We live in a golden age of superhero movies. In recent years, a whole new genre of prestigious comic book adaptations has emerged, and Watchmen, which opens today, might just add to that prestige. Or, it might flop. As the track record of comic book adaptations tells us, for every success story, there’s a failure. For proof, look no further than our history of the superhero cycle, from hero to zero.
Hero: Batman. Tim Burton’s adaptation of the Caped Crusader saga was hailed for brilliant art direction and Burton-esque weirdness.
Zero: Batman & Robin. Joel Schumacher’s installment is better known for its rubber-nippled costumes than George Clooney’s turn as Bruce Wayne.
Hero: Spider-Man. Re-igniting the craze was Sam Raimi’s colourful, funny and down-to-earth story of the world’s favourite webslinger.
Zero: Daredevil. Ben Affleck tried – but failed – to bring another New York crime-fighter to life in this drab adaptation.
Hero: X-Men and X2. Bryan Singer’s take on the team of superhuman misfits was widely praised for its intelligence and sophistication.
Zero: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Creator Alan Moore (of Watchmen fame) disavowed the Hollywood-ized version of his Victorian all-star adventure epic; so did audiences.
Hero: Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan’s re-invention of the Bat-legend was darker, scarier and heavier than practically anything before it.
Zero: The Spirit. Frank Miller’s re-invention of the Will Eisner classic was gaudier, stupider and less popular than practically anything before it.
Image courtesy of Oscar J. Baeza.