It’s no secret that superhero movies are the biggest cinematic force in all pop culture. Avengers: Endgame out-grossing Titanic (or, as it’s also known, James Cameron’s attempt to do Independence Day on a boat) alone is proof of that. When you look at the roster of the MCU, or Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, (not so much the DCEU, but we’ll get to that) you can see that these movies attract high caliber talent. Oscar winners like Christian Bale, Brie Larson, Lupita Nyong’o, Jack Nicholson, and Heath Ledger (who is still the only actor to win the award for his performance in a superhero movie), attest to the quality that we have come to expect from this genre.
But it doesn’t always go that way. And you don’t have to look far for some truly woeful performances from actors who have genuine talent – but also from those who can only wish they were good enough to be in Howard the Duck. So let’s get our rant on and call some of these wastes of celluloid out.
Joel Kinnaman: Rick Flagg in Suicide Squad
It’s tempting to fill this entire list with the cast of this garbage fire of a movie, but I’ll stick with Joel – because I think he is one of the worst actors I’ve ever seen. Tom Hardy could have taken on this role but reshoots for The Revenant proved that a few more weeks in the horrible wilderness was preferable to hanging out with a twat called Captain Boomerang. But not even the guy who made Venom watchable could have saved this catastrophically-written mess, of character. so it may be harsh to lay all the blame at Kinnaman’s door. But someone’s got to shoulder it, and Joel
George Clooney: Batman in Batman and Robin
The man who donned the cape and cowl for the most batshit toy advert of the 90s, Batman and Robin (apparently his no-kill rule doesn’t extend to this franchise), George Clooney has had a career with so many great performances that this one goes down as an anomaly. Again, there is some leeway to be had here as he was double-shifting this movie at the same time he was trying to wrap up his breakthrough role in ER, which might explain why he seems so fucking tired the whole time. Unfortunately, history isn’t written with schedule conflicts in mind, so we are left with proof that this very talented, Oscar-winning actor is capable of phoning it in. He’s so bad that he actually makes Chris O’Donnell’s Robin the strongest character in the whole movie. That’s ludicrous.
Jennifer Lawrence: Mystique in Every X-Men Movie
Jennifer Lawrence is a great actress, even if she hasn’t had a real hit since the final Hunger Games movie, but her involvement in the X-Men franchise has been easily the worst work of her career. These movies are far from perfect – they really only have James McAvoy’s version of Professor X going for them when they don’t have Wolverine on the docket – but it’s Mystique’s supposed importance to the relationship between Prof X and Magneto which is framed as the driving force of the the narrative. The best that I can say about her performance in the entire franchise is that at least she gets to hide her convincing impression of a talentless hack behind the distractingly awful blue-suit.
Henry Cavill: Superman in the DCEU
You wouldn’t know it if you’ve only seen Henry Cavill as Superman, but the guy has more layers to his performances than staring stoically, moodily frowning, or looking like he has diarrhea. To our eternal bad luck, DC’s evil pirate captain Zack Snyder loves Diarrheaman (it’s why the pants are on the inside this time, so you can’t see it leaking). Cavill’s Superman is supposed to be a subversion to the Superman we know – the problem is that Cavil has nothing to do to fill in the character. He is a passive god who, when he isn’t busy having no chemistry with the legend that is Amy Adams, getting figuratively and literally smashed with CGI baddies with more range, or getting a lesson in talent from Michael Shannon, he’s moaning about how the world hates him. We do Henry, we do.
Malin Ackerman: Silk Spectre in Watchmen
You’re probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned Halle Berry as Catwoman – the reason is that I have a note from my doctor that prevents me from watching it again. So we end our list with the eternal question – not “Who Watches the Watchmen?”, but why Malin Ackerman was cast as Silk Spectre in the first place? Watchmen is a so-so movie (which makes it Zack Snyder’s Goodfellas) but the one thing they get mostly right is the casting of these screwed-up superhero characters. This is what makes Ackerman stand out so much, as she stinks up nearly every scene she is in. When these desperate people ask me if I want to see a movie starring Ackerman adapted from the Watchmen prequel comics I’ll look down on them and whisper…no.
If you enjoyed this article and want to see more stuff like it, check out our superhero movie deep-dives – you can also take a look at our other cinematic universe retrospectives, for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and our breakdown of every Batman cinematic release! And, as ever, if you enjoyed this and want to see more stuff like it, please consider supporting us on Patreon.
By Kevin Boyle
(header image via The Daily Dot)