We are living in a golden age of comic book movies. In fact, 2016 has already seen five movies based on comic books, with a sixth on the way in “Doctor Strange.” Over recent years, we have been blessed with some fantastic entries in the genre, from Christopher Nolan‘s “Dark Knight Trilogy,” the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” to movies based on independent properties likes “Kick-Ass,” “Kingsman” and “Dredd.”
However, the comic book genre has provided us with a number of turkeys over the years. So let’s look at some of the comic book movies we want to forget; these range from disloyal adaptations, uninspired translations and regrettable movies that ended great series.
15. From Hell (2001)
Based on theAlan Moore graphic novel of the same name, “From Hell” explores the Jack the Ripper murders as a conspiracy by the British Royal Family to cover up Prince Albert Victor marrying a commoner and fathering a child.
“From Hell” was a hefty graphic novel of 572 pages, with the original comic book series spanning 10 issues. The film version is pretty much an adaptation in name only because it made a lot of changes from the source materials, like turning the main character, Inspector Abberline, from a hard-working middle-aged person to a younger man with an opium addiction that gives him precognitive powers, and a relationship with one of the prostitutes, Mary Kelly. The film version removed much of the complexity, moral dilemma and the real history that was mixed with the fiction. Despite this, “From Hell” does have a modest 6.8 out of 10 on IMDB and a 57% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Hopefully a more faithfully adaptation will come as “Transformers” producer Don Murphy and David Arata (“Children of Men”) are working on a TV series for FX.
14. Blade Trinity (2004)
Following the success of the original “Blade” movie, and its sequel “Blade II,” “Blade Trinity” seemed like a it was going to be horror-action comic book movie that everyone could get excited for. Sadly, it suffered from a disinterested star who disliked the screenplay and his co-star Ryan Reynolds, as well as allegedly partaking in copious amounts of controlled substances.
After writing the first two movies, David S. Goyer took on the directing duties in “Trinity,” sparking a less than complimentary directorial reputation. What he gave us was a “Blade” movie filled with holes. Other issues include needlessly killing off Whistler for a second time, having an uncontrolled Ryan Reynolds being allowed to constantly ad-lib and casting Dominic Purcell as Dracula. There were some decent ideas, like vampires harvesting homeless people as a constant blood bank, but these themes were never explored as fully as they might have been.
“Blade Trinity” killed the film series, as well as any interest in the 2006 TV series, which only lasted 13 episodes. At least the DVD had the bonkers alternative ending of the Nightstalkers hunting werewolves instead of vampires, but even that was not enough to save this monstrosity.
13. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
After deciding to wrap up the “X-Men” franchise with “X-Men: The Last Stand,” 20th Century Fox turned its attention to a spin-off with this Wolverine prequel; a movie so bad, it was ignored by the rest of the franchise, before being reset by the “Days of Future Past” reboot.
The production of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” started out with promise, with the inspired selection of Academy Award-winning director Gavin Hood and “Game of Thrones” showrunner David Benioff, who wrote the first draft of the screenplay. Then Tom Rothman happened. The former CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment demanded that the movie be made much lighter in tone than Benioff and Hood intended, resulting in a set so disruptive that Richard Donner had to act as a peacemaker.
What we got was a formulaic action movie that abandoned character development and an interesting narrative for a cookie-cutter revenge plot. “Origins” had some of the worst CGI in a major tentpole film during the period, awful attempts at comedy and shoehorned fan-favorite Gambit, just for the sake of it. Even worse, the filmmakers thought it was a good idea to turn Deadpool, the Merc with the Mouth, into a mute, mind-controlled henchman. What a waste.
12. Ghost Rider (2007)
Mark Steven Johnson already had a shot at directing a superhero movie in the form of “Daredevil,” a movie that was bashed by critics and fans, but at least benefitted from a better director’s cut. The real problem with “Ghost Rider” is that it was as a star vehicle for Nicolas Cage, despite the fact that he was 10 years too old for the role and is an actor not known for his restraint. Admittedly, that could have been a plus for such an over-the-top character, but his hammy acting here was beyond the pale, even for a fire-headed vengeance demon. Let that sink in for a minute.
What we got in “Ghost Rider” was an unoriginal superhero origin story made worse because of its miscast star, having a whiny brat for the villain and wasting the idea of having Sam Elliott as a second Ghost Rider. Despite having some decent special effects, this Marvel dud went through the same tired plot points that have been touched on in other superhero movies, not to mention horror flicks like “The Howling.”
11. The Spirit (2008)
Frank Miller was a legend in the comic book world, writing comics like “Batman: Year One,” “The Dark Knight Returns,” “Sin City” and “Daredevil: Born Again.” However, those days are long gone and he is now often seen as the crazy uncle you try to ignore at Christmas. Miller first attempted directing when he worked with Robert Rodriguez on “Sin City,” liking the experience so much that he made his only solo movie back in 2008, adapting Will Eisner’s “The Spirit.”
Miller was attempting to make a neo-noir style movie with Gabriel Macht as the titular Spirit who narrates to himself about his love for the city and his need to protect, which gave us plenty of “Sin City” like imaginary.Its visuals notwithstanding, “The Spirit” was bogged down with a dull lead, some misjudged attempts at comedy and an uncontrolled Samuel L. Jackson being allowed to ham it up with no boundaries. It came across more as a live-action cartoon rather than a comic-book, boasting scenes where the villainous Octopus literally hits The Spirit with a kitchen sink. It also has Sam Jackson dressed like a Nazi, which was… weird.
“The Spirit” could be considered visually stunning if “Sin City” and “300” hadn’t already used the same green screen technique; instead it came off as a poor-man’s “Sin City” with uninspired elements ripping off things like “The Crow.”
10. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
The other movie based on Alan Moore’s work is “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” which is the most maligned adaptation of his work. The premise of “The League of Extraordinary Gentleman” was to unite some literature’s greatest figures into a steampunk subversion of the characters and superhero teams. The movie adaptation took away all the sophistication of the comic books and made it into a cookie cutter action-adventure that had little relation to the comics and none of the depth. The character of Tom Sawyer was added as a cynical attempt to appeal to the American audience and younger people.
Moore and illustrator Kevin O’Neill have been critical of the movie and the shoot was notoriously difficult. Director Stephen Norrington and star Sean Connery fell out with each other and Fox interfered with the project so much that Norrington decided to quit filmmaking. Connery has also retired from the film industry since.
9. Spawn (1997)
Back during the early days of Image Comics, “Spawn” was one of the publisher’s most successful projects, with its film rights sold early in its run. “Spawn” was a dark, violent comic book about a black ops officer selling his soul to the devil after his death and acting as an anti-hero on Earth. Series creator Todd McFarlane sold the rights to New Line Cinema under the promise that he would have creative control and merchandise rights. In a time where rated-R superhero movies are all the rage, it’s strange to look back and think that McFarlane signed off on the film being made PG-13, believing it would be more profitable.
Despite having the underrated Michael Jai White as Spawn, the movie suffers from having an incoherent plot and perhaps too ambitious a verve for its own good, not least because the ’90s CGI was clearly not ready for the Hell scenes. Needless to say, “Spawn” has not aged well. At least there was a much better animated series on HBO that lasted for two seasons and had the awesome Keith David to voice the character, but we’ll have to wait until the new “Spawn” film comes out to get the bad taste of this hellish bottom-dweller out of our mouths.
8. Judge Dredd (1995)
Before we got the awesome 2012 version of Judge Dredd in “Dredd,” we had to suffer Sylvester Stallone’s butchering of the character back in 1995. “Judge Dredd” did have some potential; it was directed by Danny Cannon, who was a fan of the comics (he even had a fan poster he produced published). However, the producers kneecapped the production, demanding that Dredd had to remove his helmet to accommodate its big name star, thus breaking the cardinal rule that Dredd’s face never being seen (a big part of the visual dynamic in the comics). The producers also demanded that the adaptation — which of course comes from a comic book series well known for its violence and subversive satirical content — be converted into a PG-13 action film. It even had stalwart cinematic fool Rob Schneider as comedic relief.
The co-creator of “Judge Dredd,” John Wagner, has stated in an interview with Empire Magazine that, “The story had nothing to do with Judge Dredd, and Judge Dredd wasn’t really Judge Dredd, even though Stallone was perfect for the part.” To be fair to the movie, it had spectacular visuals and the first 10 minutes were a solid recreation of the comics. It’s just a shame it all fell apart.
7. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
As the title suggests, “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” is the fourth movie in the “Superman” series, being the last to feature Christopher Reeve. Unfortunately, it was so bad, it killed the series for 19 years, not returning until Bryan Singer‘s almost equally contentious “Superman Returns.”
Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus brought the film rights to the series, hoping to turn Cannon Films from a maker of B-Movie schlock into a major studio. Cannon was so desperate to get Christopher Reeve back to the series, they gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse: the chance to write the story and direct his own movie. This allowed Reeve a chance to vent his political views on nuclear weapons, leading to a big plothole where all nations applaud Superman’s threat that he would destroy their nukes like some self-appointed god.
The second problem was Cannon’s financial troubles, which forced the studio to slash the movie’s budget in half, forcing the production to re-use the same special effects shots. The flying effects were worse in this movie than in the 1978 original, and it suffered from painfully slow action scenes. All in, this was a sad end to Christopher Reeve’s run as Superman.
6. Batman and Robin (1997)
“Batman and Robin” is one of the most infamous superhero movies ever to be made, often considered one of the worst in the genre and sometimes one of the worst movies ever made. After the success of “Batman Forever,” Warner Brothers fast tracked a sequel. Despite Joel Schumacher making a successful “Batman” movie, Warner Brothers took more control over the production for the sequel, getting toy companies to help work on the production design to appeal even more to kids.
The movie is infamous for its campy tone, filled with jokes and one-liners, like Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s Mr. Freeze constantly making ice puns. It also had an illogical villain team-up plot, a neutered Bane who bore little resemblance to the comics and Alicia Silverstone as Alfred’s niece who was visiting from England, but inexplicably did not have any sort of English accent.
Schumacher has been candid about how bad the film was, while George Clooney has stated he would refund anyone who paid to see “Batman and Robin.” The silver-lining here is that the failure of “Batman and Robin” forced Warner Brothers to make the Christopher Nolan reboot. So at least we can all be thankful for that.
5. Fantastic Four (2015)
The 2015 version of “The Fantastic Four” was an example of history repeating itself — a movie made just so FOX could keep the rights to the series. FOX hired Josh Trank to direct after the success of “Chronicle,” but the mistakes quickly piled up. Now known for its extensive reshoots, “Fant4stic” was a notoriously troubled production from the start, with Trank and screenwriter/producer Simon Kinberg butting heads almost immediately. It was reported that Trank’s behavior on and off set was extremely erratic, including shutting himself away from the producers, damaging a house FOX was renting for him in Louisiana and being particularly hard on Kate Mara during filming.
Before the movie’s release, Trank disowned it on Twitter, saying he had a much better version in mind, with Kinberg describing the finished product as disappointing. Trank had said he would never direct another comic book film and Michael B. Jordan has jumped ship to the MCU, playing Erik Killmonger in “Black Panther.” The Hollywood Reporter has claimed that Trank’s antics on “Fan4stic” cost him the chance to make a “Star Wars” spin-off. Despite the troubles on production, “Fant4stic” is surprisingly dull. Say what you will about the other “Fantastic Four” movies, but at least they attempted to be fun.
4. Jonah Hex (2010)
Released in 2010, “Jonah Hex” was a notoriously bad movie, despite having a top cast including Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Michael Fassbender, Michael Shannon and Megan Fox. It was also written by the “Crank” writing duo Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who were set to direct. Their involvement never came to fruition, however, as they both left because of creative differences. Jimmy Hayward took the director’s chair — an odd choice, given he was only known for working on animated movies — and the film stumbled forward.
The troubled production was evident with the announcement of its short 81 minute running time, with “The Hunger Games'” Francis Lawrence hired to work on reshoots. The movie version also saw fit to give Hex a power he never had in the comics: the ability to temporarily bring the dead back to life, using it as a quick plot device. Hayward was also too committed to the steampunk aesthetic, like having giant ships and Jonah Hex riding a horse with two Gatling guns. The production clearly didn’t learn the lessons of “Wild Wild West.” Fortunately for Brolin, Fassbender and Shannon they got to work on much better comic book films.
3. Steel (1997)
In case you missed it, 1997 was a terrible year for Warner Brothers, and comic book films in general. Along with “Batman and Robin,” the studio also released the Shaquille O’Neal vehicle “Steel.” In fact ,”Steel” was even worst than “Batman and Robin,” having a low 2.8 rating on IMDB, even though “Steel” beats “Batman and Robin’s” Rotten Tomatoes score by one percentage point. Made on a budget of $16 Million, “Steel” only made $1.7 Million at the box office.
What we got was a dull attempt of an action film, made worse because of the slow direction, O’Neal’s clunky acting, an awful rubber suit and laughable attempts at comedy (and not in the intended way). When the star of the movie is outshone by a person in a rocket-powered wheelchair something has seriously gone wrong… actually, we’ll take the rocket-powered wheelchair movie, please. Thanks. There was one positive outcome from “Steel,” though: it forced O’Neal to quit acting.
2. Captain America (1990)
The third Marvel property to receive a film adaptation was “Captain America” — a movie so bad, it did not even get a theatrical release in the USA, which is of course odd, given its subject. Nations like the UK, Brazil and Turkey were not so lucky (and they would be forgiven for considering its release an “American aggression”).
Matt Salinger — the son of J.D. Salinger — had the misfortune of starring in a B-Movie attempt at a superhero flick, filled as it was with bad acting, silly dialogue, a plot that would make an episode of “Captain Planet” blush, and some extremely poor action sequences. For some reason, the filmmakers also turned the Red Skull from a German Nazi into an Italian fascist, possibly to avoid controversy. That, however, was undercut by making the Red Skull responsible for the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Fortunately, the MCU has washed out the nasty taste of the 1990 version, though Honest Trailers did a brilliant take down of the movie.
1. Catwoman (2003)
Back in 1992, Michelle Pfeiffer stole the show as Catwoman in “Batman Returns” and Warner Brothers quickly commissioned a spin-off. Unfortunately, it took 11 years for the movie to be made and it was nothing like what was originally intended. Halle Berry took on the role of Patience Phillips and portrayed her as a meek wallflower, until she is resurrected from the dead to become Catwoman.
Originally, Tim Burton was set to direct, while Ashley Judd and Nicole Kidman were considered for the role. French visual effects artist Pitof took on the directing duties and what he delivered was so unbelievably camp, it makes “Batman and Robin” look like “The Dark Knight.” Glorious moments include the CGI cat that brings Patience back to life, “nightclub pole dancing” and Patience playing flirty basketball.
When a rough cut of a trailer was released online, it received so much negative attention that Warner Brothers pulled it from the internet and released a new version with no dialogue. Berry is also one of the few actors to accept her Razzie, saying in her acceptance speech, “First of all, I want to thank Warner Brothers. Thank you for putting me in a piece of shit, god-awful movie… It was just what my career needed”.
What are your least favorite superhero movie bombs? Let us know in the comments!
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