The Very Worst Comic to Film Adaptations
Not long ago I wrote about the most overlooked comic book films. These were films that had either never quite found their audience or not been properly associated with the comics that spawned them. It was a good list and I stand by it and recommend any of the films to anyone who asks for suggestions. It is in a similar spirit that I provide the following list, not to recommend but to save you, dear reader from having to watch these cinematic stink bombs.
I did make some automatic exclusions in the compiling of this list. All comic book films and TV shows made before 1970 have been omitted from this list. Whether they are good (the Batman movie serials) or bad (the Captain America serials) they all have one thing in common that excuses them from my list: They are a product of their time. There was no attempt made to create a good film, just exploit an audience and make a quick buck. Also, the passage of time has made films like these either entirely forgotten or beloved by the audience, and I don’t wish to incur the wrath of fans of the Batman TV show. They fight dirty (actually, I really like the show for what it is and didn’t want to pick it apart). Also exempted is the first Fantastic Four movie as it was only filmed to secure the copyright and never intended for release.
There are many awful films that I could have included (Ang Lee’s Hulk, Constantine, Superman 3 & 4, Howard the Duck, The Punisher, Steel or even Red Sonja) but the films on the list below all have one thing in common, they allow a little awful into your heart and make life less worth living.
5. Judge Dredd-1995
The formula for this was simple: Take a character beloved by several (in the U.S. only die hard comic book readers know him, but Dredd is a cultural touch point in England as a hugely popular comic); strip away everything that makes the character interesting (not very much since the character is designed to be an anonymous archetype) and add in an actor with fading box office draw. The result? Judge Dredd (and oddly enough, several other films).
Stallone was actually a decent choice given Hollywood of the 90’s but that was the only even slightly smart choice made during the making of this film. The low point of this film is Rob Schneider as Fergee, an interesting and heroic character that Schneider manages to completely bend over. Schneider’s portrayal is what helps this film onto my list; a callous disregard for anything that made the character good.
The saving grace of this film is that it was just bad enough to become a guilty pleasure for many people and a rallying cry on how NOT to adapt a comic into a major motion picture. Like most guilty pleasures (alcohol, overeating etc.), Judge Dredd leaves you a little sick, wondering why you enjoyed it in the first place and vowing NEVER again. Until the next time, of course.
It is difficult to say this but the best Elektra film was the Ben Affleck Daredevil movie. Yes that film was pretty bad (although the director’s cut flows better) but Jennifer Garner’s turn as Elektra was not terrible. Garner brought humanity to a character that had previously been a fairly two-dimensional rip off of the Spirit character Sand Saref. Unfortunately in her own film of the character, Garner had very little to work with.
The original origin of the character, created by Frank Miller, was all but wiped away in favor of a ‘plot’ that didn’t so much ignore the purpose behind the character as rape it. One of the frequent crimes of comic-to-film adaptations is not changing things to make a better movie, but changing them and making a bad movie. Elektra is not merely a bad film; it is a waste of time.
The saving grace of this film is its length. At an hour and a half, the pain (which is easily dulled with booze and pills) is over quickly.
When watching this spectacular turd of a film, I was struck with the sensation that no one involved in it thought it was a good idea. Usually Hollywood films, no matter how bad they end up, start with the best of intentions. Catwoman is quite possibly the only film I have ever seen where you can feel its self-hatred.
Halle Berry, normally at home in bad films, seems to squirm uncomfortably with every line she is forced to utter. Sharon Stone, normally a powerful screen presence, is nothing more than a bitchy whiner. The plot of this film is basic and more than a little insulting. Apparently a female hero can only deal with female issues. In Catwoman the aforementioned bitchy whiner is the head of a cosmetics company who is really only interested in being greedy. Cosmetics, really? Why not just make her a tampon company executive and lose any pretense of subtlety. I’m male and even I found this to be demeaning.
I would say this film could be used as a torture tactic but the most effective forms of torture allow for a small glimmer of hope. The only hope Catwoman instills is the hope for the audience that death will claim them before the end credits roll.
2. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-2003
The film that proved Alan Moore to be 100% correct about his stories being converted to movies, LXG was an almost incomprehensible mess of a movie. As bad as films like Constantine and From Hell were (both were contenders for this list), they never reach the depths of despair that LXG does. This film commits one of the greatest sins a film can; it believes itself to be smarter than the original source material.
It really is too bad as there is a lot about this film that looks good ‘on paper’. The casting was outstanding as evidenced by Jason Flemyng, Peta Wilson and Richard Roxburg, who all give excellent performances. Even Sean Connery manages well in a poorly written role but even the greatness that is that odd vocal lisp of his cannot save this god-awful film.
The plot makes very little sense and the villain sets his downfall in motion by simply getting these people together in the first place. The heroes are there only to give the villain something to occupy his time while his plan unfolds. Where other Moore films struggled to be faithful and work within the structure of the original premise (Watchmen and V for Vendetta), LXG seems to think it only needs to put characters in a situation and a quality script will magically appear. This film will stain your soul and I think that is exactly what Alan Moore would like you to take away from this film.
1. Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD-1998
This is our ‘winner’. Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD is as bad as it is for only one reason: absolutely everything! There are no positives I can mention here and I really did try to find something. With other poorly thought out comic-to-film adaptations (Red Sonja comes to mind) there are usually at least some redeeming features. In Red Sonja there is at least a scary set of boobs in the title role and a pile of barbarian action. David Hasselhoff has no boobs and the action is not even dumb enough to be a joke. This film is so bad that it was a no-brainer as number one on my list. It is easily the worst film of the 1990’s and quite possibly one of the worst films ever made.
The Hoff’s cigar chomping, gruff voiced Nick Fury is a caricature of a comic book character, and I’m not even sure how that’s possible. You could make excuses for this film like the fact that it was made for TV but that is not valid since there have been piles of things made for TV that are actually good. No this ‘film’ (with apologies to every serious filmmaker out there for use of the word film in association with this pile of cinematic sputum) makes no attempt to be good. I very much doubt that the Hoff and the others involved ever had any illusions about this movie. Nick Fury is so terrible that even the opening credits irritate the viewer. Seriously, just try to watch this film, by the time the Director’s credit comes up you will have had enough. There are films that are ‘so bad, they are good’. This ain’t one of them. Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD is so bad; it makes invasive surgery look good.
What do you think? Leave a comment.