There are some comic book movies you can watch multiple times without them ever becoming tedious or boring. Films like The Dark Knight, The Avengers, Iron Man and Man of Steel, are enjoyable on so many levels that a fan shouldn’t hesitate to watch them over and over. Conversely, there are those films in many comic book movie libraries which exist but that, for various reasons, watching them more than once really serves no purpose. Those are the films we’re discussing today.
Several factors can make a film only worth watching once: bad acting/writing/directing/effects, no continuity with other films in its universe, and a severe departure from the source material – just to name a few. So before you power up the Blu-ray player to watch that comic book-inspired movie, read our list below to see if it’s a Superhero Films You Don’t Need to Watch Twice.
For the most part, the first Punisher film (technically the second) stayed fairly true to the roots of main character, Frank Castle (Thomas Jane). But while his violent origins stayed consistent with those from the comics, the film itself, lacked a certain tenacity and viciousness that is heavily present in the series. Director Lexi Alexander tried her best to correct that issue in Punisher: Warzone, but while doing so, gave comic book fans a one-dimensional, almost boring Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson) with a storyline that in no way connected to the previous film or allowed room for a sequel.
Stevenson delivered a fine performance as Frank Castle (considering the script he was given to work with), and we found Jigsaw’s outfit to be one of the Best Supervillain Movie Costumes to date. However, that just isn’t enough reason to watch this film again. Instead, fans should cross their fingers that Thomas Jane will once again don the iconic skull t-shirt for a quasi-reboot, or at the very least his own TV show. In the meantime, enjoy Adi Shankar’s Punisher short film, Dirty Laundry.
Before she was a prepubescent thief on Gotham or killing Bane with the Batpod in The Dark Knight Rises (we still can’t believe that happened) – and after she was a leather-clad foil for Batman in Batman Returns – Catwoman found herself (for some unknown reason) in the middle of her own solo movie.
Besides seeing Halle Berry dressed as a Catwoman stripper, there’s very little reason to watch this film beyond one viewing. The storyline had little to do with the character from the comics, the action was over-the-top ridiculous and the acting was so bad the film managed to scoop up four Razzies in 2004. Watch it once just to tell your friends you managed to make it all the way through, but then forget this terrible movie even exists.
After watching Warner Bros try (and fail) to successfully bring a female superhero to life with Catwoman, Fox decided they could do better by using one of the coolest female characters in Marvel’s line up, Elektra. Elektra wasn’t the character’s first appearance in the Marvel cinematic universe. She initially appeared as blind lawyer Matt Murdock’s girlfriend in Daredevil, and it was a decent (though water-downed) adaptation of the character. However, the solo film was essentially a complete bastardization of the fan-favorite female assassin.
Instead of a scantily-clad, bad-ass martial arts expert assassin with a rich backstory, audiences were given a midriff-baring, obsessive compulsive, astral-projecting (not even making that part up), part-time assassin on the run from ninjas – while trying to be a surrogate mother to a white teenage girl who just happens to be a martial arts prodigy… whew. The film was a complete disaster and would ultimately become one of the lowest earning movies in Marvel history, just above Howard the Duck. Watch this film once if you absolutely have to see Jennifer Garner in red leather while stabbing people with silver sais, but there’s no need to ever see it again.
Making his masked debut in 1940, Denny Dolt (a.k.a.The Spirit) would be a staple comic strip in Sunday morning newspapers for over 10 years. Creator Will Eisner would continue to tell stories about the vigilante between 1960 and 1980. The character remained somewhat dormant in the comic world until it experienced a revival of sorts in the late-1990’s and early-2000’s when DC Comics began publishing new Spirit stories by different writers. Even with a (small) resurgence in popularity, it’s puzzling why DC Comics and Lionsgate thought letting comic legend Frank Miller trun a half-century old/half-forgotten comic strip into a feature-length movie was a prudent move.
The tone of the film was too campy (even by camp-enthusiast standards) and while the set pieces and art design were interesting, The Spirit was just too over-the-top to be taken seriously. The film loses additional points for showing The Octopus’ face on-screen (a scene-chewing performance by Samuel L. Jackson), when all that’s ever shown in the comics are his gloved hands. Even though there are some other fairly big names and OK performances attached to the film – Scarlett Johansson, Eva Mendes, Gabriel Macht – they simply aren’t enough reason to watch this film more than once. Plaster of Paris’ supervillain costume did manage to make it onto our 25 Best Supervillain Movie Costumes list, though.
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Though there have been many incarnations of Superman – read: 16 Actors Who Have Portrayed Superman and Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen – the version audiences most often associate with the superhero is Christopher Reeve from Supes’ first feature-length film in 1978. His classic and iconic version of Superman would reign for almost 10 years….until Superman IV: The Quest for Peace tragically happened.
The story for Superman IV was nothing short of absurd: Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) steals a strand of Superman’s hair, ties it to a rocket, and shoots it into the sun creating a nemesis for Superman named Nuclear Man. The film essentially killed the franchise for nearly 20 years until Superman Returns tried (feebly) to revive the character on the big screen. Like a modern-day Syfy original film, the ham-fisted acting and laughably-poor graphics (even by 80’s standards) in the movie are best enjoyed with a hefty side of snark – think Mystery Science Theater 3000. Worst yet, it was Reeve himself who pushed to get the film made, even helping to craft the… *ahem* “story.”
Much like Superman, Green Lantern had been on the small screen for years with various degrees of success and failure before his big screen debut in 2011 starring Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan. When it was first announced that Reynolds would be playing the title role in the film, many fans were generally excited. Then the first images of the all-CG suit and the *shudder* CG mask made their appearance – and hope was seemingly lost. The suit even made our Worst Superhero Movie Costumes list.
Filmmakers tried hard to sell audiences on Jordan, the idea of Green Lantern Corps, and the threat of a galactic enemy hell-bent on destroying the earth, but audiences just didn’t accept it. The film would inevitably stop the potential franchise from ever getting off the ground (read our no-punches-pulled review). In fact, audiences will never again see this version of the comic character on the big screen. The film does offer some fun moments scattered throughout the nonsense, but since nothing from this movie will matter once the reboot hits theaters in 2020 (sans Ryan Reynolds), it’s pretty pointless to watch this film ever again.
Batman & Robin
While we tried not to include films on this list simply because they’re widely considered to be bad movies, some films are SO bad, that it’s the ONLY reason necessary to include them – and such is the case for Batman & Robin. The infamous fourth film in the Batman franchise (and director Joel Schumacher’s second) felt doomed from the start. While Schumacher can, at times, be an excellent director (see: The Lost Boys and Flatliners), he just couldn’t find his footing in the comic book world – even going as far as to apologize for the film – and made many questionable decisions during the production of these movies.
If you’ve watched this cinematic nightmare once, you’ll know there’s no reason to ever again submit your eyes to the visual torture that was Poison Ivy’s hair, Bane’s veiny muscles or those horrendous Bat-nipples. And while Arnold Schwarzenegger has made a career spouting off often corny one-liners, the humorless and unoriginal puns he delivers in this movie as Mr. Freeze aren’t just unforgettable, they’re borderline unforgivable.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
For all of its flaws, ridiculous character developments and hammy acting, the first Ghost Rider film at least had some fun comic book moments that make it worth watching occasionally over the course of a cinema-viewing lifetime. The same, however, can not be said for the ill-crafted sequel, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. The film touted directing duo Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank, Gamer), so Ghost Rider 2 had the potential to be fun, irreverent movie in a very NSFW-way.
Instead of giving audiences a serious and interesting off-kilter look at the flaming-skulled demon, we were bombarded with juvenile visual jokes – like Ghost Rider peeing fire. They even changed long established comic canon by asserting that Ghost Rider (who rides a hell-possessed flaming motorcycle) can turn any vehicle he touches into a hell-cycle – including a giant rock-digging crane. The movie is beyond the point of being inexcusable and watching it a second time would serve no purpose except to frustrate you.
Some may say that the first two original Spider-Man films were vastly superior to the most recent films in the rebooted franchise, but even those two films look like Citizen Kane when compared to clunky, bloated Spider-Man 3. Some people blame heavy studio meddling for how poorly Spider-Man 3 turned out, but while Sony execs allegedly forced director Sam Raimi to include a half-developed Venom (a character he didn’t want to include), they didn’t make him turn Peter Parker into an egotistical, dancing, emo jerk – that decision was ALL his.
Not everything about this movie is awful – the birth of The Sandman is hauntingly beautiful and his costume made it into the top 20 of our list of The Best Supervillain Movie Costumes – but the rest lacks the appeal and originality that made multiple viewings of the first two films so enjoyable. With rumors surfacing that Sony is yet again rebooting the Spider-Man franchise, finding a reason to watch Spider-Man 3 more than once is virtually non-existent.
X-Men: The Last Stand
Every comic book movie (and fan) owes a debt of gratitude to the original X-Men movie, because without its mainstream success it’s highly doubtful there would be as many movies based-on and inspired-by the comic books fans love. The second film in the franchise, X2: X-Men United, managed to outdo the first film in just about every way, so it appeared the X-Men franchise was hitting on all cylinders. Then director Brett Ratner got his hands on the franchise and mutilated the characters and story beyond comprehension.
Of course, if you ask Ratner, he thinks he did the Marvel-owned franchise justice and fan boys are just oversensitive nerds. Truth is, it took 8 years and 4 films to fix all the devastation to the cinematic X-Men canon he caused. Apart from seeing Colossus and the ridiculous looking Juggernaut in action (seriously, why did these two tanks never fight in the movie?), there’s very little reason to watch this film again. With his monumental, continuity-correcting success, X-Men: Days of Future Past, director Bryan Singer has made X-Men 3: The Last Stand an obsolete film in the franchise’s film library.
There are two schools of thought regarding whether The Incredible Hulk’s big screen debut is worth watching more than once. On one side, some people appreciate the high-concept approach director Ang Lee took with the character, and many of the scenes in his film were gorgeous and exhilarating. On the other side, apart from the title character, Hulk doesn’t connect in any way to the shared cinematic universe Marvel has now created, making it seemingly pointless to re-watch. Plus, there was a dumb electricity monster (who just happened to be Bruce Banner’s dad) and those outrageous “Hulk” dogs in the movie – so we can see both sides on this one.
For every great Dark Knight and Blade screenplay that David Goyer writes, there’s a mediocre Blade: Trinity screenplay to counter them. Blade: Trinity was the third film in the successful Blade franchise and had the distinction of being both written and directed by Goyer. Not everyone appreciates Goyer’s style of writing and directing, so some consider this film to be a failure in many ways – not the least of which was the inclusion of the vampiric, blood-sucking, jaw-unhinging dogs and turning Dracula a sort of Euro-trash club kid. However, others think this was a fitting end to the franchise, and hail the casting of Ryan Reynolds as the Nightstalker, Hannibal King, and Jessica Biel’s abs as reason enough to watch the film again.
Ideally, every film based on a superhero or comic property would be so fantastic that repeated viewings would not only be a necessity, they would almost be a requirement for comic book movie fans – but sadly that’s just not a very realistic expectation. With several dozen superhero films now in existence (and over forty more on the way), we’re sure there are other films that will fall into the “one-and-done” viewing category.
Tell us which movies you would add to or take off our list of Superhero Films You Don’t Need to Watch Twice and why in the comment section.