The Ten Worst Comic Movie Adaptations

Posted: January 31, 2013 by realscratchpad in Comics, Comics Editorials, Guest Writer

From “The Avengers” to “The Amazing Spider-Man” to “The Dark Knight Rises,” 2012 was a banner year for comic book adaptations. These movies were well plotted, smartly cast and cleverly written. They also delved into deep issues such as family, loyalty and self control, giving them more dimension than your average superhero movie.

Alas, for every great comic book movie adaptation there seem to be five that were truly terrible.

Here’s a countdown of the 10 worst comic book movie adaptations.

superman-iii-poster10. “Superman III”

The late Richard Pryor was a top-notch comedian, but his presence in “Superman III” felt unnatural and forced, throwing off the balance of a movie series that had, until that point, done a stellar job with its adaptations. The convoluted storyline in which Superman experiences a Jekyll-and-Hyde-like personality split feels forced.

And the high school reunion setting, while a good idea, doesn’t lend itself to a cohesive plotline. The result is a disappointing, disjointed movie that should have been left out of the “Superman” series.

9. “Batman and Robin”

No wonder it took such a long time to reboot the “Batman” series following “Batman and Robin” – this film was so disastrous that even its star, George Clooney, has disavowed it. Even ignoring the whole “Batnipples” fiasco, Robin is completely lost the dark undertone that makes the Batman comics special. In fact, the movie turned into a day-glo circus, with an almost unwatchable Arnold Swarzenegger gobbling scenery as Mr. Freeze.

The Batman comics have always been clever and carefully plotted. This movie was neither.

spawn-poster8. “Spawn”

When you want replacement bay windows or a new pellet stove, you research the product before you buy. The writers of “Spawn” apparently forgot to do their research. Instead of drawing on the dark themes in the rich source material of the comic book, they made the movie campy and laden with special effects that, honestly, weren’t that special.

If you don’t understand what makes a particular comic special, you’re not going to have much luck adapting it, and that seems to be the case for “Spawn.”

7. “Elektra”

When you make a sequel to a mediocre movie, the result is “Elektra,” a spinoff of “Daredevil” that bombed at the box office. Star Jennifer Garner seemed bored, perhaps because she’d read the script. Fans disliked the self-serious approach taken by the filmmakers, and they said it lacked the heart that made the comic book version of the main character so beloved.

catwoman-dvd-case6. “Catwoman”

Filmmakers must have figured that if they put the red-hot Halle Berry, who’d just won an Oscar for “Monster’s Ball,” in a skintight costume, they didn’t need to do anything else to make this movie a hit – like, oh, say, coming up with an actual plot. The writers rely on lame gags (we get it, cats like milk and so must Catwoman!) and even lamer special effects.

The movie also makes some changes to the comic book origin story that both angered and confused fans. The most obvious change was switching Catwoman’s name from Selina Kyle to Patience Phillips, which distanced the film from the comic book material.

5. “Green Lantern”

Ryan Reynolds, good as he looks, is miscast in this 2011 movie. His constant appearance of smart-aleck bemusement distracts from the elaborate plot, in which a test pilot is chosen to become the next Green Lantern. The movie can’t seem to decide if it’s a fun popcorn film or a serious discussion of world problems, however, and that lack of consistency in tone proves just as problematic as Reynolds’ demeanor.

Still, the awfulness of the end product hasn’t stopped producers from pushing a “Green Lantern 2” into production.

judge-dredd-poster4. “Judge Dredd”

Want to tick off comic fans? Make a major change in comic lore with little explanation behind it. In the comic the character is nearly never seen unmasked. Thus fans were apoplectic when filmmakers decided to remove Dredd’s mask for long periods during the movie.

The movie also fell prey to the “Superman III” folly of bringing in a comic sidekick, in this case “Saturday Night Live’s” Rob Schneider, who added little to the film.

3. “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”

There were many critics who panned the original “Ghost Rider,” but that looked like a masterpiece compared to the 2011 sequel. Nicolas Cage is impossibly loopy in his second go-round as Johnny Blaze, the aptly named Ghost Rider who seeks to rid himself of his curse.

The reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are better written than this film, which doesn’t show the sense of humor one needs when adopting a comic book about a man whose head catches on fire every night. Filmmakers could have had fun with the absurdity of the comic; instead they seemed to miss the point.

2. “Barb Wire”

Most comic fans have blocked this one out of their memories. The 1996 film stars Pamela Anderson as a nightclub owner in a decidedly bleak 21st century. But you’d be excused for not ever noticing the minor plot points that move this stinker along, because producers were clearly more interested in showcasing Ms. Anderson’s body than her acting talent. She has more unclothed or scantily clothed scenes than she did in an episode of “Baywatch,” which is saying something.

1. “Howard the Duck”

Note: To make a good adaptation that involves the words “quack fu,” you’ve got to have some great writers. “Howard,” sadly, did not. This movie was as painful as getting your tail feather yanked out. All the trippy, dippy fun of the original Marvel Comic is lost as Howard crash-lands on Earth on a trip from Duckworld.

“Howard” was originally envisioned as an animated film but ultimately ended up as live action. Its release date was pushed back several times, never a good sign, and it finally landed in 1986. It luckily did not set comic book movies back too much: Though it had been decades since a comic had been adapted as a film when “Howard” was released, the superlative “Batman” came out just three years later, and that movie could easily make a list of the 10 best comic book movies ever made.

Byline: Carl is an aspiring writer who enjoys blogging about anything and everything that crosses his mind. He’s constantly
striving to strengthen his writing skills and is continuously grateful that the Internet allows him to share his
thoughts with the world.


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