The long anticipated Avengers will hit theaters this month, and The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man are right behind it. Over the course of the past decade, comic book-themed movies have become huge box office bonanzas; however, for every Dark Knight, X2: X-Men United, and Spider-Man 2, there are scads of comic book-themed movies that stink like week-old sweaty spandex. Here’s a selection of some of Movie Ink‘s non-faves:
How awful a movie is Supergirl? Christopher Reeve backed out a planned cameo appearance after he read the script — and he’s the guy who willingly appeared in Superman III and IV. Helen Slater (who would go on to bigger, better things with The Legend of Billie Jean) battles arch-nemesis Faye Dunaway in a battle of bad special effects and worse writing. The one intriguing aspect of the film involves trying to figure how exactly they talked Peter O’Toole into appearing in it.
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987).
After three go-arounds in the iconic cape and blue tights, Christopher Reeve agreed to appear in this stinker after he was given creative control of the script — so he bears a large part of the blame for its well-meaning but preachy and heavy-handed anti-nuke message. The plot involves Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman, with a “comic relief” sidekick played by Jon Cryer) stealing a lock of Superman’s hair and using it to create an evil clone, Nuclear Man. Wackiness ensues. There are several reasons why it took 20 years before another Superman movie was made — this cinematic A-bomb tops the list.
Captain America (1990).
A crap classic by schlock film producer Menahem Golan (see the Death Wish, Missing in Action, and American Ninja series — or better yet, don’t), it was so financially and creatively bankrupt that the production glued rubber ears to the side of Cap’s mask to create the illusion that his actual ears were sticking through. Cap was given short shrift in a gawd-afwul 1944 serial and equally sucktastic pair of TV films in 1979. (More on those here.) Fortunately, last year’s Captain America: The First Avenger resuscitated the Sentinel of Liberty’s movie career.
Shaquille O’Neal hit the big screen and went splat with this mind-numbing movie about an obscure supporting character from the Superman comics. It’s a poor man’s Iron Man, with O’Neal as a weapons designer who builds a suit of armor to stop criminals who are using his creations (seriously). The double-whammy of having this and Kazaam on his filmography, combined with a failed career as a rapper, probably explains why Shaq hasn’t retired from basketball yet.
Batman & Robin (1997).
Nipples on the Batsuit. Alicia Silverstone as a librarian who moonlights as Batgirl. Arnold Schwarzenegger dressed like a gay Terminator. Uma Thurman playing villainess as if she were impersonating the world’s least-talented drag queen. And one more time for emphasis: Nipples on the fucking Batsuit. No wonder it was eight years before we got another Bat-movie.
Comic-book writer/artist Todd McFarlane was in such a hurry to make his unholy anti-hero a brand name he allowed the studio to cut just about every corner for this bombastic romp about a scumbag mercenary who’s betrayed, murdered, sent to hell, recruited by the forces of darkness, and then sent back to earth in search of redemption. It somehow attracted a cast that included Martin Sheen, John Leguizamo, D. B. Sweeney, and Nicol Williamson. The latter’s character introduces himself with the line: “My name is Cogliostro, but who I am is not important.” Now that’s character development!
Daredevil (2003)/Elektra (2005).
The back-to-back successes of X-Men (2000) and Spider-Man (2002) proved that comic movies could be highly profitable. Studios saw a chance to make a quick buck, and a lot of directors and writers probably did as well. What they quickly learned was that cherry-picking various story elements from the comics and stitching them together into an anemic plot wasn’t gonna cut it. That’s what Mark Steven Johnson did with Daredevil and it’s spin-off Elektra, two of the most incoherent and haphazard comic book movies ever made. Gigli may have done more immediate and lasting damage to Ben Affleck’s career, but he publicly swore off superhero movies after the release of Daredevil.
Halle Berry immediately set out to exploit her newfound Oscar cred by following Monster’s Ball with this work of art. Completely removed from the Bat-franchise, it stars Barry as a murdered woman resurrected as a superhero by an Egyptian cat goddess and sent to battle an evil cosmetics company run by Sharon Stone. It’s the kind of thing cats tend to bury in their litter boxes, but there’s one good thing that can be said about it: Berry was classy enough to accept her Razzie Award for Worst Actress in person (the first performer ever to do so).
Ghost Rider (2007)/Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012).
Even by his own standards, Nicolas Cage over-acts to astonishing degree in these painfully vapid movies about an Evel Knievel wannabe transformed into a demonic vigilante biker after striking a Faustian bargain. Granted, it’s difficult to “act through the mask” when your character has a CGI flaming skull, but Cage really overcompensates here. If he had gone so far as to set his head on fire for the role they might have been watchable. No such luck.