10 Worst Comic Book-Based Movie PERFORMANCES of All Time1 of 12By Newsarama Staff
As we tend to do here at Newsarama, whenever we compile a "best" countdown, its "worst" counterpart is almost sure to follow, and so on that note we bring you the ying to yesterday's 10 Best Comic Book-Based Movie Performances of All Time's yang.
Now, upfront there are a few ground rules with this one. First, it would be way too easy and frankly not all that much fun to pick-on a lower class of Hollywood actor in barely feature-quality train wrecks like Roger Corman's Fantastic Four or the 1980s Captain America. So yes, Shaquille O'Neal, you get immunity this day.
And we should also mention before we begin that for the most part, a bad "performance" is very often (but not always) the product of miscasting, and/or simply a badly conceived or written role that an actor could do little with.
There are many actors in the following countdown who have been good to very good to great in other, better roles and movies and they probably didn't forget how to act on that occasions, they probably just didn't have the tools.
So with those rules qualified, here's our list of the 10 performances in a comic book film we'd like to have back.
Get out your torches, pitchforks and your best social media weapons of mass destruction, folks, we think some of you are going to be very, very unhappy in a few moments...
JANUARY JONES - EMMA FROST2 of 12Why It Was a Bad Performance: January Jones is far from the most beloved Mad Men cast member, but she is an important part of the ensemble of an overwhelmingly acclaimed show that's won scads of awards.
So it's with no specific ill will towards Jones that she makes this list. It's just that her performance as Emma Frost a character known for her icy appeal was startlingly lifeless among the otherwise zippy 2011 prequel X-Men: First Class (especially in contrast to dynamic performances like Michael Fassbender as Magneto), that it was obvious to just about anyone who saw the film.
But, ultimately it was a small role, so that's why she only comes in at No. 10. The next entry, though....
The Worst Moment: To truly deem one of the Emma Frost scenes in First Class "Worst Moment" would be to imply that any of them were specifically memorable, which they really were not.
CHRISTOPHER REEVE/BRANDON ROUTH - SUPERMAN/CLARK KENT3 of 12Why It Was a Bad Performance: Yes, we're going there, and in advance, we're genuinely sorry you're upset.
Let's be clear: Christopher Reeve is a beloved figure in our small community, who both before and after the tragic event that defined his later years seemed like a deeply admirable and very likeable man.
And we'll add the first two Superman movies made a deep, emotional impression on the 10-year us that more intellectual, adult scrutiny is still hard to override. So it comes with genuinely no pleasure to argue this...
...Reeve just wasn't that accomplished a film actor.
In defense of this position we could point to his lack of much of a post-Superman resume, but the truth is now 30-plus years later with a more critical eye we simply don't find his portrayal of Superman and Clark Kent very much like any Superman or Clark Kent we know... or like, for that matter.
His Clark wasn't mild-mannered, he was a cartoonish buffoon. His Superman far too earnest and eager-to-please for someone with the power of a god. In short, he was a mild-mannered Superman, frankly lacking in the charisma you'd expect from an actor playing a cultural icon. A more theatrical rather than natural actor, Reeve's Superman was a caricature of a comic book Boy Scout superhero and not a fully developed character.
Footnote: We only thought it was fair to include Routh, as we was hired to essentially impersonate Reeve in Superman Returns, for which he did an uncanny job.
The Worst Moment: The Fortress of Solitude Luthor/Zod double-cross scene in Superman II is moment Reeves' broad, more theatrical method is apparent. But it's that same film's truck stop scene when a now-powerless Superman confronts the loud mouth at the counter that stands out as a wrong acting choice.
The so-very-earnest-it-frankly-hurts way he stands up to the bully only lacks Reeve affecting an old-timey bare-knuckle boxing stance and/or slapping him across the face with a white glove, challenging him to a duel at dawn.
[For an alternative view, check out Vaneta Rogers' OP/ED Reeve's Superman is the BEST Comic Movie Performance].
TOBEY MAGUIRE - SPIDER-MAN/PETER PARKER4 of 12Why It Was a Bad Performance: Well, Tobey's Peter Parker was naive and earnest enough, but he just didn't have Parker's inner beauty. He played the "awkward" to a fault instead of the everyman (or everyboy) Peter is known to be, Tobey was the every-fanboy.
Aside from one famous upside-down kiss, his relationship with Kirsten Dunst falls flat more than it swings high, and seeing the chemistry of the new on-screen Spidey and his paramour just makes that all the more apparent.
The Worst Moment:Spider-Man 3. Dance Sequence. Yup.
SETH ROGEN - THE GREEN HORNET5 of 12Why It Was a Bad Performance: Seth Rogen sure was an unconventional choice to play a costumed vigilante, but hey, that was part of what made the prospect exciting, after his stellar track record in comedies like Knocked Up and the kinda-sorta action flick Pineapple Express. And Michel Gondry, the visionary behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep is directing it? What could go wrong!
Well, you probably already know the answer: A lot.
Rogen is a truly funny guy that's been in a lot of quality material, but this was one instance where casting outside the box didn't pay off. Presenting Green Hornet as a slightly more heroic take on Rogen's usual comedic slacker dudes just didn't work as a compelling hook for this film, and his efforts to eventually try and be a sincere crimefighter just seemed like more schtick (and maybe it should have been).
The Worst Moment: Rogen's Hornet and Jay Chou's Kato get in one of the more excruciating "best friends fighting each other" scenes in film history.
JULIAN MCMAHON - DOCTOR DOOM6 of 12Why It Was a Bad Performance: The two Fantastic Four films were rife with potential, and unfortunately even more overrun with problems. McMahon's natural charm, as seen on Nip/Tuck, was completely wiped away by hokey dialogue and virtually no sense of menace at all.
Doom is menace. He is also cocky and controlling and just plain powerful. McMahon was whiny and just plain weak. He was basically the opposite of Victor Von Doom in every conceivable way.
The fact that he just didn't seem to care sure didn't make his case, or character, any stronger. The filmmakers, and McMahon, got a little closer in the second film, but the damage was already well past done.
The Worst Moment: The reveal of his "skin condition," in which he acted like he was picking off sunburn.
NICOLAS CAGE - GHOST RIDER7 of 12Why It Was a Bad Performance: There's not much good about the Ghost Rider movies. Heck, there's not much but indifference about them in the eyes of most fans. Cage's performance in particular lands on this list because, as a self-proclaimed huge fan of the character, all he did was play "Nic Cage" in the film.
Now not every comic book movie, particularly of the superhero set, is going going to have a lot of nuance to every character. But having Cage on screen for two full movies doing his shaky hand movements... and shaky head movements... and shaky verbalizations... If Nic Cage loves Ghost Rider so much, maybe he should show it by setting the character free.
The Worst Moment:Ghost Rider and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. We kid, we kid. We'll stick with the transformation scene in the jail in the first film. While fighting the transformation, Cage reaches out to ward away a prisoner like a cat clawing at a feathered toy. That pretty much sums up the entirety of how he plays this role.
MATTHEW GOODE - OZYMANDIAS8 of 12Why It Was a Bad Performance: There were a lot of reasons why Watchmen was once considered "unfilmable." The complex narrative, the abundant violence, the frank sexual content and the impossibility of translating the poetry of it's sequential art kept it out of theaters for decades. When it finally made it to the screen, if anything the detailed characterization provided by the miniseries would have been the easy part, but lo, atop a pyramid of staid, strained performances in the movie version of Watchmen was Matthew Goode's Ozymandias.
Until the climax of the Watchmen comics, Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias, comes across at best as a well-meaning but largely harmless do-gooder. At worst a bit of a showboat who is just cashing in on his youthful "adventuring" in a way that comes across as crass when compared to the tormented Nite Owl and the driven Rorschach.
Sadly in the film Goode's stilted posture, heavy German accent and near-constant glaring scream "I'm the villain!" to not only anyone who managed to make it to the movies without reading the comics, but to anyone who's manages to master the complex narratives behind an single episode of Scooby-Doo. In a few short scenes any sense of Veidt's history or thoughtfulness is lost. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons made you almost understand Veidt's thinking and believe him when admits he's made himself "feel" all the pain his plan caused. Matthew Goode's version of the same event rings hollow; a timely cackle would have felt more in place instead.
The Worst Moment: At the climax of the comic, Veidt famously declares, after fooling both men who think they are gods and a man who has become one, that he's not a supervillian out of a film serial; he enacted his plan over a half hour ago and the heroes are too late. This is one of the greatest twists in modern literature and teed up with an iconic scene like that, Goode instead whiffs it, allowing the movie's oversaturation and gloss steal the story away. We looked upon [Goode's] work, and despaired.
BILLY ZANE - THE PHANTOM9 of 12Why It Was a Bad Performance: Sometime an actor gets typecast for a certain type of role and can never shake it, while other actors simply have the skills and looks for one kind of part and anything outside that is prone to unbelievably.
In the 1996 film The Phantom, we found out how good a bad guy actor Billy Zane can be by seeing just how bad a good guy he can play. As the purple-clad comic book icon the Phantom, Zane has the looks and the muscle to play the Ghost Who Walks, but when it comes to his acting and on-screen presence, fans quickly found this comic book hero better left in the comic books.
Despite the fact that Zane was reportedly a big fan of this Lee Falk hero, his interpretation of the Phantom was as milquetoast as the Got Milk? ad campaign he was in to promote this movie. James Cameron reportedly cast Zane as the primary villain in Titanic based on his work here, and one can see why: yes, he can be sophisticated, worldly and aloof, but well-intentioned admirable hero? Nope.
The Worst Moment: There's a multitude of groan-inducing moments in this one, but the one that sticks out most is a scene between Zane-as-Phantom and lead villain Xander Drax, played by Treat Williams. In it, Zane reveals his real name and smugly argues for one of the magical skulls by saying "it goes well with my drapes." Maybe another actor could make that dialogue work, but with Zane it comes out as a monotone parody of a superhero.
HALLE BERRY - STORM, CATWOMAN10 of 12Why It Was a Bad Performance: Halle Berry is undeniably talented, and an Oscar-winning actress. But comic book movies just might not be her thing.
She failed to impress most fans with her oddly stilted take on Storm in the first three X-Men films, but things really went off the rails with her starring role in 2004's bizarre, Batman-less Catwoman movie, a film that, for the rest of recorded history, will be fodder for ironic viewings at "bad movie nights" right along with Showgirls.
The Worst Moment: As Storm in 2000's original X-Men, when she felt the need to let us know exactly what happens to a toad when it's struck by lightning.
MOST EVERYONE AND ANYONE IN JOEL SCHUMACHER'S BATMAN MOVIES11 of 12Why It Was a Bad Performance: For the record, the ensemble casts of director Joel Schumacher's inexplicable two-film blight on the genre made up 8 of the 10 of an early draft of this worst list (do the math, only Nicole Kidman was spared), but this is where our ground rules immediately kick in.
We don't think actors like George Clooney, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Val Kilmer and yes, even Arnold Schwarzenegger, all inexplicably turned in their career-worst performances in those movies. We just think they were hung out to dry in perhaps the most ill-conceived comic book project ever put on film (Jonah Hex notwithstanding).
Now don't get us wrong, we hold no sympathy for them. They deserve any and all ridicule coming their way and they were all no doubt generously compensated for being made fools of. But for the purposes of this countdown we just can't imagine what any of them could have done to help rein in those disasters-from-the-get-go and putting them all in featured spots seemed like overkill.
That's called restraint, Mr. Schumacher... if only.
The Worst Moment: Wow, so many choices, so little space.
Alicia Silverstone and Chris O'Donnell probably get spared a little individual embarrassment because of the more capable cast around then, but the ice hockey scene (for lack of a more credible description) probably lives in both Clooney and Schwarzenegger's nightmares.
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