What is a superhero? Literally, it’s a benevolent fictional character with superhuman power -that’s according to the trusty Oxford English dictionary. We all know the familiar scenario surrounding a superhero: Human being (or at least an anthropomorphic alien, in the case of Superman) acquires powers (insert explanatory backstory here) , and then decides to use said powers in the name of justice and good. It’s simple, but it works: Superheroes have been a significant feature of popular culture for almost a century. The word itself dating back to 1917 and – if we’re tracing the etymology of the term – superheroes have been increasingly popular ever since. First appearing in comic books in the 1960s, the adventures of superheroes were adapted to TV, film, novels, and even radio until they became an essential facet of pop culture.
These days, the superheroes are perhaps best known in their incarnations off the pages and onto the big screen. The most successful superhero movies – including favourites like Superman, Batman and Spiderman – have been known to gross between $290 and $530 million. Factor in the merchandise, constant product placement and cash cow conventions like Comic-Con, and the profitability – as well as the popularity – of our favourite heroes is dramatically increased.
However, not all superhero films are worldwide successes that go down in pop culture history. Or rather, some have a place in the pop culture history books for all the wrong reasons; in other words, they flop. Now, why would an action-filled movie, full of special effects, handsome actors and beautiful actresses, as well as a riveting story, end up a spectacular failure? Well, generally, it’s because one or more of those qualities – central to any good superhero silver screen adaptation – are missing. Sometimes, too, a filmmaker might commit the sin of changing a classic superhero’s story in a way that proves unpopular to dedicated fans of the comic book character. One of the most contentious moves is when movie producers decide to take the power away from the comic book industry, by creating an original superhero. This brave choice can typically lead to either a very successful movie – like Disney’s The Incredibles – or a very disappointing movie. If the heroes do not attract the audience or have a back-story or personality that makes the audience sympathetic towards them, the movie can turn out quite laughable. We have grouped five superhero movies that, despite their best intentions, became dramatic box-office failures.
5. The Green Lantern – $20 million profit
Any movie with Ryan Reynolds in the starring role is almost always synonymous with success. Unfortunately, this is not the case with Green Lantern. This much anticipated totally underperformed in the box office and couldn’t cover its enormous costs. Prior to Reynolds even getting involved, the story takes us back millions of years where entities known as the Guardians of the Universe create an intergalactic police corps known as the Green Lantern Corps. When member Abin Sur is almost killed by an escaped prisoner called Parallax, he crash lands on Earth and commands his ring to find a successor. We are now introduced to Reynolds, who plays cocky test pilot Hal Jordan. The ring, choosing him as the worthy successor, transports him to the crash site and Abin Sur, with his dying breath, appoints Jordan as a Green Lantern. After training at the Green Lantern home planet of Oa, Jordan quits. However, after Parallax takes human form on Earth through scientist Hector Hammond, Jordan rejoins the Corps to save the Earth from Parallax’s havoc.
Green Lantern started off strong, grossing over $53 million in its opening weekend. However, The Green Lantern was slammed by critics and ended up with a tiny total profit of under $20 million, and with a worldwide gross of $220 million for a budget of $200 million that’s not much of a return. According to The Hollywood Reporter, to be considered financially solid, the film should have grossed around $500 million.
With a 23% approval rating on the tomatometer, Variety magazine, called the film a, ” highly unstable alloy of the serious, the goofy and the downright derivative”. Another critic said the movie was “assaulting the audience with sensational special effects.” and that, if that’s what you wanted, that was what you got. On the other hand, Green Lantern received some positive feedback. The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy said that the film, “serves up all the requisite elements with enough self-deprecating humor to suggest it doesn’t take itself too seriously”. The film, despite its shortcomings, managed to walk away with two awards: The 2010 Scream Awards for Most Anticipated Movie and Ryan Reynolds taking the 38th People’s Choice Award for Favorite Superhero.
4. Elektra – $13 million profit
Though Ben Affleck’s acknowledge low point, Daredevil, was far from a success, it still managed to generate a profit. And so, studios decided to create a spin-off, based on Daredevil’s love interest Elektra and starring Affleck’s real-life love Jennifer Garner. After her murder by hit man Bull’s-eye, in the previous movie, Elektra Natchios is revived by blind martial arts master Stick. He takes her under his wing to teach her an ancient martial art called Kimagure but she’s expelled due to her unquenchable rage. With her training and fiery anger, she becomes a contract killer.
The movie would become one of the lowest-grossing movies ever to feature a Marvel Comics character. Elektra had a total profit of $13 million profit; the movie’s worldwide gross was $56,681,566 and it had a budget of $43 million. It’s lucky the studio didn’t invest much in this one, because critics and viewers alike slated it and Elektra has gone down in ]history as one of the worst superhero movie adaptations of all time.
3. Superman IV – $1.4 million loss
The Superman hero that killed the franchise for almost 20 years, this 1989 adaptation, entitled ‘The Quest For Peace’, starred the iconic Christopher Reeve – who has since said the film was catastrophic, and a blow to his career. The movie’s budget was a reported $17 million, and it grossed a total of $15.6 million. Critics slated it, fans hated it, and although the theme of saving the world from nuclear destruction was timely in the late ’80s, the cheesy fight scenes and terrible special effects ensured Superman V would never be a runner. 2006’s ‘Superman Returns’, with Brandon Routh and Kate Bosworth, has since breathed life into the dead movie franchise, and the comic book hero has secured his silver screen stardom once again. It was announced last year that in the next Superman movie, Ben Affleck would play the titular role, to mixed reactions from fans; so let’s hope he doesn’t bring the Daredevil curse with him.
2. CatWoman – $12 million loss
Though our main actress is the sultry and gorgeous, Halle Berry, not even she could save this film loosely based on Batman’s love interest and antagonist. Halle Berry plays artist and graphics designer, Patience Phillips. While working at a cosmetics company that sells a skin cream that is able to reverse aging, she comes across a plot about the cream’s dangerous side effects. Being discovered, she is drowned while trying to escape. However, an Egyptian Mau cat brings her back to life. After her revival, Patience is left with cat-like abilities, as well as an unquenchable appetite for revenge. The film follows her quest for answers, but most of all, revenge.
Catwoman made a huge $12 million loss – huge, that is, given the fact that this film had a blockbuster budget of $200 million. And the tomatometer? 9%. This movie was a super flop, both artistically and financially making it a low point of the gorgeous Berry’s career.
1. Jonah Hex : $36 million loss
With a starstudded cast including enormous talent like Megan Fox and John Malkovich, perhaps it’s unsurprising that Warner Bros. thought this was a dead cert at the box office. They invested a budget of $47 million to bring DC’s anti-hero Hex to the big screen. But perhaps the odd mix of Western and Supernatural themes was too much for audiences to handle; or perhaps it was just a badly made film all-round. Either way, with critics calling it ‘inept’ and ‘lazy’, DC’s anti-hero made an anti-classic. The movie grossed just over $11 million in total worldwide, making it one of the biggest ever comic book hero box office bombs.
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