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15 Movie Characters That Look Nothing Like Their Source Material


Summary

  • Inaccurate character designs in movies can negatively impact the film’s success and disappoint fans who are devoted to the source material.
  • Creative choices that stray too far from beloved characters in movies can confuse and unite critics and fans in criticism.
  • The failure to accurately portray iconic characters in movies can lead to backlash and even be considered as some of the worst casting decisions in Hollywood history.

The creation of a major motion picture is no small task. When combining the myriad of differing expenditures, it becomes all too easy for the total cost of many movies to exceed a few hundred million dollars. This hefty price tag comes with a tremendous amount of pressure on filmmakers and their creative teams. One character choice can make or break a movie’s success, both financially and critically, and the failure to make the “right” choices can place anyone on the Hollywood hot seat, at any time.

In the case of creating movies that are based on beloved source material – be it a comic book, video game, novel, etc. – this pressure intensifies for those making the film, as numerous fandoms are acutely devoted to their favorite stories and characters. This dedication to lore even leads some of these groups to respond to perceived mistakes in filmmaking in a mean-spirited and hyper-critical fashion. However, there are rare occasions when critics and kind-hearted fans, alike, can unite in justifiable confusion over adapted character design.

It can be baffling when a favorite character doesn’t look remotely the same way in a movie as they do in their primary medium. These films completely changed the character’s look from the source material, which negatively impacted the films in many cases.

Updated on August 9th, 2023 by Rachel Johnson: This article has been updated with additional content to keep the discussion fresh and relevant with even more information and new entries.

15 President Koopa (Bowser)

Super Mario Bros. (1993)

    Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

President Koopa’s looks were not the only ones that were bizarrely fumbled in Super Mario Bros. (1993), but they certainly have become the most well-known and meme-ed butchery. Pictured above, President Koopa just looks like a normal man with a forked tongue.

Almost no resemblance between PK and Bowser can be found in the entire runtime of the film. When a movie strays this far from its source material, it can be justified as a positive artistic decision. However, in the case of the first-ever live-action motion picture of a beloved children’s video game, maybe the creatives should have taken a more pleasant and accurate route.

14 James Bond

Casino Royale (2006)

James Bond Casino Royale (2006)
Eon Productions

The internet lost its collective mind when Daniel Craig was officially announced as the newest actor to take on the iconic role of James Bond, with Casino Royale (2006) serving as the star’s first outing as the world-famous secret agent. Pierce Brosnan passed the baton to Craig after appearing in four films, and fans of the legendary Ian Fleming character were initially outraged over the blonde-haired, blue-eyed actor stepping into his debonair shoes.

Many felt that Craig did not match the tall, dark, and suave image previously associated with Bond, and his critics unflatteringly referred to him as “James Blonde”. It didn’t take long until the naysayers were forced to eat their words, as Craig knocked it out of the park and completely made the character his own with his commanding and serious portrayal, with Variety declaring that he “comes closer to the author’s original conception of this exceptionally long-lived male fantasy figure than anyone since early Sean Connery.”

13 Parallax

Green Lantern (2011)

Parallax from Green Lantern
Warner Bros. Pictures

Another movie to have most of its design and creative choices criticized, Green Lantern (2011) absolutely robbed audiences of the looks and actions of what is meant to be one of DC’s most powerful villains. In the film, Parallax is portrayed as a mostly cloud-like being, a mistake that actually has precedence in comic book movies.

Instead of the imposing, insect-like monster that is the embodiment of fear, like in the comics, Parallax is not intimidating, and its poor level of CGI further takes the audience out of the movie. Unfortunately, this big baddie does not have the “ability to instill great fear.”

12 Genghis Khan

The Conqueror (1956)

John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conquerors
RKO Radio Pictures

Undeniably one of Hollywood’s most head-scratching casting decisions of all time was without a doubt when cinema great John Wayne was cast as Temüjin, the notorious Mongol chief who would later adopt the title, Genghis Khan, in The Conqueror (1956).

Not only was it downright insensitive for the white Wayne to portray the important Mongolian figure, but the historical drama itself was offensively inaccurate and the screenplay and cast performances were deemed lackluster. Wayne posthumously won the Golden Turkey Award for “Worst Casting” in 1980 and The Conqueror is widely regarded as one of the worst movies ever made, gaining even more infamy due to the filming location and its ties to cancer among its cast and crew.

11 Green Goblin

Spider-Man (2002)

Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin in Spider-Man 
Sony Pictures

The iconic villain made his explosive live-action debut in Spider-Man (2002), sporting an outfit that looked as if it belonged in an episode of Power Rangers. Luckily, for fans of Spider-Man and his pumpkin-bomb-slinging arch nemesis, the casting and directing of the film were able to carry the deadweight of the Goblin suit and lead the way for the film’s critical and financial success.

Furthermore, filmmakers seemed to agree with this take on the quality of his suit, and stripped the mask away from the Goblin, adding a cape, hood, and satchel, giving a more menacing look to the character for his return in Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Related: 12 Movies You Didn’t Know Were Based on Comic Books

10 Galactus

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

Galactus in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
20th Century Studios

As previously mentioned, Galactus was the first villainous cosmic entity to disappoint audiences on the big screen. The Devourer of Worlds arrived in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), mindbogglingly in a cloud/cosmic dust form.

Typically, Galactus is a tremendously large humanoid figure, donning a brightly-colored purple suit with two, goofy antennae on top of his helmet. He has the ability to alter his size, although sometimes changing out of necessity from being weak, as he requires universal energy to survive. Galactus is one of the most unstoppable beings in all the Marvel Comics mythology, and should never have been reduced to an ominous, gassy threat like he was made out to be in FF2. He deserves a second chance in the MCU.

9 Norman Bates

Psycho (1960)

Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Psycho 1960
Paramount Pictures

Anthony Perkins delivered one of the finest performances in horror history when he chillingly portrayed the innocent and unassuming motel owner Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s slasher masterpiece Psycho (1960). Though the role would forever become synonymous with Perkins, the actor’s handsome looks and lanky stature is the complete opposite of how the character was described in the Robert Bloch novel.

The author’s version of Bates was an overweight, middle-aged alcoholic, and the screenwriter for the adaptation, Joseph Stefano, felt the literary character was unsympathetic and unstable; he became far more eager to work on the project when the charming Perkins became attached. The switch-up proved to be a successful gamble, as Psycho is now considered one of the greatest films of all time with Perkins’ performance as Bates the most celebrated in his illustrious career.

8 M.O.D.O.K.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)

MODOK from Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
Walt Disney Studios

Modok is the acronym for Marvel Comics’ Mechanized Organism Designed Only For Killing. The killer-mech has always looked like a bit of a joke (appropriately matching his ridiculous name), but no portrayal of the character has been as strikingly… terrible… as the one shown in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023). In the MCU’s 31st (wow) installment, the villainous Yellow Jacket, aka Darren Cross, has been reincarnated into Modok by the magic of Kang and the Quantum Realm.

By itself, this is not an offensive re-telling of Modok’s origin, but the nightmare-inducing level of his stretched-out face is unforgivable. The CGI on the character looks as good as it can be for making a man’s face about 30 times longer than it is meant to be, but this should have been taken into consideration before the film’s release date was set.

7 Bane

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Bane in The Dark Knight Rises
Warner Bros. Pictures

Bane’s second foray into a live-action feature film was in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises (2012). While respecting the character’s intelligence a great deal more than what was given in his prior appearance in Batman & Robin (1997), Bane lost his classic comic book muscles and Venom tubes (and was not of Hispanic origins, either).

The “Man Who Broke the Bat” should be given his own movie, where he is not an underling of any other villain and is able to fully demonstrate his raw power when using the drug, Venom, while simultaneously displaying his strategic cunning in a battle of wits vs the Batman.

6 The Monster

Frankenstein (1931)

boris karloff frankenstein
Universal Pictures

In the groundbreaking horror classic Frankenstein (1931), Boris Karloff was phenomenal in his performance as The Monster, Victor Frankenstein’s terrifying creation that wreaks havoc on mankind after the death of his maker. The character has become famous for his green-hued skin, flat-topped head with cropped black hair, and bolts on his neck.

However, Mary Shelley had a slightly different version of the creature in mind in her revered novel. Frankenstein was described as having long luscious black locks, pearly white teeth, and a yellow shriveled complexion, though his towering height and black lips matched the ’30s adaptation. Nonetheless, Frankenstein remains one of Universal’s most iconic movie monsters.

Related: 10 Sequels That Crammed in Way Too Many Characters

5 Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher (2012)

Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher
Paramount Pictures

Jack Reacher is one of the few characters on this list to originate from a novel, but he has a good reason for being here. In the series of books, written by author Jim Grant, Reacher is described as being “extremely tall, extremely broad, long-armed and long-legged.”

Now, this is no knock on Tom Cruise, but it is quite difficult to suddenly convince people that a notoriously short, world-famous actor has grown to be “extremely tall,” and so forth… Cruise may be a phenomenal physical performer with large amounts of audience pull, but many viewers expressed difficulty fully buying into the character. In a credit to his star power, however, the first film, released in 2012, was successful enough that a sequel was released four years later. Maybe size doesn’t matter after all?

4 Goku

Dragonball Evolution (2009)

Goku from Dragonball Evolution
20th Century Studios

Dragonball: Evolution (2009) may be the strangest perpetrator of character tomfoolery on this list (both in appearance and personality). Portrayed by Canadian actor Justin Chatwin, Goku is constantly shown wearing everyday high school attire and hardly spends any screen time donning his iconic, orange and blue gi.

His hair is not awful but certainly could have used more volume and spikes, as is shown in the classic Manga. Poor costume choices and portrayals resulted in a movie that had very little heart and no charm (as Manga has always had a rough go with its live-action adaptations, perhaps it is only fair that Evolution receives a small level of slack for its designs). In any event, the movie was simply a quick cash grab that should now be forgotten.

3 John Constantine

Constantine (2005)

Keanu Reeves as Constantine
Warner Bros. Pictures

Keanu Reeves is a master at taking any character and truly making them his own, and his portrayal of DC Comics’ sardonic exorcist John Constantine was no exception. In the thrilling series, the occult detective and warlock has bright blonde hair and blue eyes with an English accent, and drew visual inspiration from the musician Sting.

In the big screen adaptation Constantine(2005), the dark-haired, brown-eyed Reeves took on the role and gave him a more stoic and quietly commanding presence, which helped it become a hit with fans of the comics and a cult film. In 2022, it was revealed that Reeves is set to reprise the role in an upcoming sequel, which is currently in the works.

2 Toad

X-Men (2000)

Jean Grey lifting Toad with her powers in the X-Men movie

Mortimer Toynbee, aka, Toad, has been around since his first appearance in the 1960s. Introduced as somewhat of a jester to the supervillain, Magneto, Toad was given an appearance akin to a fusion between Quasimodo and the Fool from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

In X-Men(2000), the remains a bit foolish, but sports athletic gear and a timely haircut that greatly differ from the ugly mess that Toad was meant to be. Casting the extraordinarily agile Ray Park (Darth Maul, anyone?) as the villain only furthers the divide between comic books and motion pictures.

1 Doomsday

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Doomsday in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Warner Bros. Pictures

Doomsday is the monster that killed Superman in Superman #75, published by DC Comics in November 1992. Readers were absolutely stunned as they looked upon the lifeless drawings of the Man of Steel. It was unprecedented for any best-selling comic book hero to be killed off within their own pages. The Death of Superman began a trend of classic comic book heroes dying (and being resurrected) that still exists today. As the direct cause of this pattern, such an impactful and powerful villain deserved the honor of being properly portrayed in a live-action setting.

2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice made a feeble attempt in doing so. In the movie, Doomsday is an incredibly generic-looking CGI monstrosity. It lacks the comic-book level of stumps on its signature rock-like skin and fails to impress with its absence of facial movement and its darker-colored body. Unfortunately, Doomsday looks more like a cave troll from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy than the beast that killed Superman.



This story originally appeared on Movieweb

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