The latest craze in Hollywood seems to be the rebooting of comic book movies. This trend seems to be hitting numerous superhero franchises over the past few years including Batman, Superman and Spider-Man. When a film is rebooted, the director and actors who made the original films famous are replaced and a new direction is sought.
Sometimes the replacements for the superheroes are a success while other times they ruin the entire comic book property. Here are five actors who replaced iconic heroes with a modem of respectability.
5. Brandon Routh, Superman Returns
Many people hate Superman Returns. The venom towards this comic book movie comes from a number of reasons including a lack of action and more focus on Lois Lane then Superman himself. However, at the end of the day the best thing about Superman Returns is the performance by newcomer Brandon Routh.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Christopher Reeve would have been proud. Brandon Routh has the mannerisms of the late Man of Steel down pat. His performance as the greatest superhero of all time is a fitting tribute to the man who helped revolutionize the comic book film 28-years earlier.
The poor reception Superman Returns received killed the idea of a direct sequel to the comic book property and caused Bryan Singer to leave the project altogether. Christopher Nolan, the man who resurrected Batman, is stepping in to help resurrect another superhero and has made it clear Brandon Routh will not be back to don the red and blue costume. That is unfortunate because Routh was the perfect Superman.
4. Ray Stevenson, Punisher: War Zone
The Punisher is one of the comic book movies that never seem able to get its feet off the ground. In 1989, Dolph Lundgren turned the stone cold killer into a campy B-level action hero. In 2004, Thomas Jane starred in a movie that was leaps and bounds above its predecessor but a poor box office doomed it to remain a solo effort.
The third Punisher film did even worse, flopping horribly at the box office. It only took in a paltry $7.95 million during its run. That is a shame because the comic book movie, directed by female film director Lexi Alexander, is a perfectly executed splatter-fest of gore on absurdly cartoonish levels. The movie may have been a bit much for audiences to handle but, if watched with a sense of humor, it provides a ton of great moments.
The actor portraying The Punisher is Ray Stevenson, better known for his role as Titus in the HBO series Rome. The Punisher is not a superhero, but a vigilante, gunning down criminals with a lack of prejudice. Stevenson brings something dark and brooding to the character, a trait neither Lundgren nor Jane possesses. His Punisher is the closest to the comic book character so far and it is sad we may not see him get the opportunity to take on this role again.
3. Edward Norton, The Incredible Hulk
When an actor is replacing someone as iconic as Lou Ferrigno, he can be forgiven when fans don’t take to him. Of course, the fact Eric Bana can never compete with Ferrigno, or Bill Bixby for that matter, is not the reason Ang Lee’s 2003 version of Hulk failed to set the world on fire. Ang Lee is an art director brought in to make a superhero comic book movie. What did people really expect?
Hulk is a true comic book movie, the screen broken into panels on occasion. It is the only movie that can actually be viewed like you are reading a comic book. But fans rebelled and the franchise was rebooted once again. Five years later a new director was brought aboard. Louis Leterrier is not an art director and his most successful movie at the time was the Transporter series. He brought an energy to the comic book movie that helped revitalize the superhero.
Marvel Comics continued to push for the best possible actors to play their iconic superheroes. The Incredible Hulk is filled with the crème of the crop of Hollywood talent. Oscar winning actor William Hurt (Kiss of the Spider-Woman) is joined by Oscar nominated actors Tim Roth (Rob Roy) and Edward Norton (American History X, Primal Fear). Norton, of course, plays Bruce Banner and brings a level of pathos to the character that makes him pop off the screen.
Norton is rumored to be reprising his role in the upcoming Avengers movie, joining an all-star cast including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner and Chris Hemsworth. Not bad for a superhero comic book movie.
2. Christian Bale, Batman Begins
The number of actors who have played Batman is slightly ridiculous. The most iconic is Adam West, who portrayed the Caped Crusader on the classic television series. When Tim Burton brought the comic book character back to life in 1989, Michael Keaton was cast as Batman and survived for two movies. Joel Schumacher arrived on the scene and, instead of rebooting the movie series, simply continued the story with two new Batman’s, first Val Kilmer and then George Clooney. By the time Batman & Robin arrived, it seemed this superhero was finally dead.
Eight years later, Christopher Nolan took on the Dark Knight and cast Christian Bale to play the Gotham City superhero. The director, who wowed audiences with his previous films Memento and Insomnia, took on the comic book movie with great zeal and Batman was reborn.
To lie this at the feet of only Christopher Nolan is unfair to the cast he gathered. As with The Incredible Hulk, Nolan looked for the best of the best and found a group of actors that, twenty years ago, would never be caught dead in a superhero comic book movie. At the top of the mountain is Christian Bale, an actor who seemed to be destined to play Bruce Wayne. One look at his performance in American Psycho was enough to show he knew exactly how to play the millionaire playboy. Luckily, he also brought the goods as the Caped Crusader as well.
1. Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
There have been three men synonymous with the super villain, The Joker. Cesar Romero will always be the killer clown to a certain generation and Jack Nicholson is a man who brought a manic craziness to the villain in 1989. However, only one actor was nominated for an Oscar for playing the Clown Prince of Crime: the late Heath Ledger.
Ledger approached the role of The Joker in The Dark Knight with a determination that helped morph his character into something more than a stereotypical comic book bad guy. Taking a cue from Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, Ledger crafted his character into an enigma and captured the imagination of the world.
Numerous people have argued Ledger only received his Oscar because of his untimely death. That is an argument that can never be settled. What can be seen is the wonderful on screen performance by Ledger, taking a character that is as iconic as Batman himself, and transforming him into a character that will always be remembered. Romero has his fans and Nicholson did what Jack does best but neither man can compare to what Heath Ledger brought to the role. By casting Ledger as his Joker, Christopher Nolan hit his biggest home run.
Film As Art: Superman Returns – usahome.alaska.edu
New Adaptation of ‘Hulk’ Outshines 2003 Original – elon.edu
‘Supporting’ Actor Defines ‘Dark Knight’ – collegian.csufresno.edu