The origin story of Zorro (Antonio Banderas) is told in “The Mask of Zorro” (1998), and in sequel “The Legend of Zorro” (2005) wife Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones) wants him to hang up his sword, mask and hat for good. It seems like there should’ve been a series of films in between, but there weren’t. As Bruce at Hero Movie Podcast correctly points out, seven years is an awkward gap between original and sequel – you should ideally strike while the iron is hot (a couple years later) or wait till it heats up again (about 20 years later).
Bulletproof Monk” (2003), based on a comic so obscure that it doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, was overlooked upon its release because it appeared to be a second-rate Chow Yun-Fat picture with a toned-down version of Stifler as his sidekick. It’s overlooked today because there are so many better superhero movies. But there are far worse ones, too.
Zoom” (2006) is a formulaic superhero movie aimed at young kids, and therefore can be criticized for all the flaws you expect. The conflict, personality types and relationships are simple. But even with that understood, director Peter Hewitt’s film lacks the energy and clever humor that would’ve made it a fun, if light, diversion. Instead, it falls totally flat despite having a lot of talent in front of the camera. For a much better example of a kids superhero flick, check out the previous year’s “Sky High.”
Halle Berry won the Razzie for Worst Actress for “Catwoman” (2004) and famously accepted the award in person, but she is not at all the reason why this movie misses the mark. More into this role than she is her later turns as Storm in “X-Men,” Berry takes Patience Phillips through a blend of “She’s All That” and “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” wherein she gains confidence but it takes her awhile to realize she’s two different people.
Steel” (1997) is so boring, dumb and uninspired that it’s hard to imagine it was any fun to make the movie; it’s certainly no fun to watch. The NBA’s Shaquille O’Neal had already headlined a film as “Kazaam,” and we know today about his natural charms from hoops analyst gigs and commercials, but at this point he is stiff on screen. Even the elite action stars of the day couldn’t save it, and Shaq has better odds of making 10 straight free throws than pulling this mess from the fire.
My pal Michael likes to say that there’s nothing worse than a bad comedy, and “The Green Hornet” (2011) is a prime example. Flat and difficult to watch, Seth Rogen’s bid at being a superhero – yes, that’s how ubiquitous this genre was last decade – is the longest 119-minute movie you’ll ever watch. It has a basic technical competence under the direction of Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) and the actors are dialed in, but nothing about the experience of watching this film is enjoyable.
Dredd” (2012) — the second go at bringing comicdom’s single-minded future cop to the big screen — is tight, simple and brisk. It’s objectively better than Sylvester Stallone’s “Judge Dredd” (1995), particularly in regard to the main character’s portrayal – by Karl Urban this time – but it’s actually a shallower text than the first version. Concerned with action and atmosphere more than police-state critiques, “Dredd” wins the battle of the “Judge Dredd” adaptations entirely with coolness points.
Push” (2009) is a movie-length version of what TV’s “The Gifted” would later show: people with superpowers on the run from government agents. Director Paul McGuigan’s film makes a strong case that this material works better in a movie than in a drawn-out TV series. One thing is notably missing: character development. But there is no padding to the narrative, and no melodramatic ennui.
Iappreciate that “Jonah Hex” (2010) is only 82 minutes long – the length of some episodes of “Westworld” nowadays – because it makes for a fairly painless viewing experience. Unfortunately, it’s also brainless. This adaptation of DC Comics’ Western superhero invented in 1972 is short for a reason: Writers Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor tell the thinnest possible story. And it’s directed by Jimmy Hayward, who primarily does animated films. As such, “Jonah Hex” has the simplicity of an animated kids’ movie; it’s for adults only because of the violent revenge narrative.
Tom Hardy gives one of the best turns in a thankless role you’ll ever see. Known behind the scenes as Sony’s attempt to cash in on a “Spider-Man” character it has under its creative control, “Venom” (2018) is about a journalist, Eddie Brock, who gets possessed by an alien Symbiote. When Eddie is in the throes of possession, the sweat-drenched Hardy is sympathetic and funny; when Venom takes over, the performance is lost in a black CGI blob with white eyes and teeth.