Dec 16, 2019
Bad Superhero Movie Showdown 2007: Spider-Man 3 vs. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer vs. Ghost Rider
We’ve finally made it. We’ve finally made it past the era where superhero films were still a curious “Man, this cape stuff seems to be really catching on!” thing and to the point where no good superhero movies came out in a whole year. None.
Four American superhero films were released in 2007: an extension of past failure (Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer), a brand new attempt at awful (Ghost Rider), the tragic last gasps of a series that at one point was the shining point of the entire genre (Spider-Man 3), and Underdog. And the only reason that I’m not including Underdog is because I haven’t seen Underdog, and I have a sneaking suspicion that this trend will continue for a long time.
So, in the first Bad Superhero Movie Showdown Triple Threat match, Spider-Man 3 takes on Ghost Rider and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer in a contest to see which two are just bad, and which one tainted pop culture forever.
Round 1: Worst Hero
The best that can be said about Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man is that his performance is just as goofy and oddly charming as it was in the previous two films. He doesn’t seem exasperated by the franchise, despite the fact that the movie’s plot is spinning out of control all around him.
Ghost Rider came just a year or two before Nicolas Cage took the crown of “Walking Meme”, and you spend most of the film being disappointed in the fact that Cage isn’t just eating the scenery at every opportunity.
And the Fantastic Four maintain the standard that they brought with them to the first movie, by which I mean that they’re almost incomparably terrible.
Loser: The Fantastic Four
Admittedly, it would be hard to improve on the four’s performances from the previous film without the advice “Okay, do nothing like that, ever again.” It remains the same, but even worse, simply because we have to sit through it again.
Round 2: Worst Villain
Everything you need to know about Ghost Rider’s Blackheart is the fact that I had to Google him to remember what his name was.
FF: RotSS features villain-turned-hero Silver Surfer and villain-turned-sleeping-aid Doctor Doom, and even their characters seem to have the motivation of “Don’t worry. Filming is almost over. Just push through it.”
Spider-Man 3 has Venom, Sandman, and New Goblin, and considering the ineptitude of the messy story, that’s three more villains than Spider-Man 3 is equipped to handle.
Sandman has a fantastic origin scene and gets some cool stuff to do. The Spider-Man trilogy is basically about the rise, fall, and redemption of Harry Osborn, so New Goblin isn’t so bad. Venom, however, who’s the third member of Spider-Man’s “greatest villain trio” (Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Venom) is the one that gets shafted. He gets the bare minimum amount of setup, as if the struggle isn’t to make him a menacing villain, but to get Topher Grace a spot in the opening credits.
Round 3: Worst Dance Scene
Sadly, Ghost Rider does not feature a dance scene. But FF: RotSS and Spider-Man 3 do, and man, it’s nice to know that, in fifty years, these scenes will be remembered not as important additions to a burgeoning genre but as the times that two of Marvel’s biggest properties got down.
Loser: The Fantastic Four
Spider-Man 3’s dance scenes makes sense. Peter Parker is a giant dork. Of course he’s going to think thatnow that he’s got a black suit that releases his dark side, the way to be a bad boy is to intrusively dance anywhere that he can. As a fellow dork, I understand that. FF: RotSS’s dance scene is there because both of the Fantastic Four films are desperate pleas to be liked by someone, anyone. A dance scene was inevitable. I’m surprised that the movie didn’t end with Reed Richards eating hot sauce packets while a middle school cafeteria clapped around him.
Round 4: Worst World Building
Spider-Man 3’s world is pretty much the same as what you saw in the first two films. NYC is NYC, and every human emotion is handled in a broad stroke of passive aggression.
FF: RotSS’s world is a shrug of science-y whatevers.
And Ghost Rider creates a to-do list of “hell and devil” clichés and checks off every single one. “I want your souls!” Check. “I, umm, need more souls!” Quadruple check.
Loser: Ghost Rider
It’s no surprise that Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance treats the world of the original film like a drunk friend that it abandoned at a gas station.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Once again, the Fantastic Four take home the prize of being the worst superhero film released that year. Am I surprised? No. At this point, Fantastic Four films seem meant to be bad like fire is meant to be hot. The suck is eternal. It will be here when we’re all gone. When humanity has passed, the whisper will still be in the air: “The Fantastic Four movies aren’t very good…” carried into infinity.