Five Superheroic Re-Castings That Didn't Work Out Well

The Incredible Hulk from the new film premiering June 13th

Building a film franchise is multi-million dollar endeavor, one subject to the kind of mercurial risks that are unheard of in other industry.  The news that the Edward Norton/Marvel Studios rift that began with a conflict over creative control of 2008’s The Incredible Hulk will apparently result in the actor departing from the Bruce Banner role.  This move will not only effect any potential sequel, but casts a shadow over the future of the so-called “Marvel Movie Universe” leading into the highly anticipated 2012 release of a star-packed Avengers movie.

Short of a reboot, a recasting is the most drastic change that can be made to a film series in progress.  How the Marvel movies will be affected can be judged by looking how such changes have worked out for superhero franchises in the past. Here are five recastings that we thought had less-than-stellar results.


Stars: Michael Keaton (Batman, 1989 Batman Returns, 1992) Val Kilmer (Batman Forever, 1995) George Clooney (Batman & Robin, 1997)

Why the Change?  The grim and mildly off-putting Batman Returns wasn’t the success to the magnitude that Warner Brothers desired, and Director Tim Burton’s signature style was developing away from the kind that makes finically successful summer movies leading to his exit from the franchise.  The subsequent introduction of Joel Schumacher drove Keaton to turn down a truckload of money to avoid what he predicted was the franchise’s imminent change of tone.  After Kilmer’s turn, the cowl was empty again after personality conflicts between the star and the director, and the former’s involvement with an adaptation of The Saint.  George Clooney’s permanently affixed smug grin was then determined to be perfect for Schumacher’s final, franchise ending effort.

Result:  A film series that started out as an awaking to the world of the potential of the comic medium as a storytelling device and a deep well to draw film concepts from ended up killing the superhero movie concept for almost a decade.  Keaton’s grim portrayal was first dried and then pulverized into an unrecognizable heap in as many movies as it took to create.

The Crow

Stars: Brandon Lee (The Crow, 1994) Vincent Perez (The Crow: City of Angels, 1996)

Why the Change?  Brandon Lee’s tragic on-set death, plus the nature of The Crow character, that of wronged man brought back to life to seek revenge, facilitated a change in star.

Result:  The original’s movie’s success, whether because of or in spite of Lee’s death, left the door open for another small-budgeted supernatural action flick.  However, Perez was not equal to the son of Bruce Lee, who at the time of his death was set to breakout of his legendary father’s shadow.  The subsequent sequels with ever-changing leads all went straight to DVD.

War Machine

Stars: Terrance Howard (Iron Man, 2008) Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2, 2010)

Why the Change?  Rumored on-set cattiness between Howard and Director John Favreau lead to broken deals and hearts as Howard was replaced on short notice with Academy Award nominee Don Cheadle picked for the role of James "Rhodey" Rhodes just in time for the character to suit up as Iron Man’s (cooler named) counterpart: War Machine.

Result:  With only four-plus hours of movie to share among a universe of characters, either of the Rhodeys didn’t get much screen time to expand the character beyond his role as long-suffering friend to Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark.  Howard’s directness was truer than the otherwise arguably more talented Cheadle’s natural subtlety, which didn’t fit the career military character’s personality.


Stars:  Christopher Reeve (Superman 1978, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut 1980/2006) Brandon Routh (Superman Returns, 2006)

Why the Change?  In 2006, classic Superman had been dead for two years. Obviously a new actor had to be cast in the role; even had Reeve been alive and healthy, he would've been too old for the role.

Result: Superman Returns was an implicit sequel to the original vision of the Superman film franchise, which despite the retention of its star through five films, had collapsed thematically after the firing of Director Richard Donner during the filming of Superman II.  However, despite Routh’s carefully auditioned appearance, his wooden performance lacked Reeve’s ‘aw-shucks’ charisma.  This coupled with an action-light and slightly creepy tone dragged down Superman Returns and doomed the reborn franchise.


Stars: Peter Weller (RoboCop 1987, RoboCop 2 1990) Robert John Burke (RoboCop 3, 1993)

Why the Change?  Peter Weller, citing discomfort with the wearing of the RoboCop costume and his work on the film Naked Lunch, turned down the second sequel.

Result:  With his face-concealing visor, a ‘cyborg’ voice and an iron clad excuse to act as robotic as possible, RoboCop was a very easy role for Burke to disappear into. Many causal fans would be hard pressed to even notice the difference, especially with the abysmally plotted third movie that was co-scripted by the embodiment of extremely haphazard creative talent: Frank Miller (Dark Knight Returns/The Spirit (2008)).  

Agree? Disagree? Go ahead, tell us what we missed or how wrong we are about one of these!

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