Ten terrible cinematic superheroes
In celebration of the release of Jon Favreau's 'Iron Man', Time Out offers a list of the ten worst cinematic superheros of all time
Condorman (1981)Such was the malaise to which Disney’s film production board had succumbed by 1981, the unlikely decision to top-line their big summer releases with a gormless English sitcom actor must have seemed like an entirely reasonable gamble. Struggling with an American accent in the same way some people struggle with terminal illness, timorous ‘Some Mother’s Do ‘Ave ‘Em’ star Michael Crawford plays Woody Wilkins, a freelance cartoonist who is inveigled into running missions for the CIA on the proviso that they bankroll a series of plasticky gizmos and improbable vehicles straight from the pages of his (unpublished) comic creation, ‘Condorman’. The resulting film is stranded in the no-man’s land between the smarmy nadir of Roger Moore-era ‘Bond’ and the bone-chilling violence of ‘It’s a Knockout’. Later remade as ‘The Bourne Identity’.Special Power: CIA funding.
Read original Time Out review here
Howard the Duck (1986)Adapted from a zany (read: acid-fried) '70s Marvel comic about a cigar-smoking duck trapped in upstate Kentucky, this crass, George Lucas-affiliated atrocity is generally regarded – like so many other anthropomorphist doomsday capers – as one of the worst films ever made. In retrospect, its most interesting element (second to the ‘hilarious’ budget breakdown sheets) is the original soundtrack which was performed by beret-sporting synth messiah Thomas Dolby under the thinly veiled guise ‘Dolby’s Cube’. He was backed by a supergroup calling themselves ‘Cherry Bomb’ which, upon closer inspection, comprised of neon-clad dub hobo George Clinton, junk-addled riffster Joe Walsh and myopic tinklesmith Stevie Wonder.
Special Power: Quack Fu (seriously)
Read original Time Out review here
Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975)‘Who will make crime disappear? Doc Savage! Doc Savage! Conqueror and Pioneer!’ Well, quite. Entirely misapprehending the then-current vogue for ‘super-men’, veteran producer George Pal here presents us with blond-haired, blue-eyed eugenics poster boy, Doc Savage. Fleshed out by ex-TV Tarzan Ron Ely, this decidedly low-camp 1975 update of the well-loved '30s pulp stories sees the psychokinetic Man of Bronze and his sycophantic phalanx of cap-doffing yes-men storming the jungles of South America, subjugating the natives and nicking their gold in true Master Race-style. A whip-wielding adventurer in a battered fedora was years ahead of its time; the unchecked Aryan ideals and special effects were not.Special Power: The unflappability of a Hindu cow.Read original Time Out review here
Ultrachrist! (2003)Dispatched back to Earth by his pop, Jesus finds that his simple, homespun wisdom doesn’t translate to the gang-bangers of Harlem or the strung-out hookers of Times Square quite as well as it did back in the day. After a few righteous beatings and a couple of nights in the slammer, he eventually falls in with a crew of sympathetic non-actors, all of whom look like they’ve been hired from a series of personal ads. Soon clad in unforgiving spandex, JC is all set to battle an army of the undead that includes Nixon, Dracula and Jim Morrison, with the ultimate goal of vanquishing Satan, who, naturally enough, is now working in that pestilential axis of pure evil, the New York Parks Department.Special Power: Will die for your sins.
James Batman (1966)Over the course of an astonishing six-decade career, the mysterious and debonair Dolphy – billed as the 'Filipino King of Comedy' – has lent his redoubtable slapstick skills to a number of intriguing projects, among them 'Goatbuster', 'My Bugoy Goes to Congress', 'Markova: Comfort Gay', 'Private Ompong and the Sexy Dozen' (in which he played Private Ompong), and of course his classic series of Tagalog 007 pastiches: ‘Dr. Yes’, ‘Dolphinger’ and 'Genghis Bond'. But most memorable of all has to be 1966's 'James Batman', in which planet Earth's greatest crimefighters finally pair up to battle a whole slew of villains, including The Penguin, Catwoman and Fu Manchu. Now that both series have received an ultramodern darker-than-thou makeover, perhaps it's time for Hollywood to take notice: imagine Craig and Bale trading growls and blows in pursuit of the newest terrorist supervillain, the ultimate feelbad buddy-buddy combo.Super Power: Pacific Rim charm
Leonard Part VI (1987)Silly season mainstay Bill Cosby made a professional gaffe to rival the guy who invented spray cheese by writing and starring in the sanity-corrupting superhero caper, ‘Leonard Part VI’. He plays Leonard Parker, a blundering, recently retired CIA back-room boy who is lanced back into the fold when a Diana Ross look-a-like starts turning the world’s farm animals against their owners with some kind of miscellaneous death ray. Little more than an excuse to hold bottles of Pepsi up to the camera and have the star prancing about in a tutu, the only tangible ‘joke’ in the film is that parts one through five do not exist, a small mercy when you consider that Cosby himself decided to buy up every known print of the film so that he could personally ensure they were destroyed.Special Power: US tax dollars
Mr Mom (1983)Michael Keaton plays an auto-worker again, and due to circumstances beyond his control (America’s nose-diving economy) he is imbued with the powers of redundancy and, when wife Terri Garr decides to head back to the office, man-motherhood. Naturally, it’s in the arena of the workplace – a kingdom from which he has been banished – that he must pit his wits against a nemesis who is intent on getting his mortal hands on the missus. True, Mom powers, such as selective memory, lip pursing and the sudden need for tea during saucy telly scenes, are entirely beyond this hero, and not even the box set special edition contains an ‘Origins Of Mr Mom’ featurette.
Special power: Cleaning montageRead original Time Out review here
Unbreakable (2000)M. Night Shyamalan is a master of the surprise twist in the same way that a comedian who begins an impression with, ‘Hi, Lieutenant Colombo here…’ is a master of seamless comic mimicry. Here, Bruce Willis gets brain-tangled by a brittle-boned comics obsessive, a situation that appears to put him in touch with a world of super-powers ranging from the banal to the downright depressing. Within hours of this slow-burn realisation, Willis comes to see that all may not be as it seems, as the movie weaves wearily towards its anti-climactic cinematic equivalent of the Bobby Ewing shower scene from ‘Dallas’.
Special power: TediumRead original Time Out review here
Parmezor: Il Magnifico (1976)The availability of both Walter Bambara – Dario Argento’s second unit assistant DoP – and a slaughterhouse in Calabria for five weeks in June of 1976 spurred the creation of this half-baked sci-fi calzone. Bud Spencer, yet to find real success in the ‘Detective Extra Large’ movies, played Renzo, the hapless barista possesed by the soul of a vanquished galactic warlord and granted mediocre cheese-based powers. As Parmezor, Spencer is able to at last woo meat-counter siren Lucia, but finds his powers flattened by complex dairy produce tax legislation. The denouement, which called for a battle royale ‘on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, rising like a goddess from the Serengeti’ was actually shot on a dry ski slope near Bari and is, frankly, unconvincing.Special power: Tangy
Suburban Commando (1991)The rich cinematic vein of professional wrestlers trying their hand at acting hit its dire apogee in 1991 when intergalactic aryan-league pin-up Hulk Hogan crash landed his moulded purple space rocket in a leafy Wyoming suburb to disrupt the routine drudgery of the lovably normal Wilcox family. Cue scenes of kids running around with Super Soakers, plenty of comedic fish-out-of-water tomfoolery and Christopher Lloyd mugging like a rodeo clown with his knackers in a vice. The film ends with an inevitable showdown where Hulk faces off against one of his fellow wrestling brethren, eventually body-slamming him into the bonnet of the family runaround then unceremoniously nicking off back into outer space. Special power: MerchandisingRead original Time Out review here
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