Spider-Man, The Dark Knight, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk. Those are all superhero movies that came out in the first decade of the new millennium. We bet you know them pretty well. Same goes for Watchmen, The Incredibles, Hellboy, and the X-Men franchise. We're even willing to bet you remember many of the less-successful cinematic superhero adventures, like Constantine, Elektra, and Blade: Trinity. Good or bad, each of them kept the craze alive and kicking.
There are, however, a lot of other superhero movies from the era that we're betting you either haven't thought about in a long time or have completely forgotten. Some faded from memory because they were terrible. More tellingly, some of them did so because they were mediocre. When it comes to superhero films, which are fundamentally designed to give audiences a strong reaction, being mediocre is even worse than being bad.
Below is a thorough listing of these distinctly unmemorable titles, along with a little exploration of the specific reasons why they failed to make a lasting impact on audiences. A number of them clearly had sizable budgets and feature big stars and/or notable directors. That only makes their lack of memorability even more stunning.
Here are 18 Forgettable '00s Superhero Movies Only True Fans Remember.
Zoom is a 2006 family movie in which Tim Allen plays Jack Shepard, a retired superhero publicly known as Captain Zoom. When an evil villain named Concussion is discovered to be making his way toward Earth, the military convinces Shepard to come and train a group of kids with special abilities so that they can fight back. Courtney Cox and Chevy Chase play scientists who help him to accomplish this mission.
In many ways, Zoom is a watered-down variation on beloved Marvel and DC characters.
The powers possessed by the kids -- including invisibility, super-strength, and stretchiness -- are routine. They remind you of other, better superheroes. The film's jokes, meanwhile, are immature, and the special effects are oddly weak for a major studio production. The only thing that makes Zoom notable, aside from Chase mining a few chuckles, is that it marks an early role for Kate Mara.
17 Stan Lee's Lightspeed
In the early- to mid-2000s, Stan Lee attempted to create some new superheroes. His company had a deal with the Sci-Fi Channel to produce an original movie featuring one of them. The result was Lightspeed.
Jason Connery plays government agent Daniel Leight. He gets critically injured on a mission and receives radiation treatment to heal his wounds. The nefarious mutant known as the Python attempts to wreck those treatments, instead leaving Daniel with the ability to move at the speed of light. Under the superhero moniker Lightspeed, the agent uses his new power to bring Python down.
Stan Lee has been associated with dozens of great characters over the decades. This isn't one of them.
The movie is predictable and cheesy, with special effects that are less than stellar. Lightspeed is nothing more than a low-rent version of the Flash, minus the personality.
16 The Specials
More than a decade before he made the Guardians of the Galaxy pictures for Marvel, James Gunn wrote another superhero movie. The Specials is about "the sixth or seventh best superhero team in the world." Members include the Weevil (Rob Lowe), Strobe (Thomas Haden Church), and Nightbird (Jordan Ladd).
The Specials don't care so much about fighting crime. They're more concerned with getting good publicity and having action figures made in their likenesses. When they finally get a toy deal, the company manufactures cheap dolls that don't bear enough resemblance to their inspirations. That doesn't sit well with the heroes.
James Gunn's quirky humor has always been a little ahead of its time, so the world may not have been ready for The Specials in 2000. It probably didn't help that the similar Mystery Men came out the year before. Regardless, the movie only made $13,276 in limited release.
Underdog is a quintessential example of filmmakers unsuccessfully using new technology to "improve" on something that was already perfectly fine. Disney took the title character, a canine superhero who had his own animated TV series in the 1960s and 1970s, and brought him back to life using a mixture of real dogs and photo-realistic computer technology.
Seeing animals talk onscreen is always a little creepy, which is definitely the case here. Seeing a realistic-looking dog put on a cape, fly, and fight bad guys is even creepier.
There's some big-name talent in this film. Jason Lee provides the voice of Underdog and Amy Adams does vocals for his female cohort, Polly. Peter Dinklage, Samantha Bee, and Mad Men's John Slattery play human characters. Despite the star wattage, Underdog is one of those movies that satisfies very young children, but few others.
If you're making an action movie about young superheroes, could you come up with a lamer, less enticing title than Push? It's unbelievably bland, giving you no indication of what the story will be about. That may be part of why audiences ignored it.
Dakota Fanning and a pre-Captain America Chris Evans play, respectively, a clairvoyant and a telekinetic who join forces to halt a covert government agency that's attempting to create a psychic army. The key to doing that is finding Kira (Camilla Belle), a "pusher" with the highly sought-after ability to control others. She's the only one who can really make it happen.
Push was criticized for sticking an attractive cast of up-and-comers in a cliched story that offered way more style than substance. In the end, the movie proved to be every bit as generic as its title.
Woody Harrelson stars in 2009's Defendor, playing Arthur Poppington, a construction worker who dons a homemade costume at night and hits the city streets in search of his arch-enemy, Captain Industry. He finds hardcore trouble after saving Kat Dennings from the clutches of an abusive, substance-using cop played by Elias Koteas. That sets off a string of developments, each of which has genuine peril for Arthur.
Defendor got mostly decent reviews, but the tone isn't in line with the majority of superhero movies.
In many ways, the film is more a dark character study than anything. Some of the story's themes include the "invisibility" of the Everyman and the way painful events from childhood impact people as adults. Not exactly lightweight, good-time fare.
Perhaps realizing it wasn't likely to become a smash hit, the distributor barely released Defendor, leading to a box office gross of just over $44,000.
12 The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was probably doomed before it ever hit theater screens. There were rumors of intense behind-the-scenes conflict, with the cast allegedly growing frustrated with director Stephen Norrington's indecision on-set, which caused production to drag on longer than expected. Those problems very likely affected what audiences finally saw.
Based on a popular graphic novel, the film has a cool premise. In 1899, Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo, Tom Sawyer, and several other well-known literary characters band together to fight a masked terrorist called the Phantom. Unfortunately, those characters are poorly developed, and the plot confusingly goes in several different directions simultaneously.
By the end, it becomes a loud, chaotic barrage of action scenes that carry no weight.
Sean Connery plays Quatermain, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen ended up being his final film before retiring from acting. What a sad way to go out.
11 The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl
Robert Rodriguez established himself as a skilled action director with From Dusk Till Dawn and Sin City. For a change of pace, he tried his hand at family-friendly filmmaking, delivering the Spy Kids series. When those pictures became popular, he decided to make The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, an original 3-D superhero movie for all ages. It was not nearly as well-received.
A pre-Twilight Taylor Lautner plays Sharkboy, a boy with shark-like qualities. Taylor Dooley plays Lavagirl, a girl with volcanic powers. They band together with a school student named Max (Cayden Boyd) to foil the evil Mr. Electric (George Lopez), a madman with world domination plans.
Although the 3-D effects are pretty good, Sharkboy and Lavagirl turn out to be dull superheroes.
Their powers aren't all that cool, which leads to monotony. Those issues, combined with stiff performances, make for a superhero flick that's justly forgotten.
10 Punisher: War Zone
Punisher: War Zone was intended to be something of a do-over. The first Punisher movie, with Thomas Jane in the lead role, was underwhelming, both in terms of quality and box office performance. Even those who liked it admitted that it could have been better. Everyone involved in the sequel hoped to correct the missteps and deliver something that fans of the Marvel character would love.
That plan didn't work out. Jane was replaced with Ray Stevenson, an actor with far less marquee value -- and, some would say, charisma. Audiences weren't bowled over by the story, either. The Punisher has always been a brutal hero, but War Zone indulges in graphic violence to the point where it starts to feel like overkill. If the plot was more engaging, the endless sadistic bloodshed might be somewhat easier to stomach. Instead, it's just gratuitous and exploitative.
9 My Super Ex-Girlfriend
Superheroes need love, too. What happens when one of them gets a broken heart? That's the question posed by the romantic comedy My Super Ex-Girlfriend. Uma Thurman plays Jenny Johnson, also known as the costumed crime-fighter G-Girl.
She gets dumped by her boyfriend Matt (Luke Wilson) because she's too clingy, then has a bit of a meltdown. Using her superhero powers, she tries to make Matt's life miserable, in part by ruining his new relationship with Hannah (Anna Faris).
A superhero rom-com is a great idea. My Super Ex-Girlfriend has just the right people to pull it off, too. Aside from the stellar cast, there's director Ivan Reitman; the man who made a little movie called Ghostbusters. Despite those power players, the film's screenplay pulls it down. There are too many sexist cliches here, not the least of which is that the central female character falls apart without a man.
Hancock is an unusual case. The movie was a big hit, earning $227 million in North America. Nevertheless, reviews were generally negative. It only has a 41% at Rotten Tomatoes. Despite forking over their money in large numbers, audiences didn't seem particularly enamored with it. The best explanation is that the film drew in crowds because Will Smith was at the peak of his popularity at the time and could open literally anything.
Smith plays a not-very-heroic superhero with a severe drinking problem, a crabby personality, and a tendency to destroy large sections of Los Angeles when he fights crime. The story tells what happens when Hancock saves a public relations expert (Jason Bateman) who offers to help him rehabilitate his image.
The general consensus on Hancock is that it has a great deconstructionist twist on the general superhero concept, yet fails to fully capitalize on its potential.
7 The Crow: Salvation
The Crow is remembered for the tragic passing of Brandon Lee during production. It was a good movie that did well enough to inspire several sequels, to diminishing returns.
No one embodied the title character the way Lee did, and none of the sequel directors could make the dark tone as mesmerizing as Alex Proyas had.
That brings us to 2000's The Crow: Salvation. Eric Mabius plays Alex Corvis, an inmate resurrected by the magical crow after a botched execution. Alex always maintained that he was innocent in the end of his girlfriend. In his newly revived form, and with the help of her sister (Kirsten Dunst), he sets out to find the real criminal.
The Crow: Salvation was intended for wide release, but somewhere along the way, Dimension Films lost confidence in it. The movie played in only a couple theaters before quickly being whisked onto DVD.
6 Sky High
Disney's Sky High is an attempt to combine superhero movies with teen comedies. The title refers to an airborne high school that caters to adolescents with special abilities. Michael Angarano plays Will, the son of two well-known superheroes. His parents send him to the school, despite the fact that his powers have not yet emerged. Will must learn how to develop them, while also navigating typical teen problems, like having a crush on the popular girl (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
Sky High never got the love it deserves.
The film is witty, as well as intelligent about the awkwardness that comes with being a teenager. Despite good reviews, it only did middling box office business. Home video helped to raise its profile somewhat, yet it remains a cool little movie that many seem to dismiss because it looks, at a casual glance, like a glorified Disney Channel production.
In Jumper, Hayden Christensen plays David, a guy who uses his teleportation abilities to rob banks and woo his former junior high school girlfriend, Millie (Rachel Bilson). One day, he discovers that a group called "the Paladins" is hunting people just like him. They're led by the ruthless Roland (Samuel L. Jackson). When Roland targets Millie to get to David, our hero suits up for battle.
Hayden Christensen was briefly a leading man in movies, thanks to the high profile of his work in the Star Wars prequels. Movies like this helped to seriously harm his career.
The premise of being able to transport anywhere in the world in the blink of an eye offers a lot of possibilities.
Jumper explores almost none of them. Frequent criticisms are that the plot is disjointed and the gimmick of hopping becomes monotonous. A hoped-for franchise never materialized.
4 Superhero Movie
Airplane! perfected the art of cinematic spoofing when it was released back in 1980. Few comedies have been able to match its skill in the intervening decades. That includes the superhero movie called Superhero Movie.
Former Nickelodeon star Drake Bell plays Rick, a geeky teen who gets bitten by a radioactive dragonfly and subsequently develops superhuman powers. He uses them to court the school beauty (Sara Paxton) and fight the nefarious Hourglass (Christopher McDonald). All manner of superhero conventions are mocked in the process.
Superhero Movie came at the tail end of the spoof craze. Audiences had already been subjected to the similar Date Movie, Epic Movie, and Meet the Spartans. Fatigue definitely settled in by that point. What might have seemed fresh in a different time instead felt stale.
On the plus side, the film offers Kevin Hart in a supporting role, before he was a household name.
3 The Spirit
Frank Miller had a massively successful career in comic book writing - so successful, in fact, that Robert Rodriguez brought him in to co-direct a screen adaption of his Sin City graphic novel series. The popularity of that movie apparently convinced Miller that he could do it on his own, without Rodriguez's help. He therefore helmed The Spirit, a film version of Will Eisner's comic strip.
The movie utilizes roughly the same visual style that proved so effective in Sin City. The fact remains, though, that Rodriguez was responsible for that film's quality. Miller is clearly out of his depth as a solo director.
The Spirit has clumsy pacing, a nonsensical plot, and thin characterization.
Those qualities, plus an ill-advised Christmas Day release, ensured that The Spirit made a quick exit from both theaters and the public's awareness, despite a cast that includes Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson.
2 Astro Boy
Astro Boy is a 2009 animated feature about a scientist (voiced by Nicolas Cage) who invents the title character, a robotic replica of his son, Toby. The robo-lad comes equipped with a bunch of cool functions, including immense strength, x-ray vision, and the ability to fly. What he doesn't know is that he's also been implanted with Toby's memories, aside from his passing. The plot finds Astro Boy having to defend his home, Metro City, from a sinister threat.
Astro Boy has appealing animation and an all-star voice cast that includes Freddie Highmore, Kristen Bell, and Charlize Theron. Word got around that the movie contained the sad story about Toby. That's a subject a lot of parents don't want to subject themselves to, much less explain to their own kids. Overtly political overtones, concerning a clash between warmongers and peacekeepers, similarly made it easy for families to bypass.
Technically, you'd have to consider 2005's Man-Thing to be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. You probably wouldn't like it, but you'd definitely have to do it. The film, featuring the swamp-dwelling character of the same name, was made in Australia and features a host of actors from Down Under, such as Jessica Jones' Rachael Taylor and Hawaii Five-O's Alex O'Loughlin.
Directed by The Lawnmower Man's Brett Leonard, the movie finds employees of an oil tycoon mysteriously vanishing while exploring a swamp he plans to drill. The local sheriff investigates, coming to the conclusion that the mystical creature Man-Thing is the culprit.
Suffice it to say, this was not Marvel's finest hour. Man-Thing bypassed theaters in North America, debuting on the Sci-Fi Channel instead. It received a theatrical release in several foreign countries, but that was a bust. The film only made a million bucks globally.
How many of these forgettable movies were you able to recall? How many have you seen? Give us your thoughts in the comments.