Superheroes are, collectively, one of the most amazing parts of human mythology. Men and women blessed (via genetic mutation, radiation, or advanced technology) with fantastic powers fight evil villains determined to destroy us all. Thankfully the magic of Hollywood now brings us these fantastic tales on the silver screen. Grab some popcorn and watch the big-budget adventures of your favorite superheroes, but avoid these ten duds, that made us want to jump off a tall building faster than a speeding bullet.
10. Anything Prior to 1993
Let’s face it – special effects in older movies are terrible. This didn’t matter for reality-based films, but superheroes demand those digitized special effects snobs say ruins the essence of a film. Superman and Batman from the 80’s? Garbage. All those original Marvel films? Unwatchable for anyone but film students.
I don’t care how much you love Jack Nicholson’s Joker, Heath Ledger did it better, and Michael Keaton was a terrible superhero. Nobody wants to see these campy flicks that look like something your children put together for a stage play or YouTube video. As far as I’m concerned, Meteor Man is the first great superhero movie – everything prior is worthless.
9. Daredevil (2003)
I’m not one of those Ben Affleck haters who blindly hates everything he does. He’s actually not a bad actor, and both Armageddon and Good Will Hunting are among my favorite movies. The blind Affleck of Daredevil, however, is worth hating, as is everything else about this Marvel dud. It makes Unbreakable look good by comparison.
The on-screen chemistry between Affleck and Jennifer Gardner feels forced, the dialogue is terrible, and the plot is simply laughable. What makes Daredevil’s failure even more apparent is the growing buzz over Netflix’s series based on the same character. The dark and gritty feel of The Punisher looks to be exactly what Matt Murdoch needed.
8. Son of the Mask (2005)
Jim Carrey’s portrayal of The Mask was an unexpected hit in 1994, and a sign that superheroes were almost ready for mainstream acceptance. Jamie Kennedy’s soulless sequel was an obvious money-making scheme at the expense of comic and movie fans alike.
Hollywood has a bad habit of ruining franchises during sequels. Everything magic about the original is glossed up, over-exaggerated, and, inevitably, cheapened for laughs or thrills that end up not being there. Nowhere is this more apparent than Son of the Mask.
7. X-Men (2000)
The original X-Men series got everyone excited – arguably one of the most popular comic franchises in history was getting a Hollywood debut, and I, for one, couldn’t wait. Then the movie came out, and it was everything I hoped it wouldn’t be.
Horribly dated, the X-Men were changed around, thrown in ugly leather outfits that were almost enough alone to destroy the characters, and then thrown into a plot that left us seeing dozens of mutants, but caring about none. Thankfully Days of Future Past erased this comic-adaptation-atrocity, although it didn’t happen soon enough.
6. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Where Professor X and his mutants dropped the ball, Spider-Man had Hollywood all sewn up. The first two Spider-Man movies were hits, and both solidified Spidey’s place as an iconic superhero. Then Spider-Man 3 came along, ruining the entire series, and his coolest nemesis in the process.
Venom is supposed to be stronger than Spider-Man – he also knows everything about him, making him a very dangerous arch-enemy. In the movie, however, Topher Grace’s Eddie Brock transforms into Venom and immediately looks to Sandman for help, without ever even approaching Parker. Even without the misplaced Saturday Night Fever homage, this dud was dead in the water from the get-go.
5. Catwoman (2004)
Enough can’t be said for how badly Catwoman was handled by Warner Bros. The acting is terrible, the plot diverges so far from the comics they changed the character’s name, and the overall movie fails as more than just a comic book adaptation. Do you remember Halle Berry’s terrible line as Storm in the X-tragedies I will from here on out refer to as “The X’s” when she fried Toad with lightning? Catwoman is that dragged out for 104 minutes.
A crazy cat lady works at a cosmetics company, and, after gaining superpowers by rescuing a cat who turns out to be an Egyptian goddess, goes on a quest to remake The Crow with a feminine twist. Critics and audiences alike threw up while leaving the theater to watch more entertaining cat videos online.
4. Superman Returns (2006)
Spider-Man, Batman, Captain America – these supers have character, and a reboot in both the comics and movies helps them change directions and focus on other angles. Superman, however, is too hokey a character to reboot into anything other than a barely-less-hokey character. Of course, Bryan Singer, the man responsible for The X’s, wanted a Jimmy Olsen-like swing at it.
Basically, instead of rebooting everything, Superman Returns attempts to divert the storyline from the original Superman 2, providing a new Superman 3 (confusing enough yet?). Either way, Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) buys a bunch of kryptonite and builds a city out of it. Superman finds a hokey way to stop him. Blah, blah, blah, next…
3. Batman Forever (1995)
Though the first two original Batman movies are too old to rank above ten on this list, but Batman Forever is recent enough to have known better. It’s too easy to point at the idiocy of Batman and Robin, but this dud is where the neon trends started. After Tim Burton did his best to darken the series, Joel Schumacher grabbed the wheel and steered us all the wrong way.
Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey go out of their way to be the most over-the-top, ridiculous characters they can. Two-Face isn’t the badass we saw in Dark Knight – he’s not even as multi-dimensional as Two-Face from Batman: The Animated Series. Instead Two-Face and The Riddler are doing Robin Williams impressions as though they’re in a talkie from the 40’s.
2. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
The conclusion of The X’s is a much worse atrocity than the third Spider-Man or Batman. Bryan Singer, sensing the upcoming bomb, left for Superman. We finally get to see Juggernaut, except nobody knows his relation to Charles Xavier. The final battle scene (as do most the others) look pathetic. Not sure what to do – kill Cyclops and force an out-of-context Phoenix resurrection….then kill Professor X.
Thankfully, Days of Future Past erased these atrocities from the timeline, but they still exist in our memories. Forever tainting mutants, and almost inspiring fanboys to side with the onscreen humans, The Last Stand is the (hopefully) last of a horrible period in X-Men cinematic history.
1. Hancock (2008)
Hollywood thinks it knows everything about us as audiences and critics. Hancock was Hollywood’s attempt to capitalize on our love of superheroes by creating a new one, complete with box-office-draws Will Smith and the sexy Charlize Theron in the roles of a super-powered alien who doesn’t want to be a hero, and the seemingly-innocent wife of his PR rep.
Hancock starts off well, showing us what an entitled Millennial would do with super strength, speed, and flight. It’s almost as though simply making Superman black was enough to make the concept less hokey – he doesn’t get a job, doesn’t even bother making an alter ego (athough they could’ve made the racism more overt by giving this alcoholic deadbeat a rap name). Hancock was a great movie until we found out he and Theron are gods, and the movie simply derails into an unwatchable pile of superpoop. It takes a Herculean effort to make the worst superhero movie of all time, but Hancock is equipped to handle it.
Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and writer. Penny has been featured on Main Street, Cannabis Now, Hardcore Droid, and The Huffington Post.