It’s interesting to see how Marvel and DC are handling the visual medium these days. On TV, DC actually has the edge with Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow winning wild praise and great fans while Marvel’s work (Agents of SHIELD, Daredevil) is good but not quite as popular. In movies, it’s the opposite as Marvel quite obviously has the lead majorly. The MCU has changed movies totally with the desire to create cinematic universes, linking projects together and build to a big team-up. DC is trying to follow as Batman v Superman is to set up their much awaited Justice League film and spin-offs for Wonder Woman, the Flash and others. There are concerns but the fact that DC seems to be trying is a good sign… although you can worry given their track record in the past.
Yes, the first Superman and Batman movies were great as was Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. But DC’s cinematic history is far from ideal and includes slews of movies that are absolutely wretched. Not just by comic book fan standards but by anyone’s. Bad casting, bad story, bad FX and utter mistreatment of the characters, it all combines into a horrible product that makes comic books look worse, not better. There has been a lot of bad stuff that it’s hard to narrow down but here are 10 that stand out as so wretched that DC is washing their hands of them and wish they’d never filmed them. Rough as the upcoming slate may be, it’s hard to imagine the new DC movies being anywhere near as bad as these.
10 Green Lantern
Given how Geoff Johns (who’s written several great stories for the character) was involved, you’d think this would be a top-notch adaptation. Instead, it turned into a huge disappointment as Ryan Reynolds was a bad choice to play Hal Jordan. The CGI may have been needed for the character’s ring constructs but it came off too excessive and Hector Hammond was wasted while Parallax was just a “monster cloud.” Mark Strong was great as Sinestro but not given enough to do and the bad dialogue didn’t help. What should have been the start of a bold franchise turned into such a hated film that Deadpool openly takes shots at it. Looks like Green Lantern couldn’t escape the sight of fan hate.
9 Superman III
If not for one Tonight Show interview, Superman III would have involved Brainiac, Supergirl and some cosmic action. But when then-star comedian Richard Pryor announced his desire to be in a Superman film, Ilya Salkind decided to go ahead and build a movie around Pryor as a nerdy computer programmer getting involved with a billionaire’s plot to use a super-computer to rule the world. The storyline of Superman corrupted by kryptonite into an evil version was effective but sadly, that was it. We had too many comedy antics of Pryor, a literal video game segment, Lois Lane was out of the picture and it was just too much. After two great entries, the series hit a huge slump that it never got out of as fans wanted the Man of Steel, not Pryor to be the focus.
8 Wonder Woman
We all know of the classic 1970s TV show that brought the Amazon Princess to life. But before that, ABC tried with this TV movie to serve as the pilot of a series. The problem from the start was Cathy Lee Crosby as the blonde bombshell was a very poor choice for Diana. Second, they cut away pretty much all the mythology, this Wonder Woman was more of a government agent in a bad outfit lacking her famous tiara and had no super-powers. It’s amazingly cheap (even by the standards of the 1970s) and Wonder Woman spends more time on the phone than actually fighting anyone. Ricardo Montalbaln is fun as the villain but it’s still a terrible product. Thankfully, it would be passed on, paving the way for Lynda Carter to bring the heroine to life and make this a truly forgettable first try.
7 Justice League of America
Shot as the pilot for a TV series in 1997, this CBS film showcases just how stupid comic book costumes can look in real life. Its list of heroes (Green Lantern, Flash, Martian Manhunter, Atom, Fire and Ice) were a rough mix with Manhunter played by portly David Ogden Stiers and most of the rest by actors who look embarrassed to be dressed like bad cosplayers. Even given the time period, the FX were horrible to watch and the dialogue totally laughable. It wasn’t picked up but bootlegs of it have become quite the cult following at conventions for fans to laugh at just how horribly DC can be on the small screen.
Basketball star Shaquille O’Neal has been up front on his love of Superman, down to an “S” shield tattoo on his arm. So it may have been inevitable he was cast as the character who in the comics takes on a suit of armor inspired by Superman. In the movie version, John Henry Irons is an Army engineer who designs his own suit to fight crime with Judd Nelson (yes, really) as his evil former partner. The movie had a cheap look with the suit looking dumb on Shaq, who proved himself a much better ball player than an actor. Richard Roundtree and Annabeth Gish were wasted as his co-stars and the horrible feel just looked and played so bad and a smart move to pretend this had nothing to do with Superman. Stick to the NBA, Shaq, you were a much better superhero there.
5 Jonah Hex
The ingredients were there. The western anti-hero is a great character, a scarred Confederate soldier turned outlaw. Josh Brolin was well-cast as Hex and they did a great job replicating his horrible facial scars. That’s where the good ended, however as the movie only clocked in at 80 minutes, shorter than most animated features and seemed thrown together with a bad script and idiotic action scenes. When Megan Fox as a prostitute can’t make a movie seem lively, you know it’s pretty bad. The ending also went too far making Hex a hero rather than the ruthless outlaw fans loved and mixing steampunk elements in what should have been a straight-up Western. It’s not just their big heroes DC messes up, even the smaller-rung guys can get screwed over too in cinematic adaptations.
A spin-off of the iconic franchise, this 1984 movie had hopes but failed to soar. Helen Slater did look great in the title role but Faye Dunaway’s performance as the main villainess set scenery-chewing to new levels and Peter O’Toole was clearly just in it for a paycheck. The cheap FX didn’t help either as did how there were too many comparisons to Superman (Christopher Reeve bowed out of a cameo) rather than letting Supergirl stand on her own. Slater has been seen as a good starlet who deserved more and even played the foster mother in the current hit Supergirl TV show. Just a shame the cinematic version could fly to the same heights of success.
3 Batman & Robin
It’s a prerequisite for any “worst comic movies” list to have this entry. George Clooney can talk all her want on “killing the franchise” but it’s Joel Schumacher who deserves the blame. Bat-nipples, Arnie making every cheesy ice-related pun imaginable, Uma Thurman managing to make Poison Ivy unsexy, a chubby Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl, the Day-Glo set decoration, the insane camera angles, it all added up to a movie that made the 1960’s TV show look dead serious. There have been entire book chapters written about how terrible this film is and a DVD documentary had everyone admitting it. Schumacher has openly apologized for this, which tells you all you need to know about the movie that nearly destroyed the Caped Crusader until Nolan came along and still ranks as more cartoonish than most cartoons.
2 Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Christopher Reeve would always talk about how badly this movie was hampered by an ultra-cheap budget that allowed you to openly see the strings for flight scenes. The script wasn’t much better as the plotline (Superman trying to rid the world of nuclear weapons) came off ultra-preachy. Gene Hackman was fun as Lex Luthor but the battles between Superman and Nuclear Man came off incredibly lame and the side stuff of Clark Kent was too distracting. The DVD is intriguing for the screenwriter’s commentary on how the movie turned into a mess and some deleted scenes that hinted at a version of Nuclear Man that was more like Bizarro. It’s a shame Reeve’s final turn in the iconic blue suit and cape had to be such a terrible one that crushed the franchise for nearly a decade.
Truly an epic disaster on multiple levels, this 2004 film took the idea of Catwoman not being burglar Selina Kyle but rather a title. Halle Berry starred as Patience Phillips, a designer nearly killed and soon “reborn” as a cat-like being. This involved one of the most insane costumes ever seen in a comic book movie and as hot as Berry looked in it, it was still a horror. The dialogue was terrible, Sharon Stone wasted as the villain, the direction whacky, the CGI less realistic than a video game and Berry’s laughable performance in “cat mode” made it worse. It was shredded by critics and a huge box office bomb that crushed a lot more of the Bat-themed movies. To her credit, Berry has proven to be a good sport about it, showing up in person to accept her Razzie award for “Worst Actress” and shrugging off a disaster no one could have saved.