When last I took the time to publicly respond to the wrongness of a much-disseminated internet list, it was wonderful person Jill Pantozzi's fun little bit of fancasting for a completely hypothetical Star Trek: The Next Generation reboot.
This time, however, the focus of my indignant nerd ire is pointed at comics monolith Newsarama.com, for a list entitled The Ten Worst Comic-Book Movie Performances of All-Time, a list I'm not even going to bother linking, partially because it's naked linkbait, partially because it's laid out as a hit-maximizing, slow-loading, annoying-ass slideshow, but mostly because I'm just gonna post it after the jump, with excerpts from some of their more asinine examples of reasoning, including the part where they try to explain, with a straight face, their inclusion of Christopher Reeve's Superman at #9.
The critics online, a large, angry mob of people who counted among their numbers "The sighted," "People who can think," and "Not paint-huffers" immediately vomited forth a spew of nerd-rage so virulent and forceful one would think an armada of red rings and floated down from the heavens and thrust themselves upon a nation's trembling digits. A sampling of some of these reactions are as follows:
The list in question:
10: January Jones - Emma Frost - X-Men: First Class
"...her performance as Emma Frost — a character known for her icy appeal — was startlingly lifeless"
9: Christopher Reeve - Superman
"...In defense of this position we could point to his lack of much of a post-Superman resume, but the truth is now 30-plus years later with a more critical eye we simply don't find his portrayal of Superman and Clark Kent very much like any Superman or Clark Kent we know... or like, for that matter."
8: Tobey Maguire - Spider-Man
"...Tobey's Peter Parker was naive and earnest enough, but he just didn't have Parker's inner beauty. He played the "awkward" to a fault — instead of the everyman (or everyboy) Peter is known to be, Tobey was the every-fanboy."
7: Seth Rogen - The Green Hornet
"...Presenting Green Hornet as a slightly more heroic take on Rogen's usual comedic slacker dudes just didn't work as a compelling hook for this film, and his efforts to eventually try and be a sincere crimefighter just seemed like more schtick."
6: Julian McMahon - Doctor Doom - Fantastic Four
"The Worst Moment: The reveal of his "skin condition," in which he acted like he was picking off sunburn."
5: Nicolas Cage - Ghost Rider
"...If Nic Cage loves Ghost Rider so much, maybe he should show it by setting the character free."
4: Matthew Goode - Ozymandias - Watchmen
"...When it finally made it to the screen, if anything the detailed characterization provided by the miniseries would have been the easy part, but lo, atop a pyramid of staid, strained performances in the movie version of Watchmen was Matthew Goode's Ozymandias."
3: Billy Zane - The Phantom
"...Sometime an actor gets typecast for a certain type of role and can never shake it, while other actors simply have the skills and looks for one kind of part and anything outside that is prone to unbelievably." (yeah, I have no idea what that's supposed to mean, either)
2: Halle Berry - Catwoman
"...Halle Berry is undeniably talented, and an Oscar-winning actress. But comic book movies just might not be her thing."
1: Everyone in a Joel Schumacher Batman Movie
"...We don't think actors like George Clooney, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Val Kilmer and yes, even Arnold Schwarzenegger, all inexplicably turned in their career-worst performances in those movies. We just think they were hung out to dry in perhaps the most ill-conceived comic book project ever put on film."
The first thing you might notice is that it appears the people who were gathered together to anonymously shart this list onto the internet don't understand the difference between an actor's performance and the director's intent; or the screenwriter's characterization; or the blend of the two that inform how the actor then chooses to do the job they were hired to do. In fact, the assembly of this list seems to belie an understanding of movies no thicker than a single sheet of wet looseleaf notebook paper. Their concept of the machinations of storytelling might potentially be a few millimeters deeper, which I guess makes them more than qualified to call themselves "Comics Journalists."
The second thing you'll notice is that it appears the murderer's row of Avengers assembled for this list haven't actually watched too many comic book movies. Aside from The Phantom, Schumacher's Bat-films, and Superman, nothing on this list is older than 2002, which makes the criticism of Billy Zane specifically seem extra-suspect (the second most suspect thing on the list) because how do you call out Zane for betraying a campy, pulpy character with a campy, pulpy performance that enjoyably echoes a source material 98% of your readership (and probably your writing staff) isn't (nor even wants to be) familiar with?
The Superman point I want to address specifically: It appears the writers are heavily influenced by the observational, funny, and well thought-out takedowns of Donner's Superman films by David Uzumeri and Chris Sims of ComicsAlliance.com. But even Uzumeri/Sims understand that those percieved problems in characterization come from Donner and screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, and not from Reeve himself, who is acting his fucking heart out trying to make this corny Boy Scout seem like a real person. Reeve's performance is landmark for the genre of superhero films, even if you wholeheartedly agree with the idea that the Superman in that movie doesn't resemble "The Real Superman," whatever the fuck that even means after the last two decades of DC editorial dragging that character through all manner of muddy, ineffectual characterization, de-lousing his vibrancy with the storytelling equivalent of instant oatmeal, cementing the hero beneath tons of grungy blandness.
So: Here's a replacement list. It will, of course, be wrong. Lists on the internet are always wrong, no matter how right they are. But I will attempt to be wrong in at least an understandable manner, with explanations that make some semblance of sense, without any blatant "Gotcha" proclamations that call both the integrity and the sanity of the writer into question (too much)
10: Samuel L. Jackson - The Octopus - The Spirit
Beyond Frank Miller's complete desecration of his mentor's source material, Jackson's choices as "The Octopus" are like a collection of every horrible tic and mannerism your drunkish friends employ when trying to impersonate Samuel L. Jackson. Dave Chappelle gave a better performance as Samuel L. Jackson in 40 seconds of the Chappelle Show than Jackson did in the entirety of this film.
9: Jessica Alba - Sue Storm - Fantastic Four
Every complaint made about January Jones' acting can be laid here, as well, except I don't think Tim Story meant for Sue Storm to constantly look confused and out of her depth, where Matthew Vaughn seemed to be going for a mute mannequin as Emma Frost. There's a hesitant, hollow feel to her performance - which plays more like an extended screen-test than anything. Erik wanted to me to include Michael Chiklis' Ben Grimm in this list, but I can't do it. I like him as The everlovin' Thing.
8: Jennifer Garner - Elektra - Daredevil
She was pretty badly miscast, even though she was still best known as the ass-kicking superspy in Alias, and unfortunately, the work she turned in didn't alleviate the terrible choice director Mark Steven Johnson made in hiring her to portray a cold-as-granite-and-twice-as-hard assassin of Greek descent. Even in moments where she's supposed to be a jut-jawed, teeth-grinding murderer, the tenderness of her Elektra is right up front, wide-eyed and pleading to be taken by the Affleck.
7: Dolph Lundgren - The Punisher
Dolph Lundgren has turned in good(ish) performances in three movies. 1) Rocky IV 2) I Come in Peace 3) Johnny Mnemonic. He is less an actor in this movie, and more a Golem that appears to have had stage directions tucked into its mouth before the director called action.
6: Jon Cryer - Lenny Luthor - Superman IV
He's just doing Ducky. A lazy, hyper-annoying, depressing-as-fuck Ducky. This performance sucks not because it's one of the most grating things in a movie stuffed full of inept decision-making, but because it retroactively flicks boogers on one of John Hughes' most-beloved heroes. It's almost as bad as when Matthew Broderick decided to play Ferris as an old asshole so as to sell people some cars during a football game.
5: David Hasselhoff - Nick Fury
You know how I said Lundgren's only turned in three good performances? Hasselhoff has three less than that. This isn't Nick Fury. This is Michael "Mitch" Knight, rocking an eyepatch in tonight's Very Special Episode of "Baywatch Knight Rider." Glib? Yes. Accurate? Yes.
4: Tommy Lee Jones - Two-Face/Harvey Dent - Batman Forever
With Batman & Robin, I got the sense the performances many recognize as bad were trying to be bad. The campiness from Uma Thurman, Schwarzenegger's gleeful monologuing punctuated by frequent bazooka-blasts of one-liners. You could make a case for the saccharine earnestness of both Chris O'Donnell and Alicia Silverstone, yes, but if you're going to pick on any participant in the Schumacher Bat-films, you gotta pick on Tommy Lee Jones. Because this is by far the worst thing he's ever done. He is obviously trying to outdo Jim Carrey, and he can't. He's not built for it. And watching him try is legitimately depressing. You don't have to stack it up against stuff like No Country for Old Men or even Space Cowboys, or even fucking Small Soldiers. Put this performance side-by-side with Under Siege and you'll see what a misguided waste of effort this was.
3: Faye Dunaway - Selena - Supergirl
Much like Jones, this is also the worst work she's ever done in her career, and that career is largely known by many for the screechingly operatic slice of ham that was Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest. This is leagues worse than that. The performance she gave in Tom Petty's Into the Great Wide Open music video carries more weight than any 5 minutes of her "acting" in this film.
2: Shaquille O'Neal - Steel
Come the fuck on.
1: Sylvester Stallone - Judge Dredd
There is no single performance in a superhero adaptation that has so completely missed the mark, or so ineptly essayed the core being of the character being portrayed. Every choice made was wrong, and the executions of those choices were performed poorly on top of that. He's not Judge Dredd, he's Marion Cobretti on sizzurp, too out-of-his-gourd to recognize what he's doing, too confused to know he's supposed to keep the helmet on.