It’s an age-old story. For what feels like an eternity, Marvel and DC have been locked in an endless battle for comic book dominance like so many hero and villain rivalries found in the pages of their publications. Now that both studios are finally developing shared universes on the big screen, the competition between the two has only intensified.
At the moment, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) still reigns supreme as far as both box office and critical reception is concerned. However, DC appears to be gearing up for bigger things if the footage for Justice League is to be believed.
As much as many fans love the film adaptations of Marvel properties, the company has also been the subject of complaints from comic book purists. Many of the big-screen versions of these beloved characters and stories have made drastic changes to the source material, either ignoring major elements or simply eradicating them completely from the ongoing narrative. Here are just a few of the most glaring examples.
1. Thor (2011)
In order to make the character of Thor work on the big screen, Marvel embraced a new approach that aimed to bridge the gap between magic and science in its treatment of Asgard. However, one of the biggest elements left out of director Kenneth Branagh’s film is Thor’s secret identity as Donald Blake.
Sure, the film works in a off-handed reference to Blake as Thor briefly assumes the name to slip past S.H.I.E.L.D., but it doesn’t factor in as a dual identity the way it did in the comics. In fact, the MCU largely ignores secret identities in general (with Spider-Man as the primary exception), leading to some major changes for Captain America: Civil War (more on that later).
2. Iron Man 3 (2013)
As a revamped terrorist version of the Mandarin, Ben Kingsley got fans excited at the prospect of Iron Man’s arch-nemesis finally making an appearance in the flesh, after teases of his existence as far back as the first film. In a move that sent shockwaves through the fan community, writer and director Shane Black instead turned the villain into a facade for true baddie Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce).
The outcry was so loud, in fact, that Marvel Studios ultimately pseudo-retconned the Mandarin in the Marvel One-Shot short film All Hail the King. The short film hinted that the real Mandarin was still out there somewhere and was none too pleased with how his reputation had been treated.
3. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
After X-Men: First Class brought in younger versions of franchise mainstays Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), the opportunity to tie the film in with previous entries was too great to ignore. However, the film version of X-Men: Days of Future Past took tremendous liberties with the comics, using the general premise of an X-Man traveling back through time to prevent an apocalyptic future to tell its own story.
The most notable alteration was putting Hugh Jackman’s fan-favorite Wolverine at the center of it all, but considering the character’s popularity, few were surprised about that direction.
4. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
You didn’t see this coming? The sequel to writer and director Joss Whedon’s ground-breaking team-up took little from the story after which it’s named and made tons of other changes to the established comic mythology. For instance, Hank Pym — whose Ant-Man was an original Avenger in the books — is absent for the creation of Ultron.
The Vision’s birth directly stems from the MCU’s AI version of J.A.R.V.I.S. Plus, due to licensing issues over the X-Men characters Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), the brother-sister duo are no longer mutants but receive their powers from Hydra experiments involving Loki’s scepter. Um, okay, I guess?
5. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
While the film features a similar showdown between Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), it bears little resemblance to the actual plot and events of the comic on which it is based. The emotional finale which pits the two Avengers leaders against each other is entirely fabricated for the film and it totally changes the fate of Captain America.
Nevertheless, the film’s intricate plot honors the spirit and thematic content of the comics. So in that respect it’s a resounding success.
Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable
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