The Marvel Cinematic Universe is now a behemoth of Hollywood, an empire of comic book profitability and goodness churning out box office hits several times each year. It’s easy to forget the humble beginnings of the comic company’s Hollywood history, and maybe some chapters would be better forgotten (such as last year’s Fantastic Four). Nevertheless, we’re going to take a look back at some of the worst films adapted from Marvel properties ever made. Here are six crappy Marvel movies that everyone would rather forget.
6. Captain America (1990)
One of Marvel’s darkest hours comes with this 1990 stab at creating a film adaptation of America’s greatest hero. B-movie actor Albert Pyun plays the Captain here in a jingoistic, low-budget film wherein a man in a lousy jumpsuit battles a Nazi villain wearing a bright red Halloween mask. For years, it looked like this film, which the studio did its best to bury after the release, would be the final word on cinematic versions of hero-of-yesteryear Captain America, until Chris Evans and Marvel Studios gave him a chance at 21st-century relevance.
Long before Marvel’s famous handicapped hero got his own Netflix-original series, Ben Affleck took up the signature cane and sunglasses in the 2003 version of Daredevil. It enjoyed mixed critical reception and moderate box office success, though the film looks more dated with each new year for its obnoxious camerawork, cliched storytelling, and a cringe-worthy romantic subplot featuring Jennifer Garner as Elektra.
4. Fantastic Four (2005)
Fox’s latest Fantastic Four film is only the latest in a string of obligatory attempts to craft a franchise around Marvel’s first family in order to maintain rights to the famous characters. The 2005 version stars Jessica Alba, Ioan Gruffudd (huh? who?), pre-Captain America Chris Evans, and Michael Chiklis. The film contains plenty of laughable special effects and groan-inducing attempts at humor, along with some of the worst telegraphing lines you’re ever likely to hear in a major Hollywood production (“Same old Reed, always stretching“). The four leads get little to do — Chiklis has to act through an ugly orange suit, Gruffudd possesses all the charm of a congealed bowl of vanilla pudding and Alba is nothing but eye candy. Only Evans gets to have some fun as the flaming Johnny Storm unashamedly enjoying newfound fame. Unfortunately, the film was enough of a success to spawn another equally-terrible sequel, which I won’t bother discussing here. This list has enough Fantastic Four already, trust me.
3. The Fantastic Four (1994)
This little-known adaptation of Marvel’s first family is worth a watch for its hilariously sub-par production alone. The unreleased film was created with unknown actors on a shoestring budget unable to make even the most basic of special effects look plausible, purely so German producer Bernd Eichinger could retain his option on the Marvel property for a few more years. The result is a B-movie gem produced by low-budget expert Roger Corman, which oozes a strange sort of slapdash charm that far outdoes more well-produced comic book adaptation failures.
Nowadays, the Incredible Hulk is nothing more than a member of the Avengers with no hope of again starring in his own film. Partial credit for the big green monster’s lack of headlining roles belongs to Ang Lee’s 2003 adaptation of the popular Marvel antihero. Eric Bana stars as Bruce Banner, who soon finds himself transformed into the neon green titular monster who, in this version for whatever reason, is oddly prone to introspective thought. Acclaimed director Ang Lee was clearly trying something new with comic book film form, using jarring, comic-esque transitions and cheesy effects that simply don’t work well in this context. To make matters worse, very little actually happens in the film, so there’s little to compliment all the hulked-out destruction of military property.
1. Howard the Duck
Howard the Duck is a cult comic-book hero who wisecracks his way through a noir-influenced underworld. It’s difficult to imagine a successful Hollywood adaptation of such an idiosyncratic character, but it’s more difficult to imagine one worse than what we got here. Lea Thompson plays opposite a creepy romantic duck in a film full of disturbing scenes of body horror and sexuality that manages to be boring in spite of it all. None of the human characters react properly to the presence of an anthropomorphic duck from another universe, and Howard himself is inconsistent at best, alternating between bland everyduck and devious pervert.
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