Friday, June 17, 2016

A Simple Question Regarding Character Adaptation to Film

Martinex1:   In all of Super-Hero cinema, what character was adapted best from the source material?   What character's representation was not adapted well at all?

Whether influenced by the acting style, the directorial plan, plot devices, or the writing choices. what character was portrayed most faithfully?  And who was not?   Hero, villain, or supporting character - share your thoughts about their transition from paper to celluloid. 

In my opinion Captain America has overall been a great portrayal of the comic character, while his Avengers teammate Hawkeye I have found lacking.   And that is not because I don't like the Hawkeye in cinema;  I actually think that Jeremy Renner has done a nice job.   As far as an adaptation though, the movie Hawkeye is a far cry from the comic book Hawkeye.   Gone is the villainous past, the carnival upbringing, the sarcastic and cocky attitude, the respect for Cap, the distrust of authority, and the cool costume. The screen Hawkeye - family man and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent - is not bad but is also definitely not the same.   In the books, I always think of Hawkeye as the heart and humor of the Avengers; he deserves to be in the corner box just as much as the Vision.   In the movies he is a sidekick with limited screen time and development.   That is just my opinion... now please share yours.

To get your whistles whetted, here is just a partial list of characters who have made it to the big screen (kind of amazing in and of itself actually).   In no particular order:

Aunt May, Ben Grimm / Thing, Betty Ross, Dr. Doom, Professor Xavier, Moira MacTaggert, J. Jonah Jameson, Gwen Stacy, T'Challa / Black Panther, Red Skull, Loki, Jean Grey, Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow, Bucky Barnes, Dum Dum Dugan, Gamora, Abomination, Sif, Odin, Peter Parker / Spider-Man, Bruce Wayne / Batman, Pa Kent, Lois Lane, Blade, Wonder Woman, Nick Fury, Perry White, Rocket Raccoon, Alfred, Catwoman, Baron Zemo, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Cyclops, Beast, Norman Osborn / Green Goblin, Magneto, Penguin, Joker, Mary Jane Watson, Star-Lord, Reed Richards / Mister Fantastic,  Iceman, Rogue, Wolverine, Electro, Ronan, Doctor Octopus, Ultron, Quicksilver, Thor, Tony Stark / Iron Man,  Clark Kent / Superman, Thunderbolt Ross, Jimmy Olson, Riddler, Robin, Ant-Man, Hank Pym, Falcon, Happy Hogan, Flash Thompson, Mr, Freeze, Lizard, Jane Foster, The Comedian, Johnny Storm / The Human Torch, War Machine, Bruce Banner / Hulk, Uncle Ben, Havok, Banshee, Jasper Sitwell, Ma Kent, Venom, Jor-El, Pepper Potts, Colossus, Deadpool, Jarvis, Bane, Ra's al Ghul, The Mandarin, Justin Hammer, Sue Richards / Invisible Woman, Peggy Carter, Sharon Carter, Storm, Wasp, Mystique, Whiplash, Yellowjacket, Hogun, Heimdall, Groot, The Collector, Arnim Zola, Silver Surfer, and Thanos.   Nuff said.


Rip Jagger said...


I have to say I find that Judge Dredd as presented by the painfully ignored Karl Urban is one of my favorite comic heroes ever put on screen. I admire immensely that like the comic book character he never takes off his helmet, remaining an enigma. So many superheroes ditch the mask as quickly as possible (one of the few things which annoyed me in the first Spider-Man trilogy). Dredd is brutal, cold, and relentless, just as I'd expect him to be. As weird as Stallone was in the part twenty years ago, that's how good Urban is in the recent one.

My runner-up is Billy Zane as The Phantom. His Phantom was bright, brave, engaging, and most of all confident. I came away from that movie understanding that the Phantom's super-power was complete and utter confidence in himself and his ability to deal with any situation. He never gets unstrung and is always on point no matter the circumstance.

My second runner-up is Ray Stevenson in Punisher: War Zone. The movie has problems, but Stevenson nails the part, he looks it, sounds it, and again becomes Frank Castle for me.


Now on the downside the winner (or loser) is Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor in the original Superman. As great as Chris Reeve was in the original movie, that's how amazingly annoying Hackman is. He's woefully miscast, and every Luthor since has been better, even the oddball casting of Jesse Eisenberg in the most recent movie.

My runner-up in this bad category is Nicolas Cage as Ghost Rider. I like the movie okay, but never for one instant accept Cage in the role. He doesn't look like Johnny Blaze and he always seems too old for the part, which needed a younger brash actor.

My second runner-up in this category of badness belongs to Jennifer Garner who is not all that terrible an actress, but was not well cast as Elektra. I don't hate the movie Daredevil necessarily, but Garner doesn't get over for me. She's a bit better in the later Elektra movie, but that one has other issues.


Does anyone remember Steel? What a crummy movie that was all the way through. Shaq sucked! It's darn near unwatchable.

I'm sure I'll think of someone I've forgotten.

Rip Off

Edo Bosnar said...

Martinex, I completely agree about Captain America - I'd say hands down that's the best adaptation of a comic-book superhero to the big screen (or little screen for that matter).
A close runner-up for me is Tom Hiddleston's Loki - in fact, he's actually better than the comic book version.

As for the poor(er) adaptations - the list would be too long for me, as I've been disappointed to varying degrees by all of the non-Marvel Studios productions.

Rip, until this moment I did not even know about the Steel movie, much less that it starred Shaq. I have no trouble believing you that it sucked.

Doug said...

I think I've said before that J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson may be my overall favorite comic to screen adaptation. He seemed like he was born for the part.

Ditto Alfred Molina as Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2. Very believable in the part.

I'll echo what Martinex and Edo have said about Chris Evans as Captain America. In both the Cap and Avengers films, he is Captain America to me.

I enjoyed Alan Cummings portrayal of Nightcrawler in X2, but that might be as much to the special effects as to the characterization.

I really didn't care for anyone in Ang Lee's Hulk movie. I like re-watching the action scenes, and I thought the comic panel screen splits was innovative, but that's about it.

Chris Hemsworth has done a nice job as a young Thor. It would be a hoot to find someone to play Hercules in the brash way we think of that character.

Misses? The Green Goblin (costume definitely, but Dafoe was a bit over the top), DeVito's Penguin, and the current Superman.


Anonymous said...

Funny you specifically mention Hawkeye; I agree that he's a lousy adaptation from the source material -- because I *like* MCU Hawkeye. :-)

And please lets not forget The Rocketeer, which is one of the closest matches of comics & movies. I mean, the most jarring difference is the rocket pack itself!!

Redartz said...

Great question today, Martinex; with an awful lot of potential answers.

For the good: agreeing with you and Edo, Cap is wonderfully represented onscreen (as is Loki; well noted Edo). I would add Patrick Stewart's portrayal of Charles Xavier; since seeing the first X-Men film he seemed a near-perfect embodiment of the character. More recently, the Vision really seems to come to life with Paul Bettany's great work. And the look is spot on as well.

On the other hand, Rip called it nicely regarding Hackman's Luthor. Loved the movie, love the actor, but the role just didn't jell. Also, I really didn't care for Willem DaFoe's Norman Osborn / Green Goblin in the first Spider-Man film. Like with Gene Hackman, I greatly admire the actor, but felt that particular role wasn't the best fit. And the exoskeleton Goblin suit really didn't work for me. It's not the Goblin without that leering, lunatic facemask...

Edo Bosnar said...

Redartz, I have quite a few problems with the entire X-men franchise, among them the general "offness" most of the characters. However, I will grant that the adaptations of both Prof. X (by Stewart and also James McAvoy to a lesser extent), and Magneto (the wonderful Ian McKellen, as well as Michael Fassbender) were pretty spot on - they're among the few aspects of those movies that I like.

Anonymous said...


Yeah, J.K. Simmons was perfect as J. Jonah Jameson. The line delivery, the look, the mannerisms... he was the Ditko/Lee character brought to life. Chris Evans made me like Captain America, and did a fantastic job portraying a person overcoming being a fish-out-of-water.

I'll add Christopher Reeve - Superman is a hard character to get right. He is pure goodness who sometimes pretends to be a klutz. Reeve got both halves exactly right, even when the movies around him failed give him a decent story (Hey, I love Superman and like Superman II, but those are some deeply flawed movies).


Chris O'Donnell did an okay job as Robin in Batman Forever, but was terrible in Batman & Robin. Whiny, unlikable, unable to deliver his dialogue (bad as it was) with anything but petulance... ugh. Alicia Silverstone's Batgirl was possibly worse.

Topher Grace as Venom- a big, tough, nightmarish anti-Spider-Man became a whiny afterthought. Venom may not be a great character, but Grace & the filmmakers drained him of all menace.

X-Men franchise: Why bother bringing out Emma Frost, Callisto, Psylocke, Lady Deathstrike, etc. if they're just going to suck? Yes, there are 5 million X-characters. No, they don't need to be on screen if you're just going to have them stand in the background then fight for one scene.

- Mike Loughlin

dangermash aka The Artistic Actuary said...

Best adaptation definitely Jonah Jameson.

For worst adaptation from the comics, surely it has to be the Rhino from Amazing Spider-Man 2?

Martinex1 said...

Interesting comments everyone. Some characters suggested that I didn't even think about. Rip I liked that Phantom movie too. And danger mash, Rhino was really weird.

Even though I brought up Cap as an excellent adaptation, this morning I was thinking about one of his characteristics that I'd like to see more of in film. In my favorite stories he is clearly a leader strategically and tactically He barks orders and people for the most part follow his direction. I see some of that in the films but want more. He is more of a brooder in the movies and in the comics I think he is more a leader and man of action. It's a nuance I know.., but just something I was thinking about. I would have liked to have seen in the big airport battle in the latest movie if he was strategically guiding his teammates to beat his looser opponents on Iron Man's team. I still think the adaptation is great though.

William said...

FYI, I think the Hawkeye they are doing in the movies is "Ultimate Hawkeye" and not the original Marvel Clint. Ultimate Hawkeye is a SHIELD agent with a wife and kids and a much more serious personality.

But now onto my picks for Best and Worst screen adaptations.


Christopher Reeve as Superman. For an entire generation Reeve was Superman. (Especially in the first movie). From his personality, to the spot on comic accurate costume, to having all the powers he has in the comics, Reeve's Superman remains the gold standard by which all others are measured.

That said, I also thought Brandon Routh did a really great job as Superman as well. I know a lot of people didn't like the movie (I'm not one of those people, as I really dug it). He wasn't quite as good Reeve, but he was still pretty awe-inspiring, IMO. He pulled off the humbly heroic aspect of Supes personality perfectly. I think he got a really raw deal as an actor because he was one of the best things about the movie.

On the Marvel side, I think they did a really great job of adapting The Vision to the big screen. Much more faithful in look, personality, and powers than I ever thought they would do.

Also I have to give props to Deadpool (in the latest movie of course). I'm not the biggest Deadpool fan, but I have to say that the new Deadpool movie nailed every aspect of the character pretty much perfectly. I only wish they would be so faithful to all comic book superhero properties.

I'm going to give an honorable (and possibly premature) mention to Tom Holland as Spider-Man. His brief appearance in Civil War was one of my favorite things about the movie and gives me great hope that I will finally get the Spider-Man film I've always wanted to see. But if history is any indicator, they will probably manage to screw it up.


Christian Bale as Batman. I may be in the minority but I did not like the Nolan Bat-films at all. The character just did not seem like Batman to me. Not in look or personality. He wasn't much of a detective, or a genius, or even much of a fighter (as he was always getting his butt kicked). And Bale's horrible over the top Bat-voice (which sounded like nails on a chalkboard) was borderline comical. It's sad that I actually like Ben Affleck's lethal version of Batman better.

Heath Ledger's The Joker. I know, I know, it was a brilliant performance and all that, but it wasn't "The Joker". It was a humorless homicidal psychopath in clown make-up, and that's not who the Joker is. So, it was a terrible comic-to-screen adaptation, IMO.

Deadpool in the "X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie. No explanation needed here.

Doctor Doom in any movie he's ever been in. No one has ever come close to getting Doom right yet.

Galactus in FF2. He was a big space cloud. Nuff said.

I could keep this up all day, but I'll stop there for now.

Anonymous said...

I thought Toby Maguire was pretty good in the first Spidey movie and I generally thought the first FF movie was miscast, but Chiklis actually made a pretty good Ben Grimm.

Mike Wilson

Anonymous said...

Martinex – great question.

Rip – brilliant expansion of the question by your choice of fringe characters and outliers. (I know I sound like record-store guys in High Fidelity).

I guess other issues are how good the actor playing the character is and how the character was written to start with and evolved. For example, Magneto is brilliantly played by both McKellen and Fassbender, but I think McKellen’s era Magneto is more Stan’s scenery chewing arch-villain and Fassbender has more the Claremont-era Magnus, with his tortured past.

I think Chadwick Boseman’s Panther is actually better written than most of his comic handling, and far from seeming like just a guy in a suit, he positively seethed power and muscle tension…almost like a …..panther??

Deadpool was terrific in the movies. I always wondered what they would do with a foul-mouthed, ultra-violent, 4th-wall-breaking, in-joke making, psychotic killer. It never occurred to me they’d do just that.

I know they were the comic relief, but I loved the Howlers in Cap 1. I also liked Hayley Atwell a lot as Peggy. With her full-but-hourglass figure, I thought she actually looked like a screen goddess from that era.

Interesting, and maybe another topic, but Nick Fury is obviously a 100% intentional miss, but we’re all fine with the coolest man on the planet playing Fury, right? Another intentional miss is clearly Rogue, who is nothing like she is the comics.

I’m surprised no one mentioned RDJ. I think he makes a great Tony Stark, his fast talking style indicates Tony’s super-intelligence well, whilst his ability to play a womanising, hard drinking, playboy…..well, let’s say he put the research in.

I never really liked Kirsten Dunst as MJ. It seemed more like that character was actually Gwen (all sweetness and light). I didn’t get much ‘face it, Tiger, you hit the jackpot’ off her.

I know everyone has said it, but Chris Evan’s Cap is great. Imagine how easy it would be to just play him as the square-jawed goody-goody or the man-out-of-time. He makes him real.

I know that, by law, I have to hate the FF adaptations, but I LOVED the look of the Surfer.

I love the Vision on screen, so far. Even when it strikes a slightly iffy tone, I quickly realise that it’s only jarring with my own, dare I say it, vision of the character.

Ant Man – let’s be honest, love him or loathe him, you have to admit he’s character who has come out of nowhere and all the very aspects have been used.

Surprised no one discussed the most played super hero: Wolverine. I think he’s very badly handled versus the comics and I resolutely object to it. Right up to the moment Hugh Jackman walks on screen, and then I grin from ear to ear.


William said...

Richard, while RDJ's portrayal of Tony Stark is totally awesome, in his case instead being faithful to the iconic version of the character, his version has supplanted the original and BECOME the iconic version. Which is no small feat when it comes to comic fans.

I also really thought the Silver Surfer was done extremely well in FF2. In fact, I thought the sequence with the Human Torch chasing him through NYC was the best and most faithful on-screen Fantastic Four moment ever.

And before I go, I forgot to mention another pick of mine for WORST comic-to-screen adaptation, and that is Superman in the Man of Steel. From the character's personality to the awful costume, nothing about that morbid and dreary portrayal seems anything like the Superman we all know and love.

Martinex1 said...

William, thanks for pointing out the Ultimate Hawkeye connection. I was unaware of that.

And I too liked that Human Torch / Silver Surfer scene. When my son was about 4 he'd see that scene on commercials and yell "Get him Fire Guy!"

Anonymous said...

I'll add to the chorus my vote for J.K. Simmons.
I just can't watch his scenes as J.J.J. without laughing out loud. It's just impossible.

...I kinda liked the Sandman...

pete doree said...

Agree with everything Rip said: Urban & Zane as Dredd and The Phantom - both perfect.
HATED every Nolan Batman flick from start to finish: "Ah'm not wearin' hockey pants " Shut up, f#@!k off. And Ben Affleck is far and away the best thing in that latest car crash. Which speaks volumes.

Ghost Rider was great, when it was a special effect. Hey Nic, do your Elvis impression AGAIN why don't' cha.

Man-Thing. Well, a proper Gerber Man-Thing movie is impossible, but still.

Best: Cap, Thor, Loki, Tobey Macguire as Spidey. That guy in the last two movies? Hateful. Just hateful. Boy, I'm pissed.

Anonymous said...

I also thought Brandon Routh got a bum deal. He was pretty good, a bit stiff, but it's really just the movie that sucked. Half of it took place on a boat, for cryin' out loud.

Anonymous said...

So many great comments. How about the Black Widow? When I heard Scarlett Johansson was cast I was skeptical. But I think she's another example of a character who is actually better in the movies than the comics.


Humanbelly said...

Tom's better-in-movies-than-in-the-comics comment is very apt. It seems like those are the ones where the source material (even over decades and decades) had some trouble getting us to a fully-realized, three-dimensional, consistent person. I like RDJ's Tony Stark much more than the comic book source. And while I loved Wolverine for the first few years of his existence, I do think Hugh Jackman lends the character a humanity that is simply unattainable for that character in its over-used, multiple-creator, cliche-driven comic book form-- I prefer the movie version now. Idris Elba as Heimdall? I want a Heimdall MOVIE, folks! LOVE this impossibly intense supporting character! Movie Doc Ock-- different, but again-- MUCH more depth and humanity. Hiddleston's Loki-- better in the movies, no question. And rats-- I would have loved to gotten to know our MCU version of Quicksilver a little better-- not a favorite character of mine in the comics, but could find myself liking this fella in the films a lot more.


Anonymous said...

Hmm best adaptations ... OK I'd go with Cap and Christopher Reeve's Superman. I agree with William - it's a testament to Reeve that for over 30 years now his portrayal is still the gold standard to which all onscreen versions of Superman are still being compared.

Worst ones would be most of the FF (although I did like Michael Chiklis's Thing) characters.

Not spot on representations of the comics but so enjoyable they have a life of their own category : yes, Hugh Jackman as Wolvie. Despite being the wrong body type (6 ft tall and lean) Jackman's portrayal probably convinced many younger fans that he is the definitive movie version of Wolverine. Also, RDJ's Iron Man is the anchor of the modern Avengers franchise. His snarky Tony Stark is not exactly faithful to the comics version but the movie version is what people know best nowadays.

- Mike 'what about Howard the Duck?' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Anonymous said...

I think something should be said about the Watchmen movie, which I thought was fantastic. Talk about great acting in a superhero movie. Everybody just nailed it, in my humble opinion. I even bought the DVD, and I'm a notorious cheapskate.

William said...

With how closely Hugh Jackman is associated with being Wolverine, I'm shocked Marvel hasn't changed the character in the comics to match HJ's body type.

Hmmm, I think Wolverine is currently "dead" in the comics. (I could be mistaken though). I wouldn't be surprised when they inevitably bring him back he'll have somehow grown a foot taller. :D

Anonymous said...

Hi, Steve from the UK here.

IMHO, The Batman TV show, with
Batman & Robin and the big four villains, Catwoman (especially Julie Newmar), The Joker, Penguin and The Riddler, were the best direct adaptions, as to the comics of the time.

Christopher Reeve is Superman. If Superman was 'real', I'd want him to be just like he is portrayed by Reeve.

From what I've seen so far, Ben Affleck is the best version of the modern era, live action version of Batman.

But then I didn't like either the Burtonverse or the Nolanverse. That wasn't Batman and his supporting cast.

They had some great actors in them, but it wasn't Batman.

With the MARVEL films universe, I've found all their casting excellent.

With the possible exception of Ed Norton. He just didn't work for me as Bruce Banner.

When Mark Ruffalo appeared in the first Avengers film, straight away he was Bruce Banner.

I also didn't have a problem with the casting of the first 2 Fox Fantastic Four movies.

I hadn't seen Jessica Alba in anything before, so she had no 'baggage' in my opinion.

Michael Chiklis, Chris Evans and Ioan Gruffudd, were all great in their respective parts.

If MARVEL were to ever get the rights back for the FF, I'd love to see these guys carry over these roles.

Would be great fun if Chris Evans met himself as Johnny Storm and Captain America.

The SFX can accomplish these things seamlessly now.

Also, Michael Chiklis' Thing squaring up to Ruffalo's Hulk would be fun.

The weak points in those two FF films were the scripts and casting of Doctor Doom.

Just my opinion and ramblings...

The Groovy Agent said...

I know you guys are focusing on movies (and I agree that the Chris-es (Evans, Reeve, and Helmsworth), J.K. (as JJJ), and RDJ have become and shall most likely remain the Gold Standard for bringing comicbook characters to life, but I must mention those who blazed the trail and became comicbook icons via TV: Adam West, Bill Bixby, and (of course!) Lynda Carter. The'll always be Batman, Banner, and WW to moi.

Okay, for the worst, I must add Cyclops from the first three X-Men movies. Ruined, wimped, killed him horribly. Blecch. And Angel has been screwed over both movies. A handsome rich guy with wings should be pretty happy and potentially awesome, but in the movies? Either a crybaby or an easily manipulated nutjob. And the movie version of Dr. Doom is the worst villain ever (yeah, even worse than Rhino, imo, and that's pretty danged bad)!

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