365 Days of Movies- Week 13: Bad Superhero Week

-By Oberst Von Berauscht 

Curious what else I’ve seen this year on my 365-movie journey? -Click here to read the full list of movies viewed year to date-

Update: with the impending release of Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and the increasingly worried internet fanboy rage permeating the internet,  I decided to devote the week to watching Superhero movies considered to be among the worst. The week reached a sad climax with the viewing of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, which proved to be just as unexceptional a Superhero movie as many of the films on this list.  Following that, I threw on a couple Christopher Reeve-era Superman films… to cleanse the palate.

139. The Punisher (1989)


Dolph Lundgren was chosen to play The Punisher in the first film about Marvel’s anti-hero.  The Punisher movie is over the top in every way with campy dialogue, cartoonish violence, and terrible one-liners. Lundgren was a strange choice for the role of a former American soldier turned vigilante, and his attempt to cover up his Swedish accent is tentative at best.  The film’s plot, which sees The Punisher joining sides with a gangster against Yakuza crime-lords would hold promise in the hands of a better filmmaker.  The Punisher would be remade several more times, with varying levels of success. The film never recieved an American release owing to studio budget issues, but fans of “so bad it’s good” cinema should track this down to enjoy this forgotten classic.

140. Captain America (1990) captainA

The plot is recognizable, following the Cap as he is turned into a super-soldier, before fate intervenes and he finds himself frozen in ice until the present day.  He pursues his arch nemesis The Red Skull, who is plotting the overthrow of the American government.

Starring Matt Salinger; the son of Illusive author J.D. Salinger, Captain America was an equally illusive film.  Produced by schlock movie hero Menahem Golan, the film was intended for major release, but never received one due to financial issues.  Instead it was casually dropped onto home video 2 years later, where it quickly picked up a reputation as one of the worst Superhero movies ever made. It earns every ounce of that reputation, with terrible dialogue, laughable direction, and a plot-hole filled story.

141. The Shadow (1994) shadow

The Shadow is a superhero who has the power to cloud the minds of men, and to make them see their own worst fears and guilt.  The plot revolves around a plot by Shiwan Khan, the ancestor of Genghis Khan, planning on building an Atom bomb to take over the world. Directed by Russell Mulcahy (Highlander) this ambitious and visually interesting film is nevertheless undercut by some very bad dialogue and a plot that never really comes together comfortably. Mulcahy proved with Highlander that he was capable of telling a big and silly action story through visuals and big characters, and the script by David Koepp is full of quirky moments. Unfortunately, the script tries too hard to be campy, and feels artificial as a result.

142. The Punisher (2004)


This movie takes the solid lead casting of Thomas Jane as Frank Castle (The Punisher), and squanders it with a ponderous and nerfed adaptation of the Marvel Comic anti-hero.  Most of the bloody kills are scaled down to off-screen deaths, and the few that are on screen are cartoonish and silly.  I blame this on director Jonathan Hensleigh, who has struggled to maintain tone in any film he’s directed.  The whole film feels cheap, and the transplanting of the character to Tampa, Florida was a painfully obvious budget decision.  Pacing is vital, and this film fails that test completely, at times the film is campy and silly, at others dark and brooding, and there is never a clear reason for either.

143. Punisher: War Zone (2008)


Beefy Irish character actor Ray Stevenson gets a shot at the Frank Castle character in this mid-budget Marvel film that pulls no punches.  When Gangster Billy “The Beaut” Russotti (Dominic West) is brutally disfigured at the hands of The Punisher by an incident involving a giant processing machine full of broken glass, he falls off the deep end and vows revenge.  Billy changes his name to “Jigsaw” when he sees his face in a mirror.  He then breaks his brother “Looney Bin Jim” out of the Asylum and begins allying with every gang in town to send an Army against The Punisher.

Stevenson is a wonderful actor and he carries the part well, but the real fun of the movie comes from Dominic West, who puts his all into a larger than life performance that is right out of the best 80s action films.  The action in Punisher: War Zone is what sustains the film, well staged and full of wonderfully gory moments.  The dialogue is hit and miss, the subplot involving The Punisher accidentally killing an undercover agent is mostly forgettable, and some of the CGI gore is laughably bad, but overall this is a solid movie to watch with a few beers and friends.

 144. Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher (2014)


This Anime features The Punisher and Black Widow teaming up to stop the super-villain Leviathan, who has plans to build and sell super-soldiers to the highest bidder.  The animation style is typical of Japanese anime, but nothing particularly stand-out.  The story is boilerplate comic-book action, with some frustrating twists, most notably a romance between Black Widow and a Lieutenant of Leviathan.  The climax of the film pulls in Iron Man, Hulk and Thor… really for no reason other than to put their pictures on the promotional material.  Those looking for a Punisher story are best served avoiding this, he’s there to make adult comic fans think this is going to be something darker than your typical Avengers story.

145. Pee Wee’s Big Holiday (2016)


Pee-Wee Herman is stuck in a rut, refusing to so much as stray outside his home of Fairville.  When “Celebrity” actor Joe Manganiello invites him to his Birthday Party in New York City, Pee-Wee hits the road and encounters all sorts of fascinating people, from a gang of women bankrobbers, to a novelty toy salesman, to a farmer anxious to marry off his daughters.  The movie is not on as large a scale or budget as Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, nor is it as artfully shot or creative, but it should satisfy fans of Pee-Wee with plenty of silly gags, corny puns, and weird flip-out moments that the franchise is known for.

146. The Spirit (2008)


I’ve seen some silly crap in my time, but nothing that could have prepared me for The Spirit. It’s directed by Frank Miller, coming off of the heels of the successful Sin City movie which he co-directed with Robert Rodriguez.  This time Frank is flying solo, and it becomes painfully obvious which director was carrying the weight before.  Frank Miller chose the film following the death of Comic artist Will Eisner, saying in interviews that only he knew Eisner’s work enough to do it right.  I can’t speak from experience, having not read the comic.  When your movie features Samuel L. Jackson donning a cowboy outfit, a samurai costume, NAZI regalia, and a pimp costume, with no clear explanation; as a filmgoer, you have my interest. The Spirit is apparently a comic book hero whose only definable traits are everlasting life and endless monologuing about how much he loves the city in which he lives.

147. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)


Set 18 months following the destruction of Metropolis during the events of Man of Steel, Superman is seen by the media as either worshipped as a hero or decried as villain.  Superman is seen by world governments as a threat, by Billionaire Genius Lex Luthor as something to exploit, and by Billionaire philanthropist/masked vigilante Bruce Wayne as an enemy. This dour, joyless film by director Zack Snyder attempts to explore the Superhero mythos in a more realistic way. The problem is in presentation; Snyder and editor David Brenner have created a monster, with scenes taking place in seemingly random order. It seems as if 3 or 4 completely different stories were stitched together without regard to continuity.  To add to the confusion numerous dream sequences are included which appear without warning, and often have no bearing on the overarching plot.  The casting of Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman was a controversy among fans that proves unfounded. As Affleck is by far the best thing this movie has going for it.  He carries both sides of the famed superhero’s personality quite well.  With a better story, script, editing, and a better director, Affleck could someday become the definitive Batman.  But until that happens, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice will remain a sad reminder of what happens when producers pour money into an inherently flawed project.

148. Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (1980)


Director Richard Donner was fired off the set of Superman II having completed the majority of the film. Director Richard Lester was brought in to reshoot much of it.  The surviving footage was cobbled together in 2006 under Donner’s supervision, and the result is a completely different version of the epic superhero sequel.  Both the Donner and Lester versions of Superman II are stellar, with the Donner version being given a slightly more serious tone by lessening the goofy humor at points, and including a somewhat heavier discussion between Christopher Reeve and Marlon Brando at the fortress of solitude.  It is a definite piece of film history that should be seen, and makes an interesting case for the different ways directors lead projects.

149. Superman III (1983)


Superman III expands the sillier elements of the prior two Superman movies into straight-up comedy territory.  Richard Pryor joins the cast as Gus Gorman, a small time hustler who discovers a prowess for computer programming, and uses it to rise in the world of crime.  Robert Vaughn plays Ross Webster, a millionaire who uses Gorman for his own purposes.  The movie is full of screwball comic elements, most notably when Superman is unwittingly given a crystal of homemade Kryptonite, which rather than hurt him, turns him into a jerk.  For a good chunk of the film, Superman is flying around the world drinking, doing minor crimes like un-leaning the leaning tower of Pisa, and generally avoiding hero activity.  This humor proved too much for critics and audiences at the time, and in viewing the film today, it ages the film quite considerably. The humor is never particularly sharp, with cheap visual and slapstick gags dominating the day.

About Oberst von Berauscht

Oberst Von Berauscht once retained the services of a Gypsy to imbue in him the ability to accurately describe the artistic qualities of a film up to seven decimal points. To maintain this unique skill, he must feast on the blood of a virgin every Harvest Moon, or failing that (and he usually does), he can also make a dog do that thing they do where they twist their heads slightly (you know, when they're confused about something) at least a few times a week. I've gotten way off track here... The point is, Oberst is one of the website's founders, so... yeah

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