10 DC Movie Characters Who Are Massively Misunderstood

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Summary

  • Bane in The Dark Knight Rises is not just a subordinate of Talia al Ghul, but a co-leader of the League of Shadows who is greatly respected by her.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman in Batman Returns is not solely on a revenge mission, but rather rebelling against societal norms and finding freedom.
  • Jim Carrey’s Riddler in Batman Forever may seem over-the-top, but his comedic energy perfectly fits the character and his desire to outsmart Batman.

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For one reason or another, numerous DC movie characters have been greatly misunderstood over the decades. With so many heroes and villains from the pages of DC Comics, DC characters have been interpreted and re-invented in many different ways in both movies and television. Inevitably, this has led to extremely popular versions of DC characters, heavily divisive versions of the same characters, and everything in between.

When it comes to the latter, the more polarizing DC movie characters have also frequently been some of the most misunderstood. Oftentimes, this has happened when the strongest DC movie characters have been interpreted in radically new ways, though these versions of DC’s heroes and villains alike also tend to accumulate more love and understanding of who they are with the passage of time. Here are 10 DC movie characters who have been greatly misunderstood.

RELATED: How To Watch DCEU Movies In Order (By Release Date & Chronologically)

10 Tom Hardy’s Bane Is Not Talia’s Subordinate

Their Partnership Is Not A Retread Of Poison Ivy & Bane

A split image of Bane (Tom Hardy) and Talia al Ghul (Marion Cotillard) in The Dark Knight Rises.

The Dark Knight Rises

Release Date
August 16, 2012

Director
Christopher Nolan

Cast
Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman

In the end of The Dark Knight Rises, it is revealed that Bane (Tom Hardy) has been working with Talia al Ghul (Marion Cotillard) in the League of Shadows’s mission to destroy Gotham City. While this twist has been criticized as a retread of Bane being the henchman of Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) in 1997’s Batman & Robin, the reveal makes it clear that Talia sees Bane as a co-leader of the League of Shadows alongside her. With Talia feeling so indebted to Bane for saving her life decades earlier in the Pit, she doesn’t give him marching orders like Poison Ivy did but regards him with profound respect.

9 Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman Is Not Just On A Revenge Mission

Selina Kyle Is Rebelling Against Society

In Batman Returns, the transformation of Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer) into Catwoman seems to primarily be a revenge mission on the surface of Selina’s vendetta against her boss Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) for trying to kill her. However, the scene of Selina finally snapping illustrates that she is freeing herself from being a societal conformist. Selina has dealt with years of being mistreated, looked down upon, and dismissed by Shreck as only useful enough to prepare coffee. From Selina’s perspective, she’s played by the rules of society her whole life, and it simply got her pushed out of a window, and becoming Catwoman is achieving the freedom she has longed for.

8 Jim Carrey’s Riddler Is Not Over-The-Top

Carrey’s Wacky Humor Fits The Riddler Well

Jim Carrey as The Riddler In Batman Forever

Jim Carrey’s portrayal of Edward Nygma, a.k.a. the Riddler, in Batman Forever has often been seen as an extremely cartoonish Joker-esque performance, but Carrey’s performance works on multiple levels. Every animated and live-action version of the Riddler delights in keeping one step ahead of Batman, and Carrey’s performance pushes that idea further, with Nygma being a scorned former Wayne Enterprises scientist out to destroy Bruce Wayne as much as he is Batman. While Jim Carrey’s style of physical comedy might not suit Batman villains like Ra’s al Ghul or the Scarecrow, his energy fits the Riddler like a glove.

7 Adam West’s Batman Is Not A Campy Outlier

The ’60s Batman TV Show Reflects The Batman Comics Of Its Time

Batman 1960s TV show - Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin

The ’60s Batman TV show and its 1966 spin-off movie are well-known for their campy, silly tone, and while fondly remembered as a major chapter in Batman’s history, Adam West’s Caped Crusader is one often compartmentalized as the odd man out among Batmen. However, the Batman comics of the ’50s and ’60s carried the exact same colorful, campy tone as the Batman TV show would later adopt, with Adam West’s Batman being a very accurate adaptation for its time. In all, Adam West’s Batman is best understood as a reflection of the tone of Batman two decades before The Dark Knight Returns famously took Batman back to his darker roots.

RELATED: Every Gadget Adam West’s Batman Pulled From His Utility Belt

6 Brandon Routh’s Superman Is Not Too Dreary & Sad

His Arc Is About Overcoming Loneliness

2006’s Superman Returns introduces Brandon Routh’s Man of Steel as a continuation of Christopher Reeve’s Superman, with Routh’s Superman facing criticism often being too glum, sad, and isolated, but this is a misreading of his arc in the film. In Superman Returns, Routh’s Superman is returning to Earth after a five-year absence, unable to find the remains of Krypton and feeling more alone than ever. That changes when Superman learns he is the father of Lois Lane’s (Kate Bosworth) son Jason (Tristan Lake Leabu). In learning that he is a father, Routh’s Superman no longer feels alone in a foreign world, with this realization uplifting his spirit once more.

Brandon Routh went on to play Ray Palmer a.k.a. The Atom, in the Arrowerse, and subsequently reprised his role as Superman in the 2019-2020 DC multiverse mini-series Crisis On Infinite Earths.

5 Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker Doesn’t Glorify Anarchy And Violence

Arthur Fleck Highlights Society’s Mistreatment Of The Downtrodden

Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck dancing on the stairs in Joker

Joker

Release Date
October 4, 2019

Director
Todd Phillips

Cast
Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy

Todd Phillips’s Joker is one of the most controversial DC movies ever made, with the movie drawing widespread concerns that its story of Arthur Fleck (Joquain Phoenix) could inspire those considering violence in retribution for mistreatment. However, Joker‘s story of Arthur Fleck’s life of suffering is meant to be an indictment of how much society overlooks and even mocks the less fortunate. Arthur’s story in Joker holds a mirror to the tragedies American society allows to slip by. Through Joaquin Phonex’s performance as Arthur Fleck, Joker shows that society’s abandonment and mistreatment of the downtrodden can often create its worst monsters.

4 Nuclear Man Is A Great Superman Villain Conceptually

Superman IV: The Quest For Peace Failed Nuclear Man

Mark Pollow as Superman 4's Nuclear Man

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is widely seen as one of the worst superhero movies ever made, with much of the criticism it has endured focusing on the movie’s villain, Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow). To be sure, the movie certainly undercuts Nuclear Man in almost every way, bizarrely dubbing Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor voice over Pillow’s and having Nuclear Man roaring constantly while making weird facial expressions. However, on paper, Nuclear Man is actually a very sharp idea as a clone of Superman. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace may have failed Nuclear Man, but he could still hopefully see some live-action redemption one day.

Nuclear Man was an original villain created for Superman IV, and he later debuted in the comics in Superman vol. five, issue number two in October 2018.

3 Ezra Miller’s Flash Is Hyperactive For A Reason

Barry Allen Is A Fanboy Getting To Team-Up With His Heroes

A split image of Ezra Miller as The Flash in the Justice League Snyder Cut

Ezra Miller brings a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and energy to their portrayal of Barry Allen, a.k.a. The Flash, in the DCEU, and while Miller’s portrayal has been occasionally criticized as too geeky and hyperactive, that is entirely the point. Miller’s Barry Allen doesn’t hesitate to join the Justice League when Batman approaches him because he is a true fanboy of heroes like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. In becoming the Fastest Man Alive, Miller’s Barry Allen is the rare superhero fanboy who gets a chance to sit at the table with the very heroes he admires, which Miller’s fast-paced performance consistently emphasizes.

Related: All 8 Actors Who’ve Played The Flash In Live-Action

2 Ben Affleck’s Batman Becomes Brutal & Cynical For A Reason

His Arc Is About Rediscovering His Heroism

Ben Affleck's Batman in the DCEU wearing his normal suit and his heavy armor suit.

In his introduction in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Ben Affleck’s Dark Knight has descended into methods of justice he traditionally eschews, including taking lives. While some have recoiled at the idea of Batman using lethal force, that is the entire foundation of Affleck’s arc as Batman. His Bruce Wayne is a man broken by 20 years of crime-fighting and the murder of Robin. At first believing that Superman must be eliminated, Affleck’s Batman returns to being the hero he began as by seeing that there are still pure-hearted paragons of heroism like Superman in the world.

1 Henry Cavill’s Superman Is Not A Dark Man Of Steel

His Journey Is About Him & Humanity Inspiring The Best In Each Other

Henry Cavill’s Superman embodies a Man of Steel who struggles with the consequences of revealing himself to mankind and questions whether he can truly inspire good in the world. While Cavill’s Superman has often been described as “dark,” his story shows that he embodies hope through the darkness and existential challenges he faces and overcomes them by simply being “a guy trying to do the right thing.

As seen in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Cavill’s Superman brings out the best in his fellow heroes in the Justice League and the world mourning his death. Superman, in turn, is filled with hope and joy upon his resurrection, seeing that his faith in humanity and the heroes he fights alongside was not in vain. With his arc of inspiring hope in humanity, Henry Cavill’s Superman shows just how much a DC movie character can be greatly misunderstood.

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