THE DEEPLY FLAWED
42. Batman Forever (1995)
The first Batman movie in the post-Burton, and the beginning of the dreaded Joel Schumacher Era. Honestly, I haven’t seen this since about 1997 or so. There is a lot going on here and most of it is not good. It’s entirely possible that I’ve made a mistake and that this belongs in the Worst of the Worst list. Is Kilmer passable as Bruce Wayne/Batman? Chris O’Donnell is a little old to be someone’s ward. Jim Carrey is bringing the Jim Carrey as The Riddler, which is actually a pretty smart pairing of someone’s talents to the character, which is definitely drawing from the live action TV show version of The Riddler. Tommy Lee Jones is so outlandish and ridiculous as Two-Face. Someone needed to tell him that playing someone with two personalities does not mean that you play everything at 200% and that he didn’t need to match Carrey’s charisma. On the plus side, the Bat Boat? If I remember, Robin’s origin might have been decently handled? And let’s not forget the soundtrack featured not only Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose” but also U2’s “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me.” It’s probably better if we don’t mention Nicole Kidman’s psychiatrist/love interest of Bruce Wayne. Also, did they steal the “choose one of these captives I’m about to drop” idea from Spider-Man the Spider-Man comics?
41. Daredevil (2003)
Where do we start? Is it just me or did Ben Affleck have really weird hair in this movie? I know he’s blind and all, but that’s no excuse. This movie came out at peak anti-Affleck in American culture. I thought the cast was strong and unique, even if they didn’t all quite mesh. Colin Farrell was doing some interesting things and some not so good things too. Michael Clarke Duncan was an inspired casting choice. But Affleck was just not right for the part, especially at that time in his life. And did you know that the guy who wrote the Grump Old Men movies and Jack Frost wrote and directed Daredevil? What?
40. Hulk (2003)
On the one hand, I give Universal credit for thinking outside the box in having Ang Lee direct this movie, his follow-up project to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. On the other hand, it’s Ang FREAKING Lee! The man who made, among other films, Sense and Sensibility, The Ice Storm, Brokeback Mountain, and Life of Pie. Cue the singing of “One of these things is not like the others…” Hulk sticks out like a sore thumb in his filmography. It felt like Lee had no connection to the material. He made a psychological drama with a dysfunctional father-son relationship at the heart of it, when the fundamental of a Hulk movie should simply be “Hulk smash.” I thought the way they portrayed the Hulk himself was great, and it was perfected in subsequent films. I also like Eric Bana, generally, though less so here. Same for Jennifer Garner. Sam Elliot seemed perfectly cast, in my opinion. Nick Nolte was a serious liability here though. And while in the end Ang Lee did get creative and made it look the most of any of these films like an actual comic book on screen, he had a major fight scene involving the Hulk and a mutated poodle. That happened.
39. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Oh man. Fans on Spidey were divided between the Raimi franchise and the new direction that Sony had gone with Marc Webb at the helm and Andrew Garfield as the new Spider-Man. Some people thought he was a massive improvement over Tobey Maguire (I myself do not) and they said that this was an exciting new direction they were taking the franchise. And then Amazing Spider-Man 2 happened and it all fell apart for Sony. The lasting impression of this movie, for me, is that the studio somehow managed to kill a golden goose. Too many villains. Too much of everything. And did they really think that Jamie Foxx would be believable as a computer nerd turned into Electro? And the espionage stuff involving Peter Parker’s parents was really forced. And it seemed that everything about the movie was filmed with 3-D at the forefront of everyone’s mind. This movie was a mess. All plans for a cinematic universe revolving around this particular Spider-Man universe were shelved or delayed die to the tepid reaction to this movie from audiences.
38. Superman Returns (2006)
This movie is forever linked with X-Men: The Last Stand as Bryan Singer and Brett Ratner ended up switching projects. There was a lot of buildup for this movie, as it had been nearly twenty years since the last Superman movie, and there had been the failed Tm Burton-Nic Cage Superman project from the late 90s. Brandon Routh ended up being cast in the lead role, and ended up doing as much of a Christopher Reeve impression as much as anything. Most of the anticipation for this ended up fizzling as the film was rather boring. Also, Evil Kumar!
37. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
There is no other movie on this list that I am more personally disappointed in than this movie. I had such high hopes. Sam Raimi had knocked it out of the park with the first two movies, and the promotion for this movie was huge. While I’ve never been much of a Venom fan, his presence in the movie was eagerly anticipated by most fans. It ended up being the wrong move. Raimi, who had said after the first movie that he had no interest in ever having Venom as his villain and likely had his hand forced by the studio, clearly did not have his heart in it for this, and the end product suffered. Nothing, though, was worse than the montage of Peter Parker with an emo hairdo, strutting down the street and making a fool of himself under the influence of the black suit. Sigh. This movie came out on my 25th birthday and I haven’t watched it since.
THE SLIGHTLY-LESS FLAWED
36. Man of Steel (2013)
Zack Snyder’s reboot of Superman had some moments that made you think that maybe it wasn’t going to be a mess. Costner was surprisingly good as Pa Kent. Henry Cavill was fine as Superman. I love Michael Shannon, but I don’t think he was very good as General Zod, sadly. And I still can’t get over the end where Superman and Zod ffight in basically a giant crater in the middle of the city caused by their destruction. Half of New York City was destroyed in The Avengers, but they at least acknowledged the presence of human life needing to be protected in the city; here it was a blatant disregard for human life. Maybe those consequences are felt in Batman v Superman, but on its own this movie dropped the ball in that regard.
35. Blade (1998)
Blade is a tough movie to rank, given that it was a late 90s movie, and the 90s were a weird time for movies involving special effects and the transition from old effects to new technological advancements. Snipes is a limited actor too. The story is pretty good though, with Blade and Whistler fighting vampires. Stephen Dorff gives a unique bad guy performances, though he never quite felt like an equal adversary to Snipes.
34. Incredible Hulk (2008)
Five years after the misfire of Ang Lee’s Hulk, Louis Leterrier and Edward Norton made a more action-centric Hulk movie. It had some elements of the original TV show of Bruce Banner on the run trying to contain the monster inside. And the action was better, though the story left a little to be desired.
33. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Sony jettisoned Raimi, Maguire, and Dunst for Webb, Garfield, and Stone; rebooting the franchise a decade after its inception. Gwen Stacy was now the romantic interest instead of Mary Jane Watson, and while I love Stone, I was less sold on Garfield as Peter Parker, who played him as someone full of brooding angst and the success of Nolan’s Batman franchise of making everything darker clearly influenced this movie. Thrown in too was a mysterious background of Peter’s parents, which was just lame. And they used the Dr. Connors/The Lizard as the villain, which should have been cool, and did have its moments, but I really didn’t like the look of the Lizard. Despite it being a fresh new cast and new director, it mostly felt unnecessary given that it was another origin story when the last origin story made $400 million at the domestic box office. Despite my reluctance, I did find myself being sucked in by the action toward the end of the movie.
32. Blade 2 (2002)
Guillermo del Toro took the helm for Blade 2, and improved on the solid base of the first movie, creating a situation where Blade has to work with the vampires in order to defeat a dangerous new kind of vampires that are basically junkies. The only thing that really bugged me about this movie was the overreliance upon CGI for almost every single fight scene. It was distracting.
31. Watchmen (2009)
Credit to Zack Snyder for at least attempting to bring this beloved graphic novel to the big screen. It was a massive undertaking. Unfortunately, it was probably an almost impossible task to accomplish effectively. Hyper violent, but lacking some of the nuance of the graphic novel, because nuance isn’t in Snyder’s vocabulary. The movie was weird because the first half of it was slavishly loyal to the source material and then they took some big liberties with the story toward the end.
30. Iron Man 2 (2010)
This should have been better. Just on the strength of the cast alone, which added Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, and Scarlett Johansson. And while the action was good at the end, there was a lot about this movie that was clunky and a lot of the enjoyable, lighter spirit of the 1st movie was lost in the shuffle here. I still believe the writer’s strike was partially to blame.
29. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Not quite as good as Thor, which was a genuine surprise in how entertaining it was. This is another one I haven’t revisited since I saw it in the theater, but I did enjoy the “adventures of Thor and Loki” feel to when they had to team up together. But I also remember the Convergence in the end being a complete contrivance of the writers to make anything they wanted to have happen be a convenience to them as consistency goes out the window.