[The Week in Geek is a weekly Tuesday column that plunges headfirst into a deep pool of genre geekiness without ever coming up for air.]
That squealing sound you heard last week? That was me. When Entertainment Weekly unveiled the first full-on image of Hugo Weaving in the Red Skull make-up (from 'Captain America: The First Avenger'), I became a little baby fanboy. I still need someone to change my diaper. Those full-on 100% geek-out moments are more rare than they used to be for me, but I can't think of a Marvel villain who looks as wonderfully spot-on as The Red Skull -- the moment deserved every decibel of my squealing.
Sure, that image doesn't really reveal anything about the quality of the film itself; I just appreciate the fact that they didn't attempt to "movie" him up. He even has the Jack Kirby-style lips, as opposed to later versions of the Red Skull, drawn with a rictus grin. There may not be any Nazi symbols on him (they do have to sell his action figure after all), but seeing a Hydra belt buckle is enough for me to make mine Marvel on July 22.
Let's take a look at four more Marvel movie super-villains that got their look down just right (and some that blew it big time)...
The Destroyer is another dead-on Jack Kirby creation from a film that hasn't been released yet (this Summer's 'Thor'). The great thing about Kirby is that his creations are so purely, uniquely his, not bearing any apparent outside influence. They just don't feel quite like everyday superhero stuff. Because of how funky they are, I never would've imagined they'd keep his designs so intact, but there's The Destroyer -- brought to life right before my eyes.
Even after three live-action 'Fantastic Four' movies, I'm still not sure if a literal interpretation of Dr. Doom really works. The first version of the character, from the Roger Corman-produced, oft-bootlegged, never-released film looks like a really expensive Halloween costume. Julian McMahon's Dr. Doom has just the right amount of updating to make the character work on film, while remaining totally faithful. Then he opens his mouth and Dr. Troy's voice comes out instead of Dr. Doom's. Sure, he has the look down pat, but McMahon never really feels like the character we love to hate from the comics.
'Spider-Man 3' may have brought us "emo" Parker and the snowboarding Goblin, but it also brought us two of the most slavish visual adaptations on this list -- Venom and Sandman. Thomas Haden Church was delightfully old school (some might say "cheesy and ridiculous") in his green striped shirt and khakis as Sandman, but no one could ever fault him for not looking the part. Topher Grace's casting as Eddie Brock was visually off the mark (Brock has always been portrayed as a bit of a bulky bruiser), but Raimi kept Venom intact. Even if he was on the screen with his mask on for only about five seconds total, they didn't soften his monstrous, toothy appearance one bit.
Most of the Marvel villains get just enough of a visual reference to be passable (Magneto in the 'X-Men' films, The Abomination in 'The Incredible Hulk,' to name a few), but then there are a handful that just completely miss the mark. Too often, filmmakers will deem something from a comic book as wholly unbelievable, and in their attempt to create something more real-world, they create something completely boring. That's how we end up with Colin Farrell as a costume-less Bullseye, Willem Dafoe in chrome green BMX gear as the Green Goblin, and Blackheart, a giant spiny demon with huge red eyes, looking like Wes Bentley with a hangover in 'Ghost Rider.'
Face front, true believers, and beware the fate of Galactus (from 'Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer'), reduced from a freaky cosmic alien giant in a purple skirt with a classic Kirby helmet twice as big as his own head...into a cloud. Director Tim Story said at the time, "It has been hard to figure out what to do with him because how do you translate that to film?" I guess since Story couldn't decide, he chose to not depict him at all. No cinematic Marvel villain has ever been treated as shamefully uninspiring as Galactus.