With the summer bringing us two of the greatest comic book films of all time in Joss Whedon’s The Avengers and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, adaptations of the medium seem to be, ahem, rising…to an all-time high. However, it’s important to remember where they can go wrong, and below, we’ve had a long, hard think about which ones made us the most angry and exasperated, testing our staying power as viewers and, ostensibly, as fans of the source material.
Here’s our rundown of the 10 worst comic films of all time to date.
10. Spawn (1997)
With the pomp and camp of some of cinema’s better comic book adaptations from the late 70s (Superman: The Movie) through to the mid-90s (Batman, Batman Returns), many were excited when it was announced that one of comic lore’s darkest and most revered characters was going to receive the cinematic treatment – Todd MacFarlane’s Spawn. The film revolves around Al Simmons (Michael Jai White), an assassin who is set up by his boss, Jason Wynn (Martin Sheen), in an incoherent war that might see Earth obliterated by nuclear weapons as an assault on Heaven is mounted…or something like that.
Quite ironically, HBO had already created an animated equivalent of Spawn by the time the film was released that far outdid this ineptly-directed mess, coming from the hands of, unsurprisingly, a first-time director. Expository dialogue is ladelled out from the first minute, and the film never really recovers or manages to get a narrative foothold at all. What’s most repugnant in retrospect is the horrendously-dated visual effects – a disgrace given the film’s being directed by an ILM visual effects supervisor – which completely overcome the only cursory effort made to flesh out the characters and the dappy plot. The true darkness of the source material is reduced into low-brow camp not befitting the source material, while the sight of John Leguizamo playing Violator, a fat, blue-faced clown, remains one of the most horrifying things that I have ever seen.
Today, director Mark A.Z. Dippe is in directing Hell, working on tawdry straight-to-video and TV projects, while Todd MacFarlane tries to shop around a proposed Spawn reboot, something studio execs likely aren’t too enthusiastic about after this mulch.