert Downey Jr.
We might as well just start with the unheralded king of the MCU, Robert Downey Jr. When RDJ was brought on to star as Tony Stark in Iron Man, he wasn’t the bright and shiny star he is today. It’s unlikely that you’ve forgotten or haven’t been reminded a dozen times since, but Downey Jr. had all but buried his acting career by the early years of the new millennium. He had substance abuse issues and problems with the law, but he was trying to better himself. He was a work in progress. These days, now that the MCU is so established, there is no way they would ever take a chance on a struggling actor like RDJ. Back then, however, they did and it turned out to be a brilliant move. No one ever doubted RDJ’s talent, but it was a huge risk for the franchise, one that paid off in unimaginable ways. Though it’s impossible to say for sure, we find it very unlikely that the MCU would ever be as popular as it is today without him at the helm.
13. WORST: Whiplash
Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3 have both received similar criticisms about their villains. If it wasn’t for the charismatic Robert Downey Jr., both of these films would have been pretty bad. They aren’t though. Truthfully, we liked the twist with Ben Kingsley in Iron Man 3. While we admit that it is a bit disappointing that he wasn’t the real Mandarin because he would have been awesome, we understand the decision behind that move. We do not understand the character handcuffing of Mickey Rourke’s Ivan Vanko/Whiplash though. When you cast a strong character actor, like Rourke, we expect to see him act. In Iron Man 2, we did not. Early on in the filming process, Rourke said that he did not want to be a “one-dimensional bad guy.” He asked and was allowed to add multiple elements to his character and he said he was happy with it. Then, when he saw the final cut of the film, nearly his entire role had been eliminated. In the end, he was a shadow of a villain, a weak and shallow character who never felt threatening or anything more than a mere nuisance for Iron Man.
12. BEST: Hugh Jackman
While the MCU may have all the glitz and the glam, 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise is responsible for birthing this renewed interest in superhero films. The face of that franchise is Hugh Jackman. It seems difficult to imagine, but before taking on the role of Wolverine, Jackman was a virtual unknown in the industry. Him landing the part was one half a good decision and the other half good luck. The studio’s first choice for the part was Russell Crowe. Unable or unwilling to do the part, Crowe turned it down and suggested that they cast his friend, Jackman. The director, Bryan Singer, chose to go another route. He cast Dougray Scott in the part. Scott, however, had to back out when he encountered a filming overlap with Mission: Impossible 2, leaving the door open for Jackman. The Aussie was hired and 17-years later, he completed his (allegedly) final turn as the loved superhero.
11. WORST: MCU Quicksilver
This decision isn’t so much about the actor or the casting. After all, we love Aaron Taylor-Johnson. We found him amazing in Kick-Ass and he was wildly convincing in Nocturnal Animals. We did not love him in the role of Quicksilver, but it was hardly his fault. The character was fine. The MCU’s version was closer to the comic book character than X-Men’s and the character arc was interesting. Our huge beef with the MCU’s decision making comes in the writing of one particular scene, his death. How in the world is the guy who was catching bullets and running faster than them going to die by bullets? Just move out of the way. This is the trouble with superheroes. When they are virtually invincible, their deaths almost always feel cheap and this one is the cheapest around.
10. BEST: Stewart and McKellen
Say what you will about some of the down moments in the X-Men franchise, there have been two characters who have yet to miss a beat, Xavier and Magneto. The actors cast in these iconic roles, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, have also been just about the best models for the franchise that a studio could ask for. Highly respected by fans and peers alike, these two thespians took on the roles of both friends and enemies and shined. Though both actors had been in very popular roles particularly in Captain Picard (Stewart), as well as roles going at the same time in Gandalf (McKellen), Stewart and McKellen helped breathe life into the franchise that would help usher in an age of love for superheroes.
9. WORST: Terrence Howard
There’s a saying in Hollywood that goes something like this: “Terrence Howard is batsh*t crazy.” Now, we’re paraphrasing, but this is the gist of it. We don’t want to suggest that Howard was not good in the role of James “Rhodey” Rhodes in Iron Man because he was good. Howard is a magnificent actor. But it seems strange to hire on such a known combative figure into a franchise that is expecting, at minimum, to make three films. From early on, it became apparent that Howard was not going to be easy to work with. The director, Jon Favreau, even ended up cutting many of Howard’s scenes. When they began working on the sequels, Favreau and Justin Theroux reworked the scripts specifically to lessen Howard’s role in the films, so they wouldn’t have to work with him as much. The studio then reworked Howard’s contract, offering him a salary lower than he expected but one that properly reflected his new and lessened role. Howard balked at this and they replaced him with Don Cheadle. The replacement effect was a bit jarring for fans and one that, in hindsight, could have been avoided if they just hired a more agreeable actor in the first place.
8. BEST: Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston
There’s an argument to be made that, of all the standalone MCU films, the Thor franchise is the worst. Still, the casting of Chris Hemsworth as Thor and also of Tom Hiddleston as Loki, was sheer brilliance. Let’s go back to the casting of the first film. Hemsworth was almost completely unknown at the time. He had a brief role in Star Trek as George Kirk. That’s really it. If Cabin in the Woods had been released on time, we might have seen his quality, but it wasn’t and we didn’t. So, the MCU is casting for Thor and they offer the part to Daniel Craig. He turns it down. Hemsworth and Hiddleston audition for the role. Hemsworth is rejected and Hiddleston is considered but ultimately asked to play the villain, Loki (great move). For whatever reason, they then decide to give Hemsworth another chance. He comes back to audition and nails it. Case closed.
Think about Thor for a second. This is a silly concept and a silly character. It’s only because of Hemsworth’s acting chops that this character is so loved. In The Avengers films, Thor and Loki are true highlights. We also expect really big things from Ragnarok.
7. WORST: Foggy Nelson
The first season of Netflix’s Daredevil was a revelation. It was fantastically dark and exciting and it paved the way for other similar superhero shows to follow. The second season was not nearly as strong, but it was still captivating enough. There is one weak point in the show overall and that is Foggy Nelson. It’s not the fault of the actor, Elden Henson, either. At least, it’s not all his fault. Listen, we love The Mighty Ducks as much as everyone else, and we have loyalty to this guy and the character, but he is tiresome on screen. As the comic relief, Foggy fails miserably. He’s not funny at all and his jokes are painfully forced. He’s a whiny little baby too. It’s off-putting. Even Nick Fury wants this character axed. It’s true. Samuel Jackson tweeted: “Just finished @Daredevil season2, Awesome! But… If Foggy got Red Weddinged, I wouldn’t be mad!!” We agree with you Sam.
6. BEST: Dave Bautista
You may have been on board when Dave Bautista was cast as Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy, but you would have been in the minority. Considering that Jason Momoa was in the running for the part, many were upset that the former wrestler with little acting experience won the role over someone as established as Momoa. Then we saw Bautista and he was incredible. Now we’ve seen him in two Guardians films. He’s been the most consistent of everyone and become one of the best characters in the MCU. Bautista has been a really pleasant surprise and he will likely have a very long and prosperous career in the film industry now because of his success in this franchise.
5. WORST: Topher Grace/Venom
Most fans really enjoyed Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2. They lost us with Spider-Man 3 though. The primary issue with this third and final installment in the Sam Raimi trilogy is that they packed too much into it. In the process of doing this, they made a fatal error. They ruined one of the greatest comic book villains, Venom. Raimi didn’t even want Venom in this movie in the first place, but studio and fan pressure forced his hand. Then they went and cast Eric Forman and the rest is history. We don’t mean to rain on Topher Grace’s parade. The guy is a solid actor, but by sweet Mary and Joseph he is not Venom. The only cool part about the casting was that Tobey Maguire and Topher Grace are identical twins so there was a neat mirroring on screen. Still, the character was ruined and it hurt a lot of feelings in the comic community.
4. BEST: Tom Holland
Tom Holland certainly did not arrive out of nowhere. There are people in the industry who predicted this young man’s rise to superstardom a long time ago. He showed incredible promise from an early age. But this is Spider-Man we’re talking about. This latest entry in the Spider-Man saga should have failed. Over the course of 15 years, we have seen six individual Spidey films in three different franchises, Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man, and Spider-Man: Homecoming. Holland is the third actor to take on the role in that time. The MCU was primed to miss its mark. Then we caught a glimpse of Holland in the iconic role in Captain America: Civil War. It was promising. Then Homecoming came and blew everyone away. It’s pretty remarkable that, seemingly against all odds, they got this one right.
3. WORST: Benedict Cumberbatch/Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange is not as good of a film as people say it is. We’re glad we could get that out of the way early. The MCU has cast actors in the prime of their careers before. We would call these moves “safe.” Of all the safe moves the MCU or any other Marvel films have made, casting Benedict Cumberbatch, one of the biggest actors of this era, is by far and away the safest. Because of that, we feel the role and the film suffered. Sure, Cumberbatch was convincing as a snooty scientist, but his humor (or the writing of the humor) was way off the mark. His familiarity also made it difficult for us to buy into his growth as the character of Doctor Strange. Add in the fact that he only appeared to train for about two weeks but then, all of a sudden, he’s this great and all-powerful magician guy and we buy the character transformation even less. Everything just felt rushed about the film and, because it was a larger-than-life actor like Cumberbatch, we needed more time. It was as if Sherlock Holmes was playing dress up.
2. BEST: David Tennant
Looking back at David Tennant in the role of Kilgrave in Netflix’s Jessica Jones, it seems that it was obvious right from the very beginning. After all, Tennant has played complicated and villainous characters before to great effect, including Barty Crouch Jr. in Harry Potter and several Shakespearean characters on both the stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company and in film. But he was the Doctor. For many, he still is and always will be the Doctor. Once you play the title role in Doctor Who, there is a great portion of the population who will struggle to ever see you in anything else, especially in a villain role. But the Jessica Jones team saw around this and cast Tennant. It worked. He stole the screen in nearly every scene he was in. The show was amazing either way, but Tennant’s Kilgrave was brilliant and was a big reason for the success of Jessica Jones.
1. WORST: Galactus the Cloud
There are plenty of things wrong with the Fantastic Four franchise and the film Rise of the Silver Surfer. There are so many things wrong with it and so many bad decisions, we can’t cover all of it, but we will mention the worst decision of all: turning Galactus into a giant cloud. How the hell are we supposed to support the decision to make the villain on the big screen a cloud? Here’s what Tim Story, the film’s director said about that: “Yeah. I must admit, I think at the time there was a little bit of a fear of going all of the way with that. Because it’s hard to completely grab the concept. You know, if you know about Galactus, you know how powerful he is and how big or small he could be. And the fact that he does travel in a spaceship and so forth and so on. That’s a very big concept to kind of digest. And I think at the time we made the movie, I think the studio also had a little fear of what that was going to be. I think to a certain degree, we shied away from it because of that.” Soo… they felt that a guy travelling in a spaceship was too big of a concept for people to grasp so they went with a cloud instead. Smart.
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