Marvel characters Hollywood misunderstood – Introduction
This is a list of 10 Marvel characters that Hollywood misunderstood, in its bid to commit to film (more specifically to American movie) all of the Marvel Universe to monetise on the superhero craze, completely missing their actual contribution, thereby a great opportunity to truly make money if not fans as well as to provide relatable role models to an eager fanbase. They ARE superheroes but they get laughed at like unnecessary sidekicks, eye candy or even valets of the more developed characters. But having no superpowers for a lot of them or just being underused has nothing to do with their actual capabilities or relevance as full blown superheroes. The fault is in the way the characters have been (mis)-understood and (under-)developed, and their relevance within the plot is less a matter of making sense than one of costs. We would have been open to a character development a little out of the heroes’ original powers and personalities if it made sense but not all can be permitted, if what replaces a perfectly fine character, is an under- or clumsily developed version of a beloved hero.
His high precision and speed should have been the basis of his usefulness. This hero does not miss a target and for him, it is not about shooting randomly until you hit but efficiently hitting when and where commissioned in a manner they no longer make heroes in Hollywood. He will get the job done without the messy reckless collateral damages of his stronger superhuman counterparts. Interestingly, that high precision and no mess goes with a joker’s personality that is so contradictory that it highlights his abilities even more and balances the character. Well that is nothing like our serious, so-serious-he-is-married-with-kids Marvel movie Universe’s Hawkeye. The supposed moral center of the Avengers has done nothing to gain that place, has been developed otherwise and does not feel like the part that he has been so awkwardly and plot-conveniently given, at the last minute. This is one of the few Marvel characters supposed to be among the most relatable guys for us mere mortal and his presence has been made to feel pointless. Oh Hollywood!
It would be short-sighted (and a little racist) to think of Falcon as the Black Tony Stark, yet that definition would be a lot closer than the depiction so far made of the superhero. How much did Hollywood get wrong? Almost in a bid to make up for a lack of colours in the Marvel ranks, they too precipitately added a far too old Falcon, who seem to awkwardly ride on far too metallic and heavy-looking wings and shows no purpose at all. Comic readers will know that Falcon is a 16-year old teenager who is employed by SHIELD after developing measures capable of stopping each of the superheroes if ever they went rogue. His genius is comparable to that of Tony without the money, the arrogance or the corresponding motor mouth (never to surpass Deadpool though). He represents every teenager that is fascinated and star-struck by his heroes (a moment of which was passed onto Ant Man in his introduction to Captain America in the Civil War) and yet can bring his own individual specialty to the pack and a much needed backup and more grounded perspective to Tony’s genius. Instead the franchise decided on getting the Hulk back to Banner and fabricating reasons to get him from one green hero to the other gamma scientist as the plot requires. As for the genius addition of Spiderman, an authentic falcon would have been a great peer, comparing his shyness to the more extrovert Peter Parker, his focus to the more self-searching Spiderman, his genius to the more relatable nerd. Instead, Spiderman has been uncomfortably made to be the new Tony with gadgets to suit, the only teenager around with no peers. As a result, it is hard to see what it is that Falcon adds to the Avengers this far, apart from colour and numbers.
8. The Maximoff twins: Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch
I am sure all the people who dream of having Quick Silver’s power have conceived more ways of using it than Hollywood could fathom. It might be the costs of the special effects required or the fact that, in the little time Quicksilver appeared in X-Men Days of Future Past, he might have stolen the show. If there are only so many ways you can make a Marvel characters go fast, there is actually many more ways that the action can help beyond speed, just a question of imagination. In addition, a little insight into the relationship with his sibling, the origin of his story, the circumstances in which his supposed father Magneto met and left his mother, are as many missing bits to relating to his character. At least it would settle once and for all how their powers were acquired, and why on earth all these superheroes keep on having children whose superpowers have nothing to do with that of their parents. Wait, I just realised the Avengers killed off Quick Silver! Oh Hollywood! Well there is always the “you-thought-I-was-dead surprise-I’m-not ” getaway (or dead-or-am-I, in short) so there is “hope”. Hmm. Still not sure there will be much left to explore: The incredibles’ Dash, X-Men’s version and DC Comics’ Flash might have dried up the superficial well of its capacities and so there will be a need for Hollywood to properly think beyond the obvious and maybe stop killing off characters in lackadaisical manner to make up for lack of inspiration.
Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver’s twin sister must now appear on this list as the film studios have wasted the benefit of the doubt we have been giving them. Although they have been indeed developing her character slowly but steadily and the promise of more was hinted with Captain America Civil War and will surely continue beyond that, it was clear that a lot was amiss. First of all, it is important to mention how far from the full powers of Scarlet Witch the Franchise still is at the moment, a mutant deemed to be one of the most powerful of them all and with a complex story by far worth its own individual movie1. The scenarists are not necessarily sure what her powers are, showing them as affecting or manipulating the human mind and then having her effecting robots. However, that is only what they appear to be. The “Witch” in her name is not there by accident: her power source is mystical. It allows her to disrupt or alter reality within her field of vision. The Avengers’ portrayal therefore sees this reformed villain creating so-called hex-spheres, displayed as red clouds emanating from her hands that disturb molecular fields around her and her targets. She uses them to destroy organic and other structures and deflect attacks. Later on, with a better training in the sorcery that powers her ability, she grows to manipulate reality to create elements in it that did not exist. What a use that would have greatly helped in Infinity war! Her connection with elements of reality would have surely made her the perfect Avenger to feel any shift in reality, to cite the least of her uses.
7. Various X-Men characters but mainly Storm
X-Men: The Last Stand was probably the worst of all X-Men thus far. This is mainly because it prioritised quantity over quality. It cramped as many mutants as it could in it to wow with the visual effects of their mutations and ended up underdeveloping most of their Marvel characters. The latest installment of the franchise looks likely to top this. However, every time these movies have done this in the past, the audience has ended up with underused characters without a single meaningful tie to the plot. Generally preferring a set of effects and multiplying senseless battles, the films resulted in the underuse and subsequent killing off of characters such as the Juggernaut and Lady Deathstrike, the “female Wolverine”. Angel was given a little more screen time but the character was far from developed. The filmmakers focused more on his strained relationship with his father who won’t accept his son is a mutant. Cyclops, a central character in the X-Men was relatively casually dismissed because of the actor’s unavailability. This is, of course, without mentioning the complete misrepresentation of his character. This alone might have made Cyclops our number 7.
But nothing shows the lack of understanding in the importance of the characters and their development more than the portrayal of Storm. Halle Berry is a beautiful woman and a prominent actor. Probably thanks to this, Storm does not lack time on the screen. But the Storm that comic fans know is a super-powerful mutant able to control both earthly and extraterrestrial ecosystems, natural forces including electromagnetic fields and cosmic storms, and to manipulate elements of nature so she can adapt e.g. breathe underwater, fly in and above the atmosphere and a lot more. That is without mentioning her added magic coming from her maternal ancestry, the expert thievery, her combat skills and her ability to create electrical fields around herself and resist psychic attacks. Did we mention that she is great with knives, handguns, trilingual…. We’ll stop there. But what the franchise has done is to take one of the most powerful mutants (a possible Omega-mutant) and turn her into a supermodel (I get that her reel name “Ororo” means “beauty” but come on) with a great walk especially by the side of Prof. X, who is a heroine more by name than by action and whose powers seem to have more to do with superficially manipulating the weather to such unoriginal and unimaginative ends, through a ritual of levitating and changing eye colour performed with such awkwardness and repetitive bore that it disempowers her rather than truly showcases the powerful mutant and the eclectic force that she is. There was hope when a new generation emerged, just to find a young Storm idolising Mystique, as if with all her talent, Mystique was half the mutant she was.
6. The Wolverine’s collateral damages
The Wolverine’s individual movies seem to be the battlefield for characters misinterpretation. The most prominent one was the highly controversial Matrixed-style sewn-mouth Deadpool, a character particularly known for his Motor-Mouth (“merc with a mouth”). We do actually understand, in retrospect how a motor-mouth would have shifted the centre of action from even such a character as Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. Wolverine himself is quite a prettied-up version of the original but as we said before, if there is a proper character development and that the artistic liberty does not create a completely different personality for a beloved superhero, we are willing to go with the new flow and that worked pretty well until the individual movies started introducing torn versions of known heroes and anti-heroes. Deadpool has been redeemed since but we are still waiting for a cinematographic apology for what has been done to Agent Zero (excellently depicted by the ever-so-gorgeous Daniel Henney, the latter fact relating to the former only in the very least, I promise). The fact that Agent Zero was made to be Asian rather than German actually does not really bother the plot (and truly these days is not mutually exclusive). The annoying thing is that it is again a case of filling up the space with lots of super-powered characters and under-developing 90% of them, thereby frustrating their fans. I don’t mind Sabretooth being suddenly related to Wolverine, or the televangelist William Stryker being a major, or even Gambit having a few more powers and years than in the comic, as none of these truly negatively affects the plot or is significantly adverse to fans’ expectations. But I do mind seeing a lot of people being given two seconds of power demonstrations and leaving us behind with more questions than answers about who they were, what their interventions contributed to the film beyond showcasing the ability of the studio to conjure up some special effects and justifying the film costs. Agent Zero is just an example but Gambit, Emma Silverfox the diamond girl (thought for a long time to be a younger Emma Frost by viewers, thereby best showcasing the type of confusion that was created by the cramming of random characters; she is actually the sister of Kayla Silverfox Wolverine’s love interest), John Wraith (only over his ridiculous death: I mean, do they mean to say he is stupid enough to think he can fight an immortal killer with teleportation? Unless the filmmakers mean to say he is an idiot or just wanted to die) and Bolt (a so obvious case of cramming the set, this character was barely seen and newcomers could not recall his presence, let alone his purpose or abilities).
5. The Fantastic Four villains: Galactus and Doctor Doom
It is probably the fate of villains to be misunderstood but surely, they are never grossly misrepresented. Fantastic Four has now twice begged to differ. In the rise of the silver surfer, the representation of Galactus, probably to add an end-of-the-world feel while not shadowing the more brought-forward silver surfer and related special effects, showed a failure to understand or convey the true graveness and danger of the situation portrayed. Three main mistakes were made: one, Galactus, the devourer of worlds was displayed as a cloud, a phenomenon familiar enough to reduce the scary factor; secondly, the silver surfer who served Galactus, was able to somehow destroy it, which begged the question as to why he needed a pep talk to do something that he could do all along and why Galactus would oblige someone who can easily defeat him to do anything he could actually do himself; thirdly and definitely my biggest annoyance: the pace at which Galactus was coming to devour the world kept on adjusting to the plot, waiting for the heroes to be ready to strike at the last minute and the whole figuring out and capture of the silver surfer was just as plot-serving as it was audience-insulting. Thinking of it, it was surprising that no one paid to watch the sky saw the phenomenon.
And yet Galactus was not the only villain that was misinterpreted. Doctor Doom, the nemesis of Fantastic Four’s team leader Dr Reed, although better utilised in the 2005 film is still underdeveloped in both 2005 and 2015 versions. Both films are still confused about the motivations of their villains so much so that the 2015 version was still figuring it out a few minutes before the end credits!
4. Iron Man’s The Mandarin
To be honest, I loved the twist that made the supposed Mandarin just a cover up, especially as Ben Kingsley gave it such a great dimension. However, I am annoyed at the lack of sensibility, or is it sensitivity (probably both), displayed by the Iron Man filmmaking team who used the name of an existing character who would have made a great villain to unfold their little surprise: it is quite a low blow for a fan. If you are going to commit to the big screen characters that already exist, are well-known AND have a fanbase, while you have your own agenda, you should be a lot more careful how you trade on such territory. It was annoying enough to see Pepper Pots becoming a superhero in a few minutes and being able to use the equipment that it took its own immensely clever inventor time to master, without having to put up with another central character developing a secret identity. Ok, you get it, I am annoyed. We can definitely enjoy twists in a movie even when they are forced on us, but we want to know that the filmmaker is not doing it by trampling on sacred principles or just for the sake of subverting expectations. The new character is very much the opposite of the comic’s Mandarin, known as Iron Man’s arch enemy and with a pedigree to match. At moments, it seems that the film turned this viable character into a joke with the nonetheless great portrayal of a twisted character by Mr Kingsley; at others, by presenting a new master behind the puppet, it seemed that the filmmakers wanted to recapture the glory they had in the first film when it turned out that the villain was not after all the usual suspect. In both counts, this time, it fails on the account of that charade, except for casting, adding to it a patronising plot that requires a foreign suspect to always be mastered by a local villain.
3. The Fantastic Four
It seems every attempt to make movies out of Marvel’s first team of superheroes has failed (I probably need to remind everyone that the Incredibles are not a successful or even a version of the Fantastic Four). The filmmakers get excited about the possibilities suggested by the powers and leave the plot to the very end and all viewers can feel it. They are not sure how their characters exactly got their powers, they are not sure what their arch enemy’s motivations are and they are definitely incapable of establishing a meaningful and natural relationship between those who are considered Marvel’s first assembled team. Talk about misunderstanding the very characters who make up your plot and their dynamics which 10 years did not improve. Everyone instantly gets the idea that Johnny is cool (from the cool rock music that introduces him in the 2005 version and the too-cool-for-school 2015 version), Reed is a nerd, etc. There is no need to spend an hour introducing these straightforward characters. They are purposely easy to get because what matters is their team dynamics. The very important team aspect of the movie was broken over and over again. This was made evident through the pointless fights in the first installment. Their common ordeal should have brought them even closer together. At least there was some fun in it for the viewer beside the frustration of an opportunity missed. But the lack of real bonding in the second installment, of acknowledging what made the Fantastic four the First Family of the Marvel Universe was aberrant, especially as the film favoured their individual development and left Suzanne Storm behind rather than making her an integral part of the team (which makes you wonder the point of her powers). The film just leaves you empty, having drained your time and intelligence trying to work out the point of it.
2. Black Widow
It is hard to think of Black Widow as more than eye-candy zipped into what can only be described as a male-fantasy and most unpractical wear that could be, given that this superheroine is supposed to be inconspicuous and flexibly doing all sorts of acrobatics. This greater-than-average spy should be getting all the mind actions which her colleagues, occupied with flexing their muscles before thinking, would miss. Instead, she is just a female version in the actions, fighting almost to rival the speed of her superpowered counterparts as if she were in some kind of competition with them. This is definitely not inspiring for a generation of girls who should have seen the quick-witted, deeply knowledgeable, mysterious, expert manipulator and extremely sneaky as the quietly-deadly weapon that she is, rather than the overly acrobatic, over-sexualised female fill that she has become. We barely saw that when she manipulated Loki into revealing his secret aim, that was the real Black Widow. The acrobatics and fighting skills are not the problem, but they are suppposed to be a less prominent or known tactical resort rather than a systematic reflex to counter her opponents. This shame is what gets the franchise to miss on quite an opportunity. The reality stones are coming round the corner and the proper development of this character would have naturally prepared the viewer for her obvious role in ensuring that these dangerous weapons are kept safe from greedy villains and heroes alike. Yet again, this is something that is going to be winged at the last minute and another opportunity Hollywood misses to build strong foundations that allows their plots to later benefit and flow. I have just had a vision of that special touch Black Widow has for The Hulk. Eugh… Oh, I rest my case.
1. The Hulk
The gamma-radiated monster has always been misunderstood as his green and oversized appearance is often mistaken for the man they clothe. Third time seems to be a charm as the Avengers’ version appeared to have a better reception than his two predecessors. The problem remains though that Hollywood is making up ways of turning Banner into the Hulk without ensuring the methods make sense. They are unsure how to sensibly trigger the Hulk from Banner, what his personality, feelings and speech skills are as the Hulk as well as the extent to which he is in control of himself as the Hulk, particularly if he feels remorse for his actions, or whether and when he should be one oy the other beyond the requirements of the plot. What we want is a storyline to follow not convenience, as these adjustments are insulting for the viewer, boring for the audience, plot-killing and certainly not inspiring. There are so many possibilities with our favourite monster as demonstrated in the spin-off cartoons Avengers Assemble and the comic books themselves. However, to achieve these, consistency and sense are the keywords, just a hint.
In effect, if Hollywood had not so frequently mistaken the comic enthusiast and the superhero craze for a superficial greed for instant gratification in terms of superpowers, entertainment and distraction, it wouldn’t have lost the people that make up these amazing audience: a bunch of intelligent people that are looking beyond the naked eye to find and unearth or keep alive in themselves the superpowers that we have taken for granted, those of courage, loyalty, determination, purpose, positivity, integrity and usefulness.
However, comic fan are perseverant and no doubt, with their reviews and comments as well as the filmmakers’ own growth, this audience will soon be served a cinematic meal worthy of their passion, loyalty and patience.
1. Added 26.05.2021: Marvel has done one better since this article was published. They created a series, WandaVision, with such clever setting, writing and imagery that all is forgiven… although, maybe I should wait for season 2.