Superhero movies wouldn’t be possible without computer generated imagery. They let the audience go to fantastic worlds and see feats and characters we would otherwise be unable to present on screen. They are instrumental in everything from Superman flying to Ant-Man shrinking, and from Krypton to Asgard. CGI has come a long with since the new millennium. However, with this ubiquity comes more instances of CGI coming up short.
Plenty of films over-rely on CGI spectacles, but even movies that use CGI sparingly can have moments of terrible effects. For the purpose of this list we will look at not just bad CGI moments, but also moments when the digital special effects were so bad that they drew attention to themselves and distracted from the film they were meant to enhance.
This means that these moments might be missing crucial believable details, look nothing like their source material, or look just plain lazy. Some of these may be written off as poorly aged but technological advancement does not make up for a lack of effort or artistic effectiveness.
Here are the 15 Most Cringeworthy CGI Moments In Superhero Movies.
15 JELLY KELLY IN X-MEN
In the original X-Men, Senator Kelly is championing the Mutant Registration Act which would let the Federal Government track mutants and their powers. Magneto, in his vengeful campaign to safeguard mutants, kidnaps the senator and forces him to undergo a rapid, unnatural mutation.
After this, Kelly manages to escape his captors with his new powers, and falls into the sea. He washes up on a public peach with dozens of witnesses, looking like he’s in flux as some kind of humanoid aquatic creature.
The bad CGI doesn’t really standout until Senator Kelly is laying on the med bay table in Professor Xavier’s school. Storm is watching over him when he suddenly starts pooling profusely and eventually melts into nothing. The textures and details of Kelly’s face look hastily tacked on, given the fact that he’s dissolving. His hand looks more like it's breaking into glass rather than dissolving around Storm’s own hand.
14 CATWOMAN CLIMBING BUILDINGS
It’s hard to find a single redeeming quality about the 2004 Catwoman movie. Halle Berry may have been a fine fit for the character, and her outfit may have been sexy if it wasn’t supposed to be a Catwoman costume. There is no redeeming this mess. The mediocre CGI is far from the worst part of the movie, but it's still pretty bad and distracting.
The scene where Patience Phillips washes up on the shore of a toxic waste dump has dozens of cats gathering around her. It’s hard to tell if any of the shots feature real cats since the sequence as a whole is so dimly lit. However, the scenes with CGI cats can be spotted instantly.
Later on in the movie, when Patience dons her Catwoman costume, she goes running across the rooftops back to the factory. Her CGI model looks like it has been lifted out of a cheap video game, with rubbery animation tracking shots.
13 ANG LEE’S HULK
Even the non-Hulk title movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are far better Hulk movies-- just think of Hulk beating up Loki in Avengers or even the gladiator shots from the Thor: Ragnarok trailer. There was nothing nearly as memorable or fun in the Ang Lee Hulk movie. In it, Hulk is moody and introspective even while Hulking out, and he fights nothing interesting nor challenging.
He also looks absolutely terrible. The sequences of him transforming into the Hulk are horribly uncanny. In most of those shots it looks as though they added the green tints to Eric Bana’s skin using the fill function in MS Paint.
The Hulk’s look is inconsistent throughout the movie in terms of his size and the texture of his body. Sometimes his skin looks as if it’s made of rubber with weird smooth surfaces, while other times his facial hair and muscles are more defined and clearly visible.
Hopefully we’re not making Bruce angry with these criticisms...
12 SUICIDE SQUAD’S INCUBUS
Fans are still divided over whether or not Suicide Squad worked as a movie. The goals of the characters seemed to change on a dime and not all of the “protagonists” were established as sympathetic or compelling. There were some moments with impressive CGI effects, but also plenty of lackluster ones.
The worst offender was Incubus. When Amanda Waller conscripts the Enchantress to advance her agenda, the Enchantress tries to break free and reunite with her brother. In occasional scenes throughout the film, Incubus appears in his procured host with his powers fully restored.
The aesthetic is clearly supposed to be ancient and godly, but the effects look obviously fake. The segmented metal shards that are suspended around Incubus’s body look like they are part of a loose-fitting plastic suit that he’s wearing over his body. The ambient lighting that comes through the shards off of his body is pretty inconsistent from shot to shot. Additionally, the fight against Diablo’s true form makes it look even more unconvincing.
11 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN’S THE LIZARD
The Amazing Spider-Man movies have some impressive action scenes and compelling character moments but, unfortunately, they were too invested in building a convoluted mythology that would sustain a franchise. The effects in the movies were also serviceable, except for the first movie’s villain.
Dr. Connors test out his regeneration serum on himself when his overseer informs him that the company will move ahead with human trials regardless of Connor’s approval. At first it seems like his molting right arm reveals a functional human arm, but then his entire body starts to transform into a colossal reptilian/human monster.
The brief scenes where we see the half-mutated Connors are laughable due to the patches of scales and claws. If it weren’t for Spidey and the Lizard fighting on screen the whole time, the human-faced lizard creature would look completely ridiculous and not very menacing. Perhaps a live-action Lizard with a long snout and fangs would have been even more absurd, but they could have at least tried it.
10 FANT4STIC’S DOCTOR DOOM
The laughable disappointment of the first two modern Fantastic Four movies still lingered with fans by the time the stylized Fant4stic came out. The connection to the source material looks tenuous and the character redesigns made many viewers to scratch heads.
If the movie had to be PG-13, then why would they go with a naked, expressionless Thing? It just draws attention to his conspicuous lack of genitalia, and whose idea was it to give Mister Fantastic’s suit folding extension cables instead of just letting the suit bend and stretch as he does?
However, by far the worst offender is Doctor Doom. He has none of his mysterious backstory from the comics, and looks like a lump of coal wrapped in a burlap sack carelessly flecked with green sparkly bits to give him a lazy other-worldly look. This version of Doctor Doom wouldn’t look good even if the effects were stellar.
9 X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE’S CLAWS
The 20th Century Fox effects team had already worked on Wolverine’s claws in three previous X-men movies, and they were all fine then. However, apparently somebody at Fox decided that in the first Wolverine title and solo movie, they were going to throw out all that work and go with something much worse.
Right from the moment that the claws shoot out of Logan’s knuckles for the first time, they look under detailed and inconsistently lit. Of course, the most famously bad shot of the claws is in the bathroom scene. The claws look like they are simply Photoshopped in front of Logan’s hands, and don't look like they're protruding from his knuckles at all.
The sparks they make when he swipes them against each other are also totally flat. For scenes where the claws are idle, most of the other X-Men movies useed handled claws props, and there’s no sore-thumb lighting or shading or blandness to be found there.
8 X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE'S DEADPOOL
Not many fans could have reasonably expected that X-Men Origins: Wolverine would be even worse than X3: The Last Stand, but it was, for many reasons. Chief among them was the handling of fan-favorite mutant Deadpool.
Wade Wilson is introduced as a fast-talking, irreverent mercenary-- "The Merc with a Mouth"-- but this is pretty much the only part of his character that's faithful to the source material.
When Colonel Striker decides that Wade’s attitude just isn’t worth putting up with anymore, the real crime against Deadpool begins. They sow his mouth shut and make him a boilerplate mutant bad guy with absurd musculature trace lines in place of his comic costume.
His teleporting power also looks like a copout, and worst of all is the scene where Wade Wilson is actually transformed into Weapon XI. The surgical instruments used on Wade’s wedged open eyes look like they were Photoshopped into the scene.
Spawn is one of the most famous characters created by celebrated comic writer Tod McFarlane. He received his first live-action screen adaptation in 1997. This was around the height of the character’s popularity and during his original comic run. Perhaps waiting a few more years for the movie and including a bigger superhero and a greater allotted budget would have helped.
The effects used to bring this dark imaginative character to life are garish and cheap looking. The mask with the distinctive eyes looks extremely tacky. The various weapons and appendages Spawn conjures throughout the movie are just as bad, with low detail textures and lighting that makes it stand out from the rest of the scene.
If this isn't bad enough, his cape is also awful. It’s supposed to be one of the most iconic parts of Spawn’s character, but, in the movie 1997, it looks like a cloud of red glitter glue clogging up the screen whenever it appears.
6 EARLY ACTION SCENES IN SPIDER-MAN
There’s no denying how influential Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies were in launching the modern cinematic superhero genre. Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 are still classics that the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming will certainly be judged against. They had faithful portrayals of the heroes and villains, along with great action and music.
However, the special effects are not consistent throughout. After Peter Parker discovers his powers, he goes on a speed run across the rooftops of Queens. The CGI Peter looks like some rubbery toy flailing and bouncing around.
Thankfully it’s cut in between scenes of Tobey MaGuire’s real face and scaling shots. There are similar flimsy CGI shots when Peter goes after his uncle’s shooter. Just try and watch the scene of Peter vaulting around on the flag pole or jumping haphazardly across the rooftops while keeping a straight face. It is helps a bit that the sequence is set at night, but it’s still a major eyesore.
5 ALL THE SUPERPOWERS IN FANTASTIC FOUR
Thank the comic gods that Chris Evans got a second chance to play a Marvel superhero with Captain America. Otherwise he would have been mostly forgotten and maligned Johnny Storm, who was poorly conceived and poorly animated. None of the characters receive decent personal or visual treatment in 2005’s Fantastic Four.
Sue Storm’s invisibility powers look like the effect is being added only to her skin rather than making her fade from view. Not to mention her powers, which are played as teasing sight gags for most of the movie.
Reed Richard’s powers are also hard to watch. There’s a reason why every superhero movie with a stretching superhero wears a full suit, and that reason is so directors don’t have to figure out a way to make stretching skin look believable. However, even when Richards gets his Fantastic suit, his stretching animations still look horrific and plain.
4 VENOM'S COSTUME IN SPIDER-MAN 3
Venom deserved quite a lot for his first live-action outing in a Spider-Man movie. However, the character in Spider-Man 3 is a major disappointment to Spider-Man fans. Venom is confined to a protagonist entirely of the third act, and is even forced to share this screen time with the other two antagonists of Sandman and Hob Goblin.
Even though Sam Raimi managed to weave a coherent story together with so many prominent villains, Venom’s brief appearance and apparent death are still unsatisfying.
His costume is also underwhelming compared to his comic book inspiration. In the movie he appears no bigger than Peter, whereas in the comics he is a hulking brute with all of Spider-Man’s powers and agility too.
The occasional effect of the symbiote peeling off Eddie Brock comes across as silly rather than frightening, not to mention Brock’s own unaltered voice. Throw in some obvious CGI painted-face wall crawling shots and it makes for a disappointing showing.
Tom Hardy, don't fail us.
3 GREEN LANTERN’S SUIT
One of the all-time worst superhero costumes ever put on screen is Green Lantern's. Green Lantern was a pretty slapdash movie overall, with watered down versions of its source material characters, a totally generic story, and cheap looking special effects throughout.
The hideous looking Green Lantern Corps. are barely in the movie, while the audience is mostly treated to obvious CGI shots of Ryan Reynolds on Earth or in space.
Instead of the sleek (and presumably) spandex suit one might imagine, Ryan Reynolds' suit is created entirely by computer images on screen. The pulsating veins on the skintight muscle suit look over designed and cheap at the same time.
The most jarring feature is the mask on Reynolds’ face, which is also obviously CGI. It makes the suit look even more outlandish in scenes on Earth and makes it appear as though his head is floating around a green screen during scenes in space.
You know it’s bad when Ryan Reynolds calls it out explicitly in the proper Deadpool movie: “Please don’t make the super suit green, or animated!”
2 THE FREEZING EFFECTS IN BATMAN & ROBIN
Your opinion may vary on bad superhero movies and whether they're unintentionally funny. Batman & Robin has become one of those famous bad movies that plenty of people watch ironically. There are more cringeworthy puns and one-liners than you can throw a batarang at. There are also just as many shoddy CGI scenes.
There are a few standalone shots, such as Batman and Robin escaping the rocket and Bane shrinking, that just look laughable. However, Freeze’s powers are by far the worst. The beams he projects look like their are being drawn on the screen with overlapping blue and white crayon.
The ice and frozen geometry left by his powers also looks like glass or transparent plastic throughout the movie, and it behaves in totally convenient ways as the plot contrives. Sometimes it shatters objects it touches, while other times it just thaws off an entire city, leaving structures and living people unharmed.
1 BLADE VS FROST (BLADE 1998)
The Blade movie’s CGI hasn’t aged well overall. For most of the movies, action is flashy and fast enough to ignore the low resolution skeletons of disintegrating vampires. However there’s one scene of the first film where the effects are ludicrously bad and, for some reason, the camera lingers on them: the result is almost baffling.
When Frost successfully summons La Magra and absorbs her, Blade confronts him with his reinvigorated vampire powers, and a sword fight ensures. Blade manages to cut Frost in half only for his torso to immediately reconnect with his waist along a trail of blood and guts. This blood is made up of nothing but shiny red CGI tendrils.
Frost also regrows his severed hand with this astoundingly fake-looking effect. It’s almost as though Frost’s body is growing back in a cheap digital environment and was trying not to look gory-- a very convincing regeneration effect.
Are there any other CGI moments from superhero movies you thought were totally cringeworthy? Let us know in the comments!