Initial reviews of the new Marvel film “Venom” were not helpful. In fact, the film did not look good at all. Critics pegged this one as not just a lower-rung Marvel film, but as one of the worst comic book films ever. But is it? As an avowed bad film fan, I took on the tough role of deciding.
The movie debuted to a healthy audience reaction, although the story is indeed riddled with problems. The alien creature bonds with Tom Hardy’s character, but so little makes sense, such as the alien shooting tendrils, picked up from Spider-Man, who is not in this world. And this film is the origin story of a character that is hyper-violent and bites heads off people.
“Venom” really is a bit of a mess. But where does it rank among the worst comic-book adaptations? Below is a difficult to assemble compilation of the worst efforts at converting a comic book to the screen. Some are gloriously bad and fun to savor, while others are an unwatchable slog. Let’s review.
25. Superman 3
Made strictly to keep the series alive, “Superman 3” was played for laughs. Enter Richard Pryor. Here Superman battles an evil businessman who wants to take over all commodities markets using a computer hacker. (Hello, Richard Pryor.) Our hero has to battle a super computer and an evil version of himself while Pryor yucks it up, but you’ll laugh for the wrong reasons.
24. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
This film is a mashup leading to a lump, where a collection of famous literary characters actually exist and team up in the early 1900s. Sean Connery is Allan Quatermain, and he heads a group (a league, if you would) that involves Mina Harker, Dr. Jekyll, Dorian Gray, Tom Sawyer, Captain Nemo, and a host of others in a world that is as gloomy and convoluted as the poster promised. They banded together to prevent a World War — which ended up taking place years later, if you were paying attention.
23. Jonah Hex
This film is derived from a lightly popular graphic novel. Josh Brolin is often forgotten in this leading role as he challenges Ryan Reynolds for most comic character film portrayals. Here he is a Civil War-era soldier and bounty hunter with some mystical elements added in, John Malkovich is his nemesis, and Megan Fox plays a prostitute. There seems no good reason this was made.
Tom Hardy is Eddie Brock, a video investigative journalist who becomes taken over by an alien organism with its own personality and a propensity to bite heads off people. The origin story has the Spider-Man elements of the dutiful girlfriend, the billionaire, and the lead infected in a lab. But Spider-Man is now joined in with the Avengers films, so there is no hero.
The alien creature — called a symbiote — bonds with a compatible host. There is a daft plot involving bringing more of these to Earth, but Venom bonds with Hardy because they are both losers in their worlds, so Venom wants to stop the takeover so he can be a bigger deal here on Earth. And bite heads off people.
21. Ghost Rider
One of the more curious characters from Marvel is played by one of our more curious performers in “Ghost Rider” — Nicolas Cage. There are a number of transformation screens to allow Cage to overact. This plot involves the Devil needing to reacquire a contract for 1,000 souls, because as we know the Devil follows the rules and is bound by contractual regulations. Once ignited, Ghost Rider manages to leave a swath of destruction just driving down a road. He managed to destroy the concept of a logical script as well.
20. Fantastic Four (2005)
20th-21st Century Fox has had nothing but trouble with this franchise, and this first iteration to make it to theaters was deeply underwhelming. The major crime in a comic film is being boring. Here, unlikeable characters and the usual origin story plotline is further undone by the decision to have characters imbued with newly discovered super powers and have them sit for long stretches of screen time in quarantine — TWICE.
19. Cowboys and Aliens
Set in the mid-1800s, this story is pretty straightforward. Aliens have come to Earth to get our gold, and Daniel Craig is a criminal loner with the means to do battle with them. Plot holes and unexplained scenes are the norm here, in a story that holds very little interest, in a film very few actually saw.
Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges are in a buddy-cop film taking place in the afterlife in “R.I.P.D.” The Rest In Peace Department is run by dead cops from various police divisions over the generations to protect the world from troublesome souls. It has a very derivative “Men In Black” feel to it, and the normally affable Reynolds is reduced to being a morose straight-man to Bridges as an old-time western sheriff. Plenty of money was spent on not much of a product.
17. Punisher War Zone
The third attempt at a film based on this character is the worst. It’s little more than an extended gun porn exercise with copious amounts of viscera and very little plot. It is rather amazing to consider this a Marvel film, and it’s the lowest-grossing of all of them, earning less than $10 million.
Shaquille O’Neal stars as a pre-fab hero in “Steel,” with a suit of metal and a sledge hammer filled with gadgets, named … John Henry Irons. And that would be the extent of the cleverness in this low-rent action piece. To complete the knock-off Iron Man theme, Shaq gets his suit cobbled together with the help of a junkyard artist played by Richard Roundtree. If you never heard of this one, there is good reason; it only managed to gross $1.7 million in its entire run.
Since the Superman movies were a hit in the 1980s, producers apparently thought branching out would be wise. It was not. Helen Slater played Superman’s cousin sent to Earth to recover a kryptonite paperweight. Two villains, played by Peter O’Toole and Faye Dunaway (who is a witch), also want the power source. I’m mean really, what are you even doing with this material?
Ben Affleck makes his first stab at killing a comic character in “Daredevil.” He is both overly sincere and obnoxiously glib, and all the while never believable as a hero. He teams up with Jennifer Garner’s Elektra and the chemistry is non-existent. The character moved to become a Netflix series, and it is all the better for it.
13. Judge Dredd
In the books the comic character never removed his helmet. When you have Sylvester Stallone playing the lead, however, that will never fly. The overly violent cop plies his trade in a dystopian future, until he is framed for a murder and enlists the help of petty criminal Rob Schneider to regain his freedom. You know there’s trouble when the opening credits have a title card announcing that Dredd’s fashions were designed by Gianni Versace.
12. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
This film is a completely unnecessary sequel shot for about half the cost of the original and with even less creativity. Nic Cage ramps up his outlandishness amid garbage CGI work, but I think the film can be summed up by one brief visual: a scene where the inflamed character is shown urinating fire.
11. X-Men Origins: Wolverines
As mixed a bag as the X-Men series has been, this attempt to launch an origin series was a death knell to that concept. The bad ideas stack up here, with endless pointless fight scenes with Sabretooth, and the idea somebody had to make Will.i.am from The Black Eyed Peas an actor.
The worst crime, though, was Ryan Reynolds brought in as Deadpool, and they proceeded to take the overly talkative character — you know, “The Merc With The Mouth” — and mute him. There was a valid reason they had Wade go back in time and murder this version in “Deadpool 2.”
10. Barb Wire
Pamela Anderson was cast for obvious reasons in this film based on the Dark Horse series, as she plays the character who is a bar owner, bounty hunter, and stripper in a perpetual snit. Most of the comic book storylines were dispatched and they essentially reshot “Casablanca” in a dystopian future. Anderson toddles around in lingerie couture, striking poses to show off her curves in “Splay it again, Pam” fashion.
9. Batman V. Superman
Warners and DC comics have a problematic relationship, as the adaptations, while having a modicum of financial success, end up with questionable resulting products. Here two of the biggest characters team up, and the result is only head scratching and shrugs.
Jesse Eisenberg is just grating as the new Lex Luthor, but the bone-head script and Zack Snyder’s direction are the real culprits. When the film is so murky you cannot even properly fetishize the Batmobile, then your movie is TOO DARK, ZACK!
Then you have Batman spending long segments preparing for his fight with Superman — who does not even know about him! It is late in the game, when Lex kidnaps Lois Lane, that he motivates Superman into the fight. And then after battling they reach a truce because … they both have a mother with the same name. Seriously.
8. Green Lantern
“Green Lantern” is an adaptation so bad it has become a roaming punchline, with jokes about a CGI animated suit being commonplace. Many characters were poorly crafted computer entities, and the main villain monster looked like a blocks-long wad of phlegm. Even the product placement was a ham-fisted failure; one plummeting character is rescued when Mr. Lantern zaps them into a car that rides down a winding track to safety, reflective of products from marketing partner Hot Wheels.
7. Suicide Squad
Warner Brothers hit upon the idea to launch a new film universe featuring a number of their villains. This neon-colored mess was the result of too much studio meddling. Director David Ayer gave a grim and dark vision. Then a company made trailers that were brighter in tone, so Warner had them re-edit the entire movie.
This led to a film that was still introducing characters nearly an hour in; a cast so big Will Smith was lost in the shuffle; Jared Leto’s much ballyhooed Joker portrayal getting only minutes of screen time (thankfully); and a desperate attempt to incorporate everyone into a meandering plot. What should have been fun was futile and boring.
6. Superman: Quest for Peace
The studio wanted to continue cashing in on this once-vibrant franchise. The only thing is, they did not want to pay for the production. Superman himself, Christopher Reeve, cooked up the story, because decades of source material apparently were not up to their standards?
This is all about nuclear proliferation and bad ideas. Lex Luthor cooks up a villain named Nuclear Man. Superman has powers never before imagined (he gives Lois amnesia, he can build brick walls with his laser vision). At one point Soop has all the planet’s nuclear missiles in a giant space garbage bag and hurls it at the sun. Worst of all, Jon Cryer is in this.
Take an already poor effort like “Daredevil,” then decide to spin off this character from it for her own feature. What could go wrong? Well, turn her into a quiet and unsympathetic assassin who is moody, has OCD, and does battle with villains who have tattoos that come to life and attack. It is a depressing and asinine affair, with the only redeeming feature being the way Jennifer Garner looks in her red togs.
4. Howard the Duck
George Lucas helped out on this infamous fiasco. Howard was a cult character in the Marvel stable that was appealing as an abrasive, vice-ridden figure. They softened him to be palpable for a younger audience, and massive mistakes were made.
For no apparent reason, a duck from a duck parallel universe is zapped to Earth and has to survive. There are horrible duck puns, implied bestiality with Lea Thompson, and a boatload of special effects attempting to gloss over the insipid script. It manages to be both lacking in content and way too long at the same time.
3. Fantastic Four (2015)
Director Josh Trank turned a number of heads with his quasi-hero film, “Chronicle.” Here he steers a plane into a mountain. He spends vast amounts of screen time on the boring machinations of a young Reed Richards creating a dimension-travel machine.
Then the military gets involved, and eventually the friends and mixed-race brother and sister Johnny and Sue Storm get their powers, while friend Victor is left behind — somewhere. Once they locate him, his Victor Von Doom resembles a Greedo cosplay involved in a car fire. This was a meandering and pointless attempt at the origin story, ending up so bad that it grossed less than Trank’s earlier film. It also cost him his job directing a new Star Wars title.
This is a famed fiasco that deserves all the scorn and laughs heaped at it. It so angered the fan universe they regard it as CINO — Catwoman In Name Only. Let’s face it, the only purpose of this film was to see Halle Berry slither around in her bodysuit.
The script went through so many revisions that more than 20 writers worked on it, and it still makes little sense. One early scene has Halle precariously on a ledge of her 8th-floor apartment, and later we see her enter her window from a first floor alley. The police are unable to connect her identical signature to one they have on file, but they do have the technology to match her lipstick impression to one on somebody’s neck. It is well worth watching — for the humor of its ineptitude.
1. Batman and Robin
You know you have screwed up when your campy and cartoonish feature film lacks the quality of the 1960s television show. Joel Schumacher gave no thought to the script and spent far more time on the sets and costumes (yes, Bat nipples appear).
The scenes of ridiculousness pile up: the leads sky-surf from a spaceship, Batman does a skateboard rail run down a dinosaur skeleton, we see our hero sporting a Bat Credit Card (with the expiration date of “forever”), and there is a Coolio cameo. At one point, B&R deal with henchmen by banging their boots together to make blades pop out, so they can play hockey against the villains … and what on earth is happening?
Of course there is Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze spouting horrific ice puns, and a rocket that blasts off from inside a downtown building without killing anyone. There is no semblance to real life in this careening candy-colored disaster, but at least we get plenty of lingering fetishizing crotch and rear shots.