. Many acclaimed performers have brought these characters from the comic book page to the big screen, and for the most part, they have served as remarkable fits for their roles. However, not all Marvel projects have been successful across the board in that regard.
We’re looking back at some of the most questionable bits of casting throughout Marvel’s history. For the record, we’re basing our decisions on how well these actors fit their respective roles, regardless of the performers’ talent on screen. Also, we’re including any film or TV show based on a Marvel property, not simply those within the MCU.
Ready? Here are Marvel’s worst casting choices, ranked in descending order.
25. Dane DeHaan as Green Goblin, The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Willem Dafoe’s spectacular performance as Green Goblin in the first Spider-Man movie was always going to be a tough act to follow, but aging the villain down and tweaking his backstory in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a terrible idea.
As a result, Dane DeHaan never quite captures the gleeful menace and madness that made the character so compelling the first time around.
24. Will.i.am as John Wraith, X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Will.i.am may have looked the part of John Wraith in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but that’s about where the similarities stop. The Black Eyed Peas frontman never quite feels like an action star, and his limitations as an actor are felt every time he’s on screen. That said, he’s just one of the many reasons the Origins series never got off the ground (looking at you, mouthless Deadpool).
23. Christopher Eccleston as Malekith, Thor: The Dark World
Buried under makeup, Christopher Eccleston never quite gets a chance to shine as the main villain of Thor: The Dark World. His performance is about as interesting as watching paint dry, making for one of the worst Marvel bad guys in a long line of similarly disappointing villains. Whether that’s his fault or can be blamed on the script he had to work with, it’s still tough to ignore all the same.
22. January Jones as Emma Frost, X-Men: First Class
A villain and eventual hero, Emma Frost has an entire mythos in the comics that has yet to be brought to the big screen. Sadly, X-Men: First Class had little interest in exploring it, and even worse, the film opted for stone-faced, charisma-free January Jones in the part. The actress has received award recognition for her part on Mad Men so we’re going to chalk up her lack of presence here as simply a disinterest in the material.
In any case, we’d like to see another actress take on Emma Frost at some point.
21. Paul Giamatti as Rhino, The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a superhero movie so bad that it caused Sony to throw out their entire conception of the web-slinger, arriving at the door of Marvel Studios with hat in hand. Marvel has since revived Spider-Man full bore thanks to Captain America: Civil War, but that doesn’t erase the sins of Sony’s past.
Paul Giamatti found himself wildly miscast as Aleksei Sytsevich (aka Rhino), forcing him into a cheesy tracksuit and bad tattoos, all while making a world-class actor seem more like a cartoon character than a terrifying villain.
20. Ed Norton as Bruce Banner, The Incredible Hulk
Casting Bruce Banner has always proved troublesome for Marvel, and we see that firsthand with Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk. While Norton is a talented actor in his own right, he never quite embodied the quiet, subtle rage required to really make Banner a compelling standalone character.
19. Don Cheadle as War Machine, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Captain America: Civil War
There was a good deal of controversy back when Terrence Howard was ousted from the Marvel Cinematic Universe following Iron Man, in favor of the much cheaper Don Cheadle. The problem with Cheadle though, is that even while playing Tony Stark’s best friend, he doesn’t quite look the part of an intimidating military officer with his own Iron Man suit.
18. Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and X-Men: Apocalypse
Casting Jennifer Lawrence in the X-Men franchise was supposed to add a new element to the series, as it attempted to get out from under a pair of flops with X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. And while Lawrence certainly gives it her all, the emotion behind her long-standing relationship with Charles Xavier doesn’t ever seem real.
Pair that with a flat performance as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games saga, and it’s safe to say that Lawrence’s talents are better utilized in dramatic films, rather than action.
17. Eric Bana as Bruce Banner, Hulk
We once again see just how difficult it is to cast for the character of Bruce Banner, first indicated to fans by Eric Bana in Ang Lee’s much-maligned Hulk. Given that Banner is supposed to be a brilliant scientist, having him played by the buff, action-star-esque Bana takes a good deal away from that image. Thankfully, Marvel got it right years later, when they brought Mark Ruffalo in to assume the role.
16. Dolph Lundgren as Frank Castle, The Punisher
Before the many attempts to make the Punisher a viable movie, we had Dolph Lundgren’s ill-fated performance as Frank Castle, way back in 1989. We’ve already seen a version of the character with true depth, thanks to Jon Bernthal’s turn on Daredevil, making Lundgren’s own depiction seem that much more inferior by comparison.
15. Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, Captain America: Civil War
In the Spider-Man canon, Aunt May is a key character. She’s the de facto guardian for Peter Parker, and is the one parent-like figure in his life that affords him wisdom and guidance.
Strangely enough, each subsequent Spider-Man reboot has aged her down, from Rosemary Harris in Sam Raimi’s trilogy (74 years old), to Sally Field (65), and most recently, Marisa Tomei (51). At this rate, Aunt May’s going to be played by Kate Upton.
Regardless, Tomei was up against the quintessential performance by Harris from the first Spider-Man, and never quite managed to measure up.
14. Halle Berry as Storm, X-Men
In the greater context of the X-Men universe, Halle Berry was a perfectly good choice to play Storm. That said, the vaguely ethnic accent she put on in the first installment in the saga back in 2000 was about as cringeworthy as it gets. Mercifully, she dropped the accent for subsequent movies.
13. Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, The Amazing Spider-Man
Part of what makes Spider-Man such an interesting superhero is that he’s an average high-school nerd who accidentally acquires superpowers, and is constantly trying to reconcile that with being a hero. So when Sony cast the then-28-year-old heartthrob Andrew Garfield for their first reboot effort, it was tough to get on board.
Garfield, while talented in his own right, came off more as a “cool skater punk” than “nerdy kid,” ultimately dooming the franchise for yet another reboot years later.
12. Ben Affleck as Matthew Murdock, Daredevil
Here we have another example of a case where we’ve seen the best possible version of a Marvel character, thanks to Netflix’s own standalone Daredevil series. Looking back on Ben Affleck’s performance in 2003, it’s hard not to wish Charlie Cox was Matthew Murdock all along, especially now that Affleck has settled in nicely in the DC Extended Universe as Batman.
11. Finn Jones as Danny Rand, Iron Fist
We’d be remiss in not mentioning Finn Jones here, especially given the massive controversy that swirled around his casting in Netflix’s Iron Fist series. Many fans felt as though the show was a prime opportunity to diversify Marvel’s TV universe, but instead, another white male was chosen to assume a key role.
In the end, Danny Rand feels like little more than a spoiled rich kid, proving that not even Marvel’s Netflix saga is immune to poor casting choices.
10. Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, Thor and Thor: The Dark World
Just as Eric Bana was a tough sell as a nerdy scientist type in Hulk, so too was Natalie Portman for her turn in the MCU as Jane Foster. Then, you take into account that her absence in the franchise has barely been felt (if at all) since Thor: The Dark World, and you start to realize just how inconsequential Jane Foster really is to the larger Marvel narrative.
9. James Franco as Harry Osborn, Spider-Man
James Franco has a long history of successfully starring in stoner comedies, a period that spans far longer than his time spent playing dramatic action roles. With the latter leg of his career more recent, he felt wildly out of place in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, and as such, it was hard to take him seriously as a friend turned tortured villain.
8. Mickey Rourke as Whiplash, Iron Man 2
If Mickey Rourke’s goal in Iron Man 2 was to sound vaguely foreign and chew through a whole box of toothpicks, then his performance as Whiplash was a rousing success. The rest of us hold our Marvel villains to a far higher standard though, making his one-dimensional run as Ivan Vanko eminently forgettable.
7. Vinnie Jones as Juggernaut, X-Men: The Last Stand
There were a whole lot of things Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand did wrong, including the depiction of Juggernaut, who was played by resident Hollywood badass Vinnie Jones. In the comics, Juggernaut is one of the most formidable foes of the X-Men, as Charles Xavier’s stepbrother who was magically transformed into the muscled giant we know him to be.
In The Last Stand, he spends most of his time Hulk-smashing, and uttering far too many laughably cheesy lines along the way.
6. Taylor Kitsch as Gambit, X-Men Origins: Wolverine
There was little X-Men Origins did right, and it’s easy to lose the first appearance of fan-favorite Gambit in the shuffle of terrible. To Taylor Kitsch’s credit, it’s not his fault Fox made a bad movie, while unceremoniously casting the card-throwing mutant as a side character.
Unfortunately, the Cajun mutant was also wildly miscast, capturing little of the grizzled bayou charm that made Gambit a favorite both in the comics and on the X-Men animated series. Channing Tatum will give the role a shot next in his own standalone movie though, so there could be redemption on the horizon.
5. Topher Grace as Eddie Brock/Venom, Spider-Man 3
Venom is among the most popular villains Spider-Man has ever gone up against, but dammit, Sam Raimi’s film really botched his live-action debut. While the writing doesn’t do Eddie Brock or his symbiote-fueled alter-ego any favors, the casting of That ’70s Show star Topher Grace is another massive miscalculation.
Rather than bringing an imposing presence, Grace makes Brock a smarmy, whiny jerk overrun with delusions of grandeur. Though a lot of the blame can be placed on the script, we can’t help but think another actor would have brought a different energy to the part.
4. Nicolas Cage as Ghost Rider, Ghost Rider
The supernatural world of demons and otherworldly threats that Ghost Rider inhabits needs a grounded approach to keep the story from becoming too unwieldy in a film adaptation. However, rather than finding a performer who could legitimize the concept of a motorcycle-riding badass with a flaming skull, the filmmakers — led by director Mark Steven Johnson — opted for the larger-than-life antics of Nicolas Cage.
In the right film, the Oscar-winning actor is brilliant, but here he only makes the Ghost Rider tale more ridiculous.
3. Miles Teller as Reed Richards, Fantastic Four
Throughout the history of the Fantastic Four comics, Reed Richards has rarely strayed from his singular look. Fans know him based on his ability to stretch his body to insane lengths, his iconic blue suit, and the streaks of grey hair that occupy either side of his head.
Miles Teller represented a huge break from canon when he was cast as Richards, aging Mr. Fantastic down considerably, and in turn taking away much of the gravitas needed for the role. The list of things that didn’t work in Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four is a long one, but you can bet that the casting of Reed Richards is close to the top.
2. Jessica Alba as Sue Storm, Fantastic Four
Sue Storm is supposed to be a brilliant scientific mind and pillar of strength for the Fantastic Four. So the filmmakers opted for the extremely limited acting chops of Jessica Alba. The actress — while serviceable in films like Sin City — conveys none of the complexity of her comic book counterpart.
The fact that Tim Story’s film relegates her to a half-baked love triangle and unnecessary sexualization (does she really have to end up naked at one point?) certainly doesn’t help this largely ill-conceived film.
1. Jennifer Garner as Elektra, Daredevil
In the comics, Elektra is an exotic, dangerous assassin who just as easily will commit crimes as stop them. However, in Mark Steven Johnson’s critically savaged film, Jennifer Garner comes across as sweet, innocent, and frankly, too nice to believably convey the character’s unpredictable nature.
Granted, the 2005 spinoff film tried to delve deeper into that arena but fell just as flat. For a better take on Elektra, check out Elodie Yung in Daredevil Season 2 on Netflix.
Additional reporting by Nick Cannata-Bowman.
Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable
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