What follows is not just a list, but a reflection on the realization of the under-delivered promises of Comics Scene Magazine from the late 80s and early 90s; specifically their “(Perpetually) In Development” section.
The “In Development” section was a series of entries listing what comic book properties were being written, acquired… and in the end, sat on; nothing ever moved forward.
Still, my brother and I would flip to that section first. It was a whirlwind. The prior months prospects washed away, replaced with newly minted hopes: the latest rumors and news. “Cameron is going to do Spider-man?”
It was all we had when it came to Comic Book films.
For those who may think that is overwrought: back in 1990 I once stayed up until 2 am so I could flip to Cinemax to watch The Punisher….drive through the sewers over and over again…what the…
I still watched the whole film. Devoured every crappy Hulk TV movie that played on the late edge of the 1980s. Pined for the opportunity to watch Corman’s Fantastic Four film.
It was all I had.
So I find it hard to criticize the deluge of comic book films. Sure there are dogs (of which I count 17, listed below), but over the last decade most of the films are at the very least palatable.
This current wave of comic book films represents the wildest (printable) dreams of 15 year old Rob. So after reading countless “think pieces” on why there are too many comic book films I decided to celebrate them, even if it was only for one frame of the film.
15 year old was a Marvel guy, with some DC leanings. Justice League International written by Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis, with art by Kevin Maguire is one of my favorite runs of any comic book.
With that in mind I am covering only the theatrically released films based on Marvel and DC characters from the main Universes. I plan on ranking the “3rd party comic book films” at another time.
Let’s clear the deck and list the Marvel/DC films I have not watched yet:
Why I didn’t see it? It was reportedly massacred in post-production, with director Josh Trank getting the heave ho. I will likely check it out once it is freely available on some streaming service or on TNT.
Why I didn’t see it? Because I saw the first one, and this one had 100% less Donal Logue and Sam Elliott…so how could it be worth it. I know this counters my acceptance of all Marvel/DC films…but I could not sit through another one of these.
Why I didn’t see it? Shaq, Judd Nelson and a crappy superhero trumped my Annabeth Gish crush.
Why I didn’t see it? Out of respect for Superman II.
When I first set out to rank the Marvel/DC films I did see I broke them into 3 lists, Love, Like, and Never Again. The latter composes the bottom of the list, which starts with
Why the loathe? It is as bad as you may have heard.
Redeeming Quality There was no sequel
Why the loathe? It is boring, awful and unnecessary.
Redeeming Quality: Terrance Stamp is excellent as Stick.
51. Jonah Hex
Why the loathe？ Film wastes an outstanding cast with a boring story. Jonah’s makeup looks like you could buy it for $12 at Wal-Mart.
Redeeming Quality The film is 81 minutes long.
50. Batman & Robin
Why the loathe? While Batman Forever started the decline, this one put the franchise away for 8 years. The Bat Credit Card?
Redeeming Quality The film that emerged from Batman & Robin’s embers is one of my favorite comic book films of all time.
Why the loathe? Even at 10 years old I knew Peter O’Toole was being wasted. Boring on the level of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but with less characters that I care about.
Redeeming Quality Though bad, not memorably bad.
48. Punisher (1989)
Why the loathe? Lots of driving in the sewers, no skull on the shirt.
Redeeming Quality Not a bad action film, just not a very good Punisher film.
47. Howard the Duck
Why the loathe? I remember thinking that Lucas could have made a new Star Wars or Indy film….when he eventually did, they were bad…but not this bad.
Redeeming Quality Lea Thompson, I was still harboring a major crush on her when this film dropped.
46. Ghost Rider
Why the loathe? Maddeningly dull for a film about a “hellblazing vigilante”. Historically bad Cage hair-piece.
Redeeming Quality Great supporting cast, including Sam, Donal Logue, Peter Fonda and Eva Mendes.
45. Green Lantern
Why the loathe? This did not feel like the Hal Jordan I knew. Awful special effects. It somehow bungled one of my favorite story-lines: the impact of the father-son relationship not once, but twice.
Redeeming Quality Mark Strong is a great Sinestro.
Why the loathe? I still hated the casting of 3/4 of the titular four. Silver Surfer looks like he was rendered on a PS2.
Redeeming Quality Kerry Washington is still a great Alicia Masters.
43. Fantastic Four
Why the loathe? Outside of Michael Chiklis, the casting is way off. Wow, did they really bungle Dr. Doom. That Thing make up…yikes.
Redeeming Quality Chiklis gives a great performance, he feels and sounds like Ben Grimm from “four-color”.
Why the loathe? Botched the Dark Phoenix story in a big way. Cyclops deserved better. So did Professor X… The film is a mess. Also, this Christmas card from Brett Ratner:
Redeeming Quality: Memorable Juggernaut line.
Why the loathe? What a complete mess…too much of everything but a coherent story. Also, criminal waste of Chris Cooper.
Redeeming Quality Outstanding chemistry between Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield.
Why the loathe? Among many other things (what they did to Deadpool, Gambit casting… Magic Bullet reset…I could go on…) but this, which looks like live action/cartoon blend from Roger Rabbit, nails it in visual form:
Redeeming Quality Not sure what it is, but I watch at least one segment of this film whenever it is on basic cable. It is wrong. I cannot help myself.
39. Batman Forever
Why the loathe? Two-Face has a purple face and a clumsy 30 second origin tale. The redesign of Gotham is awful. Okay, nothing really works…but it is marginally better than what followed.
Redeeming Quality Hooray for continuity, Pat Hingle was still Gordon even though there was a new creative team.
38. Blade: Trinity
Why the loathe? Spoiler: I love the 2nd film, and this one is not even close to being as good.
Redeeming Quality Great sequence with Jessica Biel where she takes down vampires who think they have an easy meal.
A note going forward: my reactions to the films above were overly snarky either because the films were that bad, or because they were so disappointing.
Up next: the comic book films I like, but don’t love. The list is the largest section, 25 beautifully flawed films that I never thought would ever see the light of a projector.