LOS ANGELES (AP) - For all the enduring superhero movies that have been made over the years - “The Dark Knight,” the original Christopher Reeve “Superman,” Tobey Maguire’s first two turns as “Spider-Man” - there are just as many that don’t exactly live up to their own mythology or the expectations of their legions of followers.
This week’s “Green Lantern,” starring Ryan Reynolds as the reluctant new member of an intergalactic peacekeeping corps, would fall squarely into the latter category. It’s just a muddled, joyless bore. But it gives us a great chance to compile an ignominious list of superhero movies that are less than super:
- “Catwoman” (2004): So few films in the genre are about female do-gooders - it’s usually the job of the women in these movies to look pretty in peril and wait around for the men in tights to save them - which is why it was such a bummer that this was a laughable disaster. Halle Berry is indeed a sight to behold in her Catwoman get-up, and you’ve gotta love the fact that she had enough of a sense of humor to show up at the Razzie Award ceremony to pick up her worst-actress prize. (It also “won” for worst picture, worst director and worst screenplay.) But Berry’s jaw-dropping good looks alone can’t save this, and since all the scenes in which she kicks butt and leaps about with feline agility are sped-up, you don’t get to ogle her for long anyway. This is cinema for the attention span-challenged, but the most egregious sin of all for an action movie: It’s mind-numbingly boring.
- “Daredevil” (2003): This was a rough year for Ben Affleck. Besides this slick and formulaic adaptation of the Marvel Comic, in which Affleck played the blind lawyer-crimefighter Matt Murdock, he also starred in the notorious turkey “Gigli” and the John Woo thriller “Paycheck,” all of which earned him Razzies for worst actor of the year. To be fair, he was an easy target at this point in his career, when he was half of the tabloid sensation “Bennifer” with then-fiancee and “Gigli” co-star Jennifer Lopez. Still, “Daredevil” stands on its own two feet for its failures. The character is flawed and tormented, not at all the good guy he’d seem to be on the surface, which might have been intriguing if Affleck hadn’t played him so stiffly. “Daredevil” also has the dubious distinction of spinning off 2005’s “Elektra,” starring the current Mrs. Affleck, Jennifer Garner. Both have bounced back nicely from their superhero period.
- “Batman & Robin” (1997): Nipples in the bat suit. This is pretty much all you need to know, and it’s completely reflective of Joel Schumacher’s campy style. Even George Clooney, who was only a few years away from approaching the height of his power, could not salvage this flashy, soulless mess. The steam has clearly run out in this, the fourth film in the franchise (and we’re a long way at the point from Christopher Nolan’s masterful re-envisioning of The Caped Crusader). Arnold Schwarzenegger cheeses it up big time (even by his standards) as the villainous Mr. Freeze, and Uma Thurman never generates much heat as the toxic Poison Ivy. Full of glib pop-culture references and gimmicky gadgets, this version worked hard to be silly and fun, and never revealed an understanding of Batman’s true nature.
- “Hulk” (2003): This would be Ang Lee’s “Hulk” starring Eric Bana, not to be confused with Louis Leterrier’s 2008 “The Incredible Hulk” starring Edward Norton, which was actually fun and action-packed. Nobody’s career was permanently damaged by this; everyone turned out fine afterward. Lee went on to win the best-director Oscar for “Brokeback Mountain,” Bana starred in the gripping “Munich,” and co-star Jennifer Connelly went on to do excellent work in films including “House of Sand and Fog.” But man, at the time, this was just a self-serious drag: somber and introspective, with none of the zippy escape you’d like to see in a summer blockbuster based on a comic book. You’d want to see Bruce Banner when he’s angry, just because it would be a refreshing change from watching him brood.
- “Spider-Man 3” (2007): This would have felt like a bloated behemoth on its own. The fact that two thrilling and imaginative films preceded it - with “Spider-Man 2” emerging as a rare sequel that surpasses the original - made it feel like even more of a letdown. Director and co-writer Sam Raimi overloads us with more villains, more supporting characters and more plot lines spread out across more time. People and threats come and go, and the narrative feels scattered. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) must battle human foes Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) and Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) but also their alter egos, the Sandman and Venom. He’s still at odds with old best pal Harry (James Franco) as well as Harry’s souped-up super self, the New Goblin. And Peter, as Spider-Man, must fight his own dark urges when a pesky black goop from outer space attaches itself onto him of all people - what are the odds?