More spandex. More stunts. More destruction. More incredible powers. More yawns. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 wouldn’t live up to its billing even if it were called The Adequate Spider-Man. Thanks to phoned-in, factory-produced efforts like this one, with each new superhero movie, super-fatigue threatens to become a super-serious problem. Here’s a look at the five most superfluous, extraneous, unnecessary superhero movies of the last five years.
1. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Andrew Garfield’s cockiness makes you long for the sweetness of Tobey Maguire, and the script doesn’t help him at all by having Spidey issue jocular, punny one-liners as he’s battling goofy villains like Rhino (Paul Giamatti, giving a Nicolas Cage-level tutorial in how to overact), Green Goblin (a completely unscary Dane DeHaan) and the soon-to-be-notorious Electro (Jamie Foxx), a shockingly low-voltage clown who fires electricity out his fingertips. The romance between Peter Park and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, who has the brisk cuteness of a stage brat without ever making the audience fall in love with her) seems forced, and the gigantic special-effects sequences are all bluster and boom, no genuine drama. You’ve seen everything in this movie before.
2. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013)
Superhero movies are inherently childish, but some directors can make us forget that by elevating the scary and dramatic elements while holding the campy aspect at bay. This Greek mythology-ruining sequel to Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief makes a point of settling at the kids’ table, making it a middle-school Clash of the Titans crossed with Harry Potter.
The title character, Poseidon’s half-human son — even called, after J.K. Rowling, a “half-blood” — joins other gifted kids at a special camp for trainee heroes where centaurs and satyrs frolic. It turns out Percy’s half-brother is a Cyclops with whom he must join forces to track down the Golden Fleece before it can fall into the dastardly hands of Luke, the Lightning Thief from the first film. Condescending, smarmy and witless, the movie’s idea of a joke is having the messenger god Hermes work at a UPS store.
3. Wrath of the Titans (2012)
Sam Worthington already seems like a nostalgia name, like David Cassidy or Roseanne Arnold. The block-faced star of Avatar was not the guy to go to if acting was what you required, but even in an effects-driven movie like this one Worthington’s lack of charisma was hard to cover up. This time Worthington’s Perseus (the Kraken having been defeated, alas) must free his father Zeus (Liam Neeson) from the clutches of his jealous brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes), doing battle with hideous beasts along the way. The movie is a retina-frying mashup of meaningless CGI battles punctuated by tinny dialogue and hammy performances.
4. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)
As gloriously demented as the first Ghost Rider was, the made-on-the-cheap followup was just a flat tire, and the trademark hellfire-flaming-skull special effects were about as convincing as a plastic figurine suspended over a can of Sterno. Nicolas Cage’s Johnny Blaze, the guy who was tricked into a deal with the Devil that left him cursed for all eternity, learns from a wacky French monk (Idris Elba) that he can reverse the spell if only he helps locate a lost Romanian boy who is the spawn of Satan.
Terminator 2 father-figure shtick ensues as Ghost Rider and the kid are pursued by angry gangs. Movies like this exist only to add to the anti-highlight reel that is Nicolas Cage’s career over the last ten years, with his delivery of dopey lines like “You’re the Devil’s baby mama!” adding yet another chapter to the embarrassing saga of a once-talented performer who never fails to go too far.
5. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Slathering on the backstory about how Logan (Hugh Jackman) accidentally killed his father, got his claws, had a rivalry with his brother Sabertooth (Liev Schreiber), became a military weapon, had second thoughts about all that and was ultimately saved from bad stuff by the healing power of love, this prequel felt declawed.
The trouble was, we already knew lots about the Wolverine’s early life from the previous X-Men movies, and this movie felt like cinematic grout, just filling in spaces between more important stuff. And for a big-budget adventure, its special-effects looked thrown together.