Superhero movies are a current trend, aren’t they? We’ve all seen the articles that claim superhero fatigue is bringing Hollywood and the rest of the entertainment industry down and oversaturating the market. Each year we’re getting more sequels, new heroes and bigger adventures leaping from the pages of comic books. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is only growing more popular by each passing trailer, set photo or release date. The DCEU is gearing up for the release of Justice League, which it hopes will reignite fans passions for the live action characters once more.
Usually, if it’s based on a comic book — it’s likely to be successful at the moment. But, it hasn’t always been that way. There are numerous failed attempts at bringing comic book superheroes to life on the big screen that just haven’t managed to be as successful as the MCU or the current DC films. There have been some strange attempts at bringing audiences different heroes than they’re used to. Some have genuinely been great films (we’re looking at you, Dredd) and then there are some films that give superheroes a bad name. Here’s our list of 15 superhero movies that completely bombed at the box office.
With the Christopher Reeve Superman films being incredibly successful (aside from Quest For Peace, we don’t talk about Superman IV) a spin-off involving his cousin Kara was produced. Unfortunately, what we got wasn’t a great film, let alone a great comic book adaptation. The story involved magic and a device powering Argo City, with Kara leaving her home to find the device after it’s lost.
The only returning character from the Superman films is Jimmy Olsen, and it felt very weak. Supergirl was given a budget of $35 million… and made a grand total of $14.3 million back. Not really a fantastic return for the Girl of Steel. Luckily, The CW is having better luck with the character, as she heads towards her third season.
14. THE FANTASTIC FOUR (1994)
Although never technically making it to the box office, Roger Corman’s 1994 take on the Fantastic Four is one of the most infamous Marvel films ever made, purely because it was never given an official release. The film brings the origin story of both the team and Doctor Doom to live action. And although it was initially intended for a wide spread release, Stan Lee claimed otherwise.
The iconic writer made a statement in 2005 claiming that the film was only produced to keep the rights to the heroic team. The Fantastic Four cost Constantin Film Production $1 million to make, and since it was never given a release — it made no profit at all. Sure, there are bootleg copies available on the internet (YouTube and Daily Motion, but you didn’t hear that from us!), but it was never intended to be seen by audiences at all.
Halle Berry proved she can play a superhero during the X-Men series, but giving her a solo movie didn’t work out so well for Warner Bros. Back in 2004, Catwoman completely bombed all around. The plot didn’t feature Selina Kyle, instead creating a character named “Patience Philips”.
And with an over-sexualized look and poor writing, critics rightly panned the film altogether. Warner Bros. gave the film a $100 million budget and it only just managed to claim back $82 million. The only silver lining is that it propelled Halle Barry to put more effort into her career. But for the fans, we have to live our lives knowing that someone at Warner Bros. thought this film was worth spending $100 million on. A solo Catwoman film could actually be great, but this was awful.
12. PUNISHER: WAR ZONE
Frank Castle’s third cinematic outing was a complete reboot of the character, and wasn’t tied to the Thomas Jane film whatsoever. And since The Punisher is known for the hardcore violence he dishes out, Marvel Studios released the film under their “Marvel Knights” banner, allowing Ray Stevenson to bring the pain as a new version of Frank Castle.
Unfortunately, the film only managed to make $10 million back from the $35 million budget it was given. But don’t be too disappointed, it meant that Marvel could later use The Punisher in the Daredevil Netflix series and look how well that’s turned out. Did we mention that we’ll be getting a solo Punisher Netflix series within the next few months? This box office bomb has a happy ending for Frank Castle.
11. JONAH HEX
Jonah Hex had all the right components to be a huge film for DC and Warner Bros. Starring Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender, John Malkovich and Michael Shannon, this should’ve have been prime summer blockbuster entertainment. But unfortunately due to poor storytelling and poor chemistry between characters, Jonah Hex failed to pull in the money that DC expected it to.
They were brave pitching it up against Toy Story 3 after all. They’d already hurled $47 million at the budget for the film, but Brolin and co. only brought back $10.9 after their western adventure. The character has since moved onto The CW, but Josh Brolin didn’t return to the role. Hex has shown up in Legends of Tomorrow and he’ll be making an appearance in the upcoming third season.
This is one entry on the list that is actually a terrific film. It stars Karl Urban as the eponymous Dredd, and was written by Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Ex Machina). It was a simplistic plot, Dredd and a rookie Judge are stuck in an apartment building, and have to fight their way out whilst dismantling a drug operation.
Unfortunately, a year ealrier, the critically acclaimed action thriller, The Raid, featured a very similar plot line. And even though Dredd was hailed as a brutally brilliant comic book film, it only managed $41.5 million at the box office when the budget was somewhere in the range of $50 million. Luckily, Dredd may be returning, as a new series is supposedly in development with Karl Urban tipped to reprise the role once again.
Yes, there’s a Man-Thing film. Yes, there’s a reason it barely made any money. No, you’re not missing out. The film changed plenty about Man-Thing’s origin and who he is, which is partly responsible for the negative reaction from the limited audiences that saw the film.
What’s more surprising than the treatment of Man-Thing, is that the film was given $30 million by the Sci-Fi channel to bring the creature to life. It feels closer to the DC Comics Swamp-Thing character rather than Marvel’s Man-Thing. What isn’t surprising, is that it only managed to make $1 million when it was released to international markets. And to think, Rachel Taylor went on to star in Jessica Jones as Trish Walker. Maybe Man-Thing was her foot in the door at Marvel? At least something good came of it.
8. THE SPIRIT
When Frank Miller co-directed Sin City with Robert Rodriguez, it was met with critical praise and commercial success. It was proof that gritty, violent comic book movies could be made in spectacular fashion. But when Miller decided to make The Spirit into a similarly styled film, it didn’t quite match up. Visually impressive, but the writing of the characters and plot was definitely hollow.
And audiences knew this. Oddlot Entertainment and Lionsgate gave Miller a budget of $60 million to bring the comic to life, but the noir superhero tale only brought in $39 million. It seems that audiences and critics alike weren’t sold on Gabriel Macht as a superhero. Maybe he should stick to being a lawyer on a program like Suits instead of donning a mask.
You saw this one coming, right? 20th Century Fox certainly didn’t. Although we’re not quite sure how, since their Daredevil movie was panned by critics and its stars alike. Ben Affleck recently said that he outright hates the film, no surprise there. So we’re not 100% sure what the studio were thinking when they decided to make an Elektra spin-off movie.
Well, they won’t be doing that again any time soon. Elektra barely managed to make a total of $56 million from a budget of $43 million. Thankfully, the character was given a better portrayal as part of Marvel’s Netflix universe — and she’s appeared in Daredevil season two as well as The Defenders. Elodie Yung is definitely more believable as an assassin than Jennifer Garner, for sure.
6. TANK GIRL
The British comic book, Tank Girl, by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett had been incredibly successful in 1988, so naturally a film adaptation was brought to life. Starring Lori Petty as Tank Girl, the film incorporated many feminist themes into it — something that still resonates with its cult following today. Unfortunately, the rest of the film wasn’t as thoughtful.
And since it had been given a generous budget of $25 million — the return that it made wasn’t good enough to be seen as a success. Quite the opposite actually. Tank Girl only managed to bring back $6 million for Trilogy Entertainment Group and United Artists. And although it has since drawn a cult following, it was a box office failure. Although Lori Petty and Naomi Watts have both gone on to successful careers, so it’s not all bad.
5. MAX STEEL
Remember the Max Steel toy range and animated TV series that everyone loved as kids? They rebooted the franchise last year with a live action film. Unfortunately, the Max Steel film was a cheap knock-off Power Rangers movie that didn’t quite match up to the original storyline of the series or even the toys.
It was clearly intended to be the next big superhero franchise, but it failed to stick the landing. It was given $10 million to bring the hero to life, and it failed to bring that back. It made $6.3 million altogether, but with critics absolutely hating the film and audiences not happy with it either, don’t be expecting to see a Max Steel cinematic universe any time soon. Maybe just go re-watch the old animated TV series instead, it’s probably better.
4. HOWARD THE DUCK
Oh, Howard the Duck. Even in comic books, he’s one of the most bizarre creations to come from Marvel Comics. He’s lovable, but very odd. The live action film was produced by George Lucas, who is no stranger to out of this world ideas and stories.
The filmmakers decided to make the movie in live action, with many seeing this as a huge mistake. Add on top of that the awful script and the near miss of a duck/human sex scene, and it’s understandable why the film bombed. Howard the Duck managed to claw back $1 million in profit, as it had a budget of $37 million and made $38 million globally. Maybe an animated film would have performed a little better. At least his appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy was funny.
3. THE SHADOW
Alex Baldwin starred as The Shadow back in 1994. Originally, the Batman comics had been influenced by The Shadow comics, and after the popularity of Tim Burton’s Batman films, The Shadow embraced that campy, yet dark style. Talk about role reversal. Unfortunately, it couldn’t replicate the success that Batman had.
With many critics deeming the film as forgettable and disappointing, the film only managed to make $48 million on the original $40 million budget it had been given. It’s not surprising since the story featured the descendant of Genghis Khan attempting to start a nuclear war. At least the writers were trying to be bold, but it just didn’t work. And since Batman has only continued to get increasingly popular, we probably won’t see another live action version of The Shadow.
2. FANTASTIC FOUR (2015)
The production stories behind the 2015 Fantastic Four film are now as infamous as the film itself. With director Josh Trank not fully in control of the project and with a very disorganized storyline, Fantastic Four is nearly universally hated. And although it featured some incredibly talented actors in the main roles, it forgot its comic book roots and made a complete mess of the story.
Fox had obviously given the film a fairly large budget to play with given the content, Trank had $155 million to create his vision of the superhero team. He just managed to make a profit by bringing in $168 million. It made its budget back and a little bit more — but that’s just one of the reasons we won’t be seeing Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara or Jamie Bell back as the superhero family.
1. GREEN LANTERN
Of course we were going to rip into Green Lantern. Look, we were just as excited as everyone else to see a good live action version of Hal Jordan and the rest of the Corps. It could have kicked off a whole cinematic universe, until it was released and we all realized they’d ruined a fantastic character and made some terrible design choices.
The film starring Ryan Reynolds barely made its budget back, making $219 million after being produced on $200 million. There’s no surprise that DC decided to reboot their plans for a cinematic universe. Let’s hope that by the time 2020 comes around, and we finally get the Green Lantern Corps movie, that it tries to avoid all the pitfalls that Reynolds’ version fell into. Just, please don’t make the suit animated. We’re asking nicely.
Which of these bombs do you actually love? Let us know in the comments!
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