5 Characters Movies Can't Get Right (That Cartoons Can)

These characters didn't hit their stride until someone decided add them to a Saturday morning block.
5 Characters Movies Can't Get Right (That Cartoons Can)

In a lot of cases, cartoon interpretations of characters don't hold a candle to the ones you see in movies. Movies will present a thoughtful, well-rounded portrayal, and cartoons will add lasers and "in space," because SUPER GRAPPLING HOOK FORREST GUMP is the first in a long line of tie-in action figures. So when the reverse happens, it's not just a surprise but a bona fide delight. These are five characters who only hit their stride when someone decided to draw them and add them to a Saturday morning block.


Creating a solid film interpretation of Superman has been like spinning a roulette wheel. We landed on "charming, stoic friend to mankind" once in 1978, but since then, all we've hit are "slapstick boy scout," "gloomy alien stalker," and "grim bodybuilder." This is probably due to the fact that, rather than actually construct a proper Superman character, everyone's first instinct is to "fix" Superman. They just blindly throw attributes at him and get pissed off when people criticize them, which is kind of like building a house roof-first and then throwing a fit because there's nowhere to fucking stand.

5 Characters Movies Can't Get Right (That Cartoons Can)
Warner Bros.

Pictured: the Roof.

It's because of this that the Superman from the DC Animated Universe stands head and shoulders and broad, heroic torso above any other Superman you can watch on your television. The DC Animated Universe is a sprawling epic that spans multiple TV series and encapsulates everything good about DC Comics characters, including Superman. And how did they pull the sword from the stone and make a likable, engaging Superman? Well, first off, they didn't try to make him the anti-Batman.

So much of the modern Superman character has been a response to what Batman was doing a year before, and it ruins him. The whole reason Batman and Superman finally team up is because they're not yin and yang. Sure, Batman's a bit of a dickhole and Clark Kent throws the worst goddamn parties, but when you decide that the Superman character needs to be who Batman isn't, you miss out on so much badass stuff. The DCAU Superman works because it never stops to reconsider why people like Superman in the face of Batman. They figure that people will like Superman because he's a decent guy, he can fly, and when he needs to throw down, buddy, Superman can throw down harder than anyone.

Take this scene from Justice League Unlimited. Superman could bring down the whole Daily Planet if he shut a door too hard. He is "just the tip" personified, because if he goes any harder, Lois Lane is about to host a farewell dinner for her bottom half. So when he goes up against someone like Darkseid, who slams doors and refuses to ever wear a condom, he beats the shit out of him, and kind of enjoys it. The DCAU gets that Superman is great not because someone turned up his levels of anger or introspection, but because standing up to space bullies is inherently rad.

5 Characters Movies Can't Get Right (That Cartoons Can)
Warner Bros. Television Distribution

Space bullies, evil billionaires, robot dinosaurs. Whatever's closest.

The 1998 Godzilla

The 1998 Godzilla isn't well-liked by Godzilla fans. We kind of look at it like the one ex whose name we refuse to even say -- not because they were an especially bad person, but because we dated that? Toho (the company that makes Godzilla films) and the internet as a whole have gone on to name the monster in that film "Zilla," because it doesn't deserve the comparison to Tokyo's lord and savior. Hell, in Godzilla: Final Wars, channeling countless pieces of fanfiction, they had the "real" Godzilla beat up Zilla in a reptilian squash match. I'm sure this scene is cool to some people, but having graduated middle school, I just can't get into it.

5 Characters Movies Can't Get Right (That Cartoons Can)

"Yeah, and then we'll have OUR Godzilla beat THEIR Godzilla (that WE allowed them to make). That'll show 'em!"

However, in the wake of the release of Godzilla, we got Godzilla: The Series, wherein the last surviving child of the recently deceased Godzilla grows up and goes on to kill all of the other Godzilla-sized things in the world. That's literally the plot of every episode. "Hey, there's a new monster in . OK, Godzilla, murder it."

First off, this is definitely an improvement over what they had planned for Godzilla 2, which would've been made if Godzilla was liked by anyone at all. In the script for Godzilla 2, Godzilla fights a monster with the classic Kaiju name of "Queen Bitch." Because if anything adds to the legacy of Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah, it's an American-made thing called "Queen Bitch," featured in a sequel to a movie everyone hated.

Even Godzilla: The Series seemed to resent the movie it was based off of. At one point, aliens resurrect the first Godzilla, apply some metal doodads to it, and send it off against the world. This works for a while until the new Godzilla regains its strength and feasts on its parent's robot chest. I don't know if there's a bigger middle finger to source material than by having the title character eat the old title character.

5 Characters Movies Can't Get Right (That Cartoons Can)
Sony Pictures Television

"Godzilla won! Hooray! Go, go Godzilla! Wait, what is he doi- Oh, god."

Is this series groundbreaking? Not so much. But it is by far the most entertaining thing to come out of the raging buttfire of the 1998 Godzilla, and for that feat, it's practically holy.


When it came to being a cool or even useful member of the X-Men, movie Cyclops never stood a chance. He starts out as the dude who doesn't want Wolverine to sleep with Jean Grey, and then is that forever. His emotional arc in the franchise is spent being varying levels of sad about what his girlfriend is doing. And then she obliterates him, which seems less like a creative decision that benefits the story and more like even the screenwriters being too cool to hang out with Cyclops.

5 Characters Movies Can't Get Right (That Cartoons Can)
20th Century Fox


And that sucks, because cartoon Cyclops, even when he's not particularly interesting, is still a cool character to watch things happen to. And the '90s X-Men series is all about the crazy shit that happens to Cyclops. Every time Cyclops tries to leave the house, someone kidnaps him. Wolverine hates every decision that he makes. Jean Grey is the only person who will put up with him, and she probably becomes Dark Phoenix to get some time away. You could fill out a whole Bingo card with the bad things that befall Cyclops before the first commercial break.

Disney-ABC Domestic Television

Drinking game: Take a shot every time Storm would be better.

In X-Men: Evolution, Cyclops is still a little whiny and emotionally inept, but that cartoon takes place in a high school setting, so it's understandable. When the series begins, Cyclops is kind of a hopeless idiot, but he grows slightly more competent as the show progresses. By the end, you finally get a sense of why Professor X chose this dude to run his team of nuclear teenagers, as opposed to the X-Men movies, wherein Cyclops is put in charge because Hugh Jackman wasn't around yet.

In Wolverine And The X-Men, Cyclops is introduced into the main plot when he blasts Wolverine through a wall, just for being there.

5 Characters Movies Can't Get Right (That Cartoons Can)
Disney-ABC Domestic Television

His sadness grizzle gives him a whole new dimension of character.

In that cartoon, Wolverine and Cyclops reverse roles. Wolverine is forced to be team leader, while Cyclops is the rebel. His rebellion mostly takes the form of him wearing a sweeeeeeet grey jacket, but after years of X-Men movies, it's nice to know that Cyclops can do more than frown at his girlfriend.


The biggest problem with Bane is that he is forever tied to the fact that in the comics, he showed up and immediately broke Batman's spine. Outside of renaming the comic BANE'S SERIES, BECAUSE BATMAN'S DEAD, that's about as big of an opening impact as you can have. And it's this debut that throws off the two attempts Hollywood has made at putting Bane in movies. In Batman And Robin, he's a big goofy henchman, and in the The Dark Knight Rises, the surprise twist was that Bane was ACTUALLY the big goofy henchman the WHOLE TIME.

5 Characters Movies Can't Get Right (That Cartoons Can)
Warner Bros.

"You were enjoying the movie? GOTCHA."

I mentioned that the DCAU helped out a bunch of DC characters, and Bane was one of them. Introduced in Batman: The Animated Series as a bulging South American in a luchador mask and later reintroduced as a bulging South-American in a gimp suit, Bane was never there to be the guy to potentially end Batman's batmanning career. Instead, he was there when the series needed to blow off a little steam and do something a little more brutal than usual. In his first appearance, Batman beats him by overdosing him, a scene so shocking to my four-year-old self that I'm surprised that it didn't inspire me to become Batman.

5 Characters Movies Can't Get Right (That Cartoons Can)
Warner Bros. Television Distribution

Goodbye, childhood innocence. It was a pleasure.

And in his next appearance, he's there just to kick Batman's ass a bit. There are worse motives.

The Batman featured a Caped Crusader who could go toe-to-toe with most Dragon Ball Z characters, so Bane was reimagined as a 15-foot-tall red titan whom Batman had to build a BatRobot to beat. In superhero cartoons, a villain's threat level is determined by the size of the superhero-shaped robot developed to beat them.

5 Characters Movies Can't Get Right (That Cartoons Can)
Warner Bros. Television Distribution

Threat Level: RED, am I right? Also, I write about superheroes because I'm afraid of my own emotions.

And in Young Justice, Bane is a mercenary voiced by Danny Trejo. At that point, you don't need to snap Batman in half. You're voiced by Danny Trejo; I think it's safe to say that you're not doing so bad for yourself.

Obi-Wan Kenobi

When Obi-Wan Kenobi enters A New Hope, he's there to talk about this Force thing and die. In The Phantom Menace, he's there to flip. In Attack Of The Clones and Revenge Of The Sith, he's around to tut-tut Anakin Skywalker and seem really sad that his many years of light disapproval didn't stop the birth of Darth Vader.

5 Characters Movies Can't Get Right (That Cartoons Can)
20th Century Fox

"The Dark Side? But I scolded him fairly consistently."

Most Star Wars characters get moments that define them and make you excited about them. Han Solo is seemingly made of those moments. But Obi-Wan is always either taking a backseat to Anakin's emotional tsunamis or describing an abridged version of the prequels to Luke. That's why he's so fun to watch in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels. You get to see the moments that everyone is referring to when they go on and on about how much of a sick dude Kenobi is.

In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Kenobi's role as Anakin's babysitter is expanded. Kenobi's frustrated with the kid because he's not really sure of what he's supposed to do other than try to make sure that Anakin doesn't go apeshit on anyone who looks at him the wrong way. When Qui-Gon told Kenobi "Train Anakin ..." and died, Kenobi wasn't exactly confident about the idea. Kenobi's "failure" becomes more tragic after you watch The Clone Wars, because it isn't just a case of him being unable to tame the Jedi bad seed. It was Kenobi being thrust into a role that he was especially unprepared for, followed by him shouldering the weight of the whole ruined galaxy.

5 Characters Movies Can't Get Right (That Cartoons Can)
Disney-ABC Domestic Television

When your retirement home is on Tatooine, this is the face that you'll carry for the rest of your life.

Star Wars: Rebels gives us the "I'm too old for this shit" Kenobi we dreamed of. Hiding out on a desert planet, protecting the last hope of the galaxy from the father of the last hope of the galaxy, this Kenobi has lost all of his aw-shucks-ness and gained the demeanor of a final boss encounter. When Darth Maul comes looking for him, Kenobi takes him down in about ten seconds.

One might find this anticlimactic because Star Wars fights, and more specifically, Kenobi/Maul fights, are usually long, thrilling affairs. But it just shows how unwilling Kenobi is to suffer any fools. If this Kenobi had been around in the original trilogy, A New Hope would've been two minutes long -- 90 seconds of droid hijinks and 30 seconds of Kenobi cutting the Death Star in half.

Daniel has a blog and a Twitter.

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