Movies (and TV shows) based on comic books have been around since the 1940s. They are nothing new, but in the last few years, they have become insanely profitable and insanely popular. That wasn’t always the case: the 1990s and early aughts were fraught with a wide array of truly, truly terrible movies based on comic books. I think that studio executives blew off the idea of comic book flicks, thinking they weren’t worth the time or money. Christopher Nolan’s BATMAN trilogy was the turning point, bringing comic book movies up to the big leagues.
Being married to my high-school sweetheart, who has been reading comic books since he learned to read, means that I see a lot of comic book movies. A lot. Good, bad, or indifferent, we saw them all. Admittedly, I have blocked a lot of the more offensively bad details out of movies that I saw twenty years ago, but the sensation of being disappointed and violated feeling linger forever.
BATMAN & ROBIN (1997)
I am conflicted about this one, because I love it – but I only love it for the abject terribleness of it. I didn’t see it until it was on cable, so watching it in my pajamas and not having to buy a ticket probably helped. But this movie is so indescribably bad it transcends “bad” and becomes “awesome,” in the same way that SHOWGIRLS is awesome. When Batman and Robin punch someone, the sound effect actually sounds like it is saying “zap” or “pow.” The acting is cringeworthy, and the “jokes” are only funny in a sad way. I know that there are a lot of jokes about the homoerotic tension between Batman and Robin, but it was barely veiled in this movie. BATMAN & ROBIN is like a caricature of a caricature of a caricature – but sadly, no one is in on the joke.
I was unfamiliar with DAREDEVIL when this film came out, but I thought the idea of a blind superhero who “sees” with his ears was ridiculous. The way they visualized it in the film was ridiculous. There was no origin story, which DAREDEVIL actually could have used because the film was so dull. When I heard DAREDEVIL was being turned into a series for Netflix, I groaned, wondering how they didn’t learn their lesson. Luckily, the show is awesome (especially season two) and any hatred I may have felt for a blind superhero totally disappeared. The only upside to how bad DAREDEVIL was was that it meant we didn’t have to see ELEKTRA.
HULK (2003) and THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008)
I’ll admit: I remember very little about these two films, other than them being big green messes. Cheesy, hokey, and boring come to mind. I do remember that the Ed Norton HULK was slightly better than the Eric Bana HULK, but that was only in comparison with the earlier film. After seeing The Hulk in THE AVENGERS (where he goes from blind rage to helpful member of the team in literally seconds), I have decided that THE HULK should never, ever be given a film again.
Halle Berry’s Catwoman has virtually no similarity to the BATMAN character. In BATMAN, Catwoman is Selina Kyle, normally portrayed as a skilled thief who is both Batman’s love interest and antagonist. In CATWOMAN, she is Patience Phillips, a woman who is killed by her greedy boss and is brought back to life by a cat goddess, who also grants her cat-like powers. There is nothing more you need to know; I feel ashamed just having written that description.
SPIDER-MAN 3 (2007)
I, like every horror fan, am a huge Sam Raimi fan. After SPIDER-MAN 3, I lost all faith in him until 2009’s DRAG ME TO HELL. (Unfortunately, 2013’s OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL taught me never to see a Raimi movie with a budget of more than $30 million.) SPIDER-MAN 3 was a whirling mess of too many characters with too many plotlines. The worst part is that the butler did it – or didn’t do it. At the end of the movie, Harry Osborne’s butler off-handedly tells him that Spider-Man didn’t kill his father in the first movie. That belief was the driving force behind three movies. I have never wanted to kill a fictional character so badly. The only good thing about SPIDER-MAN 3 was that it completely wiped from my mind how bad PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 4 was, which was released the week before.
X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE X (2009)
This was supposed to be the first of many X-Men origin stories, but this film was so terrible, so cheesy, so insipid, that the studio dropped all other ORIGINS films. Eventually, this film was even removed from X-MEN canon. What stands out the most for me was the fight between Wolverine and Weapon XI (who would later become Deadpool) on the top of a nuclear cooling tower or something. The graphics were so terrible I actually laughed out loud. How they got from there to 2016’s DEADPOOL I will never figure out.
BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN (2016)
Every subsequent trailer for this film made it look worse. But nothing could prepare me for how bad the actual movie was. Director Zack Snyder was trying too hard to make something dark and brooding that he missed the point. That works for Batman, but it is not Superman. Superman is about hope. The only hope I felt during BvS was that it would be over. Superman is filled with a rage that doesn’t make sense. And Batman uses a gun. A gun! Batman never uses a gun, because his parents were killed senselessly with a gun. My “favorite” part of the shit-show was the Martha scene. Batman finally weakens Superman and is inches from impaling him on a Kryptonite spear, when Superman murmurs “save Martha.” Batman goes batshit, thinking he is talking about his mother, when Superman is talking about his own mother. Once they realize that both their mothers are named Martha, they are BFFs. My grandma was named Martha, but you don’t see me losing my mind over it.
I managed to escape seeing these, but I hear they were terrible.
JUDGE DREDD (1995)
GHOST RIDER (2007)
THE SPIRIT (2008)
JONAH HEX (2010)
Every FANTASTIC FOUR movie ever attempted