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The 10 Worst Comic Book Movie Casting Blunders (And 5 That Nailed It)

"Quick! We need someone to play Spider Jerusalem. How about Ashton Kutcher?"

by
Duane Lester

Bio

April 20, 2012 - 8:30 am

How many times have you read about one of your favorite comic book characters finally getting his own movie, learned the actor that was cast to play him, and thought, “What were they smoking?” It’s happened over and over. It’s going to happen again.

What else would you expect from Hollywood, where they focus more on putting the pretty people in the roles, rather than the right people. And sometimes the movie is horrible to begin with and they are only taking whoever answers the phone.

Priorities like that make the following list possible. Here are the 10 worst comic book movie casting blunders, starting with…

10. Nicolas Cage – Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider

Johnny Blaze is a young motorcycle daredevil in the comics. In the movie, Cage looks every bit his 43 years. He looks tired. I keep seeing the scene in the graveyard where he’s drinking coffee and Caretaker says, “You all right?” and Cage replies, “Yeah, I’m good.  Feels like my skull’s on fire, but I’m good.”

That’s how he looked through the movie. Like an over-the-hill stunt rider that just wanted to hang up his leather chaps and take a nap.  This would have worked if the movie were based on the Danny Ketch thread of the Ghost Rider story and Johnny Blaze shows up years after having been the rider, but that’s not what they did.

It seems like rather than find the right actor for the story, they worked the story around the actor.

9. Vinnie Jones — Juggernaut

The Juggernaut is massive. According the the Marvel Comics wiki, he stands nine feet, five inches tall and weighs in at over 1,900 pounds.  I can look past how they changed the origin of the character for X-Men, The Last Stand — making him a mutant when in the comics he’s magical — but I can’t accept the way they simply took Vinnie Jones, slapped a poorly designed costume on him, and called it good.

Juggernaut is big enough that he would warrant his own vehicle and security for transport. He wouldn’t be shoved in the same trailer as all the regular mutants. This guy is a tank.

In the movie, he was Vinnie Jones in a leftover costume from Gladiator.

Don’t get me wrong. Jones is good at playing really hardcore bad guys that don’t take crap from anyone. He would have been great voicing a CGI Juggernaut, perhaps putting his face on the special effects, as they did with Mark Ruffalo and the Hulk. But casting him without any assistance from the special effects department did the character an injustice.

8. Ryan Reynolds — Green Lantern

Ryan Reynolds brought an awkward feel to the role. Hal Jordan is one of the most serious comic book heroes in the genre. While arrogant, he wasn’t aloof when he first had the ring. He has a sense of humor, but he didn’t throw it around because there wasn’t any time for that. There were serious things going on.

Reynolds nails the arrogant part, but has the baggage of all his previous — and sometimes hilarious — roles. Because of that, people had a hard time seeing him as the super-serious Jordan.

7. Sylvester Stallone — Judge Dredd

Judge Dredd doesn’t take his helmet off. It doesn’t matter what he looks like. He is the law. It’s really the foundation of the character.

In Judge Dredd, John Wagner explains how this became a hard and fast rule for Judge Dredd comics:

It sums up the facelessness of justice − justice has no soul. So it isn’t necessary for readers to see Dredd’s face, and I don’t want you to.

Casting Stallone as Judge Dredd threw that right out the window. It wasn’t more than 20 minutes into the movie and off comes the helmet. Then I think he loses it, or something.

Then there is the fact that Judge Dredd is as cold-blooded a man as have ever walked Mega-City One. All he cares about is the law and will mete out justice with zero empathy. He doesn’t care about you. He cares about the law.

Casting Stallone in that part doesn’t work. Remember, this was made a few years after Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot!

Try and picture Judge Dredd saying that.

6. Dolph Lundgren — Frank Castle

In the late 80s, Dolph Lundgren struggled to make it as an action movie leading man. He had played Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, a KGB officer in Red Scorpion, and He-Man in Masters of the Universe. Only his performance in Rocky IV was memorable.

Then came The Punisher.

It wasn’t a role that required a lot of depth. Lundgren brought less than that.

5. William Hurt — General Thunderbolt Ross

William Hurt is a fine actor. However, the role of General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross was already cast to the best actor for the role, Sam Elliott. In Hulk, Elliott became Thunderbolt Ross, from his demeanor all the way to his power mustache.

Hurt’s mustache simply couldn’t compete.

Plus, throughout The Incredible Hulk Hurt came across as weak, always at the mercy of those around him or circumstances outside his control. While Elliott’s character also had difficulties controlling the Hulk, he never seemed weak because of it. He came across as if there were always a backup plan.

Guess we could have just found confidence in the ‘stache.

4. Ben Affleck — Daredevil

First off, Matt Murdock is a redhead. At least Affleck could have done Daredevil fanboys the courtesy. But nope, he was too busy trying to be Ben Affleck playing Matt Murdock. Smirking, saying clever things, and getting the girl.

That’s not Matt Murdock.

Plus, it’s difficult for me to picture Daredevil when I look at Affleck in that horrible costume. I keep seeing Fred O’Bannion from Dazed and Confused, using his radar to find freshmen to paddle.

3. Arnold Schwarzenneger — Mr. Freeze

Victor Fries is a brilliant scientist. When he was a kid, he liked to freeze animals because he thought he could preserve them and make their lives last longer. Believe it or not, his parents found that a bit odd and shipped him off to boarding school, where he found the love of his life.

She died when he tried to freeze her after learning she had a fatal disease.

Now, in all that, where is the part where he becomes a bodybuilder? The guy is a lab rat, not a gym rat.

How do you look at Mr. Freeze, then at Arnold, and say, “That’s our Victor Freeze?”

2. Topher Grace – Eddie Brock

The only time I was more confused about a casting decision was when I learned that Heath Ledger was going to be playing the Joker. Ledger pulled it off. Grace? Not so much.

Eddie Brock had anger issues. After blaming Spider-Man for the loss of his job, his wife, and his reputation, Brock began hitting the weights in order to cope with all the hatred he felt towards the web-slinger.

It didn’t help. From the Marvel wiki:

Soon after, Brock began an intense physical workout program hoping to reduce the stress his life had become. However, such physical exertions only increased his violent obsession with Spider-Man. Although his body had been honed to near-perfection, Brock’s mind was reduced to an all-consuming vessel of hatred.

A near-perfect, muscular vessel of all-consuming hatred. When I read that, Eric Forman is the first thing I think of.

1. David Hasselhoff – Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

In between saving swimmers with Neely, Jessie, and C.J. on Baywatch, somehow someone thought it would be a good idea to cast the German superstar as Col. Nick Fury in a television movie.

David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury.

Nick Fury fought Nazis.  He led the Howling Commandos. Now, he leads an army of hardcore super villain fighters.

David Hasselhoff drove a talking car and chased vampires on his offtime from his lifeguard gig. For Hasselhoff to try and act the part of Fury can only come off as a lampoon of the character. Nick Fury deserves better.

I hope someone at Marvel was fired over this.

Now that we’ve looked at ten really awful casting decisions, let’s check out five that were strokes of genius.

Jackie Earle Haley – Rorschach

What a creepy guy. He completely owns the character in Watchmen. I own the complete miniseries and re-read it before watching the movie. Haley embodied Rorschach.

Robert Downey, Jr. – Tony Stark

One of the best actors of my generation and he’s playing the role of Tony Stark like he was born for it. Honestly, can you think of a better person to play the billionaire, playboy, genius philanthropist? Me neither.

Gerard Butler – Leonidas

That’s right. 300 was a comic book before it was a movie, and if you compare the art to Gerard Butler, it’s almost as if he modeled for the book. And his performance in the film was spot on. Brilliant choice to play the Spartan king.

Mickey Rourke – Violent Marv

What a character. And another Frank Miller project. Taken from the streets of Sin City, Violent Marv was nothing but unhinged violence pointed in a direction and set loose. Slap some special effects on Rourke and he becomes Marv. Whoever pulled the trigger and brought him in for this role has excellent vision.

Ron Perlman – Hellboy

When I mentioned this to one of my friends, he simply said, “Yep. A bad ass playing a bad ass.”

That about sums it up for me, too.

I know there are some of you who are itching to tell me where I’m wrong, or what I’ve forgotten, so let’s hear about it in the comments. What did I miss?

Duane Lester is a freelance writer and homeschool dad for his six children. He also blogs at All American Blogger.
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