You can’t please everyone. No matter how faithfully you might try to adapt a comic book character from page to screen, there will always be some who are left dissatisfied. One might hope to at least secure the approval of the character’s creator, but that did not happen with Mantis in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Mantis creator Steve Englehart told Polygon that while he enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, writer/director James Gunn’s version of the character was a big departure from his original creation,
“Well, I was not happy with Mantis’ portrayal. That character has nothing to do with Mantis. I will say that I liked the film quite a bit overall, they’re doing good stuff and I enjoyed my night at the movies so long as I turned my brain off to the fact that that’s not Mantis up there. I really don’t know why you would take a character who is as distinctive as Mantis is and do a completely different character and still call her Mantis. That I do not know.”
Englehart also enjoyed actress Pom Klementieff’s performance. He just didn’t see Mantis in the portrayal.
“I wasn’t impressed with what they did with Mantis but the Mantis on the screen was entertaining, I liked her but that’s not Mantis.”
There are definitely some big differences between the comic and movie version of Mantis. For starters, Mantis in the comics is human, born to a German father and Vietnamese mother in Hué, Vietnam. She was not a larva found and raised by Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell in the film). She went on to become an Avenger long before she was ever a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Mantis was actually a founding member of the 2008 version of the Guardians of the Galaxy and played a controversial yet essential role. She used her empathic abilities, which are included in the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, to persuade certain members to join the team when Peter Quill did not believe they would all do so willingly.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe iteration of Mantis actually is relatively faithful to the 2008 Guardians of the Galaxy comic series by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, which has had the biggest influence on the film of any Marvel Comics. Mantis’ original backstory didn’t factor into those comics very much at all, which might have something to do with her Earth origin being completely discarded for the movies.
Marvel Studios has been very faithful in adapting its characters from the comics, but the studio has also picked its spots in terms of straying from the source material for certain characters. Jarvis went from being a butler to a Tony Stark-invented artificial intelligence in Iron Man. The Mandarin certainly went through some changes for Iron Man 3. Mantis isn’t even the only character going through changes in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, with Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) biological father being Ego instead of J’Son of Spartax.
Marvel has been pretty effective at knowing which characters the studio can take more liberties with and while Englehart may not see his creation in the end result, James Gunn got it right with Mantis. Pom Klementieff delivered a fantastic performance that featured one of the most beloved moments in the film—Mantis feeling Drax’s grief on Ego’s planet—and connected audiences to a new character that they’ve quickly grown to love.
More people care about Mantis today than did a couple weeks ago, which will turn some new fans to the comics, including Englehart’s, where they can discover more about the character as she was originally conceived and as she’s evolved over time.