Film adaptations of comic books have a checkered history with critics. Some, such as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, get poor reviews but perform well financially; others get good reviews but perhaps don’t attract as much box office love as they’d like.Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregator, has become an influential barometer when looking at how well a film is performing. Every article written about a big cinematic release will generally reference the website gleefully. With that in mind, what are the worst superhero movies on the site, and are they really that bad?Below is a list that includes the lowest performing superhero films since the dawn of the millennium. Do the critics really represent what us fans believe? Is Rotten Tomatoes a rotten way of judging success? Let’s take a look and see.Audience rating: 67 percent
This year’s DC offering probably stirred up the biggest debate surrounding reviews. The critics vs. the fans almost even outweighed the discussion of Batman v Superman himself. Despite a record-breaking box office performance, resulting in a total gross of $867.9 million, the film still ranks as the 12th worst superhero movie on the list.
Punisher: War Zone
Audience rating: 42 percent
There have been repeated attempts to catapult Marvel’s vengeful criminal killer Frank Castle to live-action success. Unfortunately, this reboot followed two previous incarnations that also flattered to deceive.Despite putting ’80s action icon Dolph Lundgren in the leading role, The Punisher (1989) only has 28 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, while 2004’s reboot of the same name, starring Thomas Jane, only performed marginally better with 29 percent.War Zone was originally intended to be a sequel to Jane’s earlier film, but when the star fell out over creative differences, the reboot option was taken.
Audience rating: 45 percent
Marvel Comics’ quartet of superheroes has struggled in a live-action form. 2005’s offering, directed by Tim Story, included Jessica Alba and Chris Evans, pre-Captain America days. Perhaps helped in part by the stature of those involved, the film did perform well at the box office, gaining $330.6 million against a $130 million budget.The film’s financial success led to a sequel in 2007, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, which currently holds a slightly improved 37 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Perhaps inspired by this improved formula, a reboot was released last year. More on that later.
Audience Rating: 59 percent
Wesley Snipes got his teeth into the role of half vampire Eric Brooks across a trilogy of movies. The first two, Blade (1998) and Blade II (2002) performed okay, receiving 55 percent and 57 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, respectively.Unfortunately, the final episode of the trilogy didn’t perform so well; at the time, there were reports Snipes was unhappy with David S. Goyer directing the film, and was having issues with the script. Still, every cloud has a silver lining; apparently, the idea for Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool was inspired by his role as Hannibal King. A movie executive was impressed by his performance, and instantly identified him as a fitting Wade Wilson. Good move.Audience Rating: 45 percent
Speak of the devil, it’s that man Ryan Reynolds again. His first attempt at fronting a solo superhero movie didn’t quite take off, barely scraping into the black financially and receiving generally negative reviews. Such was the reception, plans for a sequel were cancelled.Reynolds himself has acknowledged his disappointment with the movie. While promoting Deadpool (his superhero film redemption), he told Empire Magazine about the trouble with production:The character was also directly referenced in Reynolds’s Deadpool, when Wade Wilson is being taken into the Weapon X center, he begs that the super-suit not be green or animated, referring to the outfit Hal Jordan wears.
The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Audience Rating: 44 percent
Despite having all the right ingredients (including Sean Connery in his final movie appearance before his retirement), Stephen Norrington’s comic book adaptation remained less extraordinary, and more — ordinary.The film was loosely based on the comic book series of the same name, and was originally planned to launch a franchise, with numerous follow ups. But a poor critical performance, as well as a modest box office of $179.3 million, meant those plans were relegated to the league of pipe dreams.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Audience Rating: 32 percent
The original Ghost Rider movie, starring Nicholas Cage in the main role, wasn’t a huge success. Although it did make $228.7 million at the box office, it only rates at 26 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.Still, it does feature Cage driving a badass motorcycle and generally being Nicholas Cage, which was enough to convince producers to go ahead with this sequel. Unfortunately, it performed poorly and was criticized for the film’s script and its use of CGI.
Audience Rating: 25 percent
The shadow of Sin City looms over The Spirit; without the success of Frank Miller’s earlier noir comic book adaptation, the film perhaps wouldn’t have made it to the big screen. Shot in a similar style, which also copies specific shots from the source material, the film failed to replicate Sin City‘s success. In addition to a host of poor reviews, the film bombed at the box office, making just $39 million back from its $60 million budget.It’s a shame the film failed to live up to expectations. In addition to Miller writing and directing, the cast included Suits’ Gabriel Macht in the lead role, supported by Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson and Eva Mendes.
Audience Rating: 20 percent
Talking of all-star lineups, Jonah Hex is another film that had a promising cast. Josh Brolin was the lead as the scarred western bounty hunter. He was joined by John Malkovich, Megan Fox and Michael Fassbender.Loosely based on the DC comic, the film became a box office bomb, earning only $10.9 million against its $47 million budget. As a result of the poor performance, the film wasn’t given an international release.
Audience Rating: 30 percent
Matt Murdock’s fiercely violent love interest, Elektra, has most recently been strutting and ass-kicking her way to Netflix’s TV series, Daredevil. But before Élodie Yung’s latest live-action incarnation, Jennifer Garner had a shot at the assassin.In itself, the movie was a spin-off from Ben Affleck’s Daredevil (avoiding the list of worst superhero movies on RT with 44 percent), where Garner also played the character.
Fantastic Four (2015)
Audience Rating: 19 percent
I told you earlier we’d meet these guys again, and here they are. Unfortunately for 20th Century Fox, their attempt at rebooting the Fantastic Four series, and breathing new life into the franchise itself, didn’t work out as planned.Although the film featured a fresh cast, including up and coming young actors Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan and Kate Mara, the leading stars failed to create the required chemistry, and the film never took off.There have been rumors, following two failed attempts by Fox, that the production company may strike a deal with Marvel to bring the characters into the MCU, akin to Sony and Spider-Man. Audience Rating: 18 percent
The numero uno on the list of worst superhero movies on Rotten Tomatoes perhaps isn’t surprising. Halle Berry won an Oscar for her performance in Monster’s Ball prior to this DC adaptation. Unfortunately, her performance was less than purrfect and she ended up with the Worst Actress Razzie, which she graciously accepted.But, before we condemn Berry’s venture into the comic book graveyard, I urge you to rewatch. By no stretch is the film a work of art, but it is highly entertaining for a long list of reasons, with the top reason being the clip above.