The road to rebooting Superman (the first time, for Bryan Singer; Snyder’s Man of Steel is the second) was, as we’ve discussed before, a long and very bumpy one. We join the story in 2002. Nicolas Cage had left the project, McG (Charlie’s Angels) was going through the revolving door of possible directors, and J. J. Abrams — known at that time as the Alias guy, as opposed to the Lost–Star Trek–Super 8guy — was brought on to take a crack at the script. His draft, titled Superman: Flyby, was a reimagined origin story, beginning with a civil war on Krypton, following Kal-El to earth, and including his death and resurrection. It also imagined Lex Luthor as a corrupt CIA agent, Jimmy Olsen as gay, and a Krypton that doesn’t explode. McG had left the project and (shudder) Brett Ratner had stepped into the director’s slot by the time the Abrams script made its way to Ain’t It Cool’s Drew McWeeny (aka “Moriarty”), who eviscerated the screenplay in a well-circulated AICN post, calling it “a disaster of nearly epic proportions” and announcing, in a riff on the original Superman’s famous tagline, “You’ll believe a franchise can suck.” This iteration of the film ultimately fell apart, reportedly for several reasons, but we can’t help but think the screenplay’s high-profile disemboweling helped but the kibosh on the project.
The Green Lantern/The Green Hornet
Comic book and superhero fans tend to swing a lot of potential Hollywood blockbusters; with studios going all-in on so many (so very many) comic book adaptations, they’re an audience ripe for plucking. But when those films misfire, watch out — they’ll scream longer and louder than casual fans about the damage that’s been done to their favorites. Take, for example, The Green Lantern, a much-anticipated adaptation of a beloved DC property. The unveiling of initial footage at the 2010 Comic Con, a year before its release, impressed fans and press (sound familiar?), but once the full trailer was released that fall, fans were unimpressed. That was followed by bad buzz the following spring, with anonymous insiders reporting that the production was troubled and the film was “terrible,” and initial test screenings confirmed those early reports. Its eventual underwhelming box office may have also been the result of consumer confusion; casual moviegoers the world over kept mixing it up with The Green Hornet, the superhero radio-series-turned-comic-book-turned-TV-show-turned-movie that hit screens a mere six months before The Green Lantern. Its January release was preceded by its own wave of bad buzz; the Michel Gondry-directed action/comedy, which starred a slimmed-down Seth Rogen (who also co-wrote), had seen its release date bumped six times , partially due to the dreaded post-production 3D retrofit, and the last of those postponements had moved the film from a plum December slot to the graveyard of January. The film itself isn’t half bad — it’s certainly better than its terrible reputation, which has stuck with it in the months since its initial release.
Batman & Robin
There is plenty of blame to go around for the debacle of 1997’s Batman & Robin, the film that killed the lucrative Caped Crusader franchise for nearly a decade: the incompetence of director Joel Schumacher, the repulsive and pun-heavy script by (Oscar winner!) Akiva Goldsman, the laughably bad performances by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chris O’Donnell, Uma Thurman, and Alicia Silverstone. (We’ll give Clooney a pass on this one.) But Warner Brothers blamed its bad box office on the Internet. Specifically, they blamed Ain’t It Cool News, whose “head geek” Harry Knowles had published an early review, which promised “no matter how bad you have heard this film is, nothing can prepare you for the sheer glorius (sic) travesty of the 200-megaton bomb of a film this is. This film is so bad, so awful, so vanity ridden with horrible over the top performances, that nothing I can say can prepare you for it.” Ha ha, come to find out, Knowles was under-selling it, and audiences agreed; its $42 million opening was the weakest since the series began in 1989, and once word got around that it was a stinker, it sputtered at a total domestic gross of $102 million — the lowest for a live action installment of the series. Unless you count…
…and most don’t. This 2004 spin-off was promising; the character had been the highlight of Burton’s Batman Returns, and it was a big-budget starring showcase for the red-hot (careerwise and otherwise) Halle Berry. But directorial duties were handed over to Pitof, a French visual effects artist with one previous feature credit. Fans started to worry when they got their first look at Berry’s nightmare of a costume, and they hit the roof when the first trailer premiered — which got such a virulent response that Warner Brothers made a new one, eliminating all of the dialogue. (Said dialogue was reportedly the work of, no joke, 28 different writers and re-writers.) The film’s already toxic buzz was intensified by the studio’s decision not to screen the film for critics at all — always a bad sign — and that buzz was solidified in a tepid third-place opening and eventual reviews from horrified critics.
Those are the films we thought the Internet sunk — agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments!