Monday, January 28, 2008

Kitty Litter

I'm putting the finishing touches on the second volume of my Encyclopedia of Superheroes on Film and Television and scooting it out the door to the publisher today. When I submitted the first volume in 2003, we were just beginning (thanks to Spider-Man) this current glut of genre films. Now, five years later we've seen a lot of good (Spider-Man 2, Batman Begins, Hellboy, Superman Returns) and a whole ot of bad.

In 2008 we can expect a re-boot of a re-imagination, The Incredible Hulk, and an adaptation of Iron Man. Not to mention The Dark Knight.

And that brings me to my question for the day. Which is the lowest of the low? Which production represents the absolute nadir of superhero films of the 21st century so far? I'd certainly count the first Fantastic Four (2005) as one of the most disappointing, primarily because I always thought the comic-books were clever and intelligent, and the movie was mind-numbingly stupid. I also know that many folks would select Elektra (2005), but it's almost too modest in its badness to generate that much enmity, in my opinion. It's not a great film by any means, but it plays okay as a low-rent action flick, and it doesn't have super pretensions. So many superhero films feel overwrought and overthought, and this one at least avoids that trap. Elektra might not be very good, but it isn't suffocated with digital effects and watching it isn't an exhausting, overstimulating experience.

So I guess my pick is no surprise (especially since there's a photo at the top of the post...).

Catwoman (2004), is a picture-perfect recipe for genre disaster, the Titanic of bad superhero flicks. Here's how you make a steaming cat turd like this film: Take a beloved character with sixty years of established history...and then discard every last bit of it. Then, take a universe with rich locations and connections (the DC Comic Universe)...then discard that entirely too. Finally, just go right ahead and discard the central character (Selina Kyle) and make the film about a different catwoman (Patience Phillips) instead...but still be sure to call the film Catwoman (brand naming and all). Essentially, this would be like going to a Superman movie and finding out it is not about Kal-El, but Fal-El, his less-intelligent third cousin from Krypton, who also boasts super powers. I can hear the producers laughing all the way to the bank. "You thought I meant that Superman? No, no. Sorry, but enjoy this flick about this new guy now that you're in the theater..."

Then, just to put the icing on the cake...throw in as much lousy CGI as possible. You know, before I saw the film, I used to think there had to be worse ways to spend ninety minutes than ogling Halle Berry in a cat outfit. Now, I gotta say...there really aren't. Catwoman makes you pay a high price for the thrill of this modest voyeurism. It's too high a cost, even for me, a red-blooded American male. And that's saying something.

So what's your least favorite superhero flick of recent vintage?


  1. joey_bishop_jr.11:04 AM

    Hey John-

    I hav eto tell you in all honesty that the 2004 Punisher movie about killled the character for me. I thought Thomas Jane did a hell of a job in the role, but the story and the way it was presented threw me off. I didn't pay to see what felt like a 9 hour Machivellian revenge drama, I wanted to see gangsters get absoultely vaporized. Granted, Frank Castle is a master tactician, but in a military sense. Sowing discord is a great tool in battle, but in my vision of teh character, not the WHOLE battle.

    There were some nice touches, such as whole bits being recreated shot for shot form the books, but overall it left me flat. Truth be told, if Dolph Lundgren had worn the skull suit in the 80's version, that would have been near the perfect film translation of the character to me.

  2. I dunno. The craptastic League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was pretty awful. In fact, anything Don Murphy produces, comic book-wise, is atrocious - From Hell, V For Vendetta... ugh. He needs to just stay away from Alan Moore!

    But I feel that League suffers from exactly the criteria that John says Catwoman fails from. It hardly resembles its source material at all.

  3. Captain Apathy12:34 PM

    I agree The Punisher (2004) left me a little cold as well. I was expecting more action along the lines of the last 10 minute of the film. When I left the theater I complained the movie should have been called The Revenger, or The Schemer, or The Plotter, but not The Punisher.

    That said I believe League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was horrible. I haven't seen Catwoman so that may be worse, but for my money The League was a huge let down.

  4. Sorry John, but I loved the Fantastic Four movie a whole lot, simply because it wasn't a too-serious romp, but an action-filled movie, with the pathos and the funny bits in the right amounts. Everything was captured in the movie: Johnny's showboating and acceptance of his powers, Reed's complete nerdiness regarding relationships, the Thing's hang-up at being a man of rock, and Sue being/feeling invisible. The movie was no more, and no less, than it had to be, and that was okay for me. Obviously, everyone wanted something like the first Spider-Man movie, but that might not have worked out well.

    As it was, I was entertained, and apparently, so was everyone else who saw the movie, because it made a ton of money-not the greatest thing, but a hell of a lot better than just having only critics love it to death like they did with Superman Returns, but with no people love. In all possible worlds, you usually get one outcome, and this one happened, which you will have to live with. (And no, having it be like The Incredibles is not a good idea.)

    Now, as for Catwoman-at least another movie can be made, perhaps a starring role in the third Batman film after The Dark Knight?