When it is time to suit up in spandex and save the world, Hollywood is all too keen to turn to a good superhero blockbuster to rake in the big bucks. From DC to Marvel, Batman to Iron Man, Snyder to the Russo Brothers, there is no denying that comic book movies mean serious business.
With the superhero boom started by Bryan Singer’s X-Men in 2000, we have enjoyed some 17 years of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, and loads of superhero movies that have been both good and bad. However, before the MCU was riding high on a wave of positive press, comic book movies were nothing new. Cinema had already enjoyed some notable comic book hits and the misses. Looking at the Caped Crusader, in the pre-Iron Man world we had the amazing Burton era and also those Schumacher shockers.
So what happens when your latest comic book movie pans with either the box office or the critics, can anything be done to save it? Even the best superhero movies will find some critics, and as they say, “nobody’s perfect.” That being said, everyone has that one bad superhero movie that they secretly think is amazing, no matter how bad anyone says it is.
Here are 15 Superhero Movie Flops That Are Secretly Awesome.
15. The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Going down in history as the film that retired the legendary Sean Connery, was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen really that bad?
An insane amount of work went into Stephen Norrington’s film, with the likes of the entire Venice scene being created with models. Also, without being a direct adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel series, League carved a unique storyline to make Stuart Townsend’s Dorian Gray one of the main villains of the piece.
Sure, you could see the twist of M being Moriarty a mile off, but with a sympathetic Dr. Jekyll, a powerful Mina Harker, and Jason Statham at his cockney best, the depth of character outweighed the movie’s many flaws - perhaps the biggest being that it wasn’t as good as its source material.
There were obvious plans for a sequel, and it is hard to imagine that if LXG had been made today, any studio would've at least pushed for a second installment.
14. Judge Dredd
Perhaps Sylvester Stallone should’ve done a Karl Urban and kept the helmet on, but there is something that we can’t help but love about the cheesefest that was Judge Dredd.
Adapting (albeit loosely) the 2000 AD comic series, director Danny Cannon clearly had the right vision for the movie - he blamed a lot of the changes from the original script on Stallone.
If you can get past Rob Schneider as the sidekick and the massive deviations from the source, Judge Dredd actually lives up to the comic’s original motive of being a satire of Dirty Harry-esque justice. However, the movie's biggest redeeming factor is how incredible Mega-City One looks, which is something that the 2012 reboot failed to capture. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the rich backdrop of the sci-fi future is actually more interesting than the lead character himself, so it is no surprise that a Mega-City One TV series is on its way.
Judge Dredd may not be as gritty and dark as the Urban days, but as a camp sci-romp of the ‘90s, it is one of the most memorable.
13. The Green Hornet
Funnyman Seth Rogen taking on the superhero genre, what could possibly go wrong? Well, apparently a lot. The Green Hornet may not have known whether it was a comedy or a action film, but it tried its best to traverse the two worlds. It may not always have been a success, but perhaps that’s just because Rogen wasn’t your stereotypical “superhero lead" with rippling abs and buns of steel.
Christoph Waltz couldn't possibly live up to his Basterds villainy, but he is still more than capable of being the movie’s bad guy. Elsewhere, Rogen had all the goofy charm that you can’t help but warm to, while Cameron Diaz and Jay Chou turned into loveable supporting performances.
The Green Hornet managed to do what so few superhero film can; it pokes fun at itself from nearly every angle. Not even pretending to be perfect, The Green Hornet became a buddy comedy at heart, buzzing with the rapport between Reid and Kato that fans have enjoyed since the 1930s radio serial.
12. Batman Forever
Away from the brooding Burton days and before the brooding Nolan days, there was that brightly colored Joel Schumacher era for the Caped Crusader. While fans might struggle to find anything redeeming about Batman & Robin, Batman Forever isn't without its charms.
The gothic backdrop may have been swapped for a cartoony Gotham City, and Michael Keaton for Val Kilmer, but a more colorful take on the Batman source material tried to balance the campness of the ‘60s show and the legacy of Tim Burton.
Nicole Kidman played a very different love interest, unlike the antiheroine Selina Kyle and the damsel in distress Vicki Vale, and we enjoyed two more fan-favorite villains. Although Tommy Lee Jones reportedly couldn't stand Jim Carrey, the pair managed to put their differences aside for the interesting pairing of Two-Face and the Riddler.
If only Warner Bros. hadn’t been so obsessed with peddling merchandise instead of a solid storyline, Batman Forever would’ve undoubtedly been better received. It’s fun, it’s stupid, and it is a sadly forgotten “middle” Batman movie. Also, let’s not forget that amazing song from Seal.
11. Superman Returns
Poor Brandon Routh. If Kilmer is the forgotten Batman, Routh is the missing Superman. Before Henry Cavill took to the skies, things had looked so promising for Routh in a post-Dean Cain Superman world.
Set in a world where Superman III and Superman IV never happened, director Bryan Singer decided to pick up where Richard Donner had left off with Krypton still very much still existing in the cosmos.
After his success with X-Men and X2, Singer turned from Marvel to DC with one of the most divisive Superman entries out there. With that amazing score and some old footage of Marlon Brando, Singer clearly put his heart and soul into his vision for the Man of Steel. Then there is Kevin Spacey, taking everything you could learn from Gene Hackman’s tenure as Lex Luthor and adding a manic psychosis to it.
Apart from Constantine being a blond Brit, director Francis Lawrence wasn’t afraid to adapt the Hellblazer series from DC. Lawrence went on to direct I Am Legend and the majority of The Hunger Games movies, so Constantine served as his calling card.
Although it landed firmly on Roger Ebert’s "Most Hated" movies as of 2005, Constantine was a supernatural horror that anyone can enjoy. If it’s good enough for Tilda Swinton, it’s good enough for us. Swinton was superb as the venomous Gabriel, and even if Keanu Reeves doesn't quite embody the Constantine that fans know and love
The sequel was obviously lost in development hell and the TV series somehow flopped more than the movie. Who knows what will happen with John Constantine next, but let’s enjoy the Reeves days.
2008’s Hancock is an enjoyable romp with Will Smith as a more than capable lead. However, instead of coming from the pages of Marvel or DC, Smith’s superheroic loser is the brainchild of Hollywood itself.
Jason Bateman is the PR whizz tasked with reinventing Hancock’s tarnished career when the hero's drunken antics have caused more harm than good, while Charlize Theron plays a suburban housewife. Think Superman meets Wolverine, but with a bottle of Jack Daniels, and you basically get Smith’s performance. It’s a clever twist on the classic “good guy" superhero movie.
Peter Berg’s movie is packed with cool SFX, A-list talent, and a heartwarming story. As the city realizes that it needs the crude hero just as much as he needs the admiration of his fans, there is an essence of The Dark Knight Rises to the movie’s second half. The ending is all too obvious, but it doesn’t stop Hancock being a thoroughly happy jaunt to get there.
Before blasting off into the cosmos with the Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn tried his hand at a superhero movie with the aptly named Super. Clueless loser Frank (Rainn Wilson) decides to save his girlfriend from crime under the alias of the Crimson Bolt.
A particularly dark black comedy, Super relentlessly splashes blood across its screens as the Crimson Bolt takes on Kevin Bacon’s henchmen armed with a wrench. Given that Kick-Ass and Super both came out in 2010, you can’t blame the latter’s harshest critics for seeing it as a low-rent version of Matthew Vaughn’s movie.
Super is lucky that Wilson can carry the joke through to the end, bowing out in a particularly graphic bloodbath that even Tarantino would be proud of. It may be some fun popcorn viewing, but as Gunn’s lowest-grossing movie ever, Super doesn’t fair as well next to the director’s current MCU glory.
7. Sky High
Before Disney struck gold with the MCU, its early attempts at a superhero movie came up with the brilliantly underrated Sky High. Set to a cheesy Disney soundtrack of ‘80s covers, Sky High is basically any other teen drama from that decade with an X-Men-esque twist.
Failing to live up to the hype of his legendary superhero parents, Michael Angarano plays the downtrodden Will Stronghold. Between Snake Plissken and Ego the Living Planet, Kurt Russell excels at playing the square-jawed Commander, and let’s not forget that Sky High also managed to nab Wonder Woman herself - casting Lynda Carter as Principal Powers.
With all the high school angst of Mean Girls and all the charm of a Disney show, Sky High reinvents the bullied kid at a new school storyline. However, if Sky High had come just a little later and nudged itself past 2010, it would likely have been a huge hit.
6. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
There is no denying that Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer was lambasted, but away from a dull origin movie, the characters managed to find their footing in the sequel. Notably, Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, and Michael Chiklis have all the chemistry you could want from a quartet of lycra-clad geniuses, and despite a lame wedding plot, the movie soon picks up.
Sadly, Rise of the Silver Surfer still lives in the grim shadow of its predecessor and that awful representation of Doctor Doom. However, let’s remember that director Tim Story gave us two truly brilliant Marvel villains in Galactus and the Silver Surfer. Doug Jones does what he does best as a creature actor, while Laurence Fishburne provides the soothing vocals of Norrin Radd.
While the whole genre was going dark and gritty, Rise dared to still bring fun to the world of superheroes. Some called the movie out for altering the Silver Surfer’s backstory, but given how much superhero movies since have messed with their source material, it can surely be forgiven. Also, compared to Josh Trank’s dire 2015 reboot, any Fantastic Four movie comes out smelling of roses.
5. Barb Wire
In David Hogan’s Barb Wire, Pamela Anderson played the apocalyptic barmaid who just so happened to be the world’s deadliest bounty hunter. With the USA in the throes of another civil war, Barb is forced to pick a side and take a bloody stance on the future.
Given that the movie opens with a man taking a stiletto to the face, Barb Wire is just as violent as the Dark Horse comic book it is based on. As a weird “remake” of Casablanca, Barb is effectively Humphrey Bogart’s Rick, and Ilsa is played by Temuera Morrison’s Axel. Anderson gets a bad rap for the dialogue, but doing what she can with the script, she delivers every line with all the sass you would expect.
In fact, it is hard to imagine anyone else other than Anderson pulling off the part. It may seem like an abysmal role, but you can’t say that she doesn’t own it. Barb Wire was supposed to launch Anderson's career as a credible actress, but maybe it is for the best that it didn’t. Cyborgs, killing Nazis, and a whole lot of Pamela Anderson - what’s not to love?
4. Blade: Trinity
By the time fans got to Blade: Trinity, the vampire vs human war may have seemed to take a stake to the heart, but putting Wesley Snipes back in that leather coat once again, Hollywood squeezed every last drop of blood from the series.
Literally giving new blood to a dying character, Snipes’ vampire hybrid was joined by a new breed of young fang slayers. Enter Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds as two welcome additions. The first two Blade movies were marketed a vampire martial arts movies, while Trinity also attempted to live up to that mission statement.
There was a brave finite note to Trinity, tragically emphasized by the passing of long-term Blade staple Whistler. Parker Posey had a strangely entertaining performance as the villainous Danica, and love it or hate it, Trinity brought Dracula to the franchise - enter Dominic Purcell as the hammy vampire leader.
Among Trinity's biggest supporters are writer-director David Goyer, who said that Trinity was the most fun he ever had filming a movie. Perhaps the biggest problem is that Goyer couldn’t live up to the stellar job that Guillermo del Toro did on Blade II.
3. X-Men: The Last Stand
Most are critical of threequel X-Men: The Last Stand because it didn’t have X-legend Bryan Singer behind the scenes. However, considering all the drama, Brett Ratner did what he could to round off the trilogy.
Picking up where X2 left off with Jean Grey’s watery grave, The Last Stand quickly tore through its cast and offed huge names like Cyclops and Professor Xavier. Louder, more colorful, and more deadly, all bets were off as we headed into the “Dark Phoenix” story arc.
Showing off her mean streak, Famke Janssen brought all the fire of a vengeful and confused Jean Grey to the movie, balanced alongside the idea of a mutant cure. Ignoring Angel and Vinnie Jones’ abysmal portrayal of Juggernaut, all the roles were well-acted and came together nicely.
Everyone remembers the first time they saw the scene at Jean Grey’s childhood home when Patrick Stewart’s Xavier is literally obliterated before our eyes. Even Magneto goes from full-blown villain to tragic mourner of his fallen friend.
2. Thor: The Dark World
Living up to its grisly namesake a little too much, there are many reasons why Thor: The Dark World is the lowest-rated MCU movie to date. However, with a still impressive rating on review sites, TDW is a long way from some entries on this list.
There is pretty standard Marvel fodder, as Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith attacks Asgard with some space-age weaponry, and it is up to our hammer-throwing hero to save the day once more. Malekith isn’t up there with the greats like Red Skull or Vulture, but he is hardly a faux Mandarin or Abomination.
Ragnarok may be tipped as Thor’s first “funny” movie, but let’s not forget the comic timing of Kat Dennings as Darcy. Alongside the comedy, there was also the tragic loss of Thor’s mother Frigga, the bromance between Hiddleston and Hemsworth, and that memorable Loki is Odin twist, making The Dark World one of the most emotional movies to grace the MCU.
1. Kick-Ass 2
It is ironic to think so few people actually involved with Kick-Ass 2 bothered to watch the movie, but for those who did, is it really as bad as everyone makes out? Going with more of the "bigger is better" mentality, an expanded cast saw vigilante superheroes become the norm on the mean streets of NYC.
Whereas the first film had Nicolas Cage as its A-lister, the sequel cast Jim Carrey as the big name. However, Carrey became an elephant in the room, blasting the film shortly after he filmed his part as Colonel Stars & Stripes for saying it promoted a violent gun culture. Compared to other movies, the body count is relatively low, and the graphic scenes of mutilation oddly fit well with the script.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson was back as the titular Kick-Ass, joined by Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the unlikely villain, and a whole host of other weirdly-named heroes and villains like Mother Russia.
However, it is the smallest killing machine that makes Kick-Ass 2 well worth a watch. Chloë Grace Moretz seems born to stick on that cape and play the foul-mouthed Hit Girl, so here’s hoping she can do it again in the near future.
Which superhero movie do you think deserves another shot? Sound off in the comments below!
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