The Ninjabot

Top 5 Comic Book Movie Tragedies

Posted on August 21, 2012 at 6:00 am by Jeff Mueller

Alrighty fellow geeks, let’s take a minute and look back at the absolute worse of the Comic Book Movie phenomenon. As I’ve discussed before, comic book movies have become big business in recent years. There was a time when the success of a comic book movie was a huuuuuge gamble for a studio though, due in part to the massive amounts of fail contained in a few of the flicks I am about to list out for you. That’s right, it’s time for Geek Legacy’s list of the worst comic book movies to hit the silver screen.

Before we dig into what is potentially going to be a catalyst for nerd-rage I want to lay a few ground rules here.

  • I am only considering big screen cinema to help narrow the field a little. No TV movies (The Incredible Hulk Returns, you are safe from my wrath) or direct-to-DVD releases.
  • I am not going to bring up foreign adaptations (Turkish Spiderman deserves an article all to himself)
  • We are talking about comic books, not strips. Therefore movies such as Popeye and The Phantom are off the radar.

That being said, sit back and let us wander through a minefield of really bad adaptations and single out the winners losers together. They are presented in no particular order.

The Spirit

It’s hard to garner interest for the heroes of yesteryear; it isn’t an easy pitch, I am sure, nor is it easy to execute. There have been a lot of 1930s – 50s comic movies to attempt cashing in on nostalgia with varied and limited quality and success over the years (The Shadow, Dick Tracy, and The Rocketeer, to name a few) but none were as hyped or downright depressingly bad as The Spirit.

Coming off the success of Sin City (a movie which arguably could go on a Top 5 best list) Frank Miller stepped up to write and direct the film adaptation of Will Eisner’s famous comic. From the bad script and poor casting of the main character (no offense to Gabriel Macht, but he was not the right guy to carry this flick) to the over-use of the digital background effect Miller has fallen so in love with, this movie was just a miss on every single level.  Not even Samuel L. Jackson chewing up the scenery could save it enough to put it in the “so bad it’s good” category. It was just bad.


Dear 8 pounds 6 ounces baby Jesus, please keep Halle Berry away from all comic book movies from now until eternity? Please? Nerds around the world beseech you! I hate this movie so much I refuse to speak about it anymore, nor will I assault your retinas with an image of the movie poster. Moving on…

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

I don’t know what did more to kill this movie, the fact that the vision far exceeded the reality of the budget and special effects technology of the time, or the weak script. Either way, what was once a very solid movie franchise (Yes, the movies have aged horribly but Superman I & II were solid flicks back in the day. You can’t deny that!) took a very steep turn into the badlands starting with Superman III and parking itself there permanently with the fourth installment of the franchise.

The plot, while admirable and understandable for its time, was pretty heavy handed by today’s standards (nuclear war is bad, we get it) and it was if the actors just didn’t care. Even Gene Hackman, who rarely turns in a bad performance, was just bland as Lex Luthor this time around.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III

A lot of people don’t even realize that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) was a comic series first and foremost—a definitely-not-for-children series done by Eastman and Laird. It was violent and pretty dark for its time before it got turned into this franchise for kids.

The first two movies were facepalm inducing (there is something really infuriating to fans when an adult book somehow gets co-opted for kids isn’t there?), but they did good numbers and for what they had turned into—if you ignored their roots—they weren’t all bad. By the time the third one hit the theaters in ’93 though, it was apparent that they weren’t even trying anymore. It was as if they all knew what a joke it was behind the scenes but they weren’t going to let the public in on it until they ponied up the money for a ticket. Sick bastards.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

What potential this movie had! Alan Moore, famously known for his utter disdain of all the movie adaptations of his work, had created such an interesting world, taking so many famous literary heroes and dropping them in a psuedo-steampunk Victorian age world.

Like all of Moore’s body of work, the main emphasis was on the interplay between the characters with a specific focus on the morality (or lack thereof) of their actions. The movie focused on a submarine, a vampire, and Sean Connery playing himself? I honestly can’t remember the film too clearly (I am pretty sure I suffered some form of aneurysm during it which has clouded my memory), and even re-reading the synopsis on Wikipedia makes no sense. Let’s just leave it by saying that it is perfectly understandable why Alan Moore hates this movie.

We also have the following potential candidates for Dishonorable Mentions. These movies, while horrible in their own right, have a redeeming quality which keeps them out of the top 5.  They are:

  • Howard the Duck – If the source material weren’t as absolutely poor as the movie was itself, this movie would be sitting in the core Top 5.  Luckily (or not?), the comic was just as bad as the movie, so it’s hard to hold the film version solely reponsible for this afront to cinephiles everwhere. This should have been the second clue (after the Ewoks) that Geroge Lucas was slipping down a slippery slope of really bad choices.
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine – This movie is the Hollywood equivalent of what Marvel did with the character in the 90’s. Take the breakout, favorite character, and over-expose the crap out of him. Quality? Who cares? The fanboys will buy anything with Wolverine in it. Coherent storylines? Who needs them? Our audience is stupid and won’t see the huge problems with the contradictory timelines and histories we’re weaving. It’s not that the movie was terrible (I mean, it was but there are a lot of other worse movies if you just take them at face value. Hi, Fantastic Four!) but it is representative of everything that’s wrong with the new popularity of these types of movies.  Once Hollywood senses a shot at fat cash, they’ll strip the soul out of our beloved characters without so much as a second thought.
  • Batman & Robin – Okay, this movie…man, where to begin? Pretty much the only thing I want to say about this is that it was so dreadful that it thankfully killed off the franchise. If it weren’t for this cinematic pile of bat guano failing so poorly in the box office, we would probably have never had the Christopher Nolan trilogy we all hold so dear. So I guess we owe Joel Schumacher something after all…right?

There are a lot of reasons why I singled these particular movies out, and I am sure you all have your own ideas on the topic, so let’s hear what you think. Did we miss the mark (I give it 10 minutes until someone drops the Elektra bomb), nail it, or what?

Signed by the Jerd

    • Hard to argue for (or against?) those choices. The Hulk directed by Ang Lee was absolutely awful and I would have swapped that with LOEG, personally.

      • thejerd

        I don't have anywhere near as much nerd-hate for that movie as I do about 34346356 others. I didn't think it was terrible, just that Ang Lee tried to go in a non-comic book angle with the character and it just ended up boring. At least it made sense unlike a bunch of others I could name… I do know a ton of people who share your sentiment though.

    • Haha The Hulk was so bad. Dave and I have made it our mission to prove which of us likes it less.

      • Snackbar

        And for the record… It's you. No tag backs. You can't triple stamp a double stamp. End of line. You are the weakest link. Ba-bye. TTFN. The tribe has spoken.

        • What do I win?

          • thejerd

            A Blu-Ray copy of Ang Lee's "The Hulk".

            • Awesome! I will cherish it forever. Is there any way for you to edit out all the footage with the exception of Nick Nolte and his dogs? That's what The Avengers 2 needs, Nick Nolte and his rabid mutant dogs. More PLEASE.

            • You can have my Hulk controller for the Gamecube.

            • edgyarmo

              I actually wanted that as the booby prize but I deleted it. Haha, like minds I tell you what. Couple of nuts from the same sundae.

      • Perhaps the prize for hating it the most would be a date with the Drunk Hulk.

    • The Hulk movie just made no sense to me. Even as a kid watching it, I admitted it was crap back then.

    • Scott

      Pretty spot on article. Solid.

      • thejerd

        Thanks! Not gonna lie, I was expecting more outrage over this one…

    • itsAGouff

      II have to say if any movie DESERVES a remake, it is LXG. I would love to see it done right. It could be fantastic. The one we got was… not good. For the love of all that is good and holy Venice street car chase to set off an explosion to stop other explosions? It's practically a Michael Bay film – who, by the way, is going to create a Ninja Turtles film I've no doubt will take its rightful place on this list.

      • thejerd

        I doubt it will ever get another shot at a cinema treatment… and there may not be an update to this list after the new TNT movie; because my brain might implode.

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