Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Five superhero films no one should ever watch

Ever, ever, ever.

This weekend, some friends and I got together to watch movies. We had three genres, and the group picked the best and the worst in each. One of the genres was "superhero," and the consensus of the group (though not one I personally agree with) was that X-Men was the best, and that Superman IV was the worst (which I do agree with, mostly.)

But it occurred to me that, while The Quest for Peace is pretty much only watchable with either a lot of alcohol, or good friends to mock it with, there are lots of other terrible superhero films. So, here are five of the worst offenders, in chronological order.

The Batman (1943)
I don’t quite know where to begin with my critique of this movie. There are so many wonderful things about it, really, that I’m not sure which to start with.

Perhaps it’s the racial epithets Batman uses to describe our Japanese villain – I mean, really, don’t we all want to see the Dark Knight call someone “a filthy Jap”? Of course, there’s also the fact that this Japanese villain is played by a very Caucasian looking man. We’re not even talking Max Von Sydow as Ming level here, but just a clearly white man. Of special note, there’s Robin’s afro – a classic look, and one which I can’t figure out why they never included in the comics. This coordinates beautifully with the baggy tights which both Batman and Robin sport.

But really, the thing that I find most remarkable about this serial is the fact that, in an effort to end every episode with a cliffhanger, Batman and Robin each seem incapable of fighting off a single thug each. Really, why is this? I can forgive special effects of this era being primitive, and I’m even willing to grant them license for the racial epithets in light of the U.S. preparing to enter the war. But fist-fighting hasn’t evolved all that much in the past 60 years. Simple combat choreography should have been manageable, even then. If you want to inflict a racist, bad-looking Batman on us, so be it. But couldn’t he at least be competent?

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
In the late eighties, we were obsessed with worrying about a possible nuclear war. It only makes sense that someone would ask “Wouldn’t it be nice if Superman could take care of this for us?” And that’s what the makers of this film did. But oh boy, did they do a terrible job of it.

First off, it was about the preachiest movie I’ve ever seen. There are nuns in Catholic schools who could learn something about trying to make you feel guilty from this film – if you felt like torturing them in order for them to learn. But even getting past that, it’s just bad. Neither Hackman nor Reeves can save this one, though Reeves is really trying to. He delivers the worst line I’ve ever heard and makes them sound… well, like he means them. Hackman’s performance is phoned in completely, and the movie can’t even be consistent with its’ own rules (Nuclear Man enters a volcano to make it erupt – but he gets depowered without sunlight. And Luthor cuts through Superman’s hair with bolt cutters.)

Which really is what the worst part of the film is – the Nuclear Man. Who is created wearing a cape. Who has a mullet. Whose Lee-Press-On-Nails-of-Doom are what cripple Superman. And who forces us to endure one national monument after another be used to illustrate “Ooh, he’s a bad guy.” And Mark Pillow (yes, that’s his name) doesn’t even get to deliver his own lines! His voice is Gene Hackman’s.

I appreciate the fact that they tried to give Superman a supervillain to fight, but just say no to Nuclear Man.

The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988)/The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (1989)
(I know I’m cheating by including both of these together – bear with me. That's how they're packaged if you buy them - which you should not, but I did.) Lou Ferigno wore a false nose and a wig, in addition to being painted green, in order to play the Incredible Hulk. This only added to how ridiculous he looked – but somehow it worked. And the series was entertaining, in a 1970’s kind of way, probably due to the incredible acting skills of Bill Bixby.

I remember watching re-runs as a kid on Saturday mornings, and really digging them. So when they announced made-for-tv movies with the Hulk returning, I was ecstatic and forced my parents to let me watch them. I owe my parents a lot.

Every single part of these movies was deplorable. The “ninja-costume” Daredevil. Thor, the ancient Viking warrior (not god) who is summoned by (but not transformed into by) Donald Blake. Bill Bixby with a beard. John Rhys-Davis as the Kingpin. It’s just a lot of pain. The even more remarkable thing is that each of these were intended to also be pilots for a Thor or Daredevil series. Obviously, these never came to be.

They were followed up with The Death of the Incredible Hulk, which was a decent enough film, except for the very ending. (Because a fall from a helicopter is enough to kill the Hulk. Really.) A Resurrection of the Incredible Hulk was promised, but never came to be, largely because Bill Bixby passed away before it could become a reality. Of course, frighteningly, these might have been used as pilots for a She-Hulk or Iron Man series.

Ang Lee’s Hulk wasn’t good, but it was a lot better than these two turkeys. Gamma bomb them from orbit, it's the only way to be sure.

Captain America (1990)
(singing) When Captain America (in his rubber costume complete with artificial ears) throws his mighty (made of hard, ridged plastic) shield…

We cringe. A lot. The costume was atrocious, right up there with the bat-nipples from Batman & Robin. The shield looked like a toy, not the mightiest weapon available to the U.S. A heat gun could’ve destroyed it – so much for an unbreakable shield.

For reasons that will never be known to me, they also decided that the Red Skull shouldn’t be a German Nazi. Instead, he’s an Italian fascist. And his face doesn’t actually look like a skull – it just looks oogie. When Captain America re-awakens in the modern era, the Skull has disguised his appearance by painting the red flesh colored. So, he looks marginally less oogie.

And once more, we’re treated to an incompetent superhero. This movie is only 17 years old. I know for a fact that there were movies made before this film that had good fight-scenes. But “the Living Legend,” the pinnacle of human achievement, the most highly trained warrior produced by the US army – he fights like a drunken seventh-grader.

Catwoman (2004)
Do you remember seeing Lee Meriwether, Eartha Kitt, Julie Newmar or Michelle Pfeiffer playing Catwoman? They did so in the 1960’s television series and movie, and then in Batman Returns. Each of them was sexy, cunning and dangerous, and played a marvelous rendition of Selina Kyle.

I remember when they announced that the woman responsible for wasting the role of Storm (and she did) was going to be playing Catwoman in her own feature film. And I thought, Well, this is a waste. Why didn’t they do this ten years ago when Michelle Pfeiffer could have starred in the role? Then they further announced that she wasn’t going to be Selina Kyle, she was going to be Prudence Price. Ok, I thought, well at least this atrocity won’t be connected to the character of Selina Kyle. She’s just some other crazy cat-lady.

And then I saw the preview images from the film. There was a reasonable costume for her to wear, which she began off in. And then there was this one. To which I could only think to myself, Well, I have now seen the only thing in this movie that could possibly be worth seeing – namely a mostly-nude Halle Berry.

Little did I realize how right I was. That image was the only thing worth seeing. Save yourself, and look at the screen-shots, but avoid this film.

So, which terrible superhero films are among your favorite (or most hated?)

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Blogger Matt said...

5. Batman 1990. Couldn't stand Nicholson doing his gangster/Nicholson Joker after watching Mark Hamill's interpretation on the animated series. I also thought the fight scenes were very bad and Batman isn't quite as menacing when he's shot just after appearing.

4. League of Extraordinary Gentleman -- I find this movie makes you want to go and slap the camera crews who worked on it for being unable to shoot a steady fight sequence. The rest of the movie was mediocre, but I can't bring myself to get past the shaky camera work.

3. Daredevil, The Extended Edition -- I wasn't thrilled with the regular edition since the movie tried to cram way too much in a short time, but I was horrified at seeing what it could have been. The courtroom scenes were atrocious and the ending makes even less sense because the evidence they collected to get the convictions and tie everything together would never have held in court since it was found when Matt illegally broke into the apartment and used his super touch powers to get it.

2. Batman & Robin -- After watching it, you know why the reset button had to be pushed in order for more Batman movies to be made.

1. Ang Lee's Hulk -- Two hours of origin stories (cramming in every origin story ever come up with the Hulk to my knowledge), fights against giant dogs, and those remarkable purple pants which never tore a bit. Words cannot express how much I hate this movie which is why I'm very surprised that the TV movies made Aaron's list instead. It makes me want to watch the TV movies now because I would be astounded if anyone could make a worse Hulk film.

9:11 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

The only thing I can agree on on Matt's list is B&R. Especially considering that on neither of these lists is Nick Fury nor Fantastic Four, which has the special distinction of being the worst film made on a Hollywood blockbuster budget that even somehow managed spawned a sequel (that unbeleivably was even worse than the original). Heck, I find the others at worst to be entertaining and a couple on there quite good.

9:28 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

I liked the 1990 Batman, with the exception of Batman killing everyone who looks at him cross-eyed. And Nicholson's role pre-dates Hamil's. LXG is fairly sub-par, I'll grant you, but I don't think of it as a superhero movie.

Batman & Robin is a stinker - no question. But I haven't actually sat through it, so it felt unfair to pan it.

And I like Ang Lee's Hulk. If you take out everything involving the dad, it's a really decent film, with some great cinematographic elements to recreate the feel of a comic book.

Nick Fury of Shield is crap. That I can agree with. But it's not unwatchable crap.

And as far as FF goes, I can't agree with you at all. (Assuming you're talking about the recent ones and not the Roger Corman POS). I liked the first one. It's not among the best superhero movies at all, but I like it a lot more than I liked Ang Lee's Hulk, or Daredevil, and I think I may even like it more than I liked X3.

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Nico said...

Batman and Robin was utter crap, but it didn't assault my brain. This movie deserves to be shot to the Satellite of Love.

Fantastic Four was watchable. I own it, I'd watch it again. It's B-grade.

Nick Fury was a fantastic movie! Terrible, but hilarious. Again, this is payload for the Satellite of Love. It takes its place beside the 70's era made-for-TV Marvel masterpieces like Spider-Man and Doctor Strange.

9:58 AM  
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