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Terrible Comic Book Movies Everyone Assumed Would Be Great

Comic book movies are all the rage. But for each one that hits the big screen to wide acclaim, there are two are three that flop, no matter how dedicated or large their fanbase might be. It doesn't seem to matter whether the characters are from the DC or the Marvel universe, or even which studio distributes the project. Some of these movies suffer from bad writing; others poor marketing or lackluster special effects. For a multitude of reasons, here's a list of the comic book movies we'd rather pretend never happened.

Howard the Duck (1986)

Following the success of the original Star Wars trilogy, George Lucas was inspired to make a movie based on one of his favorite comic books: Howard the Duck. He turned to his American Graffiti co-writers to help him adapt the character for the big screen, and fans of the cult classic comic book character held their breath in anticipation. The result, unfortunately, was a bizarre, campy letdown. Instead of a true adaptation of the dark and ill-tempered anti-hero's satiric, socially aware comics misadventures, filmgoers were given a guy in a duck suit with a freaky-looking animatronic head—and a garbage screenplay that gave no sign of understanding, or even really caring about, the character's history. Millions of Star Wars fans were crushed by the similarly campy and uninspired The Phantom Menace, but those who watched Howard the Duck could have seen it coming.

When you also consider that this was a PG-rated film that inexplicably contained adult elements—including detailed human-like nipples on the breasts of the female ducks who live on Howard's home world—you have to wonder what the heck Lucas and his co-writers were smoking during their brainstorming sessions, or what the MPAA screeners were smoking when they rated it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993)

Let's be completely honest here: none of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies have really lived up to the usually violent, occasionally sleazy source material. While we can understand watering down these elements for a younger target audience, it feels like the filmmakers phoned it in for this third installment in the franchise. The creators ditched Jim Henson's Creature Shop for a cheaper animatronic alternative in this sequel, and it shows—badly. With a goofy time-travel storyline and complete lack of an engaging villain, TMNT III now seems likes nothing but a desperate cash grab.

Batman & Robin (1997)

Joel Schumacher. George Clooney. Puns. Neon lighting. The strange pairing of Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze. Plastic nippled armor. Do we really have to explain this one?

Catwoman (2004)

After Michelle Pfeiffer impressed fans with her turn as Catwoman in 1992's Batman Returns, Warner Brothers let the idea of a solo movie for the feline heroine simmer for over a decade. By the time Oscar winner Halle Berry signed on to play the role, anticipation for a good female superhero film was at a fever pitch. Unfortunately, filmmakers threw the rich backstory of Selina Kyle out the window and replaced it with the uninspired cardboard cutout of Patience Phillips. If you watched Catwoman in order to see 104 minutes of Halle Berry leaping around in a leather bodysuit, you probably enjoyed this film. But for the rest of the comic book character's fans, it was nothing but a slap in the face.

Elektra (2005)

In this spinoff of 2003's equally awful Daredevil, Jennifer Garner gives a wooden and unconvincing performance as the world's most dangerous assassin. The movie ignores Frank Miller's exciting source material and eviscerates the character's story, leaving behind a 97-minute bore that most viewers enjoyed less than doing their taxes. A shoehorned love story gave the final kiss of death to Elektra, and to female superheroes in general: it would be the last live-action superhero movie with a solo female lead until 2017's Wonder Woman.

Ghost Rider (2007)

In 2007's Ghost Rider, Marvel took the fairly intimidating comic book character Johnny Blaze and let Hollywood and Nicholas Cage turn him into a sometimes morose, sometimes hammy caricature. From the formulaic plot to Eva Mendes' dead-eyed performance, Ghost Rider has few redeeming qualities—and it still somehow managed to spawn an even worse sequel: 2012's Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. The one standout moment in this film is the "bullet-time" sequence ripoff, in which Cage jumps his motorcycle from a building in slow-motion while whipping his chain around. Not surprisingly, that moment also appeared in the trailers for the movie, which is probably why it earned so much at the box office during its opening weekend.

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Sam Raimi successfully delivered two good Spider-Man movies, but he let the franchise—and the fans—down with the third installment in the trilogy. Spider-Man 3 suffers from excess—it's too long, there are too many mediocre villains, and there's way too much emo romance between Peter Parker and Mary Jane. Raimi himself even disavowed the movie afterwards, telling The Nerdist that "If the director doesn't love something, it's wrong of them to make it when so many other people love it." We wish Raimi had come to that conclusion before he released this one into the wild.

The Spirit (2008)

Frank Miller may be one of the greatest comic book writers of all time, but a film director he is not. After earning critical raves for his work as a co-director (alongside Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino) on the 2005 smash hit Sin City, Miller's solo directing debut fell flat. To be completely "frank," Miller butchers the classic Will Eisner source material with a movie that unabashedly steals its visuals from Sin City while skimping on a story that seems to be running on fumes from the opening scene. While there are some genuinely funny moments, only the most dedicated fan will be able to sit through all 108 minutes of The Spirit.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

Fans like Hugh Jackman, and they love Wolverine. But this ill-conceived origin story was a train wreck from start to finish. The movie positively mangles the backstory of supporting characters like Wade Wilson—but it did make for a good inside joke in 2016's Deadpool, so we should be thankful for that, if nothing else. The cliché plot, paired with ridiculous elements like amnesia-inducing bullets and fight scenes on top of a nuclear reactor, make X-Men Origins: Wolverine arguably the worst movie in its franchise.

Green Lantern (2011)

Before Ryan Reynolds made a splash in 2016's Deadpool, he made a full-on belly flop as the Green Lantern. Despite Reynolds' valiant attempt to carry the film, and heavyweight director Martin Campbell at the helm, nothing could save Green Lantern from itself. Bad special effects (like Reynolds' fully CGI bodysuit) joined forces with a paper-thin plot to doom the movie before it even hit theaters. Even Reynolds admitted the film was bad, telling Empire magazine in 2015: "You really need a visionary behind a movie like that, but it was the classic studio story: 'We have a poster, but we don't have a script or know what we want; let's start shooting!'"