The critical thrashing being given to the recent Suicide Squad movie (it currently has a 30% score on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes) raises an interesting question: Why do some beloved superheroes not translate well to the movies? When filmmakers get it right, they can produce great movies and create film franchises from beloved superheroes – whether standalone characters such as Batman, Iron Man and Captain America to teams of heroes such as The X-Men, Avengers, or Guardians of the Galaxy. Yet, certain superheroes have suffered through not one, but multiple terrible movie incarnations – often with different actors playing the lead role. What is it about certain superheroes that makes it so difficult to put them in a good film? Here are seven superheroes who have suffered through multiple terrible movies (sometimes more than one!) and deserve to finally star in a good film adaptation.
First, she co-starred in the ill-fated 2003 movie Daredevil, and then she starred in the even worse 2005 standalone movie Elektra. Everyone’s favourite female assassin/ninja just can’t seem to get a break on the big screen. Played by actress Jennifer Garner, in what was planned to be a long-runnung franchise for her. Too bad Elektra has never gotten the kick-ass movie she deserves. Daredevil (2003), co-starring Ben Affleck and Colin Farrell, was not nearly as good as the current Netflix series. And 2005’s Elektra is widely considered to be one of the worst comic book film adaptations ever. The main problem has been that filmmakers have tried to make Elektra a heroic figure, instead of the bad ass hired assassin that she has always been in the comic books. In the 2005 movie, Elektra protects a single father and his daughter from supernatural assassins. Really? Give this character a katana and a throwing star and let her lose to kill for top dollar. C’mon!
6. The Incredible Hulk
The 1970s television show starring actor Bill Bixby and bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno was great, and it lasted for four seasons on the CBS network. However, efforts to bring the giant green rage monster to the big screen in his own movie have not been entirely successful. In 2003, we got the existential movie Hulk. Directed by Ang Lee and starring actor Eric Bana as scientist Bruce Banner, who becomes the Hulk after enduring a scientific accident, this film is a serviceable origin story, but little else. It concerns itself too much with a love story involving Betty Ross, and there are too many shots of the Hulk bounding through the dessert. Five years later, in 2008, we got a rebooted movie about the big green guy called The Incredible Hulk. Actor Eric Bana was replaced by Edward Norton in the lead role. Jennifer Connelly, who played Betty Ross in the Ang Lee flick, was swapped out for Liv Tyler and a new director was brought on board. And this second film tried to adhere more closely to the beloved 1970s TV show. Lou Ferrigno even supplies the voice of the Hulk in this second film. While better than the Ang Lee directed version, the second Hulk film sacrificed a coherent story for messy action sequences and scattershot CGI. Here’s hoping The Incredible Hulk gets a better film in the future now that actor Mark Ruffalo has assumed the role in The Avengers films.
The first two Superman movies starring actor Christopher Reeve in the title role were great. Directed by Richard Donner, they captured the essence of what makes Superman a fun and compelling character. Co-starring great character actors such as Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, and Terence Stamp, Superman: The Movie (1978) and Superman II (1980), which were filmed back-to-back and nailed it. Films about the Man of Steel that have come since then, howeber, have been underwhelming. Superman III, which co-starred comedian Richard Pryor, was campy at best. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was so bad that it essentially killed the franchise for 20 years. And the 2006 reboot Superman Returns was boring at best and not what audiences wanted. The 2013 relaunch Man of Steel starring Henry Cavill in the title role was better, but it was basically a remake of the 1978 classic movie but with a worse script and inferior actors. And Batman vs. Superman? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. The bottom line is that Superman deserves the same awesome films that he started out with, and which the other DC Comics marquee character (Batman) has been privy to under the helm of director Christopher Nolan in his Dark Knight trilogy.
4. Conan the Barbarian
Like Superman, the character Conan the Barbarian started out his movie odyssey with a lot of promise. The 1982 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger was a very good origin story and introduced Conan to a large audience of people who were not previously familiar with him. However, any good will built up with the first movie was quickly squandered with the dreadful sequel, 1984’s Conan the Destroyer, which basically featured people in rubber suits performing wrestling moves on each other. Flying suplex, anyone? In 2011, we got the rebooted Conan the Barbarian, with actor Jason Momoa replacing Arnold in the title role. The less said about that movie, the better. It currently holds a 24 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with one critic simply stating in his review: “Rent the original.” Add in the terrible 1985 Red Sonja movie, which co-starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, and you begin to see the terrible trajectory that the much loved Conan has taken on the silver screen. This barbarian deserves better.
3. Fantastic Four
The Fantastic Four seems to be the one superhero team that the folks at Marvel just can’t seem to get right in a movie. Maybe it’s because of FOX’s involvement. The 2015 rebooted version, starring an all-new cast, was an unmitigated disaster – savaged by critics (9 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and abandoned by moviegoers. But the truth is that the 2005 movie Fantastic Four, and its 2007 sequel Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer weren’t that great either. They were, at best, just okay. But the story lines never felt engaging, the characters were weak, and the action sequences look tame compared to other similar movies. Of course it doesn’t help that none of the actors in any of the Fantastic Four movies have been major stars. Ioan Gruffudd, who played Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic in the original movies, and Miles Teller, who played him in last year’s reboot, are both good actors. But Christian Bale they ain’t. And yes, Chris Evans played Johnny Storm, aka The Human Torch, in the first films. But he only became a major star after playing Captain America, a role he is so much better in.
2. Ghost Rider
On paper, and in comics, Ghost Rider looks awesome. He is dripping with cool (despite being on fire). And with his demon backstory, one would assume the cinematic possibilities with the Marvel character would be endless. Sadly, this has not proven to be the case. The character Ghost Rider has suffered through not one, but two ghastly movies (pun intended) starring perennial over-actor Nicolas Cage as title character Johnny Blaze. The 2007 origin movie Ghost Rider underwhelmed and disappointed fans. Hopes were high for a 2011 sequel called Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. But those hopes were quickly dashed when people realized that the sequel was even worse than the first film. Setting the sequel in Eastern Europe, right off the bat, was a let down. And fans just never seemed to warm to Nicolas Cage in the title role. While the special effects are decent, there’s just never been a story strong enough to make people care about a Ghost Rider movie.
1. The Punisher
The Netflix series Daredevil has made strides with this character. But it doesn’t erase the fact that the super awesome character of The Punisher has suffered through several dreadful movie adaptations. There was the horrific 1989 movie starring actor Dolph Lundgren (why?). Then there was the slightly better but still pretty gruesome 2004 movie starring actor Thomas Jane in the title role (not great). And let’s not forget 2008’s Punisher: War Zone that, once again, replaced the lead actor and had Ray Stevenson wear the skull t-shirt. Oh, and did you know that there was also a short (10 minutes) sequel/reboot in 2012 called The Punisher: Dirty Laundry that brought actor Thomas Jane back to the role? Most people don’t know this because by 2012 they had given up on the terrible attempts to make a good Punisher movie. Netflix is now spinning The Punisher character off into his own television series , which is probably for the best. Perhaps it is on the small screen where this character belongs. Lord knows he hasn’t made it on the big screen yet.