Movie Review : Comic Movies of Yesteryear
Posted by Tato on June 22nd 2003
Comic book movies have been coming out one after the other recently and doing dynamite box office. Studios are scrambling to try and get every comic license available, even dog shit like Deathlok and Iron Fist. Studios are scaping the bottom of the barrel in terms of liscensing these days, and it's only a matter of time before they find the hidden compartment below the bottom of the barrel and give movie deals to NFL Superpro and Speedball. It's a stark contrast to the comic movie landscape of the past, in which studios weren't even willing to make movies of the best superheroes out there. No one wanted to take a risk on a superhero movie, which left the superhero liscenses to the people who had little to lose- TV stations. If Hollywood wouldn't give the superheroes movies, television would. For some odd reason a ton of terrible made for TV superhero movies were made althroughout the 70s and 80s and almost all of them completely sucked. I don't know why they all universally sucked. I suppose it was because film makers felt that they couldn't deviate from the source material. Whatever the reason, the multitude of terrible superhero based movie projects in the late-70s and early-80s were so terrible that movie studios stayed far away from the superhero genre for over a decade. With the recent release of the Hulk, the first recent comic book movie that I think is actively bad, and the impending release of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the first comic movie that I think will bomb at the box office, perhaps it is time to look back at the other sub-par comic movies of the past that have brought us to this point in time.
Before he was super popular with the teen crowd and getting a new animated show on MTV, Spider-Man was doing his thing on network television. The Amazing Spider-Man premiered in 1978 and lasted a whopping 13 episodes before being cancelled. The terrible episodes of the show were later repackaged into three movies that were shown theatrically in Europe, which is reason enough for so many people there to hate us. The show tried to stay true to the Spider-Man mythos, but couldn't help the fact that it was completely retarded. The show featured a Peter Parker that was well on his way to being over forty, and showcased dynamic special effects such as Spider-Man "crawling up buildings." He was of course crawling on the floor, the frame was just turned sideways. The different between Spider-Man and the 70s Batman was that Batman knew how cheesy and hammy it was, and made that aspect of the show even more charming. Spider-Man took itself seriously. Unfortunately, it's hard for anyone else to take a show seriously in which a man in a Spider-Man Halloween costume battles evil aliens from Neptune.
Dr. Strange: Sorcerer Supreme (1978)
The only thing I can say about this movie is that it's terrible. I've never liked Dr. Strange enough to find out much about the character so I really can't tell you how this one deviates from the comic book. In my opinion the Dr. Strange comics suck, so this film definitely fulfilled my expectations. The one was filmed by CBS as a pilot. The people behind this monstrosity intended for it to be picked up as a series. Thankfully it wasn't. The movie is full of all the typical mystical crap from the comics and by the third time you hear something like "By the horry hoards of Hoggarath, we must travel to the Nithalik dimension to stop Morganda from using the Amulet of Zackjhahbvahlkshdrada!" you'll be ready to use your Magical Remote of Laziness to banish this film into the netherworld. Another thing that keeps me from getting into this movie is Dr. Strange's resemblance to Steve Guttenberg. Steve could probably use Dr. Strange these days to try and resurrect his career from the dead.
Captain America (1979)
The two made for television Captain America movies did more damage to Steve Rogers than the Red Skull could ever hope to do. Steve Rogers is played by Big McLargehuge in these two films, an ex-football player who turns in a very moving performance as a guy in spandex who hits things with his sword. I suppose the studio behind this project didn't consider Captain America to be "cool" enough, so they gave him a bitchin Freedom Cycle on which to hunt down the enemies of democracy. And what does Steve Rogers do with genetically altered strength and a high-powered motorcycle? Stop purse snatchers! That's government money well spent. Don't get your hopes up for any decent villains such as the Red Skull, all you're going to get here is Christopher Lee as a generic terrorist. The problem with these movies is the fact that they had a big superhero but nothing of worth to do with him. It seems a little beneath Captain America to help an old lady across the street. I still hope for a new Captain America movie in which Steve Rogers destroys lots of nazis and beats the crap out of Hitler with his shield.
Fantastic Four (1994)
The Fantastic Four movie is more heinous than the previous films for the reason that it was filmed just to keep the rights to the movie active. The possessor of the F4 movie rights had to act on the property or else he would lose those rights, so he financed this low-budget production with the intention of never releasing it. None of the other people working on this movie knew of this. You can probably imagine how terrible this movie is. With such a small budget and so many effects necessary to do a film about a family with super powers, everything suffers. The plot is okay but it's just too hard to get into when you've got a man in a rubber rock suit doing battle with a megolomaniac dictator who wears a plastic robot mask. Everything about the film is laughable, especially the Human Torch's reaction to his first experience with turning to flame- wailing like a little girl. As terrible as the movie is, I honestly don't expect the new big budgeted movie to be much better, especially with the current "Reed Richards as the wacky professor" angle they're going with. That's a rumor I pray to god is false.
Generation X (1996)
There's actually a cult following for this made for television effort from FOX. I'm ashamed to admit that I'm part of the following, mostly because I like anything with Jubilee. Coming hot off the heals of the premiere of the Generation X comic book, this movie followed the lives of mutant teenagers in a boarding school. It's actually pretty similar to the school dynamic of the new X-Men movies. While the effects in the film are laughable and the plot is sort of absurd, it's still possible to enjoy most of the film. It feels like Dawson's Creek except the teenagers have mutant powers and occasionally get into fights. The villain of the film is played by Matt Frewer, who most know as Max Headroom. He overacts and hams it up so much that it's impossible not to love the guy. FOX planned to turn this into a series, but the movie was a ratings disaster. I think the results would have been very different had it been released after the X-Men movie. Plans to turn this into a series started up again with the success of that movie, but the premiere of X-Men Evolution (which has a very similar concept to Generation X) but those plans on hold once again, and the cancellation of the comic kills all hope for a Gen X series.
Nick Fury- Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1998)
I want you to think of Nick Fury. A man who was in combat all throughout World War II. A man that when a grenade was thrown at him, he picked the damn thing up and threw it back. A man who caught shrapnel in the eye and refused to have it taken out because it would mean he couldn't go back into combat and fight for his country. That man is hardcore. When the producers of Nick Fury thought of a hardcore, grizzled veteran, they knew just who to turn to - David Hasselhoff. Nothing screams "badass" more than the enigmatic former Baywatch lifeguard. Here's another movie you can blame the bastards at FOX for producing. I honestly hope they weren't sick enough to intend for this piece of garbage to be turned into a series. It probably would have been picked up as a series in Germany though, despite the fact that Nick Fury hates Germans.
I know that I didn't cover all the terrible comic book movies from yesteryear, but I think that's enough pain for now. With the movie studios snatching up all the comic licenses, I doubt we'll see many more made-for-TV comic book movies these days. While it's a blessing for everyone with an ounce of taste, I have to say that I'm a little sad to see them go. There's just something about a man in spandex riding on a red, white, and blue motorbike that makes me feel good inside.