The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

Bringing superheroes to life:

A decade of bad comic book movies

After the success of 2000’s “X-Men” and 2002’s “Spider-Man,” moviegoers could not steer clear of the vast amount of comic book movies coming to theaters. From Marvel to DC to Dark Horse, childhood heroes and villains were given life on the silver screen. However, for the most part, these sub-par films left audiences utterly unimpressed. Why is this genre, one that should produce truly amazing movies, struggling so badly?

Marvel Comics takes the cake for having the most disappointing adaptations of its characters. There was “Daredevil,” starring Ben Affleck, which completely tanked, along with its equally terrible spin-off “Elektra.” Two movies based on Marvel’s famous superhero team, “The Fantastic Four,” also received less than fantastic reviews. Nicolas Cage starred in the cringe-worthy “Ghost Rider,” a film that showed promise in its trailers, but in actuality was the cheesiest comic book movie of all time. It was hard to tell if it was trying to be serious and failing miserably or making an attempt to be the next “Evil Dead.” Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee released an “Incredible Hulk” film so bad that Marvel felt the desire to release a second Hulk film this summer, not as a sequel, but as a “reinvention” of the series. In other words, the studio would like audiences to pretend the first “Hulk” film never happened. Unfortunately, Edward Norton’s incarnation of the film will probably be the same movie – a big, computer animated Hulk running around a city and smashing up cars.

Speaking of superhero remakes, 2004’s “The Punisher,” starring Thomas Jane and John Travolta, was just as bad as its 1989 counterpart. One of the reasons the film was so God-awful is the fact that the Punisher doesn’t even have any superpowers. He just shoots people with guns. At least Batman drives a cool car, throws bat-shaped boomerangs and wears a sweet costume.

DC Comics hasn’t released as many movies based on its characters, and is batting two for three in the 21st century. Both “Batman Begins” and “Superman Returns” were refreshing titles in a genre full of C and D-quality movies. The unfortunate “Catwoman” starring Halle Berry earned its place as one of the worst comic book movies of all time. Maybe they should have stuck with the two-word formula adhered to by the Batman and Superman films. Who knows, maybe “Catwoman Meows” or Catwoman Naps” would have turned out to be a better movie. And now with all the hype surrounding the next chapter in Nolan’s “Batman” franchise, DC Comics is looking to chalk up another point in the win column.

Unfortuntely, even some of the good comic book franchises took a serious turn for the worst. The third installment of “X-Men” lacked substance, a good storyline and everything else that made the first two films so enjoyable. Blame fell on the change in the director’s chair. Original director Bryan Singer abandoned the project to work on “Superman Returns,” a film that turned out to be fairly decent. “Rush Hour” director Brett Ratner attempted to fill Singer’s shoes, but ended up a few sizes too small. “Hey, Wolverine! Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?”

Then there was the most disappointing comic book movie of all time, “Spider-Man 3.” Despite receiving rather positive reviews from critics, the movie was an absolute disaster. The film made Ratner’s installment of “X-Men” look like “Citizen Kane.” The third “Spider-Man” lacked character development, focused on two too many villains and was downright painful to watch at times. Sure, it’s fun to watch Spidey swing around New York City, but not acting like Tex Avery’s womanizing Wolf cartoon character. “Dig on this!” says Peter Parker, who now looks like a reject from a Fallout Boy video, complete with a new, edgy emo-strip haircut.

It takes a lot more than a ton of special effects and flashy costumes to make a good comic book movie. A lust for money could be the root of the problem. The first “Spider-Man” grossed over $400 million in the U.S. alone. However, it didn’t make all that money solely because people wanted to see their favorite web slinger on the big screen – it was actually a damn good movie.

Hiring an A-list actor or actress doesn’t solve the equation either. Nic Cage and John Travolta have been in some pretty great movies, but that doesn’t mean their presence will rescue films that have no story or depth. It’s the same deal for the new “Hulk” movie. Edward Norton replaces Eric Bana as Bruce Banner, the alter-ego of The Incredible Hulk. Norton penned the script on the film, which started the initial buzz for the film. However, I just don’t see how having a different actor is going to change anything – The movie will still flop.

On the other end of the spectrum, take Brandon Routh, a virtually unknown actor who played Superman in Singer’s “Superman Returns.” To be honest, he did a fine job as the iconic superhero. In the end, there’s more to delivering a good comic book movie than what is under the tights.

Needless to say, when Marvel announced that a film adaptation of “Iron Man” was in the works, critics and fans of the comic books series had reason to be skeptical. Fortunately, actor-director Jon Favreau, director of 2003’s “Elf,” struck gold. The movie has completely revitalized the genre under Marvel and given comic book fans more to look forward to besides the next film in the currently outstanding “Batman” series under Nolan.

Character development is key in any film, but especially in a comic book movie. Fortunately for “Iron Man,” it’s all there. Just as in Nolan’s “Batman Begins,” superb acting brings “Iron Man” to the big leagues, and it’s all thanks to Robert Downey Jr. The actor perfectly embodies billionaire weapons designer Tony Stark as he begins his transformation into the superhero Iron Man. His performance is possibly the most believable out of all the comic-book movies to date. Downey Jr.’s supporting cast comes through as well. Terrance Howard, Gwenyth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges all provide outstanding performances that really add to the film. The special effects aren’t terribly overdone as with other superhero films. Watching Iron Man zoom around the California sky or interact with fighter jets can be absolutely mesmerizing.

The only real problem with “Iron Man” is that it’s insanely obvious there are going to be more movies in the series. From Howard’s on-screen hint that he’ll be assuming his role as Iron Man’s superhero friend War Machine “next time,” to the bonus scene after the credits, there’s no doubt Marvel will milk it with much more of the man in the red and gold suit. At times it feels as if the entire movie is one big setup for a second film. Still, it doesn’t detract from the fact that “Iron Man” rules. As long as the quality of the sequel is up to par with its predecessor, it’s seriously something to look forward to from the Marvel camp.

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