5 Uber Comic Adaptation Fails

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC 5 Uber Comic Adaptation Fails

By Si Lewis.

I am going to reflect on past attempts to adapt much loved comical heroes and determine whether they “Biffed”, “Boffed” and “Thwacked” their way to saving Gotham City or let Metropolis die in a Krypton based explosion of God awful cash ins on the comic book genre.

Firstly, I shall take a peek and expose 5 of what I consider to be the villains of the piece. Not only should those involved hang their head in shame over molesting the source material with evil intent, but for also producing a laughable piece of cinema not worthy of my £7 (£12 if I watched it in London). Here are the Jokers in the pack, the Xerxes on the hill, the Lex Luthors of the world eager to make a quick buck in taking advantage of what is cinema’s current go to in Hollywood blockbuster film making – Comics and Graphic Novels.

5. Ghost Rider

Nicolas Cage, why on earth do you continue to star in such shocking films made ever more comical by an embarrassing hairpiece? Based on the chronicles of a Marvel anti-hero, Ghost Rider follows the story of Jonny Blaze (Cage), a stunt motorcycle driver who unwittingly sells his soul to Mephistopheles (a mumbling drench coat laden Peter Fonda). Being an incarnation of the Devil however, it should be pretty safe to assume you’re not going to get a good deal from ol’ Mephistopheles. Quicker than one can say “Lovely hairpiece Cage”, Blaze becomes the Devil’s new he-bitch complete with floating, flaming skull face.

On paper, this is a pretty sweet premise for a no brainer of an action film. Demons and stunt bikers with ignited heads are cool right? Unfortunately not here, it’s about as cool as your Dad recording a duet with 50 Cent. Often laughable when at its most serious, the effects don’t do anything to halt the unintended amusement. Blaze’s flaming head looks really, really small compared to the rest of his body thus making it hard to take a “Penance stare” seriously when it’s being administered by a geezer with a head the same size as a cantaloupe, albeit an ignited one. The major downfall of the film however is the way the cast phone in their entire performance, case in point: a mono-tone Wes Bentley. The supposed over powering, bad ass demon of the film is portrayed as a walking embarrassment as it seems the only part of Bentley doing any acting is his eyebrows. Bentley however, is not alone as Eva Mendes playing yet another piece of treated wood is as bland and unconvincing as ever. After her expert turn as a block of Oak in Hitch, Mendes displays her full potential as a talking piece of furniture playing the child hood sweetheart of Cage. Seriously who keeps hiring this woman? Is she good in anything? Does she offer anything remotely likable? Mendes hatred aside, the film never quite enthralls or entertains to the level I have come to expect from Marvel adaptations. The story should be there, who doesn’t love an anti-hero with demon themed attire? But uninspired set pieces, bad acting and terrible dialogue meant Mark Steven Johnson failed to hit the mark much like he did with Daredevil and the absolute train wreck that was it’s spinoff; Elektra. I’ve never asked for my money back after watching a film, but I was very close after watching this two hour seminar of how not to act.

4. X Men: The Last Stand

Having departed the X Men franchise to have an attempt at rebooting Superman, Bryan Singer gave his blessing for his story to continue. It’s evident before you even watch X Men 3 that some decisions were, well, they were awful. Not only letting Matthew Vaughan cast Vinnie Jones as Juggernaut, who incidentally sounds like Bert from Mary Poppins, but the decision to let Brett Ratner take creative control when Vaughan dropped out was an equally bad call. Scheduling conflicts or not, Marvel simply shouldn’t have let this film happen without Singer. Having expertly laid the foundations in X Men to help create a superlative sequel, Singer must’ve been a miffed to find Ratner had managed to undo all his good work by trying to cram every character he could into a film. Major characters are discarded only to be replaced by minor players in the X Men universe, Wolverine turned into a bit of a wet cloth, scene stealing fights were minimal and where the hell was Nightcrawler! It just felt like a massive cop out. Maybe he was trying to make everyone happy; including all the kids this film was obviously aimed at, but it seems complex story arcs were sacrificed for an excuse to put another 136 (approx) mutants in the fold. It didn’t work. Frasier Crane kicking ass as Beast was the undoubted highlight of very few plus points.

3. Steel

What is with America’s fascination with thrusting popular sporting icons into acting? There’s no doubt Shaquille O’Neal is an absolute titan on the basketball court but put him in front of the camera and he’s about as talented as Eva Mendes. Much like Hulk Hogan’s stint as an actor (Suburban Commando anyone?), Shaq’s attack in movies was never going to get off the ground. Following the equally embarrassing Kazaam, Steel is based on DC’s Dr John Henry Irons; a sledge hammer wielding replacement for Superman following his untimely demise at the hands of Doomsday. The movie just plays off one of the worst actors of the 20th century against Judd Nelson’s woeful Nathanial Burke who brings a whole platter of world cheese to the role. Like most bad films, it’s the script and delivery of said script which makes Steel so damn hard to watch. Little nods and references to the people playing the roles (such as “I did the ironwork myself, I especially like the shaft” said by, you guessed it, Shaft) makes it feel like self parody of a sub par spin-off. It just leaves the audience (all three of them) with a dumbed down, cartoon like narrative void of any creativity or visual panache. Suburban Commando anyone?

2. Catwoman

After winning an Oscar, there should only be one way your career is likely to go. Funnily enough, it turns out your career can still take a nose dive even after landing the prestigious award. Unfortunately for Halle Berry she has a terrible agent who managed to convince her that this was a good move. There isn’t really much more to say about this absolute flop that hasn’t already been said but I’ll give it a whirl. Apart from the plethora of glaring continuity errors and technical hitches, which appear in pretty much every scene, there’s no substance. There are no redeeming qualities for a character who I feel is flawed to begin with. Maybe that’s where Catwoman suffers, there’s really no story to tell. The character itself is merely a jewel thief in a sexy outfit and that’s pretty much it. To base a film on a part time villain of the best comic book hero of them all just seems to be a strange decision, if there are no Bats there should be no Cats. Michelle Pfeiffer managed to pull it off Batman Returns for two reasons 1. She looked damn good in that outfit and 2. It was a Tim Burton film, everything makes sense in a Tim Burton film. Making the feline-femme fatale the focus of a film minus the creative juices of Mr Burton and the presence of The Dark Knight himself just doesn’t fly. It’s like having a hot dog without the sausage; all you’re left with is the bread…moldy bread, which has been half chewed by a dog.

1. Batman And Robin

The Batman film everyone tries to forget will just never die. Joel Schumacher created a beast that will forever haunt the mind of many as the definitive failure of a comic book adaptation. It failed in so many areas that it is truly baffling it ever got released. The script churned out crass one liners at an alarming ratio, the vast majority falling on the fading shoulders of the Governator himself playing the iconic Doctor Freeze. With classics such as “You’re not sending me to the cooler” and “Allow me to break the ice” (yes, someone actually thought that would be funny) it made a complete mockery of the Batman mythology and it’s superbly creative catalogue of villains. What made it worse was the character Bane was trivialized as a brainless henchman when he is a deeply complex and intelligent character in the comic incarnations of the Batman universe. Everything about it is nauseating; the constant neon glare around Gotham makes it look like Batman only fights crime in the red light district. And what about the suit nipples, A man doesn’t even need nipples, let alone require the appendage on his suit! It’s actually quite a surprise that Uma Thurman and George Clooney managed to crawl away from Batman And Robin with any credibility as they were as awful as anyone in the film. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Clooney’s understudy; Chris O’Donnell suffered badly after playing Robin for a second time. …Maybe it’s because he actually agreed to say “I hate to disappoint you but my rubber lips are immune to your charms”. Holy career-killer Batman!

I’m sure some will disagree, so feel free to contribute. What do you consider to be the worst comic book adaptations of all time? I could’ve easily included uber fails like Judge Dredd, Howard The Duck and The Fantastic Four but the above 5 just made me angry at Hollywood. Bad Hollywood.

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.

  • Rhod 23rd January 2013

    “Ice to see you” isn’t from Batman & Robin, its a McBain line from the Simpsons. Easy to get the 2 confused obviously.
    Think you could have expanded this list to more than 5 though. Were you counting only films that are bad films, or films that are bad adaptations of the source material? Either way, there are many films as bad or worse than the 5 you’ve listed here.

    • Si Lewis 25th January 2013

      Of course, this isn’t a definitive list of bad comic book movies…just examples of how bad they can actually get.


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