With several high-profile releases hitting theaters, 2016 is undoubtedly a pivotal year for the respective shared universes of both Marvel and DC. While the former marks a game-changing new era with Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange, the latter is finally building out its own world with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. Let’s take a look at how Marvel and DC have handled the origin stories in some of their films.
1. Batman Returns (1992)
While comic book fans were outraged with the liberties Tim Burton’s 1989 film took with the origins for both Batman and The Joker, that was nothing compared to the bizarre take the director’s sequel offered on these two popular villains. Traditionally portrayed as a mob boss, the Penguin (Danny DeVito) was reinterpreted as a deformed human baby who was raised in the sewers by an inexplicable penguin army. Meanwhile, Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) became a sad-sack secretary (er, assistant) who is miraculously resurrected by a group of stray cats. There’s still much to like about the film and the two villainous performances, but man, those origin stories are a mess.
2. Catwoman (2004)
Poor Catwoman just can’t catch a break. This one strays even further from the comic books, as Oscar winner Halle Berry plays Patience Phillips in a disastrous film that tosses aside decades of mythology surrounding the character. Similar to Batman Returns, she is mysteriously resurrected by a cat, but this version involves Egyptian mysticism and an ill-conceived plot by the evil owner of a cosmetics company. Thanks to this notorious flop, Catwoman remains absent from the big screen for eight years, when Anne Hathaway brought her to life in a far more satisfying way.
3. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
The X-Men franchise has more than its fair share of weak origin stories (shout-out to Dark Phoenix in X-Men: The Last Stand!). However, none are quite as bad as this film, which manages to botch the origins of both the titular adamantium-clawed mutant and fan-favorite Deadpool. While the latter character ultimately was redeemed, it’s unlikely audiences will ever see a film devoted solely to explaining how Logan (Hugh Jackman) became a part of the Weapon X program. At least X-Men: Apocalypse will offer some hints as to what went down before he became an X-Man.
4. Green Lantern (2011)
Ryan Reynolds finally got the chance this year to play the Deadpool he always wanted to bring to the screen. Sadly, he’s unlikely to ever get the chance to do the same for this DC hero following the deservedly poor reception of this effort. It’s not Reynolds’ casting that ruins the tale of how pilot Hal Jordan became a member of the intergalactic protection group known as the Green Lantern Corps. Rather, it’s the bland, lazy and unfocused script that does him in. Regardless, we’re excited to see if the planned 2020 reboot can get this story right the second time around.
5. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and its 2014 sequel
Though we easily could have opted for the lame way Venom was portrayed in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, we’re instead going for Marc Webb’s reboot and its messy sequel. The first film needlessly wastes an hour of screen time retelling the exact same origin story from Raimi’s 2002 release before finally launching its Lizard-centric plot, and its sequel convolutes the Osborn family legacy with the silliest version of the Green Goblin to date. Plus, we’re not even going near the cliche-ridden story they saddled poor Jamie Foxx with as the villainous Electro. Spider-Man: Homecoming has to be better than this.
6. Fantastic Four (2015)
Who would have thought that a Fantastic Four film starring a cast of rising stars and from the director of the acclaimed Chronicle would have moviegoers fondly recalling the 2005 version? Against all odds, that’s exactly how it went down here. As with Green Lantern, the stars do the best they can with pitiful material, as the film’s script lacks any semblance of logic, momentum and generally anything remotely resembling a credible plot. To echo fans’ cries, it may be time for Fox to share the rights to Marvel’s First Family with the company that created them in the first place.
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