Superhero movies have taken over Hollywood in a way no other genre ever has. The movies belonging to the genre routinely top the box office to the extent that prominent filmmakers have frequently warned that the popularity of superhero fare is crowding out every other type of film. Up until recently, superhero stories were considered the domain of the silver screen due to the high budgets required to make them.
But thanks to advancements in technology and the new cash windfall being afforded to streaming channels, today television shows can be made that rival the cinematic production values of the biggest films. In this new pop culture landscape where television affords the same storytelling opportunities as cinema, let us take a look at some superhero movies that would have been better off as tv shows.
10 The New Mutants
The X-Men movies under Fox Studios have seen some incredible highs and lows. Despite churning out several massive hits, Fox’s X-Men franchise was on its last legs by the end of the 2010s. The last entry in the series was The New Mutants, which was supposed to come out in 2018 but had to be postponed until 2020.
When it did finally release, the movie turned out to be a damp squib rather than a triumphant final note. The New Mutants was too small in budget and the scope of the story it was trying to tell to fit in with the rest of the X-Men movies. Still, the youthful main characters do have potential, and the way the film ends, with the characters escaping from their captors and setting off together to explore the larger world, would have made for an interesting tv pilot for a modern X-Men show with a young cast and horror story overtones.
9 Green Lantern
The 2011 Green Lantern movie is not very good. Just ask its leading man Ryan Reynolds. But the failure of the movie was not because of a lack of promising material. The Green Lantern comic series has one of the deepest and most fascinating lore in comicdom, and the film’s biggest mistake was trying to squeeze all that dense lore into a few minutes of exposition before moving on to an extremely by-the-numbers action movie plot.
A story like that of the Green Lantern Corps from the comics requires a lot of room to unpack, and a television series would be the perfect place to do so. Even the makers of the Green Lantern movie agree with this idea, which is why they are developing a television series reboot that will properly expand upon the backstory of the corps across multiple seasons.
8 Zack Snyder’s Justice League
Zack Snyder is probably the most divisive filmmaker working in the superhero genre today. But as polarizing as his movies are, they have a passionate contingent of fans. So much so that those same fans were able to get the studio to allow Snyder to make a four-hour director’s cut of Justice League, the movie the filmmaker had been working on before a family tragedy forced him to step away from the project.
But the story does not end there. Snyder has hinted that he has a lot more story to add to his Justice League movie, in the form of two equally massive sequels. All that story would be much more palatable to audiences as a tv series, which Zack Snyder’s Justice League almost became. A Snyderverse series would allow fans to continue exploring the filmmaker’s version of the Justice League, without drawing attention away from the rebooted DCU that is currently being planned for the big screen by James Gunn.
At the start of the 2010s, the superhero genre was dominated by PG-13, family-friendly movies. A bold new alternative to the trend was observed with the breakout success of Kick-Ass. Based on the best-selling comic series by Mark Millar, Kick-Ass was violently brutal and profane, and proved that superhero stories don’t have to just be about squeaky clean characters who never make morally questionable choices.
Unfortunately, the Kick-Ass movies only ever scratched the surface of the dense comic series they were based on. Fast forward a decade, and today the superhero tv genre has found worthy successors for Kick-Ass in the Amazon Prime series The Boys and Invincible. Given the popularity of those series, the time seems ripe for a tv reboot of Kick-Ass which would finally be able to take a deep dive into the character’s lore from the comics.
6 The Incredible Hulk
People tend to think of Iron Man as the start of the MCU, but it was actually beaten to the punch by 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. The reason the movie gets overlooked is because it was deemed to be a failure due to poor reviews and its struggles at the box office. The main issue is that the studio wanted to turn the film into a traditional action flick.
But in truth The Incredible Hulk is much closer to the 1977 tv series about the character, where the focus was less on action and more on the main lead going on a journey of self-discovery to try and learn to control the monster lurking within him. The Incredible Hulk would have worked much better as a slow-burn psychological thriller tv series, which would have also made far better use of its leading man Edward Norton’s dramatic skills rather than trying to turn him into a typical action hero.
Before the MCU became a thing, Marvel Comics was finding patchy representation on the big screen in fits and starts. One curious product of this trend was 2003’s Daredevil, which attempted to jump on the Spider-Man bandwagon with another street-level Marvel Comics superhero.
Unfortunately the movie was never able to decide if it wanted to be a gritty psychological drama about a blind lawyer or an action-packed adventure movie about a blind superhero. It is clear that the film would have worked much better as a tv series, a fact that its lead star Ben Affleck acknowledged when he praised Netflix’s Daredevil series for making far better use of the main character and his world.
If Dune is the sci-fi book that is often declared too complicated to make into a movie, Alan Moore’s Watchmen series holds a similar status in the comic book world. Watchmen was a seminal treatise on superheroes in a realistic setting, and it was often believed that the series was too thematically complex to be molded into a traditional film. Zack Snyder took on that challenge with the 2009 live-action adaptation of Watchmen.
For the most part, the movie closely follows the story from the comics right down to almost exactly copying many comic panels. Still, as many fans had feared, the movie works mainly as an action film, while the larger thematic subtext from the comics is lost regarding American exceptionalism, the nuclear arms race, and exploring the disturbed psychological conditioning that turns regular people into superheroes. Considering the critical acclaim of the HBO Watchmen spinoff series, the time seems ripe for a proper tv adaptation of the original Watchmen comics.
3 Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
There are two main problems with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. As Benedict Cumberbatch pointed out, his lead character of Doctor Stephen Strange feels like a sidekick in his own movie. While Elizabeth Olsen pointed out that her main villain character Wanda Maximoff’s personal storyline of turning evil makes no sense coming off the back of her Disney+ show WandaVision.
The solution to both these problems is simple. The movie would have worked far better as the second season of WandaVision with Doctor Strange appearing in a guest starring role. The extra hours of screen time would have allowed Wanda to actually go through a proper character arc as she gradually gets corrupted by the book of sorcery, the Darkhold, and turns evil in a quest to reclaim the family she lost at the end of the first season of WandaVision. This would also have allowed for Doctor Strange to leave the show at the end of the season and move on to a solo adventure in his own movie.
2 The Unbreakable Trilogy
M. Night Shyamalan might seem like an odd choice to helm a superhero movie. But the filmmaker has actually made an entire trilogy in the genre. Starting with Unbreakable in 2000, and following it up with Split in 2017 and Glass in 2019. In the vein of Shyamalan’s other films, the Unbreakable trilogy is a grounded, realistic take on superhero stories favoring smaller character moments over big, flashy action spectacle.
Given the nature of the trilogy as a slow-paced superhero drama rather than a routine action-adventure saga, it would have made far more sense to make each film in the trilogy as a separate season of a tv series. This would have also given Shyamalan the option to continue the story beyond Glass, as the end of the movie hints at a larger plot that remains to be explored regarding a secret government conspiracy to suppress the rise of superheroes and supervillains.
1 The Batman
Matt Reeves’ bold new take on the Caped Crusader with 2022’s The Batman was hailed by fans and critics alike for its grounded take on the superhero as a young and inexperience vigilante. At 176 minutes, the movie is quite long by regular standards, and even that amount of runtime is not enough to properly explore the world of Gotham as envisioned by Reeves, which is why the movie was already getting spinoffs before it was released in theaters.
For decades now, there have been plans to make a definitive live-action Batman tv show. The Batman could have been that show, combining a high-budget cinematic feel under Reeves’ expert direction with a longer runtime across multiple seasons in which to properly explore the journey of a young Bruce Wayne in his initial years of becoming Batman as he encounters the many classic villains from the comics whose presence has been teased by The Batman.
This story originally appeared on Movieweb