We have been spoiled with some of the best Superhero flicks ever made, but this golden age of comic book films begs the question: why were all those bad superhero movies made in the first place? After all, there is a long legacy of great stories from the comics themselves, so why do things become awful when transferred to the big screen? I'm here to give a few thoughtful answers to that exact question, but as we contemplate that, let us first remember all of the terrible renditions of our favorite heroes with a short list (in no particular order). I've had to narrow this down to movies that I have seen, so be sure to add your own thoughts and comments on the movies I do not have listed here.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 14%
Miller may be one of the comic book world's all-time greatest writers (at least until the last decade or so), but he certainly needs help when it comes to directing. After receiving a co-director credit with Robert Rodriguez on "Sin City" (based on Miller's own acclaimed series), he set out to bring Will Eisner's pulp hero to life on the big screen. Miller was obviously in over his head, and seemingly let his own love of the material take precedent over telling a cohesive story or engaging the audience. It's telling that, despite being released primarily in the '40s, each and every panel of Eisner's comics still pack more of a visceral punch than Miller and his colorful cast could muster over the film's seemingly-endless 103 minutes. - Dave Lewis
I saw this movie twice in my life and I still don't remember anything about it, which usually means I fell asleep. That is never a good sign. I think this example shows us that even when you think you have the perfect director for the job, directors should stay close to the source material and have people to keep them on task, so as not to get in their own way. Not everything needs to be verbatim, but the heart of the character should still be there.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 37%
A paint-by-numbers sequel played with dead-eyed delivery by the cast, 'Rise of the Silver Surfer' starts out mediocre before cratering into 'awful, just awful' territory in the final act. To build up Galactus, Devourer of Worlds as the most devastating force in the universe only to have him be a cloud of gas easily dispatched by Johnny Storm of all people is unacceptable. Galactus is a multi-movie villain not five minute battle tacked on to the end like an afterthought. When Reed and Sue's relationship problems get more screen time than The Hunger That Does Not Cease, most feared of all cosmic entities, you instantly get a place at the 'Worst' table. - Donna Dickens
This one hurts me to share, but I remember taking my kid brother to see this in theaters and thinking it was a good movie. Even re-watching it, there are individual things that I truly enjoy about the film; however, the above review is hard to argue with, despite my sentimentality with the film. This movie's biggest sin was how they took epic characters and put them into a story that was anything but that. I understand that you have to change certain things for a movie-going audience, but to strip Galactus of his true, devastating power and throw a haphazard story line at us is just insulting. That's something that even my small amount of sentimentality couldn't overlook.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 63%
Where to start? After two good (and some would say very good) "Spider-Man" movies, Raimi had to finish out the trilogy with an overlong stinker. Instead of one good villain we get three substandard ones (Sandman, Venom and Harry Osborn, aka Goblin Jr.) mucking up the plot. Too much is happening all at once, and worse, we get an excess of drippy romance between Mary Jane (Dunst) and Peter. At two hours and 19 minutes, it's at least an hour too long -- and don't even get us started on that Emo Peter Parker hair. - Liane Bonin Starr
I actually have a hard time watching Tobey Maguire in anything now, because of this movie (though I have been told to give Pawn Sacrifice a chance). Though this film obviously has a multitude of sins, I think the first thing we can all agree on is how packed with villains it was. Unless your villains are coming together for a purposeful reason that has been well thought out by the screen writers, perhaps aiming for one spectacularly written villain is enough for audiences. Secondly, the director/casting combo can make or break a character. Take, for example, Topher Grace as Eddie Brock. Apart from his surprising resemblance to the Eddie Brock from The Ultimate Spider-man comic series, he was the wrong choice for the role; yet, to add insult to injury, Raimi's direction for Venom went in such a bizarre direction that it destroyed the truth and symbiotic nature of the character in nearly every scene it appeared. At the risk of sounding redundant, the heart of the characters needs to be kept intact.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 26%
"Ghost Rider" is, pardon us for saying so, a very silly character. Always has been. Always will be. He makes a great tattoo, but not a very compelling lead in a movie. While the second film may technically be worse, we don't count it as a real movie. This one looks and sounds and feels like a superhero movie on the surface, but that is actually part of the problem. So many of these movies run together because of how generic the various parts are, and with bad guys this thin and a story this rote, it ends up as the worst kind of disappointment, a completely forgettable movie. - Drew McWeeny
Nicholas Cage gives it his best (which doesn't mean much), but with mediocre Direction and terribly written villains, this was a hard script to sell to anyone. With Avi Arad as executive producer and Mark Stevens Johnson as director, how much more could we really expect? This one, despite the "silly character," needed a decent script, storyline, and director to convey the characters rightly and it could be a fair movie instead of an insufferable one. I wish I could say this is the worst on our list, but we're just getting started.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 10%
A sequel of sorts to 'Daredevil,' for some reason 'Elektra' stripped out any reference it its predecessor. Instead they opted to ignore the main character's tortured and interesting life in lieu of a forced loved story and the kiss of death — both literally as a superpower and figuratively by using a child actor as a plot device. A muddled script, wooden acting, terrible CGI, characters no one cares about, and inconsistent villains adds up to the worst sin a movie can commit…it's boring. - Donna Dickens
I think this movie was really just trying to monopolize on Jennifer Gardner's popularity from Alias (which was truly a fantastic series). Not much was good about this one, which is what the above review says, but it didn't have to happen like that. Elektra is a strong female heroine/kick ass ninja assassin and Jennifer Garner’s qualifications for this role were through the roof, so this obviously wasn't a casting issue. Looking to the story we see a heroine at odds with herself and a plot that is more like a mystical drama than a superhero action flick. Truly, the audience doesn't know what Elektra is doing any more than she does in her own film. On top of that, the impalpable plot is replete with poorly developed secondary characters and the drudging dialogue makes this one unbearable.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 26%
Martin Campbell came in with a reputation as the sort of ultra-proficient action director who may not turn in a masterpiece, but also couldn't make a boring movie. That's no longer his reputation. The greatest sin of "Green Lantern" is that it's boring, but the through-a-blender storytelling is nearly as bad. Hal Jordan has no discernible character arc, no discernible personal motivations and no discernible arc when it comes to the understanding of his powers. There's a big villain, Parallax, who makes almost no sense, a smaller villain, Hector Hammond, who's essentially an afterthought, and Mark Strong with pointy ears. And you have a love interest who's totally inert. So you don't care about your hero. You don't care about the people he loves. And you don't understand the people he hates/fears. Angela Bassett is totally wasted and that's the NICEST thing you can say about "Green Lantern." - Daniel Fienberg
This one was probably the biggest financial failure on this list. Worldwide it made $219,851,172, yet it cost $300,000,000 to make. So, that's how well that one went. Another film with no discernible plot that audiences didn't enjoy? This seems sort of cliché now, doesn't it?
Batman & Robin
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 11%
While Tim Burton had infused the Batman films with a dark and brooding sensibility, Schumacher decided to go for camp -- and by the time he replaced Val Kilmer with Clooney, he barely seemed to care whether what he slapped on the screen was entertaining or just brain-deadening. It's camp without heart or wit, instead peppering us with groan-worthy jokes, illogical villains (Why do Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze join forces? Uh, just because!), and a relationship between Batman and Robin that's all cutesy quibbling between ridiculous battles. This vacuous, cynical mess was one of the biggest flops of the '90s, and thank goodness for that. - Liane Bonin Starr
Though this one had a good chance of doing well with a great cast and reputable director, Joel Schumacher just didn't give us the movie that Batman fans deserved. Another poorly developed story, this time with too much campiness, and not enough action or character development. I would also argue that this film tried out the villain-overload-model long before Spider-Man 3.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 9%
There's really not much to say here that hasn't been said before. After Michelle Pfeiffer's iconic take on the character in Tim Burton's "Batman Returns," Warner Bros. was understandably keen on making a solo film, but ended up sitting on it for more than a decade when Halle Berry -- fresh from an Oscar win -- signed on. The result was hardly worth the wait; An over-the-top mess that's inconsistent in both look and tone, "Catwoman" should serve as a cautionary tale for any studio rushing into a comic book adaptation without a clear vision. - Dave Lewis
There is nothing remotely good about this movie; It is 104 minutes I will never get back from my life. This movie had absolutely nothing to do with the Catwoman character from the comics that fans have come to know and love. With a plot that was more like nails on a chalkboard than an actual story, this movie is the epitome of bad superhero flicks.
In conclusion, there is rarely one thing that leads to a superhero film failure, but what we can learn from the good and the bad is that the entire team, from the cast to the producers, needs to be on the same page when it comes to the direction they will take from the source material.