Since 1998’s Blade, we have been seeing Marvel characters brought to the big screen in big budget ways. These films have taken select characters from the comics and crafted them for the modern world. Some have been successful. Some have been horridly unsuccessful. The credit or blame ranges from the actor’s interpretation to the screenwriter’s writing to the director’s vision. This is my list of top 10 best adapted Marvel characters.
To clarify, best adapted does not mean perfectly the same, but in some instances may mean changed to fit this world, while still holding true to the comic spirit of the character. Also, this list is not limited to any Universe and will be taking from any film since 1998.
10. Batroc the Leaper – Georges St-Pierre
It may be an odd one to start the list out on, but St-Pierre’s portrayal of Batroc was a welcome addition to the MCU. This is an instance of a corny comic character being brought to life as a side villain. His costume is resemblant of the comics, but works without a second thought in today’s modern world. He is low on the list because of his minor roll, but he works due to the screenwriter’s skill in adaptation.
9. Nightcrawler – Alan Cumming
In the 2002 epic that was X-men 2: X-men United, fan favorite Nightcrawler joined the team. The character was given surprising heart and high exposure in the film. He captured the spirit of the hurt and estranged Nightcrawler from the comics, who feels alienated by his physical appearance. This adaptation credit goes to a combination of Cumming’s acting chops, the screenwriter’s knowledge, and especially to the makeup artists who brought Night Crawler to life.
8. Iron Man – Robert Downey Junior
Although Robert Downey Junior was a longshot when first cast as Iron Man, he has embraced the character wonderfully and has been widely received by the general audience. He has embodied a layered Iron Man, who underneath his armor of wit and humor holds demons and the desire to make the world a better place. He also embodies the idea that Tony believes himself to be personally responsible for world peace (as seen in Iron Man 2 and probably in Age of Ultron). This is a combination of screenwriter’s skill and RDJ’s acting.
7. Daredevil – Charlie Cox
The newest name on this list, Charlie Cox’s performance of Daredevil and, especially, Matthew Murdock was riveting. He took the strong will and personal convictions of the character and brought his own soft-spokeness and passion to the roll. He also did the hardest task for the character exceptionally: he made us believe he was blind. Although the screenwriter’s did their jobs well, the true credit to this goes to Charlie Cox as an actor.
6. Professor Charles Xavier – Patrick Stewart
Patrick Stewart is the earliest name on this list. Debuting in 2000’s X-men, he was one of the first adaptations of the comic universe. The character not only looked perfect when compared to his comic counterpart, he embodied the peaceful nature and desires for a better world onto the character, while still providing a sense of pride when he has made a mistake (one of the few pluses of X3). This credit goes mostly to Patrick Stewart, but director Brian Singer is not to be forgotten.
5. Arnim Zola – Toby Jones
The character of Arnim Zola has been featured in both Captain America movies, but it’s the second film that truly embodies the character from the comics. Although the first movie had nice Easter Eggs, the film was downright brilliant in its portrayal of Zola as a computer. The monitor placement in relation to the webcam was a beautiful adaptation of the character. Not to knock Toby Jones, but this character is on this list because of the brilliance of the screen writers.
4. Loki – Tom Hiddleston
The character of Loki was a difficult one to bring to the screen. While a relatively one-dimensional character in the comics, Tom Hiddleston was given the challenge of making him relatable. The result was the most relatable character in recent comic book memory. Loki is cunning and deceitful, yes, but also deep and pained. The credit goes largely to the acting chops of Tom Hiddleston. Because of him, Loki will be remembered in the annals of comic book villain history.
3. Doctor Octopus – Alfred Molina
Taking a trip to old school films, the villain of Spider-Man 2 arguably redefined the villains of comic book movie lore. Alfred Molina took the founder of the Sinister Six and made him into a pained and even victimized villain. The costume was adapted very well from the cheesy character of the comics and fans found themselves even rooting for Doctor Octopus at his end. His portrayal was arguably the highest point of the entire Sam Raimi Spider-Man series, largely due to Alfred Molina himself.
2. J. Jonah Jameson – J. K. Simmons
J. K. Simmons did what no other actor did for their character: They made it impossible for anyone else to play them. As far as cut and dried from the comic adaptation, you can’t beat the original Spider-Man series’ J. Jonah Jameson. Never before have fans demanded so outrightly that he return for the character instead of recasting. It’s impossible for many fans to envision another character playing this roll. The only reasons this portrayal is not #1 is because JJJ is a side character basically and #1 is so incredible. As far as this roll, however, J. Jonah Jameson can never be played by anyone else nearly as well, largely due to J. K. Simmons’ acting.
1. The Winter Soldier – Sebastian Stan
Imagine bringing a character back to life from World War 2. Now imagine doing it twice, with two characters who grew up together both surviving 70 years without aging a day. Then imagine no one batting an eyelash at it. While a certain degree of disbelief is afforded to comic book movies, there was not a more perfect way to adapt the Winter Soldier to this world. Although Sebastian Stan is a great actor, the screenwriter’s deserve all praise for this incredible move. The costume matches perfectly the character from the comics, the storyline is incredibly true to its origin, and the fact that fans not only bought the admittedly farfetched premise, but celebrated it is a testament to the skill of this adaptation. Hands down, this character is the best adapted character of any Marvel movie to date.
Nick Fury – Samuel L. Jackson – This portrayal afforded a sense of distrust loyal to the comics.
Beast – Nicholas Hoult – This portrayal stayed very true to the origin, while making a relatable hero.
What do you think? Do you agree with these choices, or do you have others you would have chosen (Chris Evans as Captain America or either of the Magneto actors, perhaps)? Maybe Age of Ultron will provide even better adaptations of Ultron or the twins. For now, only time will tell.