Nerds today are spoiled rotten. Thanks to the efforts of Marvel and Ryan Reynolds, quality superhero films are a dime a dozen. In the Dark Ages, though, before Robert Downey, Jr. ushered in a whole new era of blockbuster with Iron Man, comic book nerds seeking a little cinematic action had to really lower their standards. For every X-Men, there were fifteen bad comic book films that spawned more bad sequels than you can name.
Even the good comic book movies had a hard time maintaining their quality over the course of an entire series. Heck, some comic book movies had trouble maintaining quality from the original to the sequel. Before Marvel realized that keeping the quality high from film to film was the perfect way to attract repeat customers, most studios would gladly squander the success of a comic book movie by sh*tting out an underwritten, underacted, and underfunded sequel.
But this was before RDJ’s Tony Stark-shaped gift to nerds, so most comic fans were almost forced to the theaters to check out their favorite comic heroes rendered in celluloid. After all, the first one was okay, so how bad could the second be? Bad, folks. Really, really bad.
If you want to see an aging nerd throw up a thousand yard stare as they remember the horror, just ask him or her about the time they took a trip to see one of the following bad superhero movie sequels.
Question: how do you ruin Arnold Schwarzenegger’s uncanny ability to land puns? Answer: Surround him with anatomically correct latex and then give him literally nothing else to do.
When Joel Schumacher took over for Tim Burton as the Batman series helmer, fans were rightfully nervous. Then, Schumacher delivered Batman Forever, a film that - while by no means perfect - isn’t a steaming pile of crap, thanks mostly to Jim Carrey’s inspired casting as the Riddler.
What is a steaming pile of crap is the follow up to Batman Forever, Batman & Robin. It’s hard to pinpoint what went wrong, here, because so many things did. Schumacher moved away from Burton’s old school noir-style Batman in favor of a more Adam West-inspired take on the subject matter. It didn’t go well. Then there’s George Clooney, who’s somehow an even worse cast for Batman than Ben Affleck. Finally, comic villain Bane is reduced to a monosyllabic troglodyte whose only function is to lumber around a scene-chewing Uma Thurman. It was so bad that it even lost Schumacher his gig as the franchise director.
There are those who once claimed Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 was perhaps the greatest comic book film ever made (until The Avengers came out, that is). From Toby Maguire’s masterful balancing act between the trials of Peter Parker and his obligations as the web slinger to Alfred Molina’s nuanced portrayal of Dr. Octopus, Spider-Man 2 fires on all cylinders.
And then Spider-Man 3 decided to up the ante by turning the slick symbiote costume into a conduit for Peter Parker to dress like the world’s most emo librarian. In addition to Maguire’s tough-guy act (a role that is not in his wheelhouse, by the way), Topher Grace is woefully miscast as Venom (should have been a different actor and another movie). Add two more villains, another love interest for Peter, and way too much time with Kirsten Dunst’s failing acting career and what you’ve got is a real stinker of a way to round out a trilogy.
The Jennifer Garner vehicle Elektra isn’t so much a sequel to the critically panned Daredevil as it was a spin-off, but it still bears mentioning because of how truly awful it is. Even the star of the film has repeatedly panned it, saying she only starred in it because of contractual obligations.
A good portion of the films on this list can fall back on kickass fight scenes in spite of the fact that the scripts suck and the acting is pitiful. Elektra can’t even promise that. Though the bar was set exceptionally low for the film because of its link to Daredevil, no amount of lowered expectations could account for the fact that Jennifer Garner’s performance was wooden, the story made no sense, and the special effects looked like they’d been cobbled together in someone’s backyard.
At one point in time, the comic book movie landscape was so bleak that a lot of people were forced to try and convince themselves that 2005’s Fantastic Four was actually a semi-decent movie. It makes no sense in retrospect, but it was a bleaker time. At any rate, when the original FF dropped in theaters, it made enough noise to merit a sequel.
A small group of fans even had some high hopes for the film considering it was set to depict one of comics' most underrated heroes: the Silver Surfer, herald of Galactus. Then Rise of the Silver Surfer dropped, and it was so awful that it saw a 66 percent decrease at the box office in its second weekend. The film couldn’t even appeal to hardcore fans who were disappointed at the Surfer’s lack of screen time and the fact that the World Eater is rendered as a big angry space cloud.