While comic book movies are a huge trend today, they weren’t always the guaranteed cash grabs they’ve become. In the early 2000s a resurgence of comic book films paved the way for the genre to evolve into something greater. These movies, and those before them, walked so that the genre could run resulting in comic book films becoming the dominant form of blockbuster today. However not all of these movies have aged well, others were honestly never good to begin with and even some modern genre films have failed to properly carry the torch. That doesn’t mean they don’t have redeeming qualities that make them at least worth a watch. Even when done poorly I think most comic book movies have at least one scene or moment that stands out worthy of praise. While some are completely unwatchable (like “Steel’ and “Fan4stic”) most comic book movies I’d rather forget do contain at least one moment I can’t help but remember fondly. With the sorta-sequel sorta-reboot of “Suicide Squad” releasing this weekend and the original being so despised by many I felt it was a perfect time to put a spotlight on the rare shining moments in otherwise divisive or abysmal comic book adaptations. These are my picks for the Ten Good Scenes in Bad Comic Book Movies.
For today’s list I revisited ten scenes from comic book movies I felt were underwhelming or just plain bad, either in hindsight or way back when I first saw them, that actually provided something to appreciate from the experience. Now I understand everyone’s opinions are subjective so what I consider a bad comic book movie might not fit everyone’s standards, so I preface this list by stating that the films featured here are just ones I personally didn’t like as a whole package. The point here is to show that even in the worst comic book features there’s still usually at least SOMETHING to love. Also, while some of these movies did have multiple good scenes that just couldn’t save the overall product, I stuck to just one standout moment from these movies to give the list some diversity, but I will touch on other standout moments as each entry allows.
Considering that not everyone will agree with me, let me know what moments you enjoyed from less-than-stellar comic book adaptations in the comments below. Oh, and SPOILER ALERT in case that wasn’t already evident.
10. Slade’s Final Ride, “Ghost Rider”
The 2007 adaptation of Marvel’s “Ghost Rider” comics is certainly nothing special. Released in a time where comic books films were still trying to find their footing, this origin film about the Devil’s Spirit of Vengeance stars Nicholas Cage as Johnny Blaze, a.k.a. the titular skull-headed Rider. While Cage’s transformation in the film, utilizing his trademark overacting, is a fun and even hilarious moment in its own right, the standout scene from the movie is one that was used for trailer fodder and really has no bearing on the actual story. Near the climax of the movie Blaze discusses his situation with Carter Slade, played by Sam Elliott, who reveals he was also once a Ghost Rider (the film’s version of the comic’s Phantom Rider) and agrees to accompany Blaze to his final battle with Blackheart. The two ride off together, one on a flaming horse and the other on a blazing motorcycle, side by side creating the single coolest moment in an otherwise forgettable movie. Sadly, this is all we’re given as the mentor-student relationship is horribly downplayed and Slade doesn’t have enough power to join Blaze in his final showdown. It’s an epic moment that promises so much more than the final product was willing to deliver.
9. The Campus Showdown, “The Incredible Hulk”
I actually enjoy all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films in one form or another, but my least favorite as a standalone product is by far “The Incredible Hulk”. Only a few elements of this movie have been included in the MCU proper to date as the Hulk himself has since been recast and while I still think it’s watchable this is the last MCU movie I’d ever want to revisit just for fun. However, there is at least one extensive scene that makes it all worth it, the battle on the university campus. The middle segment of the film sees Bruce Banner reuniting with his love interest Betty Ross and Ross’s father Thunderbolt Ross trying to capture Banner to study his transformation. A special operations team led by future Abomination and super soldiered Emil Blonsky hunt down Banner and force him to Hulk out leading the Hulk to take on tanks and Blonsky himself in a relatively grounded scene where Blonsky’s motivations are fully established, Benner’s fears about Hulking out again are realized, and Thunderbolt Ross goes too far with his attack nearly killing his own daughter allowing further insight into his character. There’s a lot this battle shows us and while the climactic romp through Harlem in the finale might provide more action, the campus battle is much more nuanced and to me is the highlight of arguably the worst MCU movie to date.
8. The Bar Scene, “Suicide Squad”
“Suicide Squad” might be the film that inspired this list, but it does contain at least one genuinely good moment that has nothing to do with fights and chaos. It’s one of the calmest moments in the entire film as the titular team of villains abandon their mission and gather in a bar sharing drinks as they discuss what makes them misfits. This, to me, is what the film needed more of, an exploration of the anti-hero persona and what makes these characters as individuals so special and relatable. Normally moments like this where the heroes are down and out and need their little pep talk takes me out of the movie, but this moment brought me right back in to an otherwise unfocused and disjointed picture. Seeing these characters just sit down and talk things over, really get to know each other as a team for the first time in the entire film, it gives these characters more humanity and reminds us that while these are villains, they are still people…just people who chose a path of villainy. It almost makes you wonder what they could have been if they chose the side of good from the start. These are the complex ideas that could have made this a good film but instead it’s the one shining moment of subtlety in a failed product that often struggles to define its identity.
7. Chasing the Surfer, “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”
The Fantastic Four have had a legendarily bad run on the big screen so far with two subpar films in the 2000s and an even more terrible reboot in the 2010s. However, the one moment that still shines for me out of all three films is Johnny Storm chasing the Silver Surfer through Manhattan in the second film. It takes place in the first act when the Surfer arrives on Earth and Johnny Storm, a.k.a. the Human Torch, is tasked with flying after him. This is our first real introduction to the Surfer on screen and what his powers allow him to do. With Johnny being who he is, a cocky risktaker unafraid to go the extra mile, we see the Surfer and Human Torch push each other to their limits. We even get some moments of levity that further prove Chris Evans was a perfect choice to play Johnny Storm. The effects still look neat, and I always echo Johnny’s “awe that is cool” when I see the Surfer fly through a building like a knife cutting through water. The “Fantastic Four” franchise may be the butt of many jokes, and deservedly so, but the original two films do have their share of cool moments, and this is by far the coolest of all.
6. Elevator Freestyle, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)”
The 2014 reboot of the “Ninja Turtles” franchise for the big screen was far from my favorite adaptation of the film with modernizations of the Turtle lore, disgusting character models and more focus on action than good storytelling…I mean what do you expect from a Michael Bay production? However, like many who hated this movie there is one moment I felt genuinely captured the spirit of the Turtles, the elevator scene. Set just before their final showdown with the Shredder on a rooftop, the Turtles find themselves in an elevator where they suddenly begin a freestyle beat box using their weapons as instruments. This feels like the PERFECT way these teenagers would unwind and refocus on their way to a fight. It captures their mild immaturity and fun-loving attitudes despite knowing what’s to come. This is the one moment in the entire movie I truly felt like I was watching a faithful adaptation of the comic and TV show Turtles I grew up with. While there are moments in the film that attempt to showcase the Turtles enjoying themselves like actual teenagers, this is the one moment that actually worked and strangely served as a fitting moment of character development in a film that refused to delve much deeper into the Turtles themselves beyond their generic theme-song character traits.
5. Attacking the Convoy, “X-Men: The Last Stand”
“X-Men: The Last Stand” is a bad movie made up of some very good moments, probably more redeemable scenes than any other film featured on this list. With that said, none of these great moments add up to a good film as a whole. While I absolutely loved the battle between the X-Men and Magneto’s army in the climax and Magneto moving the Golden Gate Bridge is iconic, my absolute favorite shining moment from this underwhelming third entry in the original “X-Men” trilogy is when Magneto attacks the convoy transporting Mystique. This, to me, is Magneto’s single best scene in the original three films showing not only his powers, but how far he has come in his ruthlessness. It almost makes you wonder why he didn’t use these abilities like this the entire time or even in the scenes that follow. I mean he crushes an entire car with the closing of a fist, how awesome is that? It also adds up to a great moment when he turns his back on Mystique after she is shot with the cure even after going through all that effort to save her, a great example of how far his prejudice has evolved from just mutant rights to an absolute disposition against any non-mutant in general. While I give “The Last Stand” credit for having more than its fair share of redeemable moments and elements packaged in an underwhelming whole, this is by far my favorite single scene in the whole movie.
4. The Warehouse Fight, “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”
“Batman v. Superman” is all over the place. Even with the help of a Director’s Cut Zack Snyder’s second movie in the DCEU feels disjointed and convoluted. One thing is definitely got right though was Ben Affleck as Batman, a casting many doubted but one shining scene justified. In the final third of “Batman v. Superman” Batman takes on Lex Luther’s crew of cronies in a warehouse putting his fighting skills to the test dispatching the baddies one by one in creative and clever ways while also showcasing the brutal relentlessness of a jaded and experienced Batman we had yet to see on the big screen. The combat is engaging, the setting perfectly claustrophobic, and the energy higher than anything else in the entire film. This was the moment I truly fell in love with Affleck’s Bruce Wayne and it’s still one of my absolute favorite scenes in all of the DC Extended Universe. I’d go so far as to say that while the “Batman” film franchise has offered us many awesome moments with the Batman taking out enemies this might be my all time favorite live-action Batman fight scene of them all. Too bad it’s trapped in one of my least favorite DC movies ever.
3. Quicksilver Part Two, “X-Men: Apocalypse”
A shining moment from “X-Men Days of Future Past” was the introduction to Quicksilver’s super speed powers, but that was actually a good movie. The franchise revisited the gimmick in the follow up which is one of the only moments in the film worth remembering. “X-Men: Apocalypse” is terrible and I’d actually put it below “Dark Phoenix” in terms of how insufferable I find it. Two moments stand out for me however: one being the death of Magneto’s daughter and his ensuing revenge quest leading to one of the best PG-13 F-bombs ever, and the second is this moment where Quicksilver arrives at the X-Mansion and saves the students and staff when it begins to explode. Set to “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics, the scene takes Quicksilver’s slow-motion powers a step further than the sequence in “Days of Future Past” adding comedic elements and more creative camerawork into the mix. It’s fun, memorable and is a rare instance where a repeated idea actually improves upon its already amazing first iteration. “Apocalypse” was a let down in many ways including its rehashing of tired tropes, but ironically one of its best moments was the only retread that actually paid off.
2. The Opening Credits Montage, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”
Anybody who has researched bad comic book movies knows this film. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is often considered the worst “X-Men” film and one of the worst movies in the genre for good reason. It’s cliché, it lacks real stakes, and it wastes iconic characters including the titular Wolverine himself. However most also agree its only saving grace is the opening credits where we see Logan and his brother Sabretooth fighting in wars across history benefitting from their immortality and healing factors to survive each conflict. Few scenes showcase the wasted potential of the film proper like this opening sequence which quickly explores the duo’s history together and their penitent to find conflict wherever they go. Sadly, their obsession with fighting these battles is never addressed properly in the film and the promise presented by the opening peak into history is never paid off aside from one small PTSD moment with Logan in the first act. This opening sequence serves as an interesting short film all on its own but sadly, this is a case where the film provides its best right from the start and things only go downhill from there.
1. The Birth of Sandman, “Spider-Man 3”
Many of you probably saw this coming but it really is worthy of the top spot here. “Spider-Man 3” is a divisive film to say the least. Despite initially receiving decent reviews it has gone down in history as a huge blemish on the Wallcrawler’s legacy even being disowned by its director. It’s certainly the worst of the first three films but hidden within its horrible execution is one moment that lives on as one of the greatest scenes in any comic book film, good or bad. One of the film’s central villains is Flint Marko, better known as Sandman, a small-time thug stealing money to help his sick daughter. However, when he tries to outrun authorities he finds himself trapped inside a particle accelerator that merges him with the sand inside the machine. His rebirth is so powerful it outshines the entire movie. Sandman literally and figuratively tries to pull himself back together with a locket photo of his daughter being his motivation. Seeing him fail to be able to hold the locket before finally taking solid form is heartbreaking and so much emotion and humanity is showcased in only a few minutes of time. It’s very well done and sets up a sympathetic character that sadly feels wasted in the larger movie. “Spider-Man 3” might have been a colossal letdown, but few will deny the Sandman scene is one of the best moments in the entire franchise.