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The 10 Worst Superhero Movies of the Past 10 Years

green lantern elektra the hulk

Warner Bros. Pictures; 20th Century Fox; Universal Studios

The superhero genre as a high form of cinematic expression, a notion established in 1978 by Richard Donner (Superman) and extended eleven years later by Tim Burton (Batman), was somehow lost over the intervening two decades. Save Jon Favreau's Iron Man and Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, the reboots of the 00's through 2011 were, generally speaking, weakly scripted and badly CGI-ed, with too many characters and too little nuance. In preparation for another summer of big-budget blockbusters, which kicks off on May 3 with Iron Man 3 (which is already tracking for a $125 million opening weekend), here are 10 titles from the past decade that have failed the test of time.

By Blaine McEvoy and Katie Van Syckle

Daredevil

20th Century Fox

Daredevil (2003)

Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Production Budget
: $78 million
Domestic Total Gross: $102,543,518

Tagline: "When justice is blind, it knows no fear"

A self-described low point of Ben Affleck's storied career, the Oscar-winning director plays a blind lawyer by day and masked vigilante by night in a film based on Marvel's titular comic. Back in '03, Peter Travers characterized the narrative as "deeply, depressingly average," but on the bright side, Affleck did meet co-star Jennifer Garner and go on to become Hollywood's best dad. Fox was unable to get a sequel up in time, and as of April 2013, the rights reverted back to Marvel.

Hulk

ILM/Universal Studios

Hulk (2003)

Distributor: Universal Pictures
Production Budget: $137 million
Domestic Total Gross: $132,177,234
Tagline: "Unleash the Hero Within"

Starring Eric Bana as Bay Area brainiac Bruce Banner, this moody, metaphysical tale of explosive green rage is based on the Marvel action hero. While the film was helmed by Ang Lee, it's no Brokeback Mountain or Life of Pi: Bloggers criticized the CGI-ed Hulk for looking too CGI, and Peter Travers wrote that the overwrought story "bursts at the seams." Nick Nolte, the lone bright spot, appears as Bruce Banner's father, albeit in a useless subplot.

Catwoman

Doane Gregory/Warner Bros. Pictures

Catwoman (2004)

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production Budget: $100 million
Domestic Total Gross: $40,202,379
Tagline: "CATch Her In IMAX"

Squeezed into slinky leather and outfitted in kinky boots, Halle Berry took on this DC Comics adaptation as the first woman of color to anchor a summer blockbuster. At the time of its release in 2004, Peter Travers observed "the stench of litter is all over the screen," and Berry herself acknowledged that the cat missed the box.

Elektra

20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

Elektra (2005)

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Production Budget: $43 million
Domestic Total Gross: $24,409,722
Tagline: 
"Born to fight. Trained to Kill"

A spin-off of 2003's already problematic Daredevil, this tale centers on Marvel's Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner), an assassin for hire outfitted in de rigueur fetish gear. The story might be slow, the dialogue lame, but Natchios is the only superhero to leave you craving queso. Despite the recent Daredevil developments, 20th Century Fox retains the rights to Elektra.

Fantastic Four

20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

Fantastic Four (2005)

Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Production Budget: $100 million
Domestic Total Gross: $154,696,080
Tagline: "Prepare for the Fantastic"

Starring Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba and Chris Evans, this trite Marvel superhero tale centers on a team of astronauts who acquire superpowers after exposure to cosmic radiation. The plot drags so much that Peter Travers called the flick "egregiously awful," adding that the 2007 follow-up, The Rise of the Silver Surfer, was "plain awful in that way that makes you give up on life." That said, 20th Century Fox is at work on a threequel, and is in talks with Allison Williams for a leading role.

Superman Returns

Warner Bros. Pictures

Superman Returns (2006)

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production Budget: $270 million

Domestic Total Gross
: $200,081,192
Tagline: N/A

Directed by The Usual Suspects helmer Bryan Singer, this popcorn-pusher stars Christopher Reeve lookalike Brandon Routh alongside Kate Bosworth and Kevin Spacey. Set to pick up where Superman and Superman II left off, it mostly lets down. And next to Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, which was released the previous June, another saga about boring, old kryptonite felt slow, square and forgettable.

X Men Origins: Wolverine

Twentieth Century Fox

X Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Production Budget: $150 million
Domestic Total Gross: $179,883,157
Tagline: "Every Hero Has an Origin"

If, like many X-Men fans, you've always wondered where Wolverine got those claws and mutton chops, this tentpole starring Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber wants to tell you. Unfortunately, the confusing plot is lost beneath dizzying special effects and superfluous characters. A 2013 follow up, The Wolverine, directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line), is set to get at the mutant's softer side.

The Last Airbender

Paramount Pictures

The Last Airbender (2010)

Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Production Budget: $150 million
Domestic Total Gross: $131,772,187
Tagline: "Welcome to the Inferno"

This live action, 3D feature, written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, was inspired by the wildly popular Nickelodeon series. The film follows the undertakings of 12 year-old Aang, who manipulates the classic elements (hence Airbender) to fight bad guys. Peter Travers (who listed the film as the eighth worst picture of 2010), called it "one to avoid," while the filmmakers caught flack for changing the characters from Asian to Caucasion. All things considered, Shyamalan is teasing twitterites with rumors of a sequel.

The Green Hornet

Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

The Green Hornet (2011)

Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Production Budget: $120 million
Domestic Total Gross: $98,780,042
Tagline: "Protect the law by breaking it."

Maybe there's just something about green-hued superheroes that feels ridiculous rather than riveting – save the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, of course. But then again, it's hard to imagine a 3D superhero action/comedy pairing director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and actor Seth Rogan working in any color. At the time of its theatrical release, Peter Travers observed that the film's "clashing tones and melting logic" failed to hang together. It's not everyday you see slacker-stoner bros transformed into masked vigilantes, so here's to inclusion.

The Green Lantern

Warner Bros. Pictures

The Green Lantern (2011)

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production Budget: $200 million
Domestic Total Gross: $116,601,172
Tagline: "In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight, let those who worship evil's might, beware my power, Green Lantern's Light."

At the time of its premiere, Peter Travers called this film "comic movie hell." And while the set produced a one-dimensional superhero, it brought us a two-dimensional love story in the form of now married co-stars Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. Based on the DC Comics series, Lantern is tasked to defend mankind with his willpower alone. It's not to be confused with the Green Lantern theory of presidential power, which stipulates that the commander in chief should be able to bend the legislative branch to his or her will – though, to be fair, that hasn't worked recently, either.

In This Article: Batman, Superheroes, Superman, The Hulk, X-Men

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